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‘Je Reviens’, or the Eternal Return of Rebecca

Enter Sir Alfred, or Hitchcock’s Three Du Mauriers

Les trois du Maurier de Sir Alfred
Jean-Loup Bourget

Résumés

Cet article est consacré principalement aux trois adaptations d’ouvrages de Daphne du Maurier réalisées par Alfred Hitchcock, soit successivement Jamaica Inn (La Taverne de la Jamaïque, 1939), dernier film de la période anglaise, Rebecca (1940), premier film de la période hollywoodienne, et beaucoup plus tard The Birds (Les Oiseaux, 1963), considéré comme un des derniers « grands films » de Hitchcock. Il revient sur les conditions très différentes des trois productions, conditions qui expliquent que Rebecca soit beaucoup plus fidèle au roman-source et que l’auteure se soit déclarée satisfaite de cette adaptation alors qu’elle était mécontente des deux autres. Il examine ensuite les relations amicales et professionnelles que Hitchcock a entretenues avec Sir Gerald du Maurier, le père de Daphne, acteur de théâtre et occasionnellement de cinéma. Il s’interroge enfin sur les rapports possibles entre l’œuvre de Hitchcock et les romans de George du Maurier, le grand-père de Daphne, dessinateur et auteur des best-sellers Trilby et Peter Ibbetson. Il conclut que les liens divers qui unissent Hitchcock et son œuvre à trois générations de du Maurier attestent parmi d’autres sa fidélité à diverses sources d’inspiration anglaises ou plus généralement britanniques même après son départ pour Hollywood.

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Texte intégral

1The purpose of the present article is threefold. It will focus first and foremost on the three film adaptations which Hitchcock did of two novels and a short story by Daphne Du Maurier: Jamaica Inn (1939), his last film in England before he took up Selznick’s invitation to come to Hollywood; Rebecca (1940), the first film he shot in the United States under Selznick’s close supervision; and The Birds (1963), made much later when Hitchcock was at the height of his Hollywood career.

2The choice of these three films is self-evident. While the great majority of Hitchcock-directed films are based on pre-existing plays and/or novels or short stories, few of them can be described as “prestige” adaptations of recognized writers, the most obvious exception being Juno and the Paycock (1930), a rendition of the play by Sean O’Casey that is not rated very high in the Hitchcock canon. That Hitchcock chose to make films based on Joseph Conrad’s Secret Agent (Sabotage, 1936) and, more loosely, on John Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps (1935), owes less to their sources’ literary qualities than to their suspenseful plots. The remark probably also applies to the three Du Maurier-based films, a unique instance in Hitchcock’s fifty-year-long career of his adapting to the screen three pieces of fiction by the same writer.

3Part of the motivation was certainly due to Du Maurier’s status as a best-selling novelist, a status shared by two other women writers whose works fuelled Hitchcock’s inspiration: Marie Belloc Lowndes, the author of The Lodger (1913), the source of Hitchcock’s film of 1926-27, and much later Patricia Highsmith, whose Strangers on a Train was turned into another highly regarded Hitchcock film in 1950-51. The traditional, often predictable or pedantic, exercise of comparison between the novel and the book is nevertheless usually instructive, both because it sheds light on the specific qualities and shortcomings of the respective forms of expression, and because it reveals the frequent misunderstanding between writer and filmmaker. In most cases the film director, especially a “popular” director aiming at a mass audience like Hitchcock, feels that with the adaptation rights he has bought a popular piece of “property”, a popular title, possibly a clever plot, and that he has also acquired the “right” to make any changes, deletions, additions and modulations he sees fit to introduce in order to make the film more “visual” and attractive. The writer, for his or her part, while happy with the financial benefit of the rights, expects the filmmaker to be respectful of the original work, and is often dissatisfied with the result. As we shall see, this was the case with Du Maurier’s reaction to two of the three adaptations of her work by Hitchcock.

  • 1 The title of Hitchcock’s film, The 39 Steps, is distinct from Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps.

4The article will then proceed to sketch out the connection between Hitchcock and Daphne’s father Gerald Du Maurier, the actor, and with her grandfather George, the Victorian visual artist who late in life turned to writing and became a bestselling author. The conclusion will aim at broadening the perspective, reflecting on the great extent to which Hitchcock, in some ways the archetypal Hollywood director or auteur, simultaneously remained, in several senses, a British subject. As such, his culture and references, both literary and pictorial, were rooted in his English education and training, and several of his Hollywood pictures openly treated British subject matter (as in the case of Rebecca) or transferred to an American setting plots and motifs which Hitchcock had previously dealt with during his English career. In that light, North by Northwest can be described as both a reprise of the “double pursuit” plot of The 39 Steps1 and a spectacular travelogue of the United States.

The Three Film Adaptations

Rebecca

  • 2 The making of Rebecca is dealt with in detail in Jean-Loup Bourget, Rebecca d’Alfred Hitchcock, Par (...)
  • 3 A “treatment” is the first stage of a screenplay, in this case breaking up the novel’s narrative i (...)
  • 4 Rudy Behlmer, op. cit., 257.
  • 5 Donald Spoto, The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock, New York: Little, Brown & Co., (...)
  • 6 Rudy Behlmer, op. cit., 259.
  • 7 Donald Spoto, op. cit., 214.

5One is immediately struck by the wide difference in the mode and status of the three Hitchcock adaptations under study. This can be accounted for by the conditions of their production but also by the distinct mode and status of their literary sources. We shall begin with Rebecca, for several reasons: it is the best documented case as well as that which has attracted the most attention, stirred the most debate, not to say controversy, and inspired the most contradictory assessments.2 To sum up: Rebecca, the novel, was an immediate bestseller when it came out in 1938. Both Hitchcock and Selznick, then an independent Hollywood producer much occupied by the making of Gone with the Wind, were interested in acquiring the film adaptation rights. Selznick eventually bought them with the understanding that Hitchcock would direct the picture, although according to the original plan Hitchcock’s first Hollywood film was to be a version of the Titanic story rather than Rebecca. Hitchcock, still in England, worked with Joan Harrison, Michael Hogan and Philip MacDonald on a “treatment”3 of Rebecca which the producer rejected, calling it “a distorted and vulgarized version of a provenly successful work.”4 He castigated the introduction of humorous touches, particularly in the Riviera opening, which he found in very poor taste and (rightly) felt ran counter to Maxim’s supposed melancholy aloofness as a recently widowed husband still in love with his deceased wife. He objected to Hitchcock’s odd invention, reminiscent of Jane Eyre, of “a lunatic grandmother in a tower of Manderley.”5 He specifically resented Hitchcock’s tampering with some of the novel’s basic features. Selznick argued that “[n]ext to the fact that the title character Rebecca never appeared, one of the most talked-about things in connection with the book was that the principal character had no name. […] We certainly would be silly to give her a name in our picture. This is not a point of storytelling but simply of showmanship.”6 Hitchcock, whose treatment jokingly referred to the heroine as “Daphne de Winter”,7 had no choice but to comply with Selznick’s requirements, so that the screenplay was largely emended by the original writers to mirror the novel more closely: no flashbacks now showed Rebecca, while the title character became omnipresent in solely indirect or ghostly ways, through the agency of Mrs. Danvers, through the symbolism of the West Wing of Manderley and the ubiquitous initial R, or through “I”’s (justified) interiorized conviction of her own inferiority and her (mistaken) feeling that Maxim is still in love with his first wife. Later additions and revisions were made by Robert E. Sherwood, while Du Maurier turned down Selznick’s repeated invitation that she work on the script.

  • 8 The “Hays Office” referred to the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, chaired by (...)
  • 9 Rudy Behlmer, op. cit., 286-287.
  • 10 A radio adaptation which Selznick had shrewdly sensed would publicize the as yet unmade film, and a (...)

6The fidelity of Selznick’s adaptation is not absolute, though, the most obvious example being that “I” does not go to London with Maxim at the end in search of Rebecca’s physician. Selznick himself was well aware that it could not be absolute on a specific point, Maxim's murder of Rebecca: the Hays Office8 had very early on pointed out that specific obstacle, at the same time as it had obligingly suggested the slight change that would make it acceptable, i.e. the turning of the novel's deliberate murder into accidental manslaughter, triggered by Rebecca’s Machiavellian and suicidal revenge plot. Selznick took great care to point this out to Du Maurier and to assure her that in every other respect the film had followed the book as closely as possible.9 The author, who had been upset by the liberties taken by Hitchcock’s Jamaica Inn and worried about a similar treatment being inflicted on Rebecca, expressed her satisfaction, but did not go so far as to play the “collaborative” game she had played for Orson Welles’s radio adaptation of Rebecca for CBS, aired in December 1938.10

  • 11 Éric Rohmer and Claude Chabrol, Hitchcock, Paris: Éditions Universitaires, 1957, 46-47.
  • 12 François Truffaut, Le Cinéma selon Alfred Hitchcock, Paris: Robert Laffont, 1966, 93-94.
  • 13 Ibid., 93.
  • 14 Tania Modleski, The Women Who Knew Too Much. Hitchcock and Feminist Theory [1988], London: Routledg (...)
  • 15 Jean-Loup Bourget, Rebecca d’Alfred Hitchcock, op. cit., 95-115. To this day it is possible to find (...)
  • 16 Tania Modleski, “ʻNever to Be Thirty-Six Years Oldʼ: Rebecca as Female Oedipal Drama,” Wide Angle, (...)

7Rebecca met with great public success and favourable (but not enthusiastic) critical success; and it earned Selznick his second Academy Award for best picture after Gone with the Wind the previous year. Hitchcock’s rising reputation in later years led to what amounted to a rewriting of history. Chabrol, who co-authored (with Éric Rohmer) the very first book devoted to Hitchcock, wrote that Rebecca demonstrated the director’s mastery in dealing with what was essentially a very inferior novel,11 and Hitchcock himself followed suit when he told Truffaut that Rebecca was based on an outmoded Victorian-type novelette.12 Nevertheless, unlike Chabrol and other Hitchcock admirers, Hitchcock also told Truffaut that Rebecca “was not a Hitchcock picture.”13 Later still Rebecca was reclaimed for Hitchcock by a number of feminist critics, notably Tania Modleski, who argued that the film was a turning point in Hitchcock’s career because for the first time the director had espoused the heroine’s point of view,14 a point of view he was to endorse repeatedly in such films as Suspicion, Shadow of a Doubt, Spellbound, Notorious, Under Capricorn, Dial M for Murder, Psycho, The Birds and Marnie. The reassessment implied (or should have implied) a reassessment of the novel’s contribution, via its Hitchcock/Selznick adaptation, to the “first person singular” narrative technique, which became extremely widespread in Hollywood in the wake of Rebecca and of Philip Dunne’s adaptation of How Green Was My Valley.15 That the reassessment did not really take place can probably be accounted for by a combination of factors: first, the abiding feeling widespread among cineastes, particularly devotees of the auteur theory and Hitchcock admirers, that cinema being essentially different from literature, great films are often based on relatively “inferior” sources, and in any case resort to entirely different tropes and techniques; secondly and more subtly, the fact that while she talked about Hitchcock’s identification with his female characters, Modleski ultimately did so in psychoanalytical and thematic rather than narratological and technical terms, as evidenced by her description of Rebecca as “a film which adopts a feminine viewpoint and allows the woman’s voice to speak (if only in a whisper), articulating her discontent with the patriarchal order”,16 a description that effectively collapses “I” and Rebecca into a single, chimerical character.

Jamaica Inn

  • 17 Charles Barr, English Hitchcock [1999], Moffat: Cameron & Hollis, 2003, 241-242.
  • 18 Rudy Behlmer, op. cit., 264.
  • 19 Charles Barr, op. cit., 153, 202-206.

8It is understandable that of the three Hitchcock adaptations of her work, Du Maurier should have expressed satisfaction only with Rebecca.17 The earlier adaptation, that of Jamaica Inn, followed close upon the publication of the novel in 1936, and is notorious for the wide liberties which Sidney Gilliat, Joan Harrison and Hitchcock took with the novel’s plot. Indeed, Selznick insisted that with Rebecca he and Hitchcock should “do the book and not some botched-up semi-original such as was done with Jamaica Inn.”18 These liberties would appear to be due less to Hitchcock’s usual desire to give the story a more visual turn than to the casting of Charles Laughton as the film star, opposite Maureen O’Hara as Mary Yellan, the young heroine through whose consciousness all the action is perceived and filtered, although unlike Rebecca the novel is narrated in the third person. On the whole Maureen O’Hara’s rendition of Mary Yellan is true to the character devised by the novelist: a twenty-three-year-old woman with much imagination, prone to flights of fancy and misconceptions like the narrator in Rebecca, but also endowed with unusual physical, moral and intellectual strength, a much “stronger” character than “I.” Only the heroine’s nationality has been changed to fit in with O’Hara’s Irish accent, and the technique of the “restricted narration” is not strictly adhered to, which means that the spectator is better and earlier informed than the various characters, including Mary.19

  • 20 It should be added that the decision to adapt Jamaica Inn to the screen was hastily made when ther (...)
  • 21 Sidney Gottlieb (ed.), Hitchcock on Hitchcock. Selected Writings and Interviews, Berkeley, Los Ange (...)
  • 22 See François Truffaut, op. cit., 53-55 and Donald Spoto, op. cit., 504.

9Of more obvious import is the metamorphosis which turns Francis Davey – the strange albino vicar of Altarnun, who late in the novel reveals himself to be a worshipper of the pagan gods and the secret leader of the gang of wreckers and smugglers – into Sir Humphrey Pengallan, the squire and local magistrate (“Bassat” in the novel), who is introduced quite early on in the film as a Regency rake who quotes Byron and lusts after Mary Yellan. The part was completely redefined and custom-made for Laughton (who coproduced the picture with Erich Pommer), effectively putting him centre stage, with the added benefit of pre-empting the objection which the Hays Office would predictably have raised to the portrayal of a singularly deviant clergyman.20 Immediately after making the film Hitchcock explained that the “mastermind” character was so strong in the final part of the narrative that it was necessary to cast a big star (such as Laughton) in the role and that, as a consequence, it had been necessary to rewrite the “middle part” of the story to justify the star’s presence. This was an early example of the director’s distinction between surprise and suspense, or between mystery and suspense: whereas the novelist had had recourse to surprise by revealing the vicar’s true personality very late in the narrative, Hitchcock, the “master of suspense”, had early on made it clear that Pengallan was the real ringleader and preferred to emphasize suspense, leaving the audience in doubt as to when Mary Yellan and Jem would become wise to the secret leader’s identity.21 Later Hitchcock would often return to this distinction, arguing for the superiority of “suspense” because it is an “emotional process” taking hold of the spectator whereas the solving of a “mystery”, as in an Agatha Christie “whodunit”, is an “intellectual process”, and playing down his own fairly frequent resort to a combination of “mystery” and “suspense” (as in The Lodger, Murder!, The 39 Steps, The Paradine Case, Stage Fright or Psycho, to mention but a few instances).22

10The substitution of Pengallan – an entirely new character except in his function as the mastermind behind the gang of wreckers and smugglers – for Francis Davey entailed much reshuffling of the plot and the invention of new characters or situations around the flamboyant squire. Of the main characters besides Mary, only Uncle Joss Merlyn and his wife Aunt Patience are relatively unchanged, while some of the smugglers are recognizable from the novel. “Jem” retains his first name and his role as Mary’s love interest, but instead of being a romantic rogue and horse thief who eventually betrays his elder brother Joss to the authorities, he becomes Jem Trehearne, a navy officer and government spy who has infiltrated the gang and is unrelated to Joss. At the end of the film, Pengallan takes Mary hostage and plans to escape to the continent with her. Though the incident is really featured in the novel, the setting has been moved from Bodmin Moor and its strange rock formations, reminiscent of Wuthering Heights, to the deck of a ship. From the shrouds Pengallan throws down his pistol and shouts, “What are you all waiting for? A spectacle? You shall have it! And tell your children how the great age ended. Make way for Pengallan!” before plunging to his death. In this particular case it is tempting to conclude that Hitchcock was in agreement with, or responsible for, the more dramatically spectacular setting, a setting more in accordance with Laughton’s histrionics.

  • 23 Charles Barr, op. cit., 241

11When she saw the film Daphne Du Maurier deemed it “a wretched affair”,23 and in later tepid assessments pointedly refrained from even mentioning Charles Laughton:

  • 24 Maurice Yacowar, Hitchcock’s British Films [1977], Detroit: Wayne State UP, 2010, 254.

[Jamaica Inn] was made at a time when British films were not very good, and exterior shots would have helped—particularly if they had been taken on Bodmin Moor. I thought that the opening scenes captured the flavour of the story but the elimination of the albino parson and the disproportionate role of the squire proved to the detriment of the film as a whole. . . . I thought that Leslie Banks (Joss) was good, and the rest of the cast adequate.24

The Birds

  • 25 Donald Spoto, op. cit., 444.

12The film is less an adaptation than a transposition and a fleshing-out of the basic enigmatic plot of Du Maurier’s short story, originally published in the 1952 collection entitled The Apple Tree, whose film rights were purchased by Hitchcock, who felt that “The Birds” was “strong on atmosphere but weak on plot and character.”25 While unfair to the short story as such, the judgment is understandable from the perspective of expanding it into a Hollywood feature film that would eventually become a big budget production implying an all-star cast and extremely elaborate special effects. Whereas the short story is located somewhere on the English coast during the Cold War, with memories of World War II and the Blitz still very vivid, Hitchcock’s film takes place on the Northern California coastline, a landscape not unlike the original Cornish setting, in a kind of ahistorical present. The film’s plot and characters are much more developed than in the original, with model “Tippi” Hedren making her screen debut as Melanie Daniels, a rich and spoiled San Francisco socialite who gradually becomes interested in, and involved with, Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) and his family. Melanie’s unexpected visit pleases Mitch’s little sister Cathy but greatly upsets their possessive widowed mother (played by Jessica Tandy). In a key scene in a local restaurant a younger but even more hysterical mother goes so far as to blame the birds’ attacks on the strange woman’s sudden arrival in Bodega Bay and her supposedly evil influence.

13From Du Maurier’s short story, Hitchcock retained essentially two elements: the gradual mounting of tension due to the increasing violence of the birds’ attacks, a pattern which fits in with the preoccupations of the master of suspense; and the apparent lack of explanation for these attacks, one of the story’s strongest points. Other retained elements include the focus on a nuclear family whose cottage is stormed by the birds; the deliberate and organized nature of the birds’ onslaughts and the fact that these come in waves, with lulls in between; the fact that different species coordinate their actions; the suicide attacks, the attack via the chimney, the birds going for the eyes and almost silently invading the children’s bedroom; the children running across the field; the presence of a telephone booth, whose dramatic function is heightened in the picture; and the neighbours—farmers and postman—found slaughtered. Conversely, as a logical consequence of the story’s relocation to California, what is not retained is the initial link established between the sudden cold spell of “black winter” and the birds’ odd behaviour, the obvious parallel with the Blitz, the topical references to World War II and to the Cold War, the general feeling that the birds are attacking all over the country, perhaps all over Europe.

  • 26 A parable whose meaning would be confirmed both by an earlier version of the script, which dwells o (...)
  • 27 The latter hypothesis tends to be supported by the film’s trailer, available as a bonus on Disc 1 o (...)

14In the previously mentioned restaurant scene a number of tentative explanations for the birds’ odd aggressive behaviour are suggested. Melanie’s alleged “evil” influence may be dismissed as a hysterical woman’s fantasy, though it hints at a possible antiracist parable in line with Joseph Losey’s Boy with Green Hair.26 But its combination with both the incredulous, then hopeless, reaction of the woman ornithologist and the drunken prophet’s announcement of the “end of the world” may be taken as an oblique reference to the risk of a nuclear holocaust or, more convincingly, at least for the present-day spectator, of an ecological catastrophe, the birds taking their revenge on man’s systematic exploitation of the natural world.27 Elsewhere in the film these “political” explanations, in the broadest of senses (antiracist, nuclear, environmental), make way for a “psychological” or “psychoanalytic” interpretation which, beyond the hysterical mother’s accusations, lead to the repressed and repressive nature of Jessica Tandy’s castrating mother figure and to the ominous presence of the dead father’s portrait. But in the final analysis no clear-cut reason is given, and while vaguely hinting at some such logical explanation Hitchcock wisely stuck to Du Maurier’s lack of it. Thus the free association of ideas works in similar ways for the short story’s reader and for the film’s spectator.

  • 28 A matte shot is a special effect, typically combining into a single image a foreground photographic (...)
  • 29 A Romantic artist who specialized in highly dramatic scenes from the Bible and Milton’s Paradise L (...)
  • 30 Donald Spoto, op. cit., 453.

15What was much debated by Hitchcock and screenwriter Evan Hunter (a.k.a. Ed McBain) was the film’s ending, which at some stage was slated to show the Golden Gate Bridge covered with birds and San Francisco in ruins. The actual ending eventually differed from the short story by offering a (very ambiguous) modicum of hope, with the four major characters – Mitch and Melanie, shocked and injured, accompanied by Mrs. Brenner and Cathy, carrying the two love birds in their cage – managing to leave their half-destroyed house and to drive away through the bird-filled landscape. Hunter described the mood of the film (especially its ending) as “apocalyptic”, an apt description which is borne out by the final shot, a composite matte shot28 combining two separate lower layers of live birds and an upper layer of painted landscape in the “Apocalyptic” style of the 19th century artist John Martin,29 suggesting that the birds have taken over not just Northern California but the whole world. Hitchcock himself in conversation with Peter Bogdanovich referred to this ending as “Judgment Day.”30

The Other Two Du Mauriers: Gerald and George

  • 31 Reminiscing about Charles Laughton in a BBC talk in 1966, Hitchcock referred to “Jamaica Inn, whic (...)

16Daphne Du Maurier’s reaction to Hitchcock’s adaptations and Hitchcock’s summary dismissals of Du Maurier mirror each other as classic cases of misunderstanding between writer and filmmaker. Du Maurier’s appreciation of Rebecca was an exception, though in Hitchcock’s eyes it only went to confirm that the work was “not a Hitchcock picture” but a Selznick picture. Another point on which they tended to agree was their dislike—for different reasons – of Jamaica Inn.31 As a rule Daphne Du Maurier declined to be associated with the writing of the films based on her works. It is sometimes assumed that because Hitchcock knew her father, he must have been on friendly terms with her, but such does not appear to be the case. However it is worth examining Hitchcock’s connection with both Du Mauriers of the previous generation.

Sir Gerald Du Maurier

  • 32 Donald Spoto, op. cit., 110.
  • 33 Alain Kerzoncuf and Charles Barr, Hitchcock Lost and Found. The Forgotten Films, Lexington: UP of K (...)
  • 34 Donald Spoto, op. cit., 63, 110-111.
  • 35 Adapted by Hitchcock in 1930 from the novel and play Enter Sir John by Clemence Dane and Helen Simp (...)
  • 36 Maurice Yacowar, op. cit., 239.
  • 37 François Truffaut, op. cit., 60.

17Daphne’s father (Sir) Gerald Du Maurier (1873-1934), a famous theatre actor, is routinely mentioned as Hitchcock’s “cordial acquaintance”32 or even a “good friend of Hitchcock’s”33 but the actual evidence is rather scanty. Hitchcock’s biographer Daniel Spoto mentions that Hitchcock saw Du Maurier on the stage in the early 1920s and that the actor was later the butt of two of the film director’s bizarre practical jokes.34 More interestingly Hitchcock explained that Sir John’s character in Murder!35 was modelled on Sir Gerald, the archetypal “actor-manager” who was “king” at the time on the London stage: “That’s why I dressed Herbert Marshall, who plays the hero, in black coat and striped pants, like a cabinet minister.”36 In his conversations with Truffaut Hitchcock refers to Du Maurier in 1932 as “the leading actor in London”—indeed, “the best actor anywhere.”37 This is borne out by a 1939 interview in which Hitchcock, on the verge of leaving London for Hollywood, praises American actors and specifically Gary Cooper, whom he compares with the late Gerald Du Maurier:

  • 38 Sidney Gottlieb, op. cit., 91.

Cooper has that rare faculty of being able to rivet the attention of an audience while doing nothing. In this respect he is very much like the late Gerald Du Maurier, who could walk on a stage, flick a speck of dust off his shoulder, study his fingernails for a whole five minutes, and do it all so dramatically and with such accurate timing that he held an audience spellbound.38

  • 39 The Cinematograph Films Act of 1927 had imposed on exhibitors a minimum 20% quota of British films. (...)

18However the only direct professional association between Hitchcock and Du Maurier is the largely forgotten “quota quickie”39 Lord Camber’s Ladies (1932), which Hitchcock produced but did not direct.

  • 40 Best known for his “silly ass” impersonation of Dr. Watson to Basil Rathbone’s Sherlock Holmes, Nig (...)

19Neglected or forgotten until Kerzoncuf and Barr’s Unknown Hitchcock, Lord Camber’s Ladies is routinely reputed to be “the low point of Hitchcock’s career”, an appraisal which Hitchcock did nothing to contradict, having entrusted the film’s direction to Benn W. Levy with whom he quarrelled and broke during the shooting. Essentially an adaptation of H. A. Vachell’s play The Case of Lady Camber, the film is far from being a masterpiece but nevertheless raises a modicum of curiosity, not only because of some of the actors involved but also because of its convoluted ending. Indeed, the melodramatic situation soon gives way to its debunking and to an unlikely romantic conclusion, in a vein which Hitchcock was to exploit to better effect in The Trouble with Harry. Top billing is given to Gerald Du Maurier and to Gertrude Lawrence (one of the actor-manager’s numerous mistresses, on whom Daphne was later to have a crush), secondary billing to Benita Hume (Janet King), and third billing to Nigel Bruce, cast against type as the eponymous Lord.40 Camber has two mistresses: Janet, a florist, and Shirley, a temperamental actress and singer whom he has promised to marry. He apologizes to Janet and marries the singer (Gertrude Lawrence). A year later the Cambers return. Janet has become a nurse and works under Dr. Napier (Du Maurier), who treats Lady Camber for exhaustion and depression. While he protests that he loves his wife, unrepentant Camber wants to revive his relationship with Janet. Eventually Lady Camber finds out about her husband’s infidelity, has a seizure and dies. Janet is suspected of having poisoned Lady Camber. Napier demonstrates that Janet is innocent: Lord Camber did try to poison his wife, but Janet substituted water for the poison. In turn, Lord Camber tries to poison himself, believing he has been found out, but this time it is Napier who has filled the “poison” vial with plain water. Lady Camber has died of natural causes while Napier and his assistant are now at liberty to love one another.

20Visually the film is fairly pedestrian, with only a few shots which may be described as Hitchcock touches: the opening shot of a long kiss which will be repeated with variations in several of Hitchcock’s Hollywood movies, including Notorious and Dial M for Murder; a side view of a line of chorus girls from backstage, recalling Hitchcock’s constant interest in the insider’s view of the music hall and other theatricals; and Lady Camber falling flat on her face, toward the spectator.

George Du Maurier

  • 41 Daphne Du Maurier, Preface to Peter Ibbetson by George Du Maurier, New York: Heritage Press, 1963, (...)

21Sketching the virtual links between Hitchcock and George Du Maurier can only be based on largely hypothetical, indirect evidence. To quote Daphne Du Maurier in her presentation of her grandfather, George Du Maurier (1834-1896) as an illustrator “met all the leading figures of artistic and social London: Frederick Leighton, Millais, William Morris, Burne-Jones, and Whistler”, and when he turned to writing he became the author of Peter Ibbetson, “the novel that was to be so greatly loved by the fin de siècle Victorians in England and the romantic Yankees across the Atlantic.”41

  • 42 François Truffaut op. cit., 33.
  • 43 The subject of the picture has puzzled some Hitchcock scholars. Rothman mistakes it for “a painting (...)
  • 44 Nathalie Bondil-Poupard, “ʻChacun tue l’objet de son amourʼ (Oscar Wilde),ˮ in Dominique Païni and (...)
  • 45 Donald Spoto, op. cit., 464.

22One can assume that Hitchcock (born in 1899) was familiar with Victorian literary and visual culture, an assumption which is borne out by his interest in Jack the Ripper and by his film adaptation of Mary Belloc Lowndes’s “The Lodger” (1911). The Lodger, which Hitchcock himself regarded as “the first true ʻHitchcock movieʼ”,42 shows a reproduction of Millais’s Knight Errant, which provides a discreet clue to the true nature of the Ivor Novello character—a righter of wrongs rather than a serial killer.43 Comparisons between a number of Hitchcock shots and several symbolist or more specifically Pre-Raphaelite paintings have become a matter of course since the pioneering exhibition Hitchcock et l’art: coïncidences fatales held in Montreal and Paris in 2000-01. While many of these parallels appear justified and illuminating,44 their exact function remains to be probed, and Spoto’s attempt to throw light on the symbolism of The Birds by referring to Burne-Jones’s Love and the Pilgrim can be found far-fetched and unconvincing.45

  • 46 Ibid., 457.

23Besides, Hitchcock must have been at least vaguely familiar with George Du Maurier’s Punch illustrations, with his bestselling novel Trilby and perhaps with Peter Ibbetson. When shooting The Birds in 1962, Hitchcock explicitly described himself as Tippi Hedren’s “Svengali” because he had discovered, remodelled and refashioned her in order to make her into a great film star: “I brought her to Hollywood. I changed everything about her. Svengali Hitch rides again.”46

24One may also suggest that the Hitchcock film that is today almost universally regarded as the director’s masterpiece, i.e. Vertigo, is thematically linked to both Du Maurier’s novels. Beyond the Boileau-Narcejac material that is its ostensible source (D’entre les morts), it has long been known that the plot of Vertigo is a modern transposition (and complication) of Georges Rodenbach’s novel Bruges-la-Morte (1892) from late nineteenth-century Bruges to mid-1950s San Francisco. In both narratives a man who has lost the beautiful woman he loved finds another woman who, although more vulgar, looks very much like the first. He endeavours to make the resemblance complete, with tragic consequences. This tragic variation on, and reversal of, the Pygmalion theme, in which Galatea dies instead of coming to life, is also the core of Du Maurier’s Trilby: around 1850, a young Irish model in Bohemian Paris is loved by a trio of British painters. Although she has no musical training and is tone-deaf, Trilby has a beautiful natural voice and can sing in an extraordinary fashion under the hypnotic control of Svengali, an evil character who is also a musical genius. The strain on Trilby eventually proves too much and she dies.

25To return to Vertigo, if we put aside the film’s elaborate plot of crime and deception, we are left with the sublime and oneiric illusion of Madeleine as a reincarnation of Carlotta, with a love affair that transcends the limitations of time and place, and with a variation on the theme of amour fou comparable to that which we find in a handful of movies, such as The Portrait of Jennie and Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, or indeed in Du Maurier’s Peter Ibbetson. While Trilby is a remarkable and very personal variation on the Pygmalion motif, uniting as it does the pictorial (plastic) model and the musical, set against the familiar backdrop of Bohemian Paris in the mid-19th century, Peter Ibbetson is more original, indeed uncanny. It combines both the ancient belief in reincarnation and the idea that “love is stronger than death” with contemporary theories—like Darwinism, antenatal memories, or the subconscious—and technological intuitions, like the dawning realisation that both sounds and pictures could be recorded and broadcast not just across space, but also across time. In several passages Du Maurier, writing in 1891, i.e. just before the “official” birthdate of cinema (1895), appears to view the human brain as a sort of laterna magica and/or camera obscura which fulfils the same duties as Edison’s various inventions and allows for a form of telepathic communication between such kindred spirits as Peter Ibbetson and the Duchess of Towers.

  • 47 I am grateful to Gilles Delavaud for drawing my attention to this cartoon from Punch’s Almanack fo (...)

26As early as 1878 one of Du Maurier's cartoons had imagined and depicted a version of Skype, called “Edison’s Telephonoscope”, an “electric camera-obscura” which “transmits light as well as sound” and allows for a daily conversation between the parents at home in England and their children “at the Antipodes.”47

  • 48 Bourget, Jean-Loup. “Hitchcock au musée, Hitchcock musagète,” in Joséphine Jibokji, Barbara Le Maît (...)

27Apart from this “romantic” theme, circumstantial evidence pointing to possible kinship or shared preoccupations between George Du Maurier and Hitchcock is their common interest in museums and galleries, an interest apparent in several passages from Peter Ibbetson (some referring specifically to the Pre-Raphaelites, notably Millais) and in several well-known scenes from three Hitchcock films: Vertigo, Blackmail and Torn Curtain.48 These references to museums, and more generally to works of art, apparently fulfil a quite different purpose in Du Maurier’s novel, where they contribute to the feeling that the jailed hero finds solace in dreams and in an imaginary life preferable to “real” life, and in Hitchcock’s films, where they serve various dramatic and/or narrative functions, providing spectacular or picturesque settings for scenes of pursuit or trailing (as in Blackmail, Vertigo and Torn Curtain) or offering ambiguous, sometimes misleading clues to either character or spectator or both (as in The Lodger, Rebecca, Vertigo and Psycho). Nevertheless many of these “ornaments” prove fascinating and enjoyable in themselves, being self-sufficient and relatively independent of the plots, which they tend to show up as elaborate excuses for scenes of spectacle (North by Northwest), sensation (Psycho) or oneirism (Vertigo).

28Let us conclude on an onomastic remark. In George Du Maurier’s Peter Ibbetson the hero’s cousin and literary executrix is called Madge Plunket. In Daphne Du Maurier’s short story “The Apple Tree”, from the same collection as “The Birds”, the (implicit) narrator’s recently deceased wife’s name is Midge. In Hitchcock’s Vertigo Scottie’s sensible old friend and confidante (played by Barbara Bel Geddes) is also called Midge. We naturally realize that both “Madge” and “Midge” are familiar diminutives of “Margaret.” Nevertheless it is worth remarking that in all three cases a similar strategy is at work: a commonplace diminutive refers to an “ordinary” character placed in an overall “extraordinary” narrative, acting as a foil to its haunted, visionary, perhaps demented, hero.

Conclusion

  • 49 Adapted like Rebecca from an English novel (by Robert Hichens, 1930), The Paradine Case had a partl (...)
  • 50 Éric Rohmer and Claude Chabrol, op. cit., 132-33 and François Truffaut, op. cit., 56. The Trouble w (...)

29Hitchcock’s adaptations of Du Maurier material bring out his ambivalent relationship both with his British identity and with his literary sources. He rightly felt that in Hollywood he would enjoy better technical, commercial and artistic opportunities than in England, yet at first he found himself under contract to Selznick, a perfectionist and interventionist producer who tended to “typecast” him as a director of Hollywood-style “English” melodramas such as Rebecca and The Paradine Case.49 In Hollywood Hitchcock carefully maintained and publicized his calculated image of a potbellied Englishman who was fond of food and of suspense, or even horror stories, mitigated by a dry sense of humour. While obviously familiar with contemporary British popular fiction and drama, Hitchcock had always regarded these literary sources essentially as starting points for his primarily visual inventions; the working and writing methods of the “dream factory” forced him to delve deeper into his characters’ psychology and to submit his visual preferences to an appearance, at least, of narrative consistency. Nevertheless it is clear that beyond the wide liberties taken and the professional glossy finish of the Hollywood pictures, Hitchcock continued to draw on English or British sources and resources, in both overt and covert ways. Overtly, but discreetly, when he resorted to English actors long resident in Hollywood for highly professional secondary or cameo parts in his films and television episodes – like Leo G. Carroll in Rebecca, Suspicion, Spellbound, The Paradine Case, Strangers on a Train and North by Northwest, or John Williams in Dial M for Murder and To Catch a Thief, Alan Napier in Marnie – and also when he stated that in To Catch a Thief and The Trouble with Harry he had reverted to specifically English combinations of humour and suspense, or of humour and the macabre.50 Covertly, when he directed Bristol-born Cary Grant in several of his most suave Mid-Atlantic performances, Notorious and North by Northwest, and had Grace Kelly playfully question Grant’s claim to be an American tourist from Oregon in To Catch a Thief, or when he transferred the setting of Winston Graham’s novel Marnie from London and Torquay to Philadelphia and Baltimore, or again when he set the “double pursuit” plot of Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps, with its innocent hero chased by both a ring of spies and the police from London to the Highlands and back, in a series of spectacular American settings (New York, Chicago, Mount Rushmore) in North by Northwest.

  • 51 Interviewed by Mike Scott for Granada’s Cinema in May 1966 (the programme was aired in October of t (...)

30To sum up: Hitchcock’s connection with George Du Maurier, while only indirect, is reflected in the singular status of both the novel Peter Ibbetson, whose Hollywood adaptation by Henry Hathaway (1935), starring Gary Cooper in the title role, was much admired by the surrealists, and the film Vertigo, nowadays widely regarded as Hitchcock’s masterpiece and appreciated more for its oneiric, almost mystic, qualities than for its convoluted deception plot. Secondly, Hitchcock’s personal relationship with Gerald Du Maurier appears not to have been as friendly as often assumed, and their professional connection was limited to one definitely minor enterprise, but Hitchcock’s admiration for the actor’s technique of understatement is on record and should be kept in mind to counterbalance the often quoted provocative statement that “actors are cattle” or at any rate “should be treated like cattle.”51 Finally, we should look beyond Daphne Du Maurier’s dissatisfaction with two of Hitchcock’s three adaptations of her work, beyond Hitchcock’s unjust disparagement of the literary quality of Rebecca and “The Birds”, and also beyond his smarting memories of Selznick’s insistence on fidelity to Du Maurier’s novel. Hitchcock’s The Birds is related to Daphne Du Maurier’s short story in rather the same way as his The 39 Steps is related to Buchan’s novel: both films may be described as largely original pieces of cinematic work in their own right, which retain only some of the basic plot and atmosphere of their literary sources while simultaneously inventing many entirely new developments, characters and emotions, specifically romance and humour. But whether he was faithful to his sources or took liberties with them, Hitchcock the showman was always acutely aware of the publicity value of the Daphne Du Maurier name, which figured prominently in all the promotional material for The Birds—a name which to millions of readers and filmgoers had become inseparable from Rebecca, the novel and the movie, a “Hitchcock movie” after all.

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Bibliographie

BARR Charles, English Hitchcock [1999], Moffat: Cameron & Hollis, 2003.

BEHLMER Rudy, Memo from David O. Selznick, New York: Viking Press, 1972.

BONDIL-POUPARD Nathalie, “ʻChacun tue l’objet de son amourʼ (Oscar Wilde),ˮ in Dominique Païni and Guy Cogeval (eds.), Hitchcock et l’art. Coïncidences fatales, Montreal and Milan: Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal/Mazzotta, 2000, 206-43.

BOURGET Jean-Loup, Rebecca d’Alfred Hitchcock, Paris: Vendémiaire, 2017.

BOURGET Jean-Loup, “Hitchcock au musée, Hitchcock musagète,” in Joséphine Jibokji, Barbara Le Maître, Natacha Pernac and Jennifer Verraes (eds.), Muséoscopies. Fictions du musée au cinéma, Presses universitaires de Paris-Nanterre, 2018, 31-44.

BOUZEREAU Laurent, All About The Birds, (documentary film) Universal Studios Home Video, 1999. Available on Disc 2 of the two-disc edition of The Birds, Universal Pictures, 2017.

CHABROL Claude, “Sans tambour ni trompette (Rebecca),” Cahiers du Cinéma, 45, March 1955, 45-46.

DU MAURIER Daphne, Preface to Peter Ibbetson by George Du Maurier, New York: Heritage Press, 1963, x-xiii.

GOTTLIEB Sidney (ed.), Hitchcock on Hitchcock. Selected Writings and Interviews, Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: U of California P, 1995.

KERZONCUF Alain and Charles BARR, Hitchcock Lost and Found. The Forgotten Films, Lexington: UP of Kentucky, 2015.

LEFF Leonard J., Hitchcock & Selznick. The Rich and Strange Collaboration of Alfred Hitchcock and David O. Selznick in Hollywood, New York: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1987.

MODLESKI Tania, “ʻNever to Be Thirty-Six Years Oldʼ: Rebecca as Female Oedipal Drama,” Wide Angle, vol. 5, n° 1, 1982, 34-41.

MODLESKI Tania, The Women Who Knew Too Much. Hitchcock and Feminist Theory [1988], London: Routledge, 2005.

ROHMER Éric and Claude CHABROL, Hitchcock, Paris: Éditions Universitaires, 1957.

ROTHMAN William, Hitchcock – The Murderous Gaze, Cambridge, Mass., and London: Harvard UP, 1982.

RYALL Tom, Alfred Hitchcock & the British Cinema, London & Sydney: Croom Helm, 1986.

SPOTO Donald, The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock, New York: Little, Brown & Co., 1983.

TANSKI Julia, “La femme symboliste dans l’œuvre d’Alfred Hitchcock,” in Dominique Païni and Guy Cogeval (eds.), Hitchcock et l’art. Coïncidences fatales, Montreal and Milan: Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal/Mazzotta, 2000, 147-54.

TRUFFAUT François, Le Cinéma selon Alfred Hitchcock, Paris: Robert Laffont, 1966.

YACOWAR Maurice, Hitchcock’s British Films [1977], Detroit: Wayne State UP, 2010.

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Notes

1 The title of Hitchcock’s film, The 39 Steps, is distinct from Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps.

2 The making of Rebecca is dealt with in detail in Jean-Loup Bourget, Rebecca d’Alfred Hitchcock, Paris: Vendémiaire, 2017, 11-43. The main English-language sources are Rudy Behlmer, Memo from David O. Selznick, New York: Viking Press, 1972, 249-87 and Leonard J. Leff, Hitchcock & Selznick. The Rich and Strange Collaboration of Alfred Hitchcock and David O. Selznick in Hollywood, New York: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1987, 36-84.

3 A “treatment” is the first stage of a screenplay, in this case breaking up the novel’s narrative into a succession of separate scenes.

4 Rudy Behlmer, op. cit., 257.

5 Donald Spoto, The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock, New York: Little, Brown & Co., 1983, 214.

6 Rudy Behlmer, op. cit., 259.

7 Donald Spoto, op. cit., 214.

8 The “Hays Office” referred to the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, chaired by Will H. Hays, whose Production Code Administration was in charge of green-lighting all successive stages of film production in Hollywood from 1934 until the mid-fifties, making sure they were not in violation of the Code.

9 Rudy Behlmer, op. cit., 286-287.

10 A radio adaptation which Selznick had shrewdly sensed would publicize the as yet unmade film, and at the end of which Du Maurier, supposedly answering Welles’s question about the heroine’s name, confirms her “namelessness” by replying “Mrs. de Winter.”

11 Éric Rohmer and Claude Chabrol, Hitchcock, Paris: Éditions Universitaires, 1957, 46-47.

12 François Truffaut, Le Cinéma selon Alfred Hitchcock, Paris: Robert Laffont, 1966, 93-94.

13 Ibid., 93.

14 Tania Modleski, The Women Who Knew Too Much. Hitchcock and Feminist Theory [1988], London: Routledge, 2005, 41-53.

15 Jean-Loup Bourget, Rebecca d’Alfred Hitchcock, op. cit., 95-115. To this day it is possible to find examples of the vagaries of the auteur theory and critics who, assigning Rebecca’s sole credit to Hitchcock, find it scandalous that Selznick rather than Hitchcock should have got the Academy Award for Best Picture.

16 Tania Modleski, “ʻNever to Be Thirty-Six Years Oldʼ: Rebecca as Female Oedipal Drama,” Wide Angle, vol. 5, n° 1, 1982, 34-41, 38.

17 Charles Barr, English Hitchcock [1999], Moffat: Cameron & Hollis, 2003, 241-242.

18 Rudy Behlmer, op. cit., 264.

19 Charles Barr, op. cit., 153, 202-206.

20 It should be added that the decision to adapt Jamaica Inn to the screen was hastily made when there was already talk of adapting Rebecca, and that the relations between Hitchcock and both Pommer and Laughton were extremely strained during the shooting. Nevertheless, director and actor were to work together again on The Paradine Case (1946-47), like Rebecca a Selznick production with an English subject and setting.

21 Sidney Gottlieb (ed.), Hitchcock on Hitchcock. Selected Writings and Interviews, Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: U of California P, 1995, 273-274.

22 See François Truffaut, op. cit., 53-55 and Donald Spoto, op. cit., 504.

23 Charles Barr, op. cit., 241

24 Maurice Yacowar, Hitchcock’s British Films [1977], Detroit: Wayne State UP, 2010, 254.

25 Donald Spoto, op. cit., 444.

26 A parable whose meaning would be confirmed both by an earlier version of the script, which dwells on another stranger’s responsibility (Annie Hayworth’s), and by the final insistence on the love birds’ “innocence.” My references to the making of The Birds and to successive stages of its writing come from Laurent Bouzereau’s documentary All About The Birds (1999).

27 The latter hypothesis tends to be supported by the film’s trailer, available as a bonus on Disc 1 of the two-disc edition of The Birds (Universal Studios, 2017).

28 A matte shot is a special effect, typically combining into a single image a foreground photographic image with a background painted landscape. Hitchcock made much use of matte shots in numerous films, the most familiar examples being those in Saboteur, Vertigo, North by Northwest, The Birds and Marnie.

29 A Romantic artist who specialized in highly dramatic scenes from the Bible and Milton’s Paradise Lost, John Martin (1789-1854) was immensely popular in his lifetime thanks to his mezzotint engravings. His influence can be seen in the works of many directors and art directors of Biblical epics and disaster films, from D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance (1916) to Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds (2005).

30 Donald Spoto, op. cit., 453.

31 Reminiscing about Charles Laughton in a BBC talk in 1966, Hitchcock referred to “Jamaica Inn, which I didn’t care for, in fact I tried to duck the picture two weeks before we started shooting” Maurice Yacowar, op. cit., 254.

32 Donald Spoto, op. cit., 110.

33 Alain Kerzoncuf and Charles Barr, Hitchcock Lost and Found. The Forgotten Films, Lexington: UP of Kentucky, 2015, 216.

34 Donald Spoto, op. cit., 63, 110-111.

35 Adapted by Hitchcock in 1930 from the novel and play Enter Sir John by Clemence Dane and Helen Simpson, and according to the director one of his rare forays into “mystery” rather than “suspense” (François Truffaut, op. cit., 54-55).

36 Maurice Yacowar, op. cit., 239.

37 François Truffaut, op. cit., 60.

38 Sidney Gottlieb, op. cit., 91.

39 The Cinematograph Films Act of 1927 had imposed on exhibitors a minimum 20% quota of British films. Predictably, the provision “did not succeed in producing good British films […], but just quantity” Tom Ryall, Alfred Hitchcock & the British Cinema, London & Sydney: Croom Helm, 1986, 44.

40 Best known for his “silly ass” impersonation of Dr. Watson to Basil Rathbone’s Sherlock Holmes, Nigel Bruce also appears in two Hitchcock-directed films, Rebecca (as Maxim’s brother in law) and Suspicion (1941), as the hero’s friend Beaky.

41 Daphne Du Maurier, Preface to Peter Ibbetson by George Du Maurier, New York: Heritage Press, 1963, x-xiii.

42 François Truffaut op. cit., 33.

43 The subject of the picture has puzzled some Hitchcock scholars. Rothman mistakes it for “a painting that depicts a scene of rape” (William Rothman, Hitchcock–The Murderous Gaze, Cambridge, Mass., and London: Harvard UP, 1982, 19), while Julia Tanski confuses it with Burne-Jones’s The Rock of Doom (Julia Tanski, “La femme symboliste dans l’œuvre d’Alfred Hitchcock,” in Dominique Païni and Guy Cogeval (eds.), Hitchcock et l’art. Coïncidences fatales, Montreal and Milan: Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal/Mazzotta, 2000, 147-154, 149.)

44 Nathalie Bondil-Poupard, “ʻChacun tue l’objet de son amourʼ (Oscar Wilde),ˮ in Dominique Païni and Guy Cogeval (eds), Hitchcock et l’art. Coïncidences fatales, Montreal and Milan: Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal/Mazzotta, 2000, 206-243.

45 Donald Spoto, op. cit., 464.

46 Ibid., 457.

47 I am grateful to Gilles Delavaud for drawing my attention to this cartoon from Punch’s Almanack for 1879, which can be found at <https://publicdomainreview.org/collection/the-telephonoscope-1879/>, accessed on 5 May 2020.

48 Bourget, Jean-Loup. “Hitchcock au musée, Hitchcock musagète,” in Joséphine Jibokji, Barbara Le Maître, Natacha Pernac and Jennifer Verraes (eds.), Muséoscopies. Fictions du musée au cinéma, Presses universitaires de Paris-Nanterre, 2018, 31-44.

49 Adapted like Rebecca from an English novel (by Robert Hichens, 1930), The Paradine Case had a partly British cast (Ann Todd, Charles Laughton, Leo G. Carroll) but Hitchcock blamed Selznick for the miscasting of American star Gregory Peck as a London barrister (Truffaut, Le Cinéma selon Alfred Hitchcock, 129). Not produced by Selznick, but also in Hollywood’s “English style” is Hitchcock’s Suspicion, an ambiguous thriller based on Francis Iles’s Before the Fact (1932), with an all-British cast which included Cary Grant, Joan Fontaine, Nigel Bruce, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Leo G. Carroll (Bourget, Rebecca d’Alfred Hitchcock, 111-115).

50 Éric Rohmer and Claude Chabrol, op. cit., 132-33 and François Truffaut, op. cit., 56. The Trouble with Harry (1955) is a faithful adaptation of an English novel (by Jack Trevor Story) whose setting has been moved to Vermont during a colourful Indian summer. In an otherwise all-American cast a major part is played by Edmund Gwenn, a veteran English actor who had previously appeared in three Hitchcock films.

51 Interviewed by Mike Scott for Granada’s Cinema in May 1966 (the programme was aired in October of the same year), Hitchcock repeated his finely honed ironic rejoinder: “I did say […] that I had been accused of saying that actors are cattle, but this is absolutely untrue. What I possibly said is that actors should be treated like cattle.” See <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Lnu8VM1LCA>, at 00:17:20, accessed on 5 May 2020.

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Jean-Loup Bourget, « Enter Sir Alfred, or Hitchcock’s Three Du Mauriers »Revue LISA/LISA e-journal [En ligne], vol. 19-n°52 | 2021, mis en ligne le 22 novembre 2021, consulté le 01 décembre 2021. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/lisa/13412 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/lisa.13412

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Auteur

Jean-Loup Bourget

Jean-Loup Bourget est professeur émérite d’études cinématographiques à l’École normale supérieure (Ulm). Il a enseigné la littérature et le cinéma aux Universités de Toronto, Toulouse, Genève, Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3, à l’EHESS et à Middlebury College. Il est l’auteur ou le co-auteur de 17 ouvrages consacrés principalement au cinéma hollywoodien classique et plus particulièrement aux cinéastes européens actifs à Hollywood, notamment Lubitsch, Lang, Sirk et Hitchcock lui-même (Rebecca d’Alfred Hitchcock, 2017 ; Sir Alfred Hitchcock, cinéaste anglais, 2021). Il a écrit de nombreux articles sur le cinéma et ses rapports avec la littérature ainsi qu’avec les autres arts visuels. Il appartient au comité de rédaction de la revue mensuelle de cinéma Positif.

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