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November 24, 2015


I adore Bernard Herrmann!

As do I, LaWanda. -- DL

I'd say that all five of these --
1) A glass of milk
2) A shattered pair of eyeglasses
3) A giant Sequoia Redwood
4) The key to the wine cellar
5) A burning mansion
-- are endowed with uncanny significance by Hitchcock in, respectively, "Suspicion," "Strangers on a Train," "Vertigo," "Notorious," and "Rebecca." This is what I think, Professor Lehman: that Hitchcock's eye on objects is consistent with the approach of Freud in his analysis of dreams. Is that what you are implying?

In "The Man Who Knew Too Much," the 1956 version with James Stewart and Doris Day, Ambrose Chapel is in fact a London church (#3) but it is also, by metonymy, shorthand for the organization behind the kidnapping (#2) and, by metaphor, the Albert Hall's younger brother (#1) in terms of their significance in the plot. Finally it, Ambrose Church, may be said to be the MacGuffin (#4) in the sense that almost everything in a Hitchcock plot fits in that category. Right?

I'd say the correct answer is #3 but all four of the others either may be true. The most unexpected and compelling of the possibilities is the idea that blonde versus brunette mirrors a structure in the power hierarchy. Am I getting warm, Professor?

1) In Vertigo, who is real, Judy or Madelene?
2) True or false: The age difference between James Stewart and Kim Novak
helps explain the nature of their relationship,which is passionate but not exactly
sexual -- it is more like an event in the man's psyche, which he is destined
to repeat.
3) Bernard Herrmann's music and what it contributed.

Great questions. I agree with everybody who weighed in on Bernard Herrmann's excellence. The question about who is real, Madeleine or Judy in "Vertigo," could be argued endlessly. As for the age difference, I am sure you are on to something here -- Scotty's obsession with her has less to do with sex than with, say, her elegant outfit. More fetishistic, thus more "an event in the man's psyche," though in saying that "he is destined to repeat" the act, you leave out the fact that she too "is destined to repeat" her role in the drama. I hope you will comment, Prof L.

The discrepancy in age between James Stewart and Kim Novak in "Vertigo" parallels the same between Ray Milland and Grace Kelly in "Dial M for Murder" and that between Joseph Cotten ("Uncle Charlie") and his niece, Teresa Wright (also known as Charlie). The possibility is that the father-daughter model has been adapted as the romantic ideal. In each case the heroine ends up dead or has a narrow escape. But then in Hitchcock man and woman are always linked by romantic not sexual impulses -- successfully when Cay Grant is the leading man. The most egregious example of a lack of such chemistry is in "Strangers on a Train" where Ruth Roman and Farley Granger go through the motions. Luckily the picture has Robert Walker in it as the wonderfully paranoid and devious dad-hating Bruno. Thank you, Professor Lehman for devising this test. I hope you are having a happy holiday weekend.

Obviously Orson Welles and not Hitchcock directed "A Touch of Evil," so I suspect he is on the list because in "Citizen Kane," Bernard Herrmann wrote the music -- as he did for "Verigo," "North by Northwest," "Psycho," and "Marnie." Less whimsically I agree with Claudia on the distinction between "romantic" and "sexual." I believe that both Madeleine and Judy are unreal in "Vertigo." An allegorical study could be made in which what happens to James Stewart is either (a) entirely a fantasy in his own mind, (b) a dramatization of what an actor goes through when being directed in a movie by Alfred Hitchcock, or (c) a brilliant adaptation of a French roman policier.

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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