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Hitchcock Quiz

Homage to Hitchcock: A Multiple Choice Quiz [by David Lehman]

3 vertigoThe multiple-choice form seems to suit a moviemaker as complex as Hitchcock:

(1) Which of the following did not play the male lead in a Hitchcock movie?

a) Sean Connery in Marnie
b) Cary Grant in Notorious
c) Orson Welles in A Touch of Evil
d) Laurence Olivier in Rebecca 
e) Robert Cummings in Saboteur

 Answer: c), Orson Welles, who directed and who dominates the screen in A Touch of Evil. Note the difference between Welles and the other four on the list. Each of the others is a non-method or pre-method actor; three are from Britain. Unlike Welles in his portrayal of evil as ugliness, at least three of the Hitchcock heroes named may be said to have an everyman quality in spite of the fact that three are very handsome, while the fourth has boyish good looks, and the same three may be said to be suave. Hitchcock can project versions of himself as Cary Grant, James Stewart, Rod Taylor, the young Gregory Peck, even Olivier as a toff. But it doesn't work with Monty Clift in I, Confess.and it wouldn't work with Welles or Brando.

(2) The title North by Northwest is a reference to

a) The Tempest and magic
b) Hamlet and madness
c) A popular route flown by Pan American Airlines in 1959
with change of planes at O'Hare and Mt Rushmore the final destination
d) Emily Dickinson's poem "After great pain a formal feeling comes"
e) Cary Grant's use of a road map as a disguise in the dining car 

4 north by northwestAnswer: b) Hamlet and madness. Hamlet says he is mad only "north by northwest," reinforcing the doubt that he is truly mad rather than calculatingly capable of an "antic disposition." The plot of Hitchcock's movie is mad, fantastic in the old-fashioned sense. Yet there is method in the apparent madness -- and there is as much comedy in this thriller as that category can hold. The title also encapsulates the movie's locations and its motion. This is a movie of movement: in taxicab, motor cars, train, plane, bus. Cary Grant's journey begins in New York City -- Madison Avenue, the Plaza Hotel, and the United Nations. Then the film takes a trip to the Midwest with its unending fields of corn and finally culminates on the top of Mouth Rushmore, which is north by northwest from New York City. Finally, there is a sense of playacting in the movie and the sort of temporary insanity that accompanies excursions into the absurd. From the moment Cary Grant, advertising executive, is kidnapped at the Plaza Hotel, each scene is more implausible than the scene preceding it. A prodigious amount of liquor is consumed by our hero, who reveals himself to be quite a resourceful, witty, charming, romantic, fast-on-his-feet character as the movie goes along -- whereas, at the start, he is merely adept at stealing a cab, playing the field, and reporting to mother.

(3) Identify Ambrose Chapel.

a) Albert Hall's younger brother
b) The kidnapper in The Man Who Knew Too Much
c) A London church
d) The MacGuffin
e) Montgomery Clift's parish in I Confess

Answer: c) a London church in The Man Who Knew too Much, but metaphorically it is also a) an anticipation of the Albert Hall, scene of the climax of The Man Who Knew Too Much. Like Albert Hall, Ambrose Chapel is a name that can also be taken to refer to a person, the way James Stewart and Doris Day approach it at first. While b) is incorrect, it is relevant. Only  e) is just plain wrong.

  5 Rear Window(4) Hitchcock favored blond actresses because of

a) A childhood crush on Marlene Dietrich
b) Unresolved Oedipal issues
c) See (d)
d) Grace Kelly, Ingrid Bergman, Janet Leigh, Kim Novak, Doris Day, Joan Fontaine, Lorraine Day, Priscilla Lane, and Tippi Hedren
e) The idea, which occurred to him with the force of an epiphany, that blond-versus-brunette mirrored the American power structure
f) The belief that in movies an actor's looks are more important than his or her talent.

Answer: d) the actresses named. It must however be admitted that b) and f) are decided possibilities. As for both a) and e), each is random speculation. The birds' savage attack on Tippi Hedren is probably the worst ordeal any Hitchcock blonde endures, though the company is stiff. Kim Novak dies twice in Vertigo. Ingrid Bergman is poisoned to the brink of death in Notorious. And of course there's Janet Leigh's lifelong fear of showers, which originated with the one she takes as Marion Crane in Bates's Motel after she has decided to to return the money, concealed in a newspaper, to the bank from which she absconded with it

(5) Which of these did Hitchcock invest with uncanny significance, and what does that tell you?

a) A glass of milk
b) A shattered pair of eyeglasses
c) A giant Sequoia Redwood 
d) The key to the wine cellar
e) A burning mansion

Answer: Some would argue for symbolism. The shattered eyeglasses at the amusement park signify the death of the girl in Strangers on a Train. The key leads to the wine-cellar and its secrets in Notorious. You might say that the glass of milk in Suspicion, like the coffee cup and saucer in Notorious, accentuates the innocence that is menaced. The homely domestic objects contain lethal doses of poison; the threat of murder can be disguised in the least threatening of objects.

(6) Which of the following is not an authentic Hitchcock moment?

a) Grace Kelly cozies up with Harper's Bazaar while her beau, nursing a broken leg, takes a nap
b) Raymond Burr signs a contract to play first base for the New York Yankees after the death of Gary Cooper
 c) Ingrid Bergman offers her beau "a leg or a breast" as they stand on the terrace on a tropical evening
 d) With one exception, everyone watching a tennis match moves his or her head as the movement of the ball dictates
 e) Doris Day belts out Che Sera, Sera at a posh party peopled by diplomats in London

Answer: (b). Gary Cooper played Lou Gehrig in Pride of the Yankees. Raymond Burr had nothing to do with it. In movies he played a minor character, usually a heavy, until he emerged as television's "Perry Mason." God bless his agent. Hitchcock would not have been interested in Lou Gehrig or any element of his story, which lacks a violent death, grounds for suspicion, murderous motives. There are foul balls but no foul play. On the other hand, each of the others is perfect: a) Rear Window, c) Notorious, d) Strangers on a Train, and e) The Man Who Knew Too Much, which is underrated, perhaps a natural consequence of having been made in a period of masterpieces on the order of Vertigo, Rear Window, and North by Northwest.

2 Vertigo(7) In Vertigo

a) Who is real, Judy or Madeline?
b) Who is real, Johnny or Scotty?
c) 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.
d) What does Bernard Herrmann's music contribute?
e) Why does the detective reject fashion designer Barbara Bel Geddes?
f) Why are they both named Charlie, Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten in Shadow of a Doubt, and can you make the case that this, even more than Saboteur, is Hitchcock's most patriotically American movie?

Answer: You're on your own here. Go to town..

8) In the auction scene in North by Northwest, Cary Grant violates the hushed-room decorum by making wacky and contradictory bids in order to

a) attract attention because he is a certified narcissist who thinks he is Cary Grant
b) attract attention and get ejected because the cops were preferable to the kidnappers awaiting his exit
c) 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
d) warn about an imminent terrorist threat in a way that wouldn't panic the public because only one man present would understand the message
e) arouse the admiration of co-star Eva Maria Saint, who has aired her doubts about his skill as a comic actor

Answer: b) is correct. a) and e) are amusing fictions. d) is Borgesian. c) refers to the plot of a different movie, Notorious.

(9)  Which of the following does not qualify as a typical Hitchcock prank?

a) to cuff his hero and heroine during rehearsals, clear the room, and lock the door
b) 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 
c) to employ Otto Preminger to play the commandant of a Nazi prisoner-of-war camp
d) to suggest the act of fornication by showing a speeding train enter a tunnel
e) to kill Kim Novak twice, in both cases at the top of the church tower at Mission San Juan Batista in California

Answer: (c) Refers to Billy Wilder's movie Stalag 17. The rest are pure Hitchcock.

(10) To appreciate Hitchcock's movies,

a) you need to see them
b) You need to see them more than once.
c) you need to take into account that he was raised Catholic
d) you have to consider that he was born British but was American by choice
e) you have to acknowledge that the McGuffin is to plot as psyche is to drama and the dream
f) you must remind yourself that you, the viewer, are both the male and the female leads in the film

Answer: a) for sure, but a strong case can be made for each of the others.

Note: The multiple choice form, with which we are all familiar, is little used for the purposes of exposition. This is part of a little experiment. -- DL

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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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