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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?

The Prince and the Showgirl

Ring a Ding Ding

The Prince and the Showgirl (1957)

     Not a week after viewing my first Laurence Olivier-in-color movie I found myself watching yet another one. Despite what the movie poster might suggest, The Prince and the Showgirl is not about a sexy Marilyn Monroe who seduces royalty. The plot is actually the other way around. In fact it is difficult to find much romance in Laurence Olivier‘s male lead who is the uptight regent of Carpathia (the husband of the now-deceased queen and father to the young king). Monroe’s chorus girl, however, is full of fluffy notions of love and the 1911 morals to go with them.

     When this Regent meets with the players in a theatrical show in London, Monroe’s Elsie makes a gaffe as her gown’s should strap snaps and she gropes to save her breast from exposure. Despite this encounter, the stoic Carpathian shows no special interest in the girl yet sends word for her to join him in dinner the next night. Upon arrival at the Carpathian embassy, Elsie nearly flees when she learns this dinner is a private one in the Regent’s room. She predicts how the dialogue will play out but stays regardless. The young woman refuses to let the official take advantage of her and cries for more romance –such as perfumed air and music– and ultimately passes out drunk on the floor.

     While trying to escape the premises the next morning after receiving a parting medal from the Regent, Elsie is snatched up by the Queen Dowager (Sybil Thorndike) who needs a lady in waiting to attend the British coronation ceremony. Wearing the same white gown she came in, Elsie is dressed up with another medal and some jewels before joining the family for the event. About to leave the Carpathian royalty’s presence yet again, Elsie is invited by young King Nicholas (Jeremy Spenser) to accompany him to a ball. The Regent is trying to distract himself from the feelings he is developing for Elsie by planning a late-night tryst with another woman at the ball, but later that evening our protagonists will have a more successful repeat of their first date.

     Forget everything you know about Monroe’s characters because she goes in a different direction for The Prince and the Showgirl. The breathy, flirty dumb body of past films is thrown out the window for the role of Elsie, who is smart and conservative in her romantic morals. Also forget any romantic notions you might have about Olivier. His monocled Regent is so cold and emotionless one finds it impossible that Elsie could have fallen in love with him. That is part of the story, however, the softening of this stone man.

     Monroe was the brains behind getting The Prince and the Showgirl produced. She purchased the rights to the play “The Sleeping Prince” and approached Olivier about co-producing the movie and directing it. Despite warnings from others that Monroe was a handful to work with, Olivier agreed. The recently released contemporary film My Week with Marilyn is a dramatized behind-the-scenes look at the making of this movie.

  • The Prince and the Showgirl is set for midnight ET Jan. 20 on TCM.

Source: Ben Mankiewicz

The Divorce of Lady X

Gasser

The Divorce of Lady X (1938)

     I had not planned to watch a movie when I turned on The Divorce of Lady X, yet somehow I got sucked in. For one, this was my first time seeing Laurence Olivier in color, which took me by a somewhat delighted surprise. Also I was intrigued by the Merle Oberon character’s brash forwardness –all while wearing a hoop-skirted dress of Civil War-era style.

     When a fog traps a large party of women attending a fancy ball in a hotel where barrister Everard Logan (Olivier) is also stranded, a brazen young woman (Oberon) talks her way into sharing this stranger’s two-room, two bedded suite. Before Logan knows what has happened, this Leslie has taken his bed and his pajamas and forced him to sleep on a mattress in the sitting room. He is quite furious, but by breakfast the two are getting along swimmingly.

     The trouble starts when Mr. Logan, a divorce attorney, goes to work the next day and meets with a client/friend (Ralph Richardson) who says his wife stayed the night in another man’s suite and at the same hotel where Logan had just rested. Naturally, the barrister assumes his mysterious Leslie –who wore a ring on her third finger– is this Lady Mere and he has just destroyed a marriage. In actuality, Leslie Steele is the daughter of Judge Steele (Morton Selton), who often presides over Logan’s cases. When Leslie visits the man’s office to return his pajamas, she realizes his confusion and goes along with the ruse. The two continue to court as Logan ensures the witness to Lady Mere’s indiscretion is unable to identify him as the correspondent and as he learns that Lady Mere has had quite a few ex-husbands. Leslie even gets the actual Lady and Lord Mere to go along with the charade as she prepares to reveal the truth, but the woman will not get the reaction she expects.

     The Divorce of Lady X  was not much more than a cute romantic comedy. Olivier and Oberon are well-suited together as they will again prove a year later in Wuthering Heights. Our sympathy easily rests with our male protagonist who is being taken for a ride by a somewhat snotty and inexperienced woman. The story actually reminded me some of Love in the Afternoon in which Audrey Hepburn‘s Ariane conceals her name and concocts a false and extensive list of ex-lovers to make her more desirable to Gary Cooper‘s loverboy Frank. Both these women think that being a bad woman makes them more appealing to their mates. Although Ariane’s experience drives Frank wild with jealousy in the 1957 movie, it causes a cringe for Mr. Logan who cannot seem to stop himself from loving the troublesome dame regardless of her past.

Hamlet

Ring a Ding Ding

Hamlet (1948)

     In making Hamlet, Laurence Olivier was credited with, more than anyone else, introducing Shakespeare to the mass public at the time, and rightfully so. Not only does Olivier star in this film adaptation of a brooding young man attempting to prove his uncle murdered his father in pursuit of the throne of Denmark, but he directed, produced, and co-wrote the screenplay. I typically refer to this as “going Orson Welles” because of that actor’s similar control of multiple aspects of his Hollywood debut, Citizen Kane.

     This version of Hamlet, although two and a half hours long, drastically cuts down on the four-hour play by eliminating multiple soliloquies and characters. What we’re left with is a very compact two-hour drama that is both visually stunning and dramatically over the moon.

     The black and white picture grabbed me most with its traveling long takes that move seamlessly through the narrow halls and arched stone doorways of the castle. The picture both opens and closes with this cinematographic device. Equally compelling are the instances when the spectre of Hamlet’s father visits the various characters in foggy low-lit nights. Not only is the ghost eerie in appearance and voice, but the technique used to warn the viewer that something strange is occurring is also worthy of note. A simultaneous sound and camera-movement “heartbeat” blurs the viewers perception of the living characters just as they realize they are not alone.

     The Shakespearean language can be understandably off-putting to some, but the actors in this Hamlet, especially Olivier, speak it as though it were second nature. Whereas a mediocre actor could easily kill a Shakespearian story with poor delivery of the script, Olivier triumphs and overwhelms the audience with his superb portrayal of young Hamlet. Jean Simmons joins the cast as Ophelia, giving a commendable performance as a young woman consumed by mania. My complaint about this film is a poor establishment of any romantic connection between Hamlet and Ophelia. When Hamlet returns at the end of the film to stumble upon Ophelia’s funeral, he declares that he loved the woman, while I ponder “since when?”

     I am generally not a huge fan of Shakespeare and even refuse to have anything to do with Romeo and Juliet (it is way too depressing), so I’m not one to jump on the opportunity to sit through 2.5 hours of it. Hamlet, however, won Best Picture for 1948, so it was necessary to check off my list. Ultimately, I’m glad for the decision; however, I will refrain from giving Hamlet a Wowza!  review because it was a long sit and I found myself easily distracted.

Source: Robert Osborne

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