skip navigation


Remind Me

TCMDb Archive MaterialsView all archives (1)


powered by AFI

The working titles of this film were The House of Dr. Edwardes and The House of Dr. Edwards. Modern sources also list The Interloper as a working title and claim that, after director Alfred Hitchcock had suggested Hidden Impulse as a title, studio secretary Ruth Rickman came up with the title Spellbound, which tested well in a pre-release survey. Opening credits conclude with the following quotation from William Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar: "The not in our stars/But in ourselves." A written foreword then follows: "Our story deals with psychoanalysis, the method by which modern science treats the emotional problems of the sane. The analyst seeks only to induce the patient to talk about his hidden problems, to open the locked doors of his mind. Once the complexes that have been disturbing the patient are uncovered and interpreted, the illness and confusion disappear.....and the devils of unreason are driven from the human soul."
       According to modern sources, in late 1943, after independent producer David O. Selznick asked Hitchcock, who was under contract to him, to develop a "psychiatric" story, Hitchcock persuaded Selznick to purchase rights to the novel The House of Dr. Edwardes from him for $40,000. In December 1943, a Los Angeles Examiner item reported that Hitchcock, with his wife, Alma Reville, was writing an adaptation of the novel, which was written by Hilary St. George Saunders and John Palmer under the joint pseudonym Francis Beeding. Modern sources note that, in January 1944, while he was working on war-related short films in England, Hitchcock hired Angus MacPhail, a collaborator on the shorts, to co-author a treatment with him. Only MacPhail received an onscreen adaptation credit, and the extent of Reville's contribution to the completed film has not been determined. According to the Variety review, Hitchcock consulted prominent British psychoanalysts while the treatment was being written.
       Hitchcock and MacPhail altered the novel radically, according to modern sources, changing the villain, "Dr. Edwardes," from a psychopath who takes over an Alpine mental institution to the quietly deranged "Dr. Murchison." After Hitchcock turned in the treatment, Selznick hired Ben Hecht, a veteran of psychoanalysis, to write the screenplay. Hitchcock collaborated on drafts of the script with Hecht in New York and, according to a May 1944 Hollywood Reporter news item, conducted research into "modern hospital treatment," while there. Concerned about a survey conducted by Audience Research, Inc. in spring 1944, which indicated that audience acceptance of a "psychiatric story" was not strong, Selznick pushed Hecht and Hitchcock to beef up the romantic aspects of the story, according to modern sources, and ordered them to include a "Murchison-J. B.-Constance" love triangle. Modern sources note that Hecht and Hitchcock argued against the triangle, and after Fredric March turned down the role of Murchison, and Ralph Bellamy and Alan Napier failed to impress in the part during screen tests, Selznick allowed the element to be dropped from the script.
       Between mid-May and mid-July 1944, Selznick submitted various drafts of the Hecht screenplay for censorship approval, according to MPAA/PCA records contained at the AMPAS Library. PCA director Joseph I. Breen's strongly objected to words and phrases in the script such as "sex menace," "frustations," "libido" and "tomcat," which he pointed out was an expression "on the Association's list of forbidden words." Some of these words appeared in early scenes involving the character of "Mary Carmichael," a violent nymphomaniac. Breen also complained about an alluded to affair between "Mrs. Murchison" and "Dr. Fleurot" and cautioned that no "flavor of sex" permeate the relationship between "J. B." and "Constance." The affair, and the character of Mrs. Murchison, were dropped from the story, as were the controversial words, and the shooting script was approved on July 13, 1944. In June 1946, Breen received a complaint from A. R. Allen of the J. Arthur Rank Organization, who objected to the fact that while his company was not allowed to have a character from its adaptation of Charles Dickens' Nicholas Nickleby commit suicide as a way of avoiding justice, Selznick was permitted to have Dr. Murchison kill himself. Breen explained the apparent descrepancy by pointing out that Dr. Murchison was "obviously of unsound mind," which made him an exception to the PCA's "suicide" rule.
       According to December 1943 Hollywood Reporter news items, Joseph Cotten and Dorothy McGuire originally were to star in the production. After Selznick cast Cotten in another one of his films, I'll Be Seeing You, however, he hired rising star Gregory Peck, whom he had signed to a contract in 1943, for the role of J. B. Selznick borrowed Rhonda Fleming from Fox for the production. Although news items list Robert Dudley as a cast member, his appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Hitchcock makes his customary cameo in Spellbound as a man smoking a cigarette while exiting a hotel elevator.
       Selznick hired his own analyst, Dr. May E. Romm, a prominent Beverly Hills psychiatrist who had worked on Selznick's 1944 film Since You Went Away, to serve as a technical advisor on Spellbound. According to modern sources, Romm not only made suggestions on the script, but authored the film's foreword as well. Modern sources also claim that at Selznick's request, Dr. Karl Menninger, another noted psychiatrist, reviewed Romm's foreword and made comments and suggestions. In early June 1944, Hollywood Reporter announced that Dr. Fraime Sertoroclos, a "Transylvanian psychiatrist/metaphysicist," had been hired to work on the film, presumably as a technical advisor. Onscreen credits, however, list only Romm as advisor, and Sertoroclos' contribution to the completed film has not been confirmed. According to copyright publicity material, Eileen Johnston, a "student of psychoanalysis," acted as a "go-between" during production. Modern sources confirm that Johnston worked with Romm on the production.
       According to a modern interview with Hitchcock, he asked Selznick to hire Spanish painter Salvador Dali to design the film's dream sequence, in order to "break with the traditional way of handling dream sequences through a blurred and hazy screen." Hitchcock wanted to depict the dream with "great visual sharpness and clarity" and was attracted to the "architectural sharpness" of Dali's style. Modern sources note that Dali was paid $4,000 for his work. The director had planned to shoot the dream sequence in "real sunshine," according to contemporary items, but because of budgetary concerns, the scenes were filmed on a studio set. Contemporary news items also note that the dream sequence originally included Ingrid Bergman in a full-sized plaster mold. As the dream progressed, the mold was to crack, or "disintegrate," and thousands of ants were to crawl out of its face. The ants were dropped, however, after Bergman protested. The scene also featured eight dwarf actors, according to a Hollywood Reporter news item. Modern sources claim that art director William Cameron Menzies worked briefly on the dream sequence. For the next-to-last sequence, in which Murchison points his gun at Constance as she walks from his desk to the door, then turns the weapon on himself, Hitchcock constructed a giant-sized gun, according to the modern interview. The oversized prop enabled Hitchcock to shoot the entire scene from Murchison's point of view, while keeping Constance in focus as she crosses the room. When Murchison pulls the trigger, the gun appears to be firing at the audience. That segment included several frames that were hand-painted red.
       Modern sources note that except for the dream sequence and location work, the story was filmed mostly in sequence. Location shooting took place at the Alta Lodge in the Wasatch mountains of Utah, according to publicity material. Exterior shots were shot without sound. A late August 1944 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that the railway station exteriors were to be filmed on the Universal lot. During the skiing sequence, doubles for Bergman and Peck, who could not ski, were used, according to modern sources. Hitchcock noted in the modern interview that cameraman Jack Warren "worked" with him on the picture. On September 7, 1944, Hollywood Reporter announced that Bergman was to do a scene from the film on Rudy Vallee's radio show. The film's first preview took place on September 27, 1944, according to modern sources, and after reading the audience's comments, Selznick eliminated an opening montage showing various methods of treating mentally disturbed patients. In mid-October 1944, in an effort to strengthen the romantic angle of the story, Hitchcock shot retakes of the picnic scene at the Cooper Ranch in Northridge, CA. Modern sources claim that after the completion of principal photography, Selznick took over the re-recording of the dialogue and later, the editing, elminating almost fourteen minutes of footage. The final cost of production was $1,696,377, according to modern sources. In early 1945, in reaction to a Gallup poll that indicated that the public had little knowledge of the soon-to-be released film, Selznick postponed the opening by almost six months.
       Reaction to the film was very favorable; in particular, Bergman's and Peck's performances won much praise. Reviewers also commented favorably on Rozsa's use of an electric instrument called a theremin to create psychological tension in the picture. Rozsa first experimented with the theremin in Alexander Korda's 1940 picture The Thief of Bagdad. Spellbound was a financial success; by early 1947, according to modern sources, it had grossed over six million dollars. The picture received Academy Award nominations in the following categories: Best Picture, Best Direction, Best Supporting Actor (Michael Chekhov), Best Cinematography (black-and-white) and Best Special Effects. Miklos Rozsa won an Oscar for Best Music (Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture). The New York Times included the film on its "ten best" list of 1945. In 1955, Spellbound was re-released on a double-bill with Hitchcock's 1948 Selznick production The Paradine Case, which also starred Peck . Joseph Cotten and Valli starred in a Lux Radio Theatre version of Spellbound, which aired on March 8, 1945, and on January 25, 1951, Cotten performed in a Hallmark Playhouse version. A television version of Hecht's screenplay, directed by Paul Bogart and starring Hugh O'Brian, Oscar Homolka and Maureen O'Hara, was broadcast on NBC's Theatre 62 program on February 11, 1962.