‘Shadow of a Doubt’ on the radio

I’ve said before that my favorite Alfred Hitchcock movie is “Shadow of a Doubt,” a 1943 thriller about a serial murderer of widows and the curious relation between him and his loving niece.

But what I didn’t know was that back in the 1940s and ’50s, radio plays were regularly done using popular films as the script. So I’m searching through YouTube for clips on “Shadow of a Doubt” and I find this:

I don’t know who Betsy Drake was, but Cary Grant as Uncle Charlie is an amazing find. He was in four Hitchcock movies (“Suspicion,” Notorious,” North by Northwest” and “To Catch a Thief) but it was so odd to hear him doing Joseph Cotten’s role. And even better, Hitchcock is the director!

And just as I was wowed by this version from the 1950s, I find another version done in 1944, several years earlier:

William Powell, “The Thin Man” of all people,  is Uncle Charlie. And Teresa Wright, who played young Charlie in the movie a year earlier, is of course, a great choice. The director is Cecil B. DeMille (I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille) the master of monumental movies.

Transformation: Michael Bay and ‘The Birds’

The nightmare begins:

After successfully remaking several 80s slasher films, Michael Bay and his Platinum Dunes banner look ready to remake one of the master of suspense’s classic films alongside Peter Guber’s Mandalay Pictures.

Platinum Dunes, Mandalay Pictures and Universal have tapped Dutch filmmaker Diederik Van Rooijen to direct the remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.”

As a longtime Hitchcock fan, I am so ready to hate this movie. This is the trailer for “The Birds”:

This is the trailer for the next big Michael Bay extravaganza:

The only thing that could make this worse is Michael Bay decides to cast Shia LaBeouf and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in the lead roles for “The Birds.”

The MacGuffin

If you’re a fan of Alfred Hitchcock, you’ll understand this cartoon. If not, it’s your loss:

OK. You’ve twisted my arm. Here’s the explanation:

And I can’t wait to see the movie with Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren:

All right, here’s a little more “Psycho” history.

As a Hitchcock fan, I can say that of all of his movies, this is the one I wish I could have seen on opening day. To have no idea of what it was about. To be completely thrown when the leading lady is murdered in the first half of the movie. To come to the horrifying realization that “Mother-m-mother, uh, what is the phrase? She isn’t quite herself today.” That would have been one of those delicious movie memories. Instead, I caught snippets of it on television in the early ’60s and it wasn’t until many years later that I saw the whole movie from start to finish.

And I still get a little jittery when taking a shower in an empty house.

“Rear Window” in three minutes

According to Vimeo, this timelapse consists of actual shots taken from the Alfred Hitchcock movie “Rear Window.” And if you know the movie, you see that the sequence of events is correct.

Jimmy Stewart never shows up in the field of vision, because his character never leave the apartment from which the events in the courtyard are viewed, but you do see Raymond Burr and Grace Kelly. You also see the dancer through one window, the composer through another, the “active” newlywed couple, the dog owner and Miss Lonelyhearts. I’ll bet if you look close enough, you’ll see Alfred Hitchcock in the composer’s apartment.

One thing that bothered me about “Rear Window,” but was totally logical in the development of the movie was, the sequence where you thought Miss Lonelyheart was about to commit suicide.

As a viewer … actually as a voyeur … you saw all the lives develop in the courtyard from Jeff Jefferies’s (Stewart’s) perspective, and there were no secrets. But in the part where Miss Lonelyhearts (played by Judith Evelyn) seemed ready to end it all, it was extremely troubling that Jefferies never made an effort to call out to stop her, because he was so obsessed by the mystery developing in Lars Thorwald’s (Burr’s) apartment.

But there’s a distraction and everyone comes out to investigate, except for the disabled Jefferies and the cigarette smoking Thorwald.

Miss Lonelyhearts, though, is alive at the end of the movie, and you’re left with the impression that she’s found romance with another one of the tenants. I thought that was a little forced, but I felt better since it wasn’t another addition to the body count.

Stranger on a train

Cover of "Rope"

Cover of Rope

Farley Granger died Sunday.

I’m guessing that name doesn’t mean too much to people today, but he was a big star in the 1950s, appearing in two Alfred Hitchcock classics.

One was “Rope.” It came out in 1948, with James Stewart as the star,  and was essentially a fictionalized interpretation of the 1924 Leopold and Loeb murder.

OK, history lesson: Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb were two rich University of Chicago students who killed a 14-year-old boy for no reason other than they wanted to commit the perfect murder. They considered themselves superior beings. Not in a crazy mystical deity way, but kind of a precursor to the Nazi philosophy of the master race. Which is kind of weird because they were both Jewish.

According to Wikipedia:

The two were exceptionally intelligent. Nathan Leopold was a child prodigy who spoke his first words at the age of four months; he reportedly had an intelligence quotient of 210, though this is not directly comparable to scores on modern IQ tests. Leopold had already completed college, graduating Phi Beta Kappa, and was attending law school at the University of Chicago. He claimed to have studied 15 languages, was able to speak four, and was an expert ornithologist. Loeb was the youngest graduate in the history of the University of Michigan and planned to enter the University of Chicago Law School after taking some postgraduate courses. Leopold planned to transfer to Harvard Law School in September after taking a trip to Europe.

They committed a series of crimes leading up to the murder, just because they could. They were caught because Leopold left his glasses at the scene. Idiot.

Clarence Darrow was their defense attorney. They should have gotten the death penalty, but received life sentences. Loeb was slashed to death in jail by another inmate. Leopold was paroled in 1958 after 33 years in prison, moved to Puerto Rico and died in 1971.

Which brings us back to “Rope.” The play was written in 1929, and Hitchcock decided to do the movie in 1948. It’s likely Farley Granger was the Loeb character (he struck the audience as the more neurotic of the two). John Dall was the other murderer. “Rope” was not a great Hitchcock movie, but the thing that made it memorable was the cinematic experiment Hitchcock tried to pull off. Making the movie seem like it was all done in one shot. An interesting attempt, but the movie falls short.

Now “Strangers on a Train” is a great movie. It has one of the most charming psychopathic killers of all time.

Bruno, played by Robert Walker, hates his father. Farley Granger is Guy, a professional tennis player who’s trying to get out of a bad marriage. Bruno and Guy meet on a train by accident, and Bruno comes up with this crazy idea: to solve both of their problems, they swap murders. Bruno will kill Guy’s wife while Guy kills Bruno’s father. Guy thinks Bruno is joking. He’s not.

Here’s Granger on his experience with Robert Walker.

In both cases, Granger is a star of the movie, but not the big star: Those would be Stewart in “Rope” and Walker in “Strangers on a Train.”

But Granger was one of the few ties remaining to Hitchcock’s glory years. And now he’s gone.