We Have a Winner!

5 05 2010

Congratulations to “Hitchcock and Me” reader Sherri! She’s the winner of the tickets to see “The 39 Steps” live on stage in New York City  at New World Stages!

Here’s Sherri’s entry:

“Although I love the incredibly saturated technocolor films of the 1950s I have to say my favorite(s) is probably a tie between “Suspicion” and “Spellbound.” You just can’t beat BW film for creating suspense — I mean film noir wasn’t BW for nothing! “Spellbound” is of course great in so many ways but the Salvatore Dali dream sequence will always stand out in my mind, as does the overall Freudian “psychoanalytical” basis of the story. “Suspicion” is wonderful in so many ways but one of my favorite is the use of the cinematography to film the suspicious glass of milk Cary Grant is carrying up the stairs to Joan Fontaine. It has a glow of radiation until he enters the room where we wait several charged seconds to see if she will drink it despite her suspicions.”

Sounds great, Sherri! And thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway. You can read all the entries here.



Interview with “The 39 Steps” Star John Behlmann

4 05 2010

Playing the part of dashing Richard Hannay on stage in “The 39 Steps” looks like quite a workout, but John Behlmann pulls it off with panache. You can read a nice interview with Behlmann here, on the “Short Takes” blog, which covers a variety of New York stage shows.

And speaking of “The 39 Steps” on stage, my ticket giveaway to this delightful show will end on Wednesday, May 5, so now is your last chance to go here and tell me your favorite Hitchcock picture – and why! – in the comments section. Don’t delay – I’ll announce the winner Wednesday night!

Alfred Hitchcock Conducts – er, Directs “Waltzes from Vienna”

3 05 2010

“‘Waltzes from Vienna’ gave me many opportunities for working out ideas in the relation of film and music. Naturally every cut in the film was worked out on the script before shooting began. But more than that, the musical cuts were worked out too.” – Alfred Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock’s run of cinematic oddities continued in 1934 with “Waltzes from Vienna,” a film that in some ways echoes the light romantic comedies of Ernst Lubitsch, although it’s easy to imagine that Hitch was not really at ease with this type of film. While it’s light and breezy, Hitch doesn’t carry things off well enough to make it a great movie.

The story is simple enough: Johann Strauss the younger, played by Esmond Knight, is a struggling musician, playing in his father’s orchestra and trying to find his voice as a composer. He is in love with Rasi (Jessie Matthews), a baker’s daughter, and finds a patron in the Countess Helga von Stahl; his father, Johann Strauss the elder, played by Edmund Gwenn, has no faith in his son’s music, but Rasi and the Countess encourage him. Unfortunately, Rasi becomes jealous of the Countess’s attentions, even as young Strauss makes progress in his work.

On the eve of a fete, the Countess colludes with Strauss senior’s assistant to keep the maestro away long enough for his son to conduct the orchestra in playing his composition, “The Blue Danube.” The crowd loves it, but when Strauss senior learns what has happened, he becomes angry. Meanwhile, Rasi is convinced that Strauss junior is in love with the Countess, while the Countess’s husband is out to defend his wife’s honor.

The situation is straightened out, finally, as farces always do, through silly deceptions and not quite plausible explanations, and everyone ends up happy.

Reportedly, Hitchcock made this film only because he didn’t have anything else in mind at the time; it’s as close as he ever got to a true musical, although virtually all the music is variations on “The Blue Danube.” There are some very nice moments of slapstick, especially at the beginning, where Hitch shows off his gift for timing. On the other hand, Rasi’s lack of understanding of what it means for her boyfriend to have a patron is strange. Her jealously is decidedly modern, and the fact that the person she’s jealous of is a Countess doesn’t seem to matter to her.

Theatrical poster from France, where the movie was released under the name "Le Chant de Danube"

When Hitchcock spoke to Francois Truffaut in the early 1960s, “Waltzes from Vienna” was a lost movie, but it’s surfaced since; it’s one of the few comedies directed by Hitchcock, and relies on music more than almost any of his pictures (although the 1956 version of “The Man Who Knew Too Much” is a close second).

Speaking of which, the next movie I’ll be looking at will be the original version of “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” starring Peter Lorre, Nova Pilbeam and others.

“Hitchcock and Me” Gets a Shout-Out from NJ Placeblog Baristanet.com

2 05 2010

On the morning of Saturday, May 1, local New Jersey placeblog and tastemaker Baristanet.com gave my Hitchblog a great shout-out, plugging not only the blog but also my current (still ongoing!) contest to win tickets to “The 39 Steps” live on stage in NYC!

The coverage is much appreciated, and you can read it here.

And you can click here to order “Cars from a Marriage,” the latest novel from Baristanet founder Debra Galant. I love Deb’s books, and just to show that I’m not the only one, here are a few other choice reviews:

“Galant’s third novel (following ‘Fear and Yoga in New Jersey, 2008), delivers wit, charm and characters who feel like next-door neighbors.” – Booklist

“This family is far from perfect, and Galant proves adept at revealing what’s in their hearts, giving readers an effecting and strikingly honest look at a marriage.” – Publishers Weekly

“Both laugh-out-loud funny and a thoughful portrait of the complexity of marriage.” – Ladies Home Journal

Also, here’s Deb herself, explaining why buying “Cars from a Marriage” is the right thing to do…

And here she is plugging the book recently at the International Auto Show in New York…fun stuff, Deb!

Trailer for “The 39 Steps” 1978 Remake

1 05 2010

I recently posted the trailer from the 1959 remake of “The 39 Steps,” which you can watch here. In 1978, The Rank Organisation released a new remake of “The 39 Steps,” starring Robert Powell as Hannay and David Warner as the professor. Here’s the trailer for this version:

Directed by Don Sharp, this version is based more on the original book by John Buchan than Hitchcock’s film version, although it takes does take liberties with the original story. The American operative, Scudder, has been recast as British, and he is murdered before Richard Hannay’s eyes, for example.

A TV spinoff of the movie made its debut on Thames TV in 1988. Called “Hannay,” it too starred Powell; it ran for two of those brief British TV seasons, with six episodes in the first series and seven in the second. Here’s a ten-minute clip from an episode:

Tomorrow we’ll look at the next Hitchcock movie in my queue, “Waltzes from Vienna.”

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