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Hitchcock Quiz

On Hitchcock's birthday, His Jokes, Heroes, Villains, and More: Multiple Choice [by David Lehman]

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When August 13 falls on a Friday, as it does this year, let us honor Alfred Hitchcock, born on this August day. In the spirit of macabre and bemused jollity, I recommend that you listen to Shoistakovich's amazing Symphony no. 5 and ponder these multiple choice questions if you like the form, as I do. -- DL

Which of the following is not an authentic Hitchcock moment?

-- Grace Kelly cozies up with Harper's Bazaar while her beau, nursing a broken leg, takes a nap
-- Raymond Burr signs a contract to play first base for the New York Yankees after the death of Gary Cooper
-- Grace Kelly offers her beau "a leg or a breast" as they stand on the terrace on a tropical evening
-- Grace Kelly finds the scissors on the desk and with a desperate lunge wards off the intruder and kills him
-- Jospeh Cotten deprecates the ordinary people of Santa Rosa, where the Hitchcock Hitchcock's housefamily lived (his house is pictured right), as if he were Orson Welles atop the Ferris Wheel in The Third Man

The better the villain, the better the film." Acknowledging that "better" is an elastic term, which of the following is the best villain? Discuss at least three.

(a) James Mason in "North by Northwest"
(b) The birds in "The Birds"
(c) Robert Walker in "Strangers on a Train"
(d) Claude Rains and his mother in "Notorious"
(e) Anthony Perkins and his mother in "Psycho"
(f) Ray Milland in "Dial M for Murder"
(g) Joseph Cotten in "Shadow of a Doubt"

What conclusions can we come to?
(a) some bad guys tend to be guys with mother complexes or enraged beasts
(b) "the more deranged, the better"
(c) the "suave index" (Ray Milland, James Mason) makes the movies less threatening
(d) murder like sex can be considered either as an art, a sport, a battle, a competition, or an act of passion

 Kim-novak-vertigo-greysuitWhich of the following does not qualify as a typical Hitchcock joke?

-- to cuff his hero and heroine, leave the room and lock the door
-- to pose as the fat man in a weight-reducing ad that is espied if not read on a lifeboat full of the survivors of a shipwreck 
-- to employ Otto Preminger to play the commandant of a Nazi prisoner-of-war camp
-- to suggest the act of fornication by showing a speeding train enter a tunnel
-- to kill Kim Novak twice, in both cases at the top of the church tower at Mission San Juan Batista in California

In the auction scene in North ny Northwest, Cary Grant makes contradictory and ludicrous bids in order to
4 north by northwest
-- attract attention because he is a certified narcissist who thinks he is Cary Grant
-- attract attention and get ejected because the cops are preferable to the killers awaiting his exit
-- fulfill his part of the bargain with Ingrid Bergman, who has done her part by going to Brazil and enduring a near-lethal dose of poison administered slowly so it looks like sickness and not murder
-- warn about an imminent terrorist threat in a way that wouldn't panic the public because only one man present would understand the message, and what better way to do that than to to be caught holding the knife that killed the US Ambassador to the UN when that instiution was not yet immoral, irrelevant or fattening (to slightly misquote Irene Dunne on life's pleasures)
-- arouse the admiration of co-star Eva Maria Saint, who has aired her doubts about his skill as a comic actor

Good luck! -- DL

August 13, 2018

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"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly


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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