Hitchcock snubbed by cohorts?

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Rusty
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Hitchcock snubbed by cohorts?

Post by Rusty »

Hello,

Do you remember the TCM short bit about Alfred Hitchcock? The between movie thing that includes a nasty Hitchcock comment from a movie director named Andre de Toth? Mr. de Toth says something like, "Hitchcock was fat...lazy...and failed to live up to the promise of his early films..." Wow. I mean, what did Andre de Toth have against Alfred Hitchcock? I attributed the de Toth/ Hitchcock comment to de Toth crankiness and de Toth jealousy regarding Hitchcock's big box office draw.

Well, I was watching the Criterion DVD of the Jules Dassin movie...Rififi (1955). Included with the disk is a fairly lengthy interview with Dassin. Jules Dassin tells the story...after the completion of Rififi he invited the Hollywood director Lewis Milestone to take a look at a pre-release print of Rififi. Lewis Milestone was one heckuva good filmmaker. For example, Milestone was the director of Rain (1932). Anyway. Rififi was Dassin's first movie without Hollywood studio input and he wanted a review of Rififi from a person he respected. Dassin heard Lewis Milestone was visiting France and Rififi was made in Paris and Dassin invited Milestone to a screening of Rififi. After watching Rififi, Dassin says the one comment Milestone made about the movie was, "I have one thing to say about your movie...any future movies you make...make that movie (Rififi). Look at Alfred Hitchcock...he makes the same movie over and over and....he's Hitchcock!"

So, here is a postive comment from Milestone regarding Dassin's Rififi...e.g. good enough film to do over and over. Plus, a bit of damning with faint praise regarding Alfred Hitchcock...e.g. Hitchcock is a hack, but he's a very successful hack.

Well, to make a long story even longer...here are two directors (Andre de Toth and Lewis Milestone) belittling Alfred Hitchcock's reputation.

What do you think? Was Mr. Hitchcock considered a successful hack among his peers? Do you think de Toth and Milestone are indulging in some good ol' backbiting?

By the way. If you have not watched Rififi...oh boy, it is one fine crime caper movie.

Rusty
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moira finnie
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Andre de Toth and Hitchcock

Post by moira finnie »

Wow, Rusty, you just made me put Rififi (1955) on the top of my Netflix queue. Enjoy almost all of Jules Dassin's movies and am especially enamored of him since viewing his interview on the dvd of Thieves' Highway.

Re: Andre de Toth's Hitchcock comment in that TCM promo.
I've always wondered if professional jealousy and a keen sense of mischief might've been factors in that possibly tongue-in-cheek remark. I'm sure that Hitch's gift for self-promotion irked many fellow directors who never had his opportunities, (or gifts). One piece of evidence of this possibility may be seen in the fact that the Directors' Guild of America nominated him for awards several times and only awarded him with a Lifetime Achievement Award near the end of his career in 1968. The Academy Awards, of course, followed a similar path, nominating him 6 times without a win before finally giving him the Irving Thalberg Award in '68 as well. I suspect that even without attempting to do so consciously at times, Hitch probably rubbed lots of people in the film community the wrong way!

Btw, I also felt that composer David Raksin's comment during that same TCM promo mentioning that Hitchcock's personality in a social setting was as interesting as a "bump on a log" might've been meant as a joke or as a comment on Hitch's sometimes deceptively bland persona.

After watching Rififi, Dassin says the one comment Milestone made about the movie was, "I have one thing to say about your movie...any future movies you make...make that movie (Rififi). Look at Alfred Hitchcock...he makes the same movie over and over and....he's Hitchcock!"
Re: Lewis Milestone's comment recommending that making the same film a la Hitchcock might be a good path for Jules Dassin.

I wonder if Milestone might've been alluding to the fact that many artists in any medium tend to pursue the same themes and motifs repeatedly, refining and pruning them throughout a lifetime until something close to their essential vision can be achieved. That essential idea can never be perfected of course, and I think that recommending Hitchcock to a relatively young Dassin was the highest of compliments and setting the bar high for the filmmaker.
Last edited by moira finnie on May 7th, 2007, 2:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Rusty
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Re: Andre de Toth and Hitchcock

Post by Rusty »

Hello moira,

While watching Rififi, I was reminded of the fantastic crime caper movie Topkapi. Appropriate connection...Dassin directed Topkapi. While watching Rififi, I was reminded of the fantastic gangster movie Le Samourai. Appropriate connection...Jean-Pierre Melville directed Le Samourai and Jean-Pierre Melville was slated to make Rififi. The producer decided the movie needed an American director. Jules Dassin took the job and Melville got the heave-ho. I'm tooting my own horn here...I sometimes surprise myself at how good I am making connections. Okay. I'm kidding.

Quote from moira...
"I wonder if Milestone might've been alluding to the fact that many artists in any medium tend to pursue the same themes and motifs repeatedly, refining and pruning them throughout a lifetime until something close to their essential vision can be achieved. That essential idea can never be perfected of course, and I think that recommending Hitchcock to a relatively young Dassin was the highest of compliments and setting the bar high for the filmmaker."

moira...interesting theory. I think you might be correct. After all, "...he's Hitchcock!" is the "he" we are discussing.

Rusty
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moira finnie
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Post by moira finnie »

Would you say that Rififi is better than Topkapi, 'cause I honestly wasn't keen on the latter movie, except for the scenes centering on Peter Ustinov?
Jean-Pierre Melville directed Le Samourai and Jean-Pierre Melville was slated to make Rififi. The producer decided the movie needed an American director. Jules Dassin took the job and Melville got the heave-ho. I'm tooting my own horn here...I sometimes surprise myself at how good I am making connections.
Connect away, Rusty, because now you've tapped a big vein of interest for me by your mention of Le Samouraï (1967)! Have you also seen Bob le Flambeur, Le Circle Rouge or Touchez Pas au Grisbi or The Sicilian Clan?

Touchez Pas au Grisbi in particular is probably one of my favorite movies ever, as is Jean Gabin a big ol' passion of mine as an actor. Sorry to gush, but French noirs have that effect on me. They are too cool and fatalistic for words *lol*
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Post by pktrekgirl »

Well, I'm not all that well versed in the Hitchcock filmology, having only seen some (but not all) of the 'essentials' -

PSYCHO
TO CATCH A THIEF
NORTH BY NORTHWEST
THE BIRDS
VERTIGO
REAR WINDOW
THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH
I CONFESS
NOTORIOUS
SPELLBOUND
SUSPICION
FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT
THE 39 STEPS

I'm embarrassed to admit that I've not seen STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, DIAL M FOR MURDER, ROPE or LIFEBOAT, all of which I've heard are very good.

That said, I guess I'm a bit confused about why anyone would say he made the same film over and over. Because even among the few I've seen, I don't believe that to be the case.

Sure, they were all suspense stories...but that is where the similarities often end.

At least from my point of view.

I was wondering what others thought about that comment itself. Maybe I'm not seeing something you more knowledgeable Hitchcock fans can see...
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Rusty
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Post by Rusty »

moira,

Bob le Flambeur is number ten disk in my Netflix queue. Le Cercle Rouge is said to be a remake of Rififi...another item of interest included with the Rififi disk. I don't know, because I have not watched Le Cercle Rouge. The star of Rififi, Jean Servais, looks like a weathered Jean Gabin...Jean Gabin as presented in Touchez Pas Au Grisbi. Can you imagine such a thing?

One more thing about the Criterion Rififi. The main presentation is French with English subtitles. You get the option of comparing the French version with the United States released dubbed version. Really, really bad voice...terrible...for Jean Servais. I bet that dubbed version deep sixed any chance of a successful Rififi in the United States. Bad stuff...bad.

Rusty
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Post by Mr. Arkadin »

Rusty, Glad you enjoyed Rififi. Great film.

Hitchcock did make some similar films.

His "Innocent man on the run" trilogy:

The 39 Steps (1934)
Saboteur (1942)
North by Northwest (1959)

Innocent men behind bars:

The Wrong Man (1957)
Frenzy (1972)

And he did remake the same film twice: The Man who Knew Too Much (1934/56).

But, when you consider his amazing body of work Hitchcock did more different styled films than a lot of directors (and had a hefty output of them as well).

Psycho (along with Peeping Tom) reinvented the modern horror film. Rope was virtually filmed live (in 8 min takes--my fave Hitch film). Vertigo experimented with themes that are modern and still used today and is a textbook in creative camerawork. Blackmail, his first sound film showed the possiblites of how sound could be used by having words spoken as thoughts in the mind. Marnie is one of the first films to explore child abuse. The special effects of The Birds are still incredible by todays standards. Shooting a film in a single tightly enclosed set (Lifeboat--smaller than Rope or Dial M). I could go on, but you get the picture...
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MissGoddess
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Post by MissGoddess »

Both de Toth and Raksin sounded angry when they made their comments, so I think it was jealousy. Which is really too bad, both were talented enough men in their own right not to lower themselves that way. I love what Jane Wyman and Martin Landau had to say about Hitch's sly sense of humor---in my opinion, these two were much more perceptive people than the aforementioned.
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dfordoom
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Re: Hitchcock snubbed by cohorts?

Post by dfordoom »

Rusty wrote:Hello,

Do you remember the TCM short bit about Alfred Hitchcock? The between movie thing that includes a nasty Hitchcock comment from a movie director named Andre de Toth? Mr. de Toth says something like, "Hitchcock was fat...lazy...and failed to live up to the promise of his early films..." Wow.
Well of course compared to the towering genius of Andre de Toth, Hitchcock was a mere hack. What's a movie like Vertigo compared to the masterpieces of Andre de Toth, like......um.....er.....
MikeBSG
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Post by MikeBSG »

Interestingly, I read Sidney Lumet's "Making Movies" in which he said that Hitchcock made the same film over and over. So clearly a lot of filmmakers felt that way about Hitchcock.

Perhaps it was jealousy over the fact that Hitchcock made himself a celebrity at a time when the general public had no idea what a director did or who the directors were. Or jealousy over the fact that Hitchcock always seemed to have a lot more independence starting from his courtship by Selznick than other directors under long-term contract to the various studios.
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dfordoom
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Post by dfordoom »

JohnM wrote: Or jealousy over the fact that Hitchcock had so much popular and financial success!
Or jealousy over the fact that Hitchcock simply had more talent than they had.
jdb1

Post by jdb1 »

It's unfortunate that other directors would say such a thing about Hitchcock. What would they have him do? Make biblical epics and Gold Diggers of 1945?

To my mind, may a truly good author may produce piece after piece on a single theme, exploring it from all possible angles. In Hitchcock's case, his fascination was the ordinary, innocent person thrust into a dangerous situation. It's a primal theme - the child facing the confusing and potentially evil world. What he was really producing were updated myths or fairy tales of the darkest kind, and if you've read the Brothers Grimm, you know that such tales can be pretty darn dark.

I think he was very lucky to have been able to make the films he did and to work out his thesis. I know we viewers have benefitted from it.
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