Andrew J. Douglas: Seven Reasons to See Spellbound
By Andrew J. Douglas, Ph.D., Director of Education, BMFI
You’re not likely to find Spellbound on anyone’s list of the best Hitchcock films, though it was very popular and lauded by critics and the Academy upon its release. You can decide for yourself, of course, but here are seven reasons I think it’s most definitely worth seeing:
1. Spellbound IS an Alfred Hitchcock film. Like pizza (and one or two other things), even Hitchcock movies that aren’t the best are still pretty darn good.
2. Spellbound stars Ingrid Bergman. Even though she spends much of the film looking like a cross between a Victorian schoolmarm and a researcher at Heidelberg University—with the rigid personality to match—her natural radiance still manages to shine through. This is the first of three films she made with Hitchcock (Notorious, the following year, and Under Capricorn, 1949, being the others), and across them she demonstrates her range and talent as an actress.
|Ingrid Bergman plays a psychiatrist who falls in love with her amnesiac patient (Gregory Peck).|
3. Spellbound stars Gregory Peck. This doesn’t do anything for me, personally, but I understand there are those out there for whom this would be a particular selling point. Enjoy.4. Salvador Dalí designed the dream sequence. It was originally longer and more elaborate than what is in the finished film, and Hitchcock had also hoped the surrealist painter would be able to create more than one segment for the film. Nevertheless, it is fascinating to see this combination of mainstream Hollywood entertainment and European fine art.
5. Spellbound was an early and influential example of Hollywood delving into the world of psychoanalysis. Folks in Hollywood, such as the film’s producer, David O. Selznick, had been “on the couch” for years, but the field itself was just beginning to make its way into mainstream culture. It obviously influenced future Hitchcock films, such as Vertigo (1958) and Marnie (1964), but some credit Spellbound with giving rise to a series of psychological films in the late 1940s: Shock (1946), with Vincent Price; Otto Preminger’s Whirlpool (1949), featuring Gene Tierney as a kleptomaniac (and also co-written by Spellbound co-screenwriter Ben Hecht); and Max Ophüls’s Caught (1949), starring James Mason.
6. Spellbound marks the first use of the theremin in a Hollywood film. Miklós Rózsa, who had received an Academy Award nomination for scoring Double Indemnity (1944), incorporated the unconventional instrument into his only collaboration with Alfred Hitchcock. Though he earned three Oscar nominations for his work in 1945—for this film, Billy Wilder’s The Lost Weekend, and Charles Vidor’s A Song to Remember—it was Spellbound that got him the statue.
|After an incident in an operating room, Gregory Peck admits to Dr. Peterson (Bergman) that he doesn't think he really is the Dr. Edwardes that he claims to be.|
Dr. Douglas received his Ph.D. from the Department of Radio/Television/Film at Northwestern University. He will introduce BMFI's 35 mm screening of Spellbound on Tuesday, July 31 at 7:00 pm and is also teaching the four-week class Alfred Hitchcock: The Early Years.