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Monday, May 26, 2014

Hitchcock and Showmen Start With A Kiss


The Clinch That Filled 1,200 Seats

I guess we have an idea at least of why Notorious stays so popular among Hitchcock thrillers, but what jammed Chicago's RKO Grand for a record nine weeks in 1946? From September to late November, there came continuous lines to the 1,200 seat venue. "Open All Day and Night," as indicated on the marquee at left, says a lot. Downtown day-timers and night-owls might turn up at any time. 1946 was after all a biggest ever year for moviegoing, industry profits well over a hundred million. Production was down from prewar levels thanks to top product sustaining longer runs. What got buzz going on Notorious, at least in Chicago and I'll bet many spots elsewhere, was "The Kiss," as touted in the above ad. Movies had been sold, and would be again, on express of passion to skirt the Code. There was Flesh and The Devil from silent days, and after Notorious came A Place In The Sun, From Here To Eternity, and even unto 60's The Thomas Crown Affair as builder blocks to kiss-centric campaigns. Word-of-mouth could heat auditoriums for ... well, nine weeks, as here. There's been too little writ of steam Hitchcock applied to love scenes. Here was where the director used every trick in his bag to elude censors. The end game for Notorious was simple. Rules stated no kiss could last past X number of seconds, so Hitchcock simply breaks the clinch with dialogue as Cary Grant/Ingrid Bergman move from patio start to exit door parting, love being made continuous even as the two remain standing the whole time. Trick to intimacy was Hitchcock pulling in so close with his camera to make us feel part of the action, a device he'd use in most of thrillers to come (I'm waiting for someone to do an AH book of frames capturing just his man/woman stuff --- such would make a thick volume). With "The (Notorious) Kiss," Hitchcock manipulated his mob to hindsight belief that the lip-press itself ran past forbidden zone, and that's what they'd carry to friends/family yet to warm seats at the Grand. Score another Bull's-Eye for the Master and his marketers.

3 Comments:

Blogger John McElwee said...

Dan Mercer contemplates the lasting values of "Notorious":


"Notorious" has gained a reputation, and people who watch it today appreciate that it is a classic and a supreme example of the film maker's art. Possibly it is the finest of Hitchcock's films, which is no mean praise, when it is numbered among such films as "Rebecca," "The 39 Steps," "Strangers on a Train," "The Wrong Man," "North by Northwest," and "Vertigo." So many years have passed since it was made, however, that we can't appreciate how it must have seemed to those who first saw it. The way it was sold to a Chicago audience on the basis of "the kiss" suggests what they came for, great entertainment by the "Master of Suspense" and so daring besides. But did they came away with something else, after seeing it? Did they notice the contrast and ironies between the dialog and the almost desperate yearning of the characters? How feelings seem to ripple beneath the surface, like water in a stream disturbed by things unseen? Perhaps not right away, however. The performances by Cary Grant, Claude Rains, and especially, Ingrid Bergman, whose Alicia is one of the great achievements of the screen, are almost beyond praise, yet only Rains was nominated for an Academy Award, for Best Supporting Actor. Still, the film was an enormous commercial success, and there were those who realized that it touched upon things not merely of the moment, but the moment after, and always and forever. But reputations have to begin somewhere.

10:35 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Donald Benson recalls a college showing of "Notorious":


Recall a college showing that played like gangbusters. There were some odd laughs, mostly from film-savvy students who recognized when they were being played by the Master.


One moment I'm not sure was a private joke or an intentional audience laugh. Claude Rains goes to his domineering mother (a nice touch right there -- the villain is a bit of a Mama's boy). He admits there's trouble in his marriage. Closeup of mother unable to repress a smug smile. He says his wife is a spy. THAT upsets her.


The UCSC audience laughed at both reactions.

5:24 PM  
Blogger radiotelefonia said...

Title in Argentina: TUYO ES MI CORAZON (My heart is yours)

10:35 AM  

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