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Tag Archive: Hollywood movie business


Review by C.J. Bunce

Notorious isn’t just the name of an Alfred Hitchcock film, it describes the reputation of the acclaimed director over the course of his 55-year career.  Over the course of his films he would become famous for not only the blonde actresses in his films, but his misogynistic, voyeuristic, fetishism themes and content.  A precursor in many ways to Quentin Tarentino, Hitchcock nearly 40 years after his death is as popular as ever, with his film Vertigo still on many critics’ lists as the best American film of all time.  Those who view his films are left to wonder how much of the content of his films were the man, and how often was he simply selling what moviegoers were looking for–something new, something surprising, something stylish, and something shocking.  The flip side of Hitchcock viewed as provocateur is the fact that his films always featured a strong lead woman–sometimes from the opening scene and other times by film’s end–and the actress was often the only name marketed above the title, including some of the most fierce and compelling women characters ever filmed.

Scotland author Caroline Young takes a compelling look at the director and his relationship with the leading women in his films in her new book Hitchcock’s Heroines, a photograph-filled hardcover from Insight Editions.  Young, author of Roman Holiday: The Secret Life of Hollywood in Rome, Tartan & Tweed, and Style Tribes, sources interviews with the actors as well as interviews with Hitchcock to gain a better understanding of what motivated his work.  He spent the first half of his career–represented by the first half of the book–developing the style he would come to be known for by the time of his 1954 success Rear Window, culminating in his ideal production team: costume designer Edith Head, production designer Robert Burks, assistant director Herbert Coleman, and editor George Tomasini.  Hitchcock knew that most of his audience were women and believed that in the 1940s-1960s women usually determined what movie a couple was going to attend.  So the appearance of his leading women was as important, if not more important, than any other part of the film.  He also had an eye for using color and wardrobe as part of his storytelling tools, perhaps changing a character’s muted-toned costumes to striking and contrasting by film’s end to represent a character’s change in mood, strength, or growth.

Hitchcock’s Heroines is a superb source of costume sketches, costume designs, and production stills spanning Hitchcock’s directorial career.  Young includes with her discussions of each actress and corresponding character the costumes and costumers, which amounts to a history of Hollywood costume design artists, including Jean Peron, Dolly Tree, Joe Strassner, Marianne, Irene, Edward Stevenson, Vera West, Gilbert Adrian, René Hubert, Howard Greer, Edith Head, Christian Dior, Milo Anderson, Moss Mabry, Helen Rose, Harry Kress, Rita Riggs, Helen Colvig, and Julie Harris, although it was also not beyond Hitchcock to source his own vision from off-the-rack wardrobe from Western Costume Company or Bergdorf Goodman. Hair style and hair color is also a recurring theme Young pursues in the book.

Young references an interview from 1931 where Hitchcock discussed selecting actresses for roles: “The chief point I keep in mind when selecting my heroine is that she must be fashioned to please women rather than men, for the reason that women form three-quarters of the average cinema audience.  Therefore, no actress can be a good commercial proposition as a film heroine unless she pleases her own sex.”  It is noteworthy that Hitchcock was not always responsible for who starred in his films–Young cites instances where studio head David O. Selznick directly cast Hitchcock’s leading actors.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

At long last, Johnny Alucard, Kim Newman’s sequel to 1992’s Anno Dracula, 1995’s The Bloody Red Baron, and 1998’s Dracula Cha Cha Cha is now available.  And for fans of Newman’s richly detailed universe, the first Anno Dracula universe tale in 15 years was worth the wait.  It’s a ballad of a kid born with nothing, who has a destiny, and that destiny takes him to conquer America.  And it all happens in a parallel world where Bram Stoker’s Dracula was a biography of an historical figure, and humans and vampires live side-by-side in a universe similar, yet very different, from our own.

Known for its deeply layered world building occupied by well-known fictional and historical characters with jumbled realities, this latest Anno Dracula entry doesn’t let up.  We at borg.com last year named the re-release of Dracula Cha Cha Cha the best read of 2012.  Check out our review here.  That novel followed Newman’s four protagonists as their stories collided with the death of Dracula in the 1950s.  Three women vampires are at the heart of the Anno Dracula universe: Geneviève Dieudonné, a centuries-old French vampire who watched and participated in key historic events in this timeline; Kate Reed–the most accessible of the three–a plucky Irish journalist who carries the reader through many events in Newman’s stories; and Penelope (“Penny”) Churchward, the third wheel who never quite becomes friends with the other “Charles’s Angels”.   The Charles is Charles Beauregard, a British spy all three women had relationships with over the years, and who died in Dracula Cha Cha Cha, around the time of the death of Dracula himself.

This latest installment of Newman’s series picks up with the tale of an up-and-coming vampire legend. Born Ion Popescu, Johnny Alucard was “turned” at the age of 13 in 1944.  But the story begins in 1976 when he ends up as a gofer under Francis Ford Coppola as he is agonizing over the production of, not Apocalypse Now, but his own Dracula film.  Geneviève, Kate, and Penny are back, and they have key roles in Ion’s story as he transforms himself into “Johnny Pop” and ultimately the wealthy Johnny Alucard, elevating himself higher than anyone thought possible.

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