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Pop Culture 101 - SPELLBOUND
Spellbound's immediate influence was seen in a spate ofpsychological thrillers produced in the Hollywood in the late '40s,including Shock (1946), with Vincent Price; Whirlpool (1948),starring Gene Tierney as a kleptomaniac; and Caught (1949), withRobert Ryan, Barbara Bel Geddes and James Mason.
The film was adapted to radio for the Lux Radio Theater in 1948,with Joseph Cotten and Alida Valli (the latter currently starring inSelznick and Hitchcock's The Paradine Case, 1947) in theleads.
The film's crisply shot dream sequences inspired later filmmakers, mostnotably Roman Polanski (Repulsion, 1965; Rosemary's Baby,1968), to create dream sequences that looked more like dreams than theconventionalized Hollywood approach of earlier films.
The successful recording of Spellbound's score created a newsource of revenue for Hollywood films, the soundtrack album. It was alsoone of the first film scores to be turned into a piece of classical music,Miklos Rozsa's "Spellbound Concerto" for piano and orchestra.
Rozsa's use of the theremin to mirror Gregory Peck's character's mentalproblems influenced later film composers, who would use the electronicinstrument, particularly in science fiction and horror films. Notablescores to use the instrument include Dimitri Tiomkin's for The Thing FromAnother World (1951) and Bernard Herrmann's for The Day the EarthStood Still (1951).
Rozsa's score inspired the young Jerry Goldsmith (The Omen,1976; L.A. Confidential, 1997) to write music for themovies.
Spellbound was remade for television as a one-hour drama on theanthology series Theatre '62, starring Maureen O'Hara as Dr.Peterson and Hugh O'Brian as J.B.
The film's DVD version, released as part of the Criterion Classicscollection, includes a simultaneous commentary by Hitchcock scholar MarianKeane; a short film, "A Nightmare Ordered by Telephone," on Hitchcock'swork with Salvador Dali, a 1973 interview with Rozsa and a recording of thefilm's radio version.
by Frank Miller
SPELLBOUND - Trivia and Other Fun Stuff
Spellbound grossed nearly $8 million on a budget of $1.7 million.It was the third highest grossing film of 1945.
Since psychiatry was still a relatively new subject for Hollywood, thecast and crew had to take lessons in how to pronounce the technical terms.Seventeen-year-old Rhonda Fleming, a Selznick discovery, had to ask hermother what a nymphomaniac was before going to the studio to playone.
In the dream sequence, Hitchcock included a shot of a man cuttingcurtains decorated with large eyeballs as a tribute to Dali's work on theclassic surrealist short film Un Chien Andalou. One of the mostfamous images of that film depicts a man slicing a woman's eyeball with astraight razor.
Credited as "Psychiatric Advisor" to the film was producer David O.Selznick's analyst, Dr. May Romm, who had also advised Selznick contractplayer (and later his wife) Jennifer Jones on how to play her mentallyunbalanced character in Love Letters (1945). Selznick biographerDavid Thompson viewed Spellbound as Selznick's personal thank you toDr. Romm, whom he only saw for one year.
The superimposed shot of doors opening as Bergman and Peck kiss for thefirst time was Selznick's idea, based on his fascination with psychiatry.Hitchcock thought that the actors had done enough with their playing of thepreceding scene to suggest a new level of intimacy between them. The opening doors, however, literally spelled out that bothwere opening up to each other as never before.
To create the snowflakes falling on Bergman and Peck during the skiingscenes, technicians used corn flakes.
Leo G. Carroll (Dr. Murchison) appeared in more Alfred Hitchcock filmsthan any other actor. His other movies for the director are Rebecca,Suspicion (1941), The Paradine Case, Strangers on aTrain (1951) and North by Northwest (1959).
Originally, the Spellbound theme was to have had lyrics, withSelznick contract player Rhonda Fleming recording it for the soundtrackalbum. When she performed the theme for Hitchcock and Selznick, however, theyfound it unexceptional and cut them from the album.
When producer David O. Selznick learned that composer Miklos Rozsa wasusing the theremin, the instrument he had introduced to film scoring inSpellbound, on The Lost Weekend (1945), he was furious.Fearing that the other film, likely to be released earlier than his, wouldsteal his thunder, he called Rozsa to ask if he was really using theelectronic instrument. "Yes," Rozsa replied, "I'm using the theremin, andI'm also using the violin, the oboe and the clarinet aswell."
At the insistence of her economy-minded husband, Bergman boughtportions of her character's wardrobe from Selznick after shooting wascompleted. The cost for the second-hand clothes was $122.77.
The ads for Spellbound sold it as a love story rather than a mystery.They still caught the film's suspenseful nature, with the tag line "Will hekiss me or kill me?" But the other tags -- "Irresistible their love!Inescapable their fears." and "The Maddest Love that ever possessed awoman" - were pure love story.In the first week of its New York premiere at the Astor Theater,Spellbound grossed $60,000, breaking the theater's box officerecord, previously set by Gone With the Wind (1939).
Spellbound's box office success prompted Hitchcock to puttogether another project to star Bergman in a script by Ben Hecht thefollowing year, Notorious (1946).
Famous Quotes from SPELLBOUND
"The analyst seeks only to induce the patient to talk about his hiddenproblems, to open the locked doors of his mind. Once the complexes that have been disturbing the patient are uncovered andinterpreted, the illness and confusion disappears and the devils of unreasonare driven from the human soul." - Screenwriter Ben Hecht's written preludeto the film.
"You're a sweet, pulsing, adorable woman underneath. I sense it every timeI come near to you."
"You sense only your own desires and pulsations - I assure you, mine in noway resemble them." - John Emery as Dr. Fleurot, flirting fruitlessly withIngrid Bergman as Dr. Constance Peterson.
"People often feel guilty for something they never did, and it usually goesback to something in their childhood. A child often wishes somethingterrible would happen to someone - and if something does happen to thatperson, the child believes he has caused it, and he grows up with a guiltcomplex over a sin that was only a child's bad dream." - Ingrid Bergman asDr. Peterson, citing the psychoanalytic theory that will ultimately explainthe film's mystery.
"I'm haunted, but I can't see by what." - Gregory Peck as Dr. John "J.B."Ballantine.
"We're all just bundles of inhibitions." - Bergman as Dr. Peterson.
"Now, this honeymoon is complicated enough without your dragging medicalethics into it." - Peck as J.B.
"Good night and sweet dreams...which we'll analyze in the morning." -Michael Chekhov as Dr. Brulov, welcoming Bergman and Peck to hishome.
"I seemed to be in a gambling house, but there weren't any walls, just alot of curtains with eyes painted on them. A man was walking around with alarge pair of scissors cutting all the drapes in half. Then a girl came inwith hardly anything on and started walking around the gambling roomkissing everybody. I was sitting there playing cards with a man who had abeard. He said, 'That makes 21 - I win.' But when he turned up his cards,they were blank. Just then the proprietor came in and accused him ofcheating. The proprietor yelled, 'This is my place, and if I catch youcheating again, I'll fix you.' Then I saw the man with the beard. He wasleaning over the sloping roof of a high building. I yelled at him to watchout. Then he went over - slowly - with his feet in the air. And then Isaw the proprietor again. He was hiding behind a tall chimney, and he hada small wheel in his hand. I saw him drop the wheel on the roof. Then Iwas running and heard something beating over my head. It was a great pairof wings they were chasing me and almost caught up with me when I came tothe bottom of the hill. That's all I remember. Then I woke up." -Peck asJ.B., describing his dream.
"Women make the best psychoanalysts until they fall in love. After thatthey make the best patients." - Chekhov as Dr. Brulov, in a line oftenhissed by contemporary audiences.
"It is very sad to love and lose somebody, but in a while you will forget,and you will take up the threads of your life where you left off not longago. And you will work hard. There is lots of happiness in working hard -maybe the most." - Chekhov, comforting Bergman on her failure to solvePeck's problems to this point.
Compiled by Frank Miller
The Big Idea Behind SPELLBOUND
Spellbound's script was adapted from the 1927 novel The Houseof Dr. Edwardes, about a female intern who arrives at a posh asylum inSwitzerland to discover its head, Dr. Edwardes, on vacation and his staffbehaving strangely. Gradually she realizes that they are members of asatanic cult. They're about to sacrifice her when Edwardes rescues her andreveals that they're all inmates who had broken free and taken over theasylum. The novel is attributed to Francis Beeding, which was a pseudonymfor the team of John Leslie Palmer and Hilary Aidan St. GeorgeSanders.
The impetus to make Spellbound came from independent producerDavid O. Selznick's own dabbling with psychoanalysis. Although he onlyspent a year in therapy, he was overwhelmed with the healing possibilitiesof treatment. He began pestering director Alfred Hitchcock to come up witha psychological thriller grounded in Freudian theory.
Hitchcock discovered the novel The House of Dr. Edwardes whileon a visit to England in 1944 and bought the rights for a nominal fee. Hehad started working on a screenplay with writer Angus MacPhail, but washaving problems with the story. In their version, there were three lovestories complicated by psychological problems that were resolved when theleading lady, a psychiatrist, helped her amnesiac patient realize that thedeath he thought he had caused was just an accident. Although he wasn'tsatisfied with the script, Hitchcock suggested it to Selznick as his nextfilm.
Initially, Selznick wanted to team Joseph Cotten and Dorothy McGuire inthe leads, with Paul Lukas as the villainous Dr. Murchison. He alsoconsidered luring Greta Garbo back to the screen to star.
Ultimately, Selznick decided to team contract players Ingrid Bergmanand Gregory Peck for the film. As an independent, he had only produced a small number of films each year, loaning his contract talent outto other studios. He hadn't yet produced any of Peck's films and he hadn'tproduced a Bergman film since her U.S. debut in Intermezzo: A LoveStory (1939) or a Hitchcock film since his Oscar®-winning BestPicture, Rebecca, in 1940. With all three growing in popularity anddemonstrating solid box-office appeal, Selznick decided to find a projectthat would allow him to team all three.
Unhappy with Hitchcock's initial treatment of the story, Selznicksuggested that they hire Ben Hecht, who had saved the script for Selznick'sGone With the Wind (1939), to write the final draft. He alsoinsisted that Hecht and Hitchcock cut any of the supernatural materialremaining from the original novel.
At the time, Hecht was undergoing psychoanalysis and found the idea ofa mystery based in Freudian theory fascinating. He suggested cutting theperipheral love stories to focus on the female psychiatrist and the amnesiacpatient with whom she had fallen in love. Since psychoanalysis had provensuccessful as the subject of the hit Broadway musical Lady in theDark (1941), Hitchcock and Selznick approved of this approach to thematerial.
Hitchcock and Hecht toured mental hospitals in Connecticut and New Yorkto do research on the film. They spent most of their time in thepsychiatric ward of New York City's Bellevue Hospital.
To be doubly sure of the project's appeal to audiences, Selznickcommissioned a poll by the Audience Research Institute on the idea of amystery based on psychoanalysis, various star pairings and such titles asThe House of Dr. Edwardes, The Couch and The Man who FoundHimself. The novel's original title received a 70 percent approvalrating, although there was less than 50 percent acceptance of the subject.Joseph Cotten was most appealing as the film's star, though researchersnoted that Peck was still a relatively new leading man. Bergman was themost popular of the actresses suggested for the film, far outrankingGarbo.
When Selznick's business office estimated the film's budget at $1.25million, he almost canceled the picture. Hitchcock had to promise to makethe film quickly and efficiently to change his mind.
Bergman initially turned down the script, complaining that the lovestory was unbelievable. Hitchcock supervised re-writes that put more focuson the situation of two lovers on the run or, as he described it, "amanhunt story wrapped up in pseudo-psychoanalysis.
As originally scripted, Peck's character's dreams, which held the keyto the film's mystery, were only described in the dialogue. Duringpre-production, however, Hitchcock decided he needed to show themon-screen. But he also wanted to break with Hollywood tradition inpresenting them. He later said, "Traditionally, up to that time, dreamscenes in films were always done with swirling smoke, slightly out offocus. This was the convention, and I decided I wanted to go the otherway to convey the dreams with great visual sharpness and clarity, sharperthan the rest of the film itself."
With screenwriter Ben Hecht, hesuggested hiring surrealist painter Salvador Dali to design Ballantine's dreams, which hold the secret to the film's mystery. Dali wasalready famous for his dreamlike paintings, including his famous portraitof Mae West in which her features were depicted as furniture in a bedroom.He also had worked with filmmaker Luis Bunuel on the early surrealisticfilms Un Chien Andalou (1929) and L'Age d'Or (1930). Selznick agreedto his hiring on the grounds that it would be good forpublicity.
Under his original agreement, Dali was to sketch out the dreamsequences for Hitchcock's approval, then turn their agreed upon images intoa series of paintings for which he would receive $1,000 each. These finalconcepts could not be altered without his permission. He handed in fivepaintings in June 1944, and Selznick's financial department budgeted thedream sequence at $150,000. Once again, Selznick was ready to pull theplug, at least on the dream sequences. But Hitchcock devised a plan to usespecial effects and projections of Dali's paintings that lowered theprojected cost to $20,000. Selznick gave him the go-ahead.
Hitchcock's salary for the film was $150,000.
Famed acting teacher Michael Chekhov, a nephew of playwright AntonChekhov and a former member of the Moscow Art Theater, was cast asBergman's mentor, Dr. Brulov.
by Frank Miller
Spellbound went into production on July 7, 1944. July 10 wasIngrid Bergman's wedding anniversary, so director Alfred Hitchcock ordereda large cake to be delivered on the set after the day'sshootings.
Although most of the film was shot on Hollywood sound stages, thecompany went on location to the Wasatch Mountains in Utah for the skiingscenes and the Cooper Ranch in Northridge, Calif., for the picnicscene.
Producer David O. Selznick wanted a written forward to the film thatwould help the audience understand the psychoanalytical concepts behind themystery. He first asked his own analyst, Dr. May Romm, who had served as apsychiatric advisor on Spellbound and other recent films of his, but she couldn'tcome up with the right opening. Then he appealed to Dr. Karl Menninger,director of the famous Menninger Clinic, but the doctor refused to getinvolved in what he saw as an over-simplification of psychoanalysis.Finally, screenwriter Ben Hecht hammered it out.
Selznick had little involvement in the actual production because at thetime he was tied up with his World War II family drama, Since You WentAway (1944). Nonetheless, director Alfred Hitchcock kept to his wordabout filming efficiently. He was filming an average of four and a halfpages a day, and by the end of the first month he was a week ahead ofschedule.
One thing that contributed to Selznick's lack of interference on thefilm was Hitchcock's habit of developing camera problems whenever theproducer would visit the set. The moment Selznick arrived, Hitch woulddiscover that the camera wouldn't work. As soon as the producer left,however, it miraculously started to function again.
Bergman had problems with one of the film's more emotional scenes andtold Hitchcock she just couldn't build up the appropriate feeling. Hisadvice: "Ingrid, fake it!" She would later call it the best piece ofdirection she had ever received. Throughout her career she would rememberhis advice whenever she was faced with similar problems.
Hitchcock wanted to film the picture's climactic suicide from thevictim's point of view. Since the shot started with the gun in theforeground while Bergman's character walks out of the room in thebackground, this required some special thinking, as there was no way tokeep the killer's hand, the gun and Bergman all in focus at the same time.They solved the problem by creating a false hand and gun four times largerthan life. The hand had to be movable so the gun could follow Bergman asshe leaves the room, then turn 180 degrees to point at the gun's ownerbefore firing. And to add a special shock to the system, Hitchcock had thegunshot flash red in the otherwise black and white film. This requiredhand coloring individual frames of film, a process not followed in laterprints.
As originally conceived by Salvador Dali, the dream sequences wouldhave run 22 minutes and included such strange elements as a sculpture thatbreaks in two to reveal that it's filled with ants that then crawl overBergman's face. Hitchcock finally got him to come up with something morefilmable. Instead, they showed a sequence in which Peck watched Bergmanturn into a statue. Technicians coated her with plaster, then attachedparts of an arrow to either side of her neck, as though it had pierced her.While the cameras rolled, she broke out of the plaster. Then the scenewas shown backwards, so the plaster seemed to be encasing her body.Bergman thought it was brilliant.
Hitchcock completed principal photography on October 13, 1944 and leftfor London.
Selznick was totally dissatisfied with the dream sequences Hitchcockhad filmed from Dali's scenario. He found them pedestrian, like somethingout of a Poverty Row quickie. With Hitchcock out of the country, Selznickturned first to director Josef von Sternberg, who turned down hisinvitation to film the dream sequences. Then he turned to designer WilliamCameron Menzies, who had directed the visionary British science fictionfilm Things to Come (1936) and supervised the visuals on Selznick'sGone With the Wind. Menzies came up with a new scenario forthe dream sequence, which was approved by Dali and Hitchcock when thelatter returned to the U.S. in December 1944. Selznick still wasn't happywith what came out on film. Eventually the dream was cut to about twominutes, and Menzies declined any screen credit.
As he was preparing the film for previews, Selznick decided that hedidn't care for the title The House of Dr. Edwardes. As he had inthe past, he held an in-house competition to rename the film, with the $50prize going to secretary Ruth Batchelor, who suggestedSpellbound.
Spellbound performed well in previews, with the biggest surprise beingaudience reaction to Peck in the male lead. By this point in time, he hadscored a hit in 20th Century-Fox's religious drama The Keys of theKingdom (1944). That and his publicity had turned him into a major sexsymbol. As Selznick reported in one of his famous memos: "We could notkeep the audience quiet from the time his name came on the screen until wehad shushed them through three or four sequences and stopped all the damesfrom 'oohing' and 'ahing' and gurgling."
After the first preview, Selznick cut about 20 minutes out of the film,including an opening montage depicting treatment in mentalhospitals.
Selznick was still looking for something to increase the film'sprestige and decided to give it a more ambitious score. On the advice ofactor Lionel Barrymore, he caught a screening of Double Indemnity(1944), scored by Miklos Rozsa, a classical composer. Rozsa had alreadyachieved a first when his music for producer Alexander Korda's Jungle Book became the first film score sold to the public. Atthe time, other studio heads had not considered the commercialpossibilities of film soundtracks on record. Most weren't even tying upthe recording rights for themselves. Selznick reasoned that a soundtrackalbum with popular stars Peck and Bergman on the cover would be a bigseller. He first asked Rozsa to score a suspense sequence in which Peckmenaced Bergman with a straight razor. With the instructions to produce"an unusual sound - something new," the composer decided to use the theremin,an early electronic musical instrument. Selznick and Hitchcock were soimpressed they signed him to the film. Selznick also released a hitsoundtrack album, one of Hollywood's first.
With the delays in finishing the dream sequence and the glut of wartimeproduct, Spellbound premiered in October 1945, almost a year afterHitchcock completed principal photography. Selznick was concerned thatBergman's other 1945 release -- The Bells of St. Mary's, completedafter Spellbound -- was set to premiere the same month. So heturned the event into a plus by advertising 1945 as "The Year ofBergman."
by Frank Miller
The Critics' Corner on SPELLBOUND
"Hitchcock's deft timing and sharp, imaginative camera work raiseSpellbound well above the routine of Hollywood thrillers." --Time.
"Compelling performances by Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck, the work is amasterful psychiatric thriller." -- The New York HeraldTribune.
"...Hitchcock embellishes it with characteristically brilliant twists, like the infinite variety of parallel lines which etch their way through Peck's mind. The imagery is sometimes overblown (doors open magically down a corridor when Peck and Bergman kiss), and the dream sequences designed by Dali are exactly what you'd expect; but there are moments, especially towards the end, when the images and ideas really work together." - Helen MacKintosh, TimeOut.
"Both [Bergman and Peck] are ornamentally effective looking - so much sothat in spite of some bits of pretty good playing, it was impossible todisidentify them from illustrations in a slick-paper magazine serial andmore hopeless still to identify them with living people." - James Agee,The Nation.
"...with all the obvious ingredients for success, Spellbound is a disaster. It was fitting that the actress who was once described as a "fine, strong, cow-country maiden" should be cast as a good, solid analyst, dispensing cures with the wholesome simplicity of a mother adding wheat germ to the family diet, but Bergman's apple-cheeked sincerity has rarely been as out of place as in this confection whipped up by jaded chefs." - Pauline Kael, 5001 Nights at the Movies.
"This psychological thriller in the typical somber Hollywood thriller style of the Forties is persuasively directed by Hitchcock, who nevertheless amused himself with some bits of gratuitous technical virtuosity - the rather mediocre Salvador Dali dream sequence and the audience identification in the "first-person" suicide of the murderer at the end." - Georges Sadoul, Dictionary of Films.
Awards & Honors
The New York Film Critics Circle named Ingrid Bergman Best Actress forher performances in Spellbound and The Bells of St. Mary's.When the year's Oscar® nominations were announced, Bergman had beennominated for the latter film. She would lose to Joan Crawford inMildred Pierce.
Spellbound was nominated for six Academy Awards®: BestPicture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Michael Chekhov), BestCinematography, Best Visual Effects and Best Score. It won in the lattercategory for Miklos Rozsa's combination of lush romantic themes with apioneering use of the electronic instrument the theremin.
Compiled by Frank Miller & Jeff Stafford
Based loosely on a Francis Beeding novel, called The House of Dr. Edwardes, Spellbound (1945) was intended by Hitchcock to be the follow-up to his 1943 production, Lifeboat, and the completion of his two-picture deal with 20th Century Fox, a deal arranged by David O. Selznick. But when Darryl Zanuck returned to Hollywood after his war service in the Signal Corps, he got into a bitter argument with Bill Goetz, the head of Fox and Selznick's brother-in-law. Goetz was forced out of Fox and Selznick pulled out of the Hitchcock deal. Since Hitchcock had actually bought the rights to Beeding's novel himself, he continued to develop it and brought in British screenwriter Angus MacPhail to help him turn the novel into a workable script. Hitchcock had known MacPhail since 1926, when they had worked together on Hitchcock's The Lodger (1926), and together they produced a treatment called "The Mind of Dr. Edwardes."
But as Hitchcock told Francois Truffaut in 1962, the script "rambled." Hitchcock returned to Hollywood where he found a very receptive David O. Selznick. Though not yet committed to the film, Selznick was keenly interested in it, particularly the story's focus on psychoanalysis. Selznick had been persuaded to try psychoanalysis by the great screenwriter Ben Hecht, who was also in analysis. Selznick gave the project to Hecht and agreed to produce the picture.
Hecht made a number of important changes to the script, now called "The Guilt Complex." He beefed up the love story and added the visual motif of parallel lines that link the hero's memories of the two deaths he was witness to, his brother's and Dr. Edwardes'. Though Selznick had originally intended the film to be a vehicle for Joseph Cotten, Dorothy McGuire and Paul Lukas, he quickly changed his mind and settled on Ingrid Bergman and newcomer Gregory Peck.
Recently acclaimed for her Oscar winning performance in Gaslight (1944), the twenty-nine year old Bergman thoroughly enjoyed working with the mercurial director, though she found his methods a bit dictatorial. According to her autobiography, Hitchcock was so prepared with his storyboards when he came to the set that he never even looked through the camera. His preparation impressed Bergman but it left little room for the actors to make suggestions. "Sometimes I thought I got through, and that Hitchcock was going to change the set-up. But as a rule he used to get his way by simply saying, 'If you can't do it my way, fake it'."
Bergman claims to have found this advice useful in later years, but her co-star, the twenty-eight year old Peck, was unhappy with the director's formalism. Peck later admitted to a sense of failure with respect to Hitchcock: "To my regret, I don't think I was his kind of an actor-certainly not at the time. I would like to have worked with him ten years later. I'd like to work with him now-because I think I could produce any kind of effect he would want."
To make the psychoanalytic breakthrough at all plausible, the dream sequence was critical. Hitchcock and Hecht somehow managed to convince Selznick that Salvador Dali was the right man for the job, and so the great surrealist painter was commissioned to produce a series of paintings whose images could be used to convey the hero's troubled unconscious. Hitchcock told Truffaut that the reason he wanted Dali was because he "wanted to convey the dreams with great visual sharpness and clarity, sharper than the film itself." Selznick was so interested in doing justice to psychoanalysis that he hired his own analyst, May Romm, to serve as technical advisor on the film. The dream is, according to Sigmund Freud, a puzzle: "We cannot help concluding, then, that there is a causal connection between the obscurity of the dream content and the state of repression (inadmissibility to consciousness) of certain of the dream-thoughts, and that the dream had to be obscure so as not to betray the proscribed dream-thoughts."
As Hitchcock tells it, "Dali had some strange ideas; he wanted a statue to crack like a shell falling apart, with ants crawling all over it, and underneath, there would be Ingrid Bergman, covered by the ants! It just wasn't possible." Nevertheless, the original sequence was 22 minutes long and, according to Bergman, it was so good that it "really belongs in a museum." They did actually cover Bergman in plaster so as to create the illusion of a woman becoming a statue when the film ran in reverse. "It was marvelous," Bergman recalled, "but someone went to Selznick and said, 'What is all this drivel?' and so they cut it. It was such a pity." The entire sequence was directed not by Hitchcock (who was back in London at the time), but by William Cameron Menzies. Menzies, though, was apparently so displeased with the project and the results that he asked that his name be removed from the credits.
Despite all the emphasis and interest in psychoanalysis, in the end, none of it really matters. As Hitchcock scholar Donald Spoto notes, the "psychological apparatus by which the mystery is solved in Spellbound . . . is itself in fact the MacGuffin, as the film presents a romantic situation with dreadful obstacles which we believe will be overcome." According to Hitchcock, the MacGuffin is nothing more than a "gimmick," a device to keep the plot going. In The Thirty-Nine Steps (1935), it is the plans for an airplane engine; in The Lady Vanishes (1938), the MacGuffin is the little tune; in North by Northwest (1959), it's a piece of microfilm. The identity of the MacGuffin is unimportant. As Hitchcock told Truffaut, "the main thing I've learned over the years is that the MacGuffin is nothing. I'm convinced of this, but I find it very difficult to prove to others." According to Hitchcock, Spellbound is "just another manhunt story wrapped up in pseudo-psychoanalysis." (Such "pseudo-psychoanalysis" would continue to fascinate Hitchcock, however, and he used it to great effect in Vertigo , Psycho  and Marnie .)
In addition to the great dream sequence, the film is filled with other wonderful visual effects. Two scenes in particular deserve mention: When Bergman and Peck are hiding out in Michael Chekhov's cottage, Peck comes down the stairs in a stupor, a straight razor in his hand. Chekhov gives him a glass of drugged milk and we see the scene distort as the glass is brought up to the camera and the milk poured (seemingly) into the lens. The shot was made by placing a giant glass pail in front of the camera and then pouring a large amount of milk into a trough below. (This was Hitchcock's second special effects glass of milk; in Suspicion , he put a light inside the glass of milk that Cary Grant brings to Joan Fontaine.)
Special effects were also used in the film's climax. Leo G. Carroll aims the pistol at Ingrid Bergman and we see the scene from Carroll's point-of-view, down the barrel of the gun. Because of technical limitations at the time, there was no way to get both the gun and Bergman in focus simultaneously. The solution was to build a large-scale model hand and gun which could be placed a few feet from the camera. It took an entire week to prepare the scene and nineteen takes to get it right. Carroll was a Hitchcock favorite; he had already appeared in Rebecca (1940) and Suspicion, and would later work on The Paradine Case (1947), Strangers on a Train (1951) and North by Northwest. For the moment when Carroll turns the gun on himself, Hitchcock thought of the idea of hand coloring two frames of the film bright red, to give the audience an almost unconscious sense of blood.
The final suicide drew sharp criticism from the Production Code Administration, whose explicit standards held that suicide was "to be discouraged as morally questionable and as bad theater - unless absolutely necessary for the development of the plot." Selznick personally intervened and managed to convince Joseph Breen and Geoffrey Sherlock that the suicide was essential.
Miklos Rozsa won an Oscar® for his score, and though Hitchcock later disparaged Rozsa's work for the film, the music is an essential element of the film. It is also one of the first uses of the electronic theremin, and Rozsa, who used the theremin a year later in The Lost Weekend (1945), was instrumental in linking the eerie sound of the theremin with fear and psychological disorder. In addition to Rozsa's Oscar®, Spellbound also received Academy Award® nominations for Best Supporting Actor (Michael Chekhov), Best Cinematography, Best Special Effects, Best Director and Best Picture.
Though no one involved would claim that Spellbound was the highlight of their career, the film was a great crowd-pleaser and an important stepping stone for all, and the following year, Selznick brought Hitchcock, Hecht and Bergman together again for the classic Notorious (1946). Oh, and for those of you paying attention, Hitchcock's cameo comes about 40 minutes into the film. He emerges from an elevator at the Empire Hotel carrying a violin case.
Producer: David O. Selznick
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Screenplay: Ben Hecht, Angus MacPhail, based on a novel by Francis Beeding
Art Direction: John Ewing, James Basevi
Cinematography: George Barnes, James Wimpy, Rex Wimpy
Editing: Hal Kern, William H. Ziegler
Music: Miklos Rozsa
Cast: Ingrid Bergman (Dr. Constance Peterson), Gregory Peck (John Ballantine), Leo G. Carroll (Dr. Murchison), Michael Chekhov (Dr. Brulov), John Emery (Dr. Fleurot), Steven Geray (Dr. Graff), Rhonda Fleming (Mary Carmichael), Donald Curtis (Harry), Norman Lloyd (Garmes), Regis Toomey (Sgt. Gillespie), Wallace Ford (Hotel Masher).
BW-118m. Closed captioning.
By Mark Frankel