Spellbound (1945 film)

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There are a number of films entitled Spellbound; for the full list check the disambiguation page.
Spellbound
Spellbound original.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Produced by David O. Selznick
Screenplay by Angus MacPhail
Ben Hecht
Story by Hilary Saint George Saunders
Francis Beeding
Starring Ingrid Bergman
Gregory Peck
Michael Chekhov
Music by Miklós Rózsa
Cinematography George Barnes
Edited by Hal C. Kern
Production
company
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates
  • October 31, 1945 (1945-10-31) (New York City)[1]
  • December 28, 1945 (1945-12-28) (US)
Running time
111 minutes[2]
Country United States
Budget US$1.5 million[3]
Box office US$6,387,000 (by 1947)[4]

Spellbound is a 1945 American psychological thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. It tells the story of the new head of a mental asylum who turns out not to be what he claims. The film stars Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck, Michael Chekhov and Leo G. Carroll. It is an adaptation by Angus MacPhail and Ben Hecht of the novel The House of Dr. Edwardes (1927) by Hilary Saint George Saunders and John Palmer.

Plot[edit]

The film opens with this quote:

The Fault... is Not in Our Stars,
But in Ourselves...

— William Shakespeare

and announces that it wishes to highlight the virtues of psychoanalysis in banishing mental illness and restoring reason.

Dr. Constance Petersen (Ingrid Bergman) is a psychoanalyst at Green Manors, a mental hospital in Vermont. She is perceived by the other (male) doctors as detached and emotionless. The director of the hospital, Dr. Murchison (Leo G. Carroll), is being forced into retirement, shortly after returning from an absence due to nervous exhaustion. His replacement is Dr. Anthony Edwardes (Gregory Peck), who turns out to be surprisingly young.

Dr. Petersen notices that Dr. Edwardes has a peculiar phobia about sets of parallel lines against a white background. She also soon realizes, by comparing handwriting, that this man is an impostor. He confides to her that he killed Dr. Edwardes and took his place. He suffers from massive amnesia and does not know who he is. Dr. Petersen believes he is innocent and suffering from a guilt complex. He disappears overnight, leaving a note for her. At the same time, it becomes public knowledge that 'Dr. Edwardes' is an impostor, and that the real Dr. Edwardes is missing and may have been murdered.

Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman in Spellbound

Dr. Petersen manages to track him down, and starts to use her psychoanalytic training to break his amnesia and find out what really happened. Pursued by the police, Dr. Petersen and the impostor (calling himself 'John Brown') travel by train to Rochester, New York where they stay with Dr. Brulov (Michael Chekhov), Dr. Petersen's former mentor.

The two doctors analyze a dream that 'John Brown' had. The dream sequence (designed by Salvador Dalí) is full of psychoanalytic symbols – eyes, curtains, scissors, playing cards (some of them blank), a man with no face, a man falling off a building, a man hiding behind a chimney and dropping a wheel, and being pursued by large wings. They deduce that Brown and Edwardes had been on a ski trip together (the lines in white being ski tracks), and that Edwardes had somehow died there. Dr. Petersen and Brown go to the Gabriel Valley ski resort (the wings provide a clue), to reenact the event.

Near the bottom of the hill, Brown's memory suddenly returns. He recalls that there is a precipice in front of them, over which Edwardes had fallen to his death. He stops them just in time. He also remembers a traumatic event from his childhood – he slid down a hand rail with his brother at the bottom, accidentally knocking him onto sharp-pointed railings, killing him. This incident had caused him to develop a guilt complex. He also remembers that his real name is John Ballantyne. All is understood now, and Ballantyne is about to be exonerated, when it is discovered that Edwardes had a bullet in his body. Ballantyne is convicted of murder and sent to prison.

A heartbroken Dr. Petersen returns to her position at the hospital, where Dr. Murchison is once again the director. Murchison lets slip that he had known Edwardes slightly, and didn't like him, contradicting his earlier claims. Now suspicious, Dr. Petersen reconsiders her notes from the dream and realizes that the 'wheel' was a revolver, and that the man hiding behind the chimney and dropping the wheel, was Dr. Murchison who shot Edwardes, and then dropped the gun.

Petersen confronts Murchison. He confesses, but explains that he still has the gun, and threatens to kill her. She walks away, the gun still pointed at her, explaining that while the first murder was committed under the extenuating circumstances of Dr. Murchison's fragile mental state, her murder would certainly lead him to the electric chair. He allows her to leave, then turns the gun on himself.

Dr. Petersen is reunited with Ballantyne. They honeymoon together from the same Grand Central Station where they first tried to pursue the mystery of his psychosis.

Cast[edit]

Cameo[edit]

Hitchcock's cameo appearance is a signature occurrence in almost all of his films. In Spellbound, he can be seen coming out of an elevator at the Empire State Hotel, carrying a violin case and smoking a cigarette, about 43:15 minutes into the film. The trailer for Spellbound's original theatrical release in America made a great deal of fuss over this cameo, showing the footage twice and even freeze-framing Hitchcock's brief appearance while a breathless narrator informs us that this ordinary-looking man is the film's director.

Production[edit]

Spellbound caused major contention between Alfred Hitchcock and producer David O. Selznick. Hitchcock's contract with Selznick began in March 1939, but only resulted in three films: Rebecca (1940) and The Paradine Case (1947) being the other two. (Notorious was sold to RKO in mid-production.) Selznick wanted Hitchcock to make a movie based upon Selznick's own positive experience with psychoanalysis. Selznick even brought in his therapist, May Romm M.D., who was credited in the film as a technical adviser. Dr. Romm and Hitchcock clashed frequently.[5]

Further contention was caused by the hiring of surrealist artist Salvador Dalí to conceive certain scenes in the film's key dream sequence. However, the sequence conceived and designed by Dalí and Hitchcock, once translated to film, proved to be too lengthy and too complicated, so the vast majority of what was filmed was cut from the film during editing. About two minutes of the dream sequence appear in the final film, but Ingrid Bergman said that the sequence had been almost 20 minutes long before it was cut by Selznick.[6]

The cut footage apparently no longer exists, although some production stills have survived in the Selznick archives. Eventually Selznick hired William Cameron Menzies, who had worked on Gone With the Wind, to oversee the set designs and to direct the sequence. Hitchcock himself had very little to do with its actual filming.[6]

Spellbound was filmed in black and white, except for two frames of bright red at the conclusion, when a gun is fired into the camera. This red detail was deleted in most 16mm and video formats, but was restored for the film's DVD release and airings on Turner Classic Movies.

Casting[edit]

Selznick originally wanted Joseph Cotten, Dorothy McGuire and Paul Lukas to play the roles portrayed by Peck, Bergman and Chekhov respectively.[7][8] Greta Garbo was considered for the role of Dr. Constance Petersen.[8] Hitchcock wanted Joseph Cotten to portray Dr. Murchison.[9] Selznick also wanted Jennifer Jones to portray Dr. Petersen but Hitchcock objected.[10][11]

Bergman and Peck's relationship[edit]

Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck were both married to others at the time of production — Bergman to Petter Aron Lindström and Peck to Greta Kukkonen— but they had a brief affair during filming.[12] Their secret relationship became public knowledge when Peck confessed to Brad Darrach of People in an interview five years after Bergman's death: "All I can say is that I had a real love for her (Bergman), and I think that’s where I ought to stop…. I was young. She was young. We were involved for weeks in close and intense work."[13][14][15]

Music[edit]

The film features an orchestral score by Miklós Rózsa notable for its pioneering use of the theremin, performed by Dr. Samuel Hoffmann. Selznick originally wanted Bernard Herrmann, but when Herrmann became unavailable, Rózsa was hired; he won the Academy Award for his score.[6] Although Rózsa considered Spellbound to contain some of his best work, he said "Alfred Hitchcock didn't like the music — said it got in the way of his direction. I never saw him since."[16] During film's protracted post-production, considerable disagreement arose about the music, exacerbated by a lack of communication between producer, director, and composer. Rózsa scored another film, The Lost Weekend, before Spellbound was released, and he again used the theremin in that score. This led to allegations that he had recycled music from Selznick's film in the Paramount production. Meanwhile, Selznick's assistant tampered with the Spellbound scoring by replacing some of Rózsa's material with earlier music by Franz Waxman and Roy Webb.

Intrada Records released a re-recording by the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra of the film's complete score. The album also featured music not heard in the finished film.[17]

Reception[edit]

Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote that the story was "a rather obvious and often-told tale ... but the manner and quality of its telling is extraordinarily fine ... the firm texture of the narration, the flow of continuity and dialogue, the shock of the unexpected, the scope of image—all are happily here."[18] Variety wrote that Bergman gave a "beautiful characterization" and that Peck "handles the suspense scenes with great skill and has one of his finest screen roles to date."[19] Harrison's Reports wrote: "Very good! ... The performances of the entire cast are superior, and throughout the action an overtone of suspense and terror, tinged with touches of deep human interest and appealing romance, is sustained."[20] John McCarten of The New York Times wrote that "when the film stops trying to be esoteric and abandons arcane mumbling for good, rousing melodrama, it moves along in the manner to which Hitchcock has accustomed us ... Fortunately, the English expert hasn't forgotten any of his tricks. He still has a nice regard for supplementary characters, and he uses everything from train whistles to grand orchestral crescendos to maintain excitement at a shrill pitch ... All in all, you'd better see this one."[21]

Spellbound placed fifth on Film Daily's annual poll of 559 critics across the United States naming the best films of the year.[22]

After the film's release, it broke every record in London, in both famous theaters, Pavilion and Tivoli Strand, for a single day, week, month, holiday and Sundays.[23]

It earned rentals of $4,975,000 in North America.[24][25]

Accolades[edit]

Award Category Subject Result
Academy Awards Best Picture David O. Selznick Nominated
Best Director Alfred Hitchcock Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Michael Chekhov Nominated
Best Cinematography George Barnes Nominated
Best Original Score Miklós Rózsa Won
Best Visual Effects Jack Cosgrove Nominated
NYFCC Award Best Actress Ingrid Bergman Won
Venice Film Festival Grand International Award Alfred Hitchcock Nominated

Adaptations[edit]

On two occasions, Spellbound was adapted for the radio program Lux Radio Theater, each time starring Joseph Cotten: the first on March 8, 1948, the second on January 25, 1951.

Legacy[edit]

Rózsa's score inspired Jerry Goldsmith to become a film composer.[26][27]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hanson, Patricia King, ed. (1999). The American Film Institute Catalog of Motion Pictures Produced in the United States: Feature Films, 1941-1950. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. p. 2293. ISBN 0-520-21521-4. 
  2. ^ "SPELLBOUND (A)". British Board of Film Classification. 1946-01-30. Retrieved 2013-01-27. 
  3. ^ "Indies $70,000,000 Pix Output". Variety: 3. 3 November 1944. Retrieved 26 July 2016. 
  4. ^ David Thomson, Showman: The Life of David O. Selznick, Abacus, 1993 p 445
  5. ^ Lyttelton, Oliver (31 October 2012). "5 Things You May Not Know About Alfred Hitchcock's 'Spellbound'". Retrieved 17 May 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c Spoto, Donald (1999). The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock. Da Capo. p. 277. ISBN 0-306-80932-X. 
  7. ^ Haney, Lynn (2009). Gregory Peck: A Charmed Life. Da Capo Press. ISBN 9780786737819. page 116
  8. ^ a b Lyttleton, Oliver (31 October 2012). "5 Things You May Not Know About Alfred Hitchcock's 'Spellbound'". IndieWire. Retrieved 18 September 2016. 
  9. ^ Millington, Richard; Freedman, Jonathan (1999). Hitchcock's America. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195353310.  page 25
  10. ^ Green, Paul (2011). Jennifer Jones: The Life and Films. McFarland. ISBN 9780786485833. page 224
  11. ^ Fishgall, Gary (2002). Gregory Peck: A Biography. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9780684852904. page 96
  12. ^ Haney, Lynn (2009). Gregory Peck: A Charmed Life. De Capo Press. ISBN 9780786737819. 
  13. ^ Fishgall, Gary (2002). "Gregory Peck: A Biography". ISBN 9780684852904. 
  14. ^ Smit, David (2012). "Ingrid Bergman: The Life, Career and Public Image". ISBN 9780786472260. 
  15. ^ Darrach, Brad (15 June 1987). "Gregory Peck". People. Retrieved 5 October 2015. 
  16. ^ "Miklós Rózsa - Biography". Retrieved 2009-12-21. 
  17. ^ "Spellbound". Intrada Records. Retrieved October 21, 2012. 
  18. ^ Crowther, Bosley (November 2, 1945). "Movie Review - Spellbound". The New York Times. Retrieved March 10, 2016. 
  19. ^ "Film Reviews". Variety. New York: Variety, Inc.: p. 17 October 31, 1945. 
  20. ^ "Harrison's Reports". November 3, 1945: p. 175. 
  21. ^ McCarten, John (November 3, 1945). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker. New York: F-R Publishing Corp.: p. 69–70. 
  22. ^ "'Lost Weekend' Tops '10 Best'". Film Daily. New York: Wid's Films and Film Folk, Inc.: p. 1 January 6, 1947. 
  23. ^ "'Spellbound' Breaks Admission Records". The Miami News. 30 June 1946. 
  24. ^ "All-Time Top Grossers", Variety, 8 January 1964 p 69
  25. ^ "60 Top Grossers of 1946", Variety 8 January 1947 p8
  26. ^ Miller, Frank. "Spellbound (1945) Pop Culture 101 - SPELLBOUND". Turner Classic Movies. 
  27. ^ Jerry Goldsmith interview on YouTube

External links[edit]