Feature: Hitchcock Movie Posters from Italy

I put up a post a while ago comparing U.S. movie posters for American movies to the versions that were released for the same pictures in Italy. As I continue to roam the web, and particularly the newly discovered MoviePostersDB.com, I continue to find that foreign, particularly Italian, posters are far more artistic/intriguing/seductive than the American ones. This time I have focused specifically on Hitchcock movies, films that in and of themselves embody artistry, intrigue and seduction. These movies, because they were so well publicized, have multiple posters per country to their name, but here I have grabbed what appear to be the most common versions.

ITALY VS. AMERICA

I think there is no arguing that the American version of what would advertise Hitchcock’s first American film looks pretty bland compared the foreign one. I also concede, however, that the former looks a bit like a romance novel cover. And who is the gorgeous woman in the backdrop? Certainly not Judith Anderson’s Mrs. Danvers. It could be the artist’s manifestation of the deceased Rebecca, but she is never shown in the picture, which is sort of the point. Nevertheless, I would rather see the Rebecca advertised by the image on the left than the one on the right.

 Notorious is possibly my favorite Hitchcock movie and one that is certainly darker than the American poster would suggest. Although the key depicted is of significance, the romance between Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman is not as light-hearted as the advertisement would suggest. The Italian poster is a bit vague in its meaning and with the title perhaps suggests merely a story of an illicit affair, but it is by far the edgier version and one that better suits the tone of the actual movie.

Although I have always enjoyed the Dial M for Murder American poster, the Italian version is a bit more striking, and bloody. Because the Italian title translates as “Perfect Crime”, choosing to focus on the weapon rather than the phone that justifies the American title makes sense. It also notes other intricacies of the film, such as the scissors and the time. I can see the favorite of these two being a toss up for some people. Your thoughts?

I am not in love with either of these posters, but the foreign version is much more eye-catching. It highlights the one setting in which the entire film takes place while highlighting its star, who is perhaps not as mean as the poster suggests. The U.S. ad is just bland. We get it: it’s called Rope and there’s a rope.

In this instance, the Italian poster borrows from the American one but manages to give us a much different feel for the movie. The use of unnatural color and the red tone suggestive of blood makes The Birds a more frightening looking picture. The birds themselves also look more threatening in the overseas ad, which allows it to trump the domestic version.

I’m not sure I can entirely pass judgement and declare the Italian Vertigo poster better than the U.S. version. Although the foreign advertisement has many seductive and creepy elements, the simplicity of the American poster and its emphasis on the vertigo effect invented by Hitchcock in making that movie is difficult to rival. Again, the Italian movie title is not the same as the American, so “The Woman Who Lived Twice” likely inspired a different poster.

What do you think?

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The Women

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The Women (1939)

     It is possible that never a film so remarkably cast or flush with estrogen has been presented to audiences as 1939’s The Women. Based on a play of the same name and remade many times over the years, the story of a slew of gossiping, man-stealing society dames is probably too female-powered to appeal to the stronger sex, but not being a man, myself, I found it quite enjoyable.

     The stars of the picture are really the reason to watch The Women. With a lot of power-grabbing games and spats going on off-screen, it is a wonder the film got made without more than a scar on Paulette Goddard’s leg. Despite five or more big name stars occupying the majority of the screen time, the story is really about Norma Shearer as Mary Haines, wife to Stephen.

     The story starts with super gossip and outright bitch Sylvia Fowler, played by Rosalind Russell, learning from her manicurist that Mr. Haines has been “stepping out” on his wife with a perfume saleswoman Crystal Allen, embodied by Joan Crawford. She spreads word to a friend before the two head to lunch with Mary Haines, and all through the meal Sylvia drops hints about her new-found knowledge. Mary is preparing to go on a Canadian trip with her hubby, but he calls while the woman is entertaining her guests to say he cannot get away. Mary, too, starts to wonder why he has been working late so often. The following day, Mary gets her nails done by that same loud-mouthed manicurist after Sylvia’s insistence and hears some news about herself. She is set on telling her husband off, but her mother persuades the woman, who has a daughter, to keep quiet for a while.

     Meanwhile, Sylvia and Joan Fontaine‘s all-too-innocent Peggy scope out Crystal on the job where we first meet her and discover she is quite the two-faced lady –capable of speaking in a refined, flirty manner one moment and calling Sylvia Fowler “Mrs. Prowler” the next.  Mary and Crystal ultimately run into each other at a fashion show where Crystal is putting the expensive duds on Mr. Haines’ account. The very sweet and rather passive Mary opts to confront Crystal in her dressing room and the two exchange nasty words, but the papers decide –on a front page spread– that Mary in fact socked her sexual rival. Mary now has it out behind closed doors with her husband and we hear the whole affair recounted as gossip among the house servants. Mary heads for Reno, accompanied by a mixed up Peggy, to wait out a divorce. On the way she meets a countess (Mary Boland) and another woman, Miriam (Paulette Goddard) both taking the journey towards divorce.

     Jump ahead to the day Mary’s divorce decree comes through and we learn that a) Peggy is pregnant and will stay with her husband; b) Miriam is having an affair with Sylvia’s husband; and c) Sylvia’s husband has thrown her out and she too is in Reno for a divorce. Once Sylvia discovers via gossip column that the woman she just met is in line to marry her soon-to-be ex, the two get into a physical fight and the bitch bites Miriam in the leg. Miriam, whom we come to like greatly, counsels Mary and convinces her to tell her husband she will rip up the divorce papers. Receiving a call from Stephen, however, she learns he has just wed Crystal.

     A year and a half later, Crystal is conducting an affair while Stephen is miserable in the relationship and the Haines’ daughter is busy loathing “Auntie Crystal”. When Mary hears how unhappy her ex-husband is and that the new bride is anything but faithful, she hits the town out to expose the whole matter, ultimately breaking up that union and getting her man back.

      Shearer’s Mary is continuously noted throughout the movie as being an overwhelmingly kind and sweet woman, thus driving the audience’s sympathy for her. What she does in the end, however, is realize she must drop her pride and essentially become just like the horrible gossips of her friends and drive a scandal to the surface. The act is utterly out of character for the woman, but she finds she must do what is necessary to get the love of her life back. I found this role a different one for Shearer. I am accustomed to her pre-Production Code parts in which she was often the floozy more akin to Crawford’s Crystal. Shearer still offers the same bubbly personality we always see with her. She is almost nauseatingly happy in her life at the film’s start, being superbly in love with her husband 10 years into their marriage.

     For a movie with the tagline “It’s all about men!”, The Women allows none of that sex to walk in front of the camera. With something like 130 cast members, all were female including the dogs and horses also seen on screen. The tagline is not inaccurate, however, as men ultimately drive the entire plot. I am not one terribly in love with gossip, so the whole blithering mouth-running in this movie gets a bit tiring. It is amazing how quickly Russell can talk, but boy does she rock that part.

     Despite being chock full of women, I can see little in this movie that would appeal to men. All dressed in the high fashion of Adrian, the women are not really sexy, nor is there any actual romance happening on screen. Perhaps the only draw contained in The Women for male audiences is a cat fight between Russell and Goddard’s characters. That bite on the leg left a scar on Goddard but the two actresses allegedly remained friends.

      Although filmed mostly in black and white, a fashion show in the middle of the film is done in Technicolor. The start and close of that scene combines a monochrome frame around a small section in the middle of the screen in color. This was a novel technique at the time.

  • The Women is set for 2:15 a.m. ET Aug. 2 on TCM.

Source: TCM.com

Fanny (1961)

Ring a Ding Ding

Fanny (1961)

     What is it about a story of young love interrupted by life’s challenges, leaving two people forever apart but always longing, that tugs at the heartstrings? The story of Fanny might be nothing new, merely a re-assembling of plots from other classic stories (“The Count of Monte Cristo” and “Wuthering Heights” come to mind) and a story in its third screen incarnation, but it remains a somewhat unpredictable romance as one is unsure how things will unravel. I would not say grab the tissues, but, ladies, prepare to sigh.

     Leslie Caron‘s Fanny and Horst Buchholz‘s Marius grew up together in the waterfront town of Marseilles. Fanny works with her mother (Georgette Anys) as fish mongers while Marius helps run a bar with this father, Cesare (Charles Boyer). As we enter the action, it is Fanny’s 18th birthday and she has the day off to wear a sleeveless “skimpy” dress. Marius is also secretly planning to join a ship crew transporting scientists leaving port the next day for a five-year duration. For some inexplicable reason, Marius longs for a life at sea, having overblown fantasies about what exotic islands are like. Fanny has been flirting with Marius all day, but the boy is too dense to do anything about. When the girl leads on the 58-year-0ld Panisse (Maurice Chevalier) in front of him, however, Marius puts on quite the angry show that ends with the two men strangling each other. Cesare breaks up the fight between his son and his best friend/enemy.

     That night, Fanny comes to Marius as he is closing the bar and the two sneak off to the pier (the girl’s mother is out of town). Fanny declares her obvious love for the boy and proclaims she knows he feels the same, but Marius tries to resist kissing the girl in his arms as he explains his sailor ambitions. The two eventually lock lips in an exceedingly romantic moment as Marius reveals he has thus far avoided a seaward voyage because of the young woman. The next scene is Fanny’s mother returning home to find two liqueur glasses and a man’s belt at her kitchen table, Marius in her daughter’s bed. She runs to Cesare furious and the two plot a marriage between the two. When the couple arrives, they are agreeable, but hearing his father’s plans for his life visibly upsets Marius. Fanny convinces him at the last minute to board the sailing vessel by telling him she plans to marry the rich Panisse.

     Both Cesare and Fanny mourn the fleeing of the young man, but the situation worsens when a forthcoming child is discovered. Fanny’s mother insists she marry Panisse, who is all too happy to be getting a child with the arrangement as no one in his family produced an heir. Cesare learns of the situation and becomes agreeable when he is allowed to be godfather, giving him an excuse to be involved in the life of his actual grandson. Almost two years later Marius is on leave for a few hours and visits Fanny where he puts together the puzzle of the child’s origin. He is hurt and ashamed and wants to take over –and Panisse is willing to step down– but Fanny refuses despite still loving the man. Jump about 10 years ahead where the story will end. Marius has been out of contact with everyone he once knew. The Panisse’s are living happily away from the waterfront, but the child has a longing to go to sea.

    The origin of this production of Fanny can be traced back to a French play by Marcel Pagnol, which was made into a movie in both France and then America in the 1930s. Hollywood also made an adaptation called The Port of Seven Seas, but that version varied greatly from the original story. This approach was actually a translation of a Broadway musical version with book by Joshua Logan (this film’s director) and S. N. Behrman. Jack Warner opted to delete the songs from the story, however, believing that audiences had grown tired of musicals. Ironically then, West Side Story beat Fanny for best picture in 1961. The movie was also nominated for Best Actor for Boyer, Score, Editing and Cinematography.

     Despite the Academy’s apparent favor of the camerawork, I did not care for the cinematography in Fanny. There were times when fast zooms or camera sweeps make me think I was watching a cheesey 70s horror film starring Vincent Price. Director of Photography Jack Cardiff also used a lot of close ups on Marius and especially Fanny’s face as they looked directly into the lens. It gave an intimate feel to the moment, drawing the viewer into the action, but it was sometimes employed even when the characters were not looking at one another. It was also hampered greatly, I feel, by a soft focus lens used exclusively for Caron. I have never been a fan of that approach typically used for close ups of women’s faces to make they look “more beautiful.” I always find actresses more attractive when I can see the details of their faces. Alfred Hitchcock was also an anti-soft focus guy. I seem to recall an argument with David O. Selznick over using it for Joan Fontaine in Rebecca … but that’s another story.

  • Fanny is set for 5:15 p.m. ET April 25 on TCM.

Source: Ben Mankiewicz

Hitchcock Blogation #9: Rebecca

Wowza!

Rebecca (1940)

     Just as Citizen Kane is usually considered Orson Welles‘ best work, Rebecca, in my opinion, is Hitchcock’s greatest masterpiece. The reasoning is the same. They were first films and ones that the directors had the most control over. For Hitchcock, it was his first in the U.S. and he had considerable control because Producer David O. Selznick was too preoccupied with Gone with the Wind to be hands on with Rebecca.

     When Maxim de Winter, played by Laurence Olivier, is on vacation in at some Europian hotspot he courts a young woman played by Joan Fontaine whom he marries. So for the first part of the film the story looks like a pleasant romance, but when the couple returns to the DeWinter estate, Manderlay, life is anything but pleasant for the new Mrs. de Winter. Maxim had been married before to Rebecca, whom we never see and are unsure of how she died. Traces of the first Mrs. de Winter remain throughout the estate and especially in the attitude of the housekeeper Mrs. Danvers, played wonderfully by Judith Anderson. Mrs. de Winter feels as though Maxim is so overcome with his love for Rebecca and remorse over her death that he cannot properly love her. The mystery, however, lies in what did happen to Rebecca.

     Anderson is fabulous as Mrs. Danvers. The woman worships Rebecca and goes to lengths to undermine the new mistress of the house. For an annual costume ball, she convinces the young woman to dress as one of the portraits on the wall of the mansion, which results in humiliation because Rebecca had worn the same dress to the same event in the past. Anderson gives off the appropriate lesbian vibe as well. When Mrs. de Winter finally sneaks into Rebecca’s room, Mrs. Danvers finds her and shows her, so sensually the dead woman’s silk lingerie and fine bed linens.

     George Sanders also arrives as Rebecca’s cousin/lover, who is rather unwelcome at the estate yet buddy-buddy with Mrs. Danvers. He suspects Maxim killed Rebecca and sets out to prove it. In the end, Maxim and Mrs. de Winter are happy, but Mrs. Danvers loses it.

     Fontaine’s character does not have a first name, just Mrs. de Winter as the servants and guests call her. Maxim sticks to pet names. Fontaine puts on a great performance as the subordinated lady of the house. She is perpetually nervous, frightened and unhappy. She is babied by Mrs. Danvers, and the doorknobs in the house, which are positioned at shoulder height, deliberately make the woman look like a child. Fontaine’s fantastic performance was in part because of Hitchcock’s off-screen meddling. Vivien Leigh, who was soon to marry Olivier, was considered for her part, so when the Gone with the Wind star did not get it, Olivier treated Fontaine accordingly. To add to Fontaine’s discomfort on the set, Hitchcock also treated her poorly and rudely. It is likely Fontaine’s performance would have been disappointing without that “encouragement”.

The MacGuffin: The first Mrs. de Winter and how she died.

Where’s Hitch? Walking past a phone booth just after George Sanders makes a call.

Source: Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light by Patrick McGilligan

I will be posting reviews of Hitchcock movies every hour ending at 8 p.m. today, but other members of the Classic Movie Blog Association, which is hosting the blogathon, have plenty to offer also. Links to their articles is up at the CMBA site. Check them out!

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