It’s the pictures that got small! – “Good Evening” Leading Ladies of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour Part 3

‘This is Part 3 in a series. See also Part 1 and Part 2.

💥SPOILERS!

*The Star Juror Betty Field s1e24 aired March 15, 1963

Betty Field bio:

Betty Field and John Wayne in Shepard of the Hills 1941.

Betty’s fascination with the theatre was ignited in her early teenage years and led her to enroll at the American Academy of Dramatic Art by 1932. She marked her professional debut in 1933, performing in a summer stock production of “The First Mrs. Fraser,” and went on to secure stage roles in various locations. Her passion for theatre took her all the way to London, where she landed a job in a theatre production of “She Loves Me” at the beginning of 1934.

Her Broadway premiere, in November 1934, was as an understudy for the comedy “Page Miss Glory,” directed by George Abbott, in which she also played a minor role. Despite her rather unassuming appearance and distinct, monotone voice, Betty began to regularly perform in comedic plays, often under Abbott’s direction. She received high acclaim for her roles in plays such as “Three Men on a Horse” (1935), “Boy Meets Girl” (1936), “Room Service” (1937), and “The Primrose Path” (1939).

Paramount executives were impressed with Betty’s portrayal of Barbara, Henry Aldrich’s girlfriend, in the stage production of “What a Life” (1938), and they subsequently signed her to a seven-year contract after the play was adapted into a film in 1939. Throughout the 1940s, Betty played a variety of leading ingénue and supporting roles. One of her early career highlights was her performance as Mae, a farm girl, in the film adaptation of John Steinbeck’s classic novel “Of Mice and Men” (1939), which starred Burgess Meredith and Lon Chaney. However, despite her talent, Betty didn’t quite achieve stardom, partly due to her reserved demeanor and tendency to avoid the Hollywood scene.

Betty had the privilege of acting alongside some of Hollywood’s most esteemed leading men, such as Fredric March in “Victory” (1940) and “Tomorrow, the World!” (1944), John Wayne in “The Shepherd of the Hills” (1941), Robert Cummings in “Flesh and Fantasy” (1943), and Joel McCrea in “The Great Moment” (1944).However, her most remarkable performance was in the heart-wrenching role of the tormented daughter mistreated by her father, played by Claude Rains, in the classic drama “Kings Row” (1942).

Flesh and Fantasy was an eerie and whimsical part for her, she stars in one of the vignettes as Henrietta a dowdy woman who comes upon a mysterious mask during Mardis Gras and then goes to a party festooned with regalia, turbulence, and a romantic game of cat-and-mouse with the handsome Michael (Robert Cummings) A beautifully tragic tale of loneliness and the essence of what beauty is. The use of masks creates a nightmarish landscape of human disconnection.

From The Vault: Flesh & Fantasy (1943)

After delivering a powerful performance as Nona Tucker in the extraordinary depiction of Americana hardship lensed by impressionist director Jean Renoir (one of my favorite auteurs) – “The Southerner” (1945), Betty made the decision not to renew her contract with Paramount.

 

Zachary Scott and Betty Field in The Southerner 1945.

Instead, she took a hiatus from appearing in pictures and returned to her first love – the stage and Broadway. There, she appeared in distinguished plays like “The Voice of the Turtle” and “Dream Girl,” which was directed by her husband John Abbott, and won the New York Drama Critics Circle award in 1946. Her portrayal of Hedvig in Ibsen’s “The Wild Duck” also received critical acclaim.

Betty came back to work at Paramount cast as Daisy Buchanan in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby co-starring Alan Ladd. It wound up being a misadventure for the actress when the picture flopped with some critics claiming she was miscast and not glamorous enough and Ladd too was accused of being lackluster. However, Betty remained beloved on Broadway, showing off her versatility in plays such as Twelfth Night, The Rat Race, Ladies of the Corridor, and The Fourposter playing opposite Burgess Meredith, both taking over for Jessica Tandy and husband Hume Cronyn.

Betty’s expressive features had become tougher, more weathered, and bleak by the time she greeted Hollywood hello again in the mid-1950s. Still, she thrived as a character actress, portraying a number of mundane, wearisome, and unstylish roles yet with the same Betty Field authenticity. She brought credibility to a range of flawed provincial mothers and wives in films such as the highly-regarded Picnic (1955) with Kim Novak, Bus Stop starring Marilyn Monroe, and Lana Turner in the melodrama soaper Peyton Place 1957.

Even her stage roles reflected the changing face of her acting parts with productions of The Seagull, Waltz of the Toreadors, Touch of the Poet, and Separate Tables. And in the 1950s and 1960s, she began to work steadily in television.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Betty also worked steadily on television, taking on a variety of prominent roles. She continued to act at a consistent pace, although she preferred to avoid the limelight.

Betty’s final film appearance was a small but notable role as a streetwalker in Clint Eastwood’s Coogan’s Bluff (1968). Continuing to work on stage she was fearless as the imperishable Amanda in Eugene O’Neil’s The Glass Menagerie and the fragile Aunt Birdie in The Little Foxes, and in 1971 she turned in her last performance on stage as the mother Beatrice in The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man in the Moon Marigolds, a part that in 1972, Joanne Woodward tackled in Alvin Sargent’s film adaption.

Betty passed away at age 57 from a fatal cerebral hemorrhage in 1973, just before filming was set to begin for The Day of the Locust (1975), in which she had been cast as the flamboyant evangelist ‘Big Sister.’ The role was later taken over by Geraldine Page. Betty Field is an often criminally overlooked Hollywood actress who truly contributed some of the finest performances on stage, film, and television.

DIALOGUE

“You act like you’d like to see me electrocuted.”- George
“A couple of shock treatments wouldn’t do you no harm.”– Betty Field

Slamming the fridge door and shuffling her feet. Jenny confronts George’s peculiar behavior on the jury.

Jenny – “Would the star juror care to give me some justification for his behavior George- “What behavior? What behavior! The behavior that has brought down ridicule and scandal over our heads!”

George-“What you talkin’ bout Jenny?”

Jenny- “Have you gone deaf and blind?… Unplug your ears… open your eyes! George Davies the most respected highly thought-of citizen in this town protecting this infidel, this murderer… No wonder you get indigestion.”

SYNOPSIS:

In this darkly humorous episode, Dean Jagger stars as George a mild-mannered Pharmacist who is overcome with murderous lust one afternoon after putting the moves on Lola the town squeeze. When she spurns his advances he chokes her to death to keep her quiet.

Betty Field is shrill and unnerving, playing his fish wife, who annoys all of us with her whining, shrewish voice, her needling and berating George in a way that gets under the skin. Though I can see the tendency to want to needle and berate George.

Lola’s hot-tempered boyfriend J.J. is later arrested for the crime and put on trial. Knowing the boy is innocent, and not able to prove it without his confessing his own guilt, George sees a way out of his dilemma when he is appointed to the jury.

Through his efforts, J.J. is found innocent after he poses so many doubts to the rest of the jurors that he goes free.

The townsfolk boycott George’s store for helping the kid go free. And they treat him like an outcast. His wife treats him like he’s disgraced the family, saying that he’s embarrassing her and that her mother was right all along, there was insanity in his family.

But the townsfolk still believe he did it and persecute him and his mother. This irritates the vengeful townspeople so much that they force him to want to commit suicide and he gets shot by George when he struggles to get the gun away from him. He can’t do anything right.

George can’t deal with his guilty conscience and being hounded by the town and finally cracks up trying to convince them he murdered Lola and shot J.J.

But they just dismiss him as a meek, passionless man not capable of murder and just in need of rest. Having suffered a nervous breakdown from the pressures of the trial…

It begins… the story takes place somewhere in the South. It opens with the mild-mannered storekeeper George Davies and his wife Jenny dozing off on their picnic blanket near the rest of the townsfolk who are spending a lazy day.

George wanders off leaving Jenny sleeping under newspapers used as a blanket. He stumbles onto the town’s young stunner Lola Penderwaller,(Cathy Merchant plays Lola and had a brief screen career from 1961 to 1965 that included roles in four episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and a part in Roger Corman’s The Haunted Palace 1963) who is a spirited flirt boasting her beautiful body in a scant swimsuit. Director Herschel Daugherty subtly emphasizes the contrast between Lola and his dowdy wife Jenny who is back on the blanket, snoring like a truck exhaust and oblivious. Lola teases George, leading him on only to a certain, harmless point, offering him a beer. When George gets sexually aroused, he tries to grab a kiss, and Lola rebuffs his advances. The normally gutless George violently slaps her and proceeds to choke the life out of her.

In a tense moment, Will Hutchins who plays Lola’s boyfriend, the uncultivated and untamed J.J. Fenton floats by in his rowboat, the cowardly George camouflages himself behind a bush then sneaks back to the picnic blanket, taking his place next to the clueless Jenny.

“George here’s that nice fat neck you were eyeing before church… you want it now?”

Regular television character actor Crahan Denton seen on several of Boris Karloff’s anthology series  Thriller plays Sheriff Walter Watson who comes to the picnic with his sons to fish at the lake. He greets George and Jenny who offers them her fried chicken and ironically wisecracks that George loves the necks. It’s an inside joke that George finds secretly comical, but it shows on his face.

Jenny asks the same question every time she sees Sheriff Watson. Are there any criminals in jail this month? He remarks ”the only criminal in our town is time.” “Well, he’s a criminal everywhere I wish you could lock Old Man Time up.” Sheriff -” That would be alright. If we could just send Old Man Time to the electric chair.”

That reference hits George a little too close.

Lola’s lifeless body is found in the woods by the Sheriff’s son and George goes back home. There is one instance of black humor when George references ‘necks’ telling Jenny that the sheriff is “up to his neck in trouble.” George decides to go to his local bar to grab a beer, and on walking through the door the crowd accuses him of being the murderer. They all begin to laugh and tell him that they’ve been saying that to everyone who comes into the bar.

Jenny’s beau J. J. ( a role that I could easily have seen James Best take on, being adept at playing young handsome unruly types). J.J. breaks into a frenzy inside his jail cell, violently tearing apart his mattress. The sheriff sends George to his pharmacy to bring back a sedative. He keeps insisting, “You know I didn’t kill her.” Of course, George knows the truth.

George makes an anonymous phone call to the sheriff, disguising his voice, he confesses to the murder but hangs up before revealing his identity. J.J. is released on bail by his mother and begins dating Alice. Back at home with his mother and Alice, his mother is working as a laundrywoman to make ends meet. J.J. is certain he’s going to fry. Alice stands out from J.J.’s humble mother (Katherine Squire) in the downbeat atmosphere of their broken-down house, with the racy way she carries herself.

George calls J.J. to give him an anonymous warning. He also sends the judge a letter and winds up serving on the jury.

The trial begins and George consumed with guilt over J.J. being wrongly accused, insinuates himself and disrupts the courtroom proceedings. He becomes ‘the star juror’, asking a slew of questions that point to reasonable doubt.

That night, he finds a doll in a chair and a sign that says ‘electric chair’s tacked onto his back door. The jury comes back with a not-guilty verdict and J.J. is set free. When George leaves the courthouse, everyone in town now spurns him. Some of the older boys in town go to J.J.’s house and throw mud on his mother’s clean wash that drifts on the clothesline. The townsfolk even boycott George’s pharmacy, bewildered he cries to Jenny, “Well, what have I done, Jenny? Have I committed a crime? You act like you’d like to see me electrocuted.”

J.J. and his new girlfriend Alice (Jennifer West) show up at the pharmacy, looking like a true bad boy, with a black leather jacket, cowboy hat, and black boots, after all, he is the town’s murderous outcast and exile. He already started out from the wrong side of daylight, poor white trash, his mother taking in wash. Like Lola, he chooses to pal around with girls who don’t have any class. Lola was known as the town slut, who lived in a motel and Alice was a girl from up in the hills.

“He’s already got himself a new one, Alice from up in the mountains.”

Jenny gets hysterical, “George Davies if you had wanted to kill me, you couldn’t have done a better job if you had used a knife, you couldn’t have caused more pain. You not only had to smear my name and the name of your child with scandal and ridicule, you had to dishonor us too. By going MAD!!!!

‘Ridicule and scandal over our heads!”

”You’re not getting out of this house George!”

It doesn’t matter that George had managed to persuade the jury that there wasn’t enough evidence to convict J.J. and he is found not guilty. The town goes crazy.

After he loses his job, J.J. is offered the job of strangling chickens, the suggestion once again of George’s mode of killing Lola.

George tries to confess to the Sheriff. “I panicked and choked her and ran. Taking with me the weapons of the act. My and.”

J.J. gets angry with George and doesn’t think he did him any favors helping out.”’You couldn’t hurt a fly. I don’t want your lies to save me. I don’t want your burnt offering.”

George goes to the crime scene and hears haunting voices in his head accusing him of being a “killer.” Desperate for absolution, he confesses to the sheriff, but his admission falls on deaf ears. Meanwhile, a group of young men vandalize J.J.’s home and brutally beat him until Alice intervenes with a gun. George rushes to J.J.’s side and prevents him from taking his own life, but in the struggle, the gun goes off and J.J. is fatally shot.

The episode draws to a close with the sheriff telling George to go home to rest. George bursts into laughter as he realizes by the end of the ordeal, he’ll never be taken seriously. The irony and fatalistic tone of the episode has been flipped on its head, Lola’s murder will never find closure and we are left with a touch of macabre humor from the situation.

CREDITS:

The episode is directed by Herschel Daugherty who directed 16 episodes, some of the best of Boris Karloff Thriller including The Grim Reaper starring William Shatner, Henry Daniels, Elizabeth Allen, and Natalie Schafer as mystery writer Beatrice Graves, and also Prisoner in the Mirror. He was responsible for 3 of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, and episodes of Suspicion 1958, Lux Playhouse 1959.

In the 1960s he appeared in tv shows including, 5 episodes of Checkmate 1960-61, 2 episodes of 87th Precinct 1961-62, Alcoa Theatre 1962-63, Kraft Mystery Theatre 1963, a few of The Twilight Zone, 2 episodes of East Side/West Side 1963-64, Mr. Novak, For the People, The Doctors and The Nurses, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Dr. Kildare, Felony Squad, Mission: Impossible, The Time Tunnel, The Rat Patrol, Hawaii Five-O, It Takes a Thief, Star Trek, an episode ‘Elegy for a Vampire of Circle of Fear and Police Woman in 1975.

The Grim Reaper [Essay on Thriller with Boris Karloff] “To me death is no more than a business partner”

He also directed several made-for-TV movies, Winchester 73 (1967), The Victim 1972, and She Cried Murder 1973.)

The Star Juror is James Bridges’s second script for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour which aired on CBS on Friday, March 15, 1963, It was based on a 1958 French crime novel called The Seventh Juror by Francis Didelot.

The Star Juror stars Dean Jagger started out in vaudeville and on the radio before starting his movie career in 1929 and his TV career in 1948. He won an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor for his role in Twelve O’Clock High in 1949. He also co-starred in master director Fritz Lang’s Western Union (1941). He was also a regular on the TV series Mr. Novak from 1963 to 1965 as the high school principal. He also appeared in The Twilight Zone episode Static. He also appeared in 1972 he appeared in an episode of Columbo -The Most Crucial Game, featuring Robert Culp a regular murderer on the show.

Playing the sheriff is familiar character actor Crahan Denton who appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Presents in Coming Home and Incident in a Small Jail. He appeared in perhaps one of the top five episodes of Boris Karloff’s anthology series Pigeons From Hell.

Pigeons From Hell [Essay on Boris Karloff’s Thriller] “Is anybody home?”

J.J.’s mother is played by Katherine Squire (1903-1995), who was on screen from 1949 to 1989 and who gave similarly odd performances in two episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Pen Pal, and Man From the South starring Steve McQueen. Squire plays Peter Lorre’s wife.

She was also in two other episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, as well as episodes of The Twilight Zone and Thriller’s Portrait Without a Face. Her husband, George Mitchell plays the judge and was also a busy character actor from 1935 to 1973. He appeared in four episodes of the Hitchcock series, including Forty Detectives Later and The Black Curtain. Like Squire, he could be seen on The Twilight Zone and Thriller; he also appeared in the classic western, 3:10 to Yuma in 1957.

Norman Lloyd’s daughter Josie plays George’s daughter… you can see Josie in The Alfred Hitchcock Hour episode Body in the Barn starring this feature’s star Lillian Gish. Josie also can be seen as Mayor Pike’s daughter Josephine who sings Flow Gently Sweet Afton in sour tones and the neurotic wallflower Lydia Crosswaithe on The Andy Griffith Show.

*THREE WIVES TOO MANY – s2e12 -Teresa Wright- aired Jan.4, 1964

TERESA WRIGHT BIO:

“I only ever wanted to be an actress, not a star.”

Teresa Wright – lamblike at first glance, but don’t let the soft smile lead you to believe that there isn’t something gutsy within that charming glow. She is one of the most engaging actors who showed a resolute luster, and independence to take on Hollywood with the same veracity she pursued wicked Uncle Charlie in Shadow of a Doubt.

Teresa Wright was not only endearing but there was a lack of ceremony and authenticity to her acting and her personal life She was discovered by Samuel Goldwyn and gained early recognition for her exceptional performances in her first three films, becoming the only actor to receive Oscar nominations for each of them. Wright earned an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress and one for Mrs. Miniver.

It stands to reason that Times drama editor Edwin Schallert described Wright’s burgeoning career as “one of the most remarkably brilliant for a young player in Hollywood.”
Despite being a Hollywood star, she remained true to herself and rejected the pretentiousness that came along with being a star. She achieved Hollywood stardom on her own terms, without selling out for the sake of glamour.

Teresa Wright was resolute in her refusal to pose for photographs while wearing bathing suits, as well as to subject herself to superficial interviews in gossipy fan magazines. And at first, Goldwyn told her he was not of “the bathing suit school of Hollywood producers.”

Born Muriel Teresa Wright in Harlem, New York City. While attending the exclusive Rosehaven School in Tenafly, New Jersey she discovered a passion for acting after watching Helen Hayes in “Victoria Regina.”

While attending high school in Maplewood, N.J., Wright participated in theatrical productions. Although one teacher advised her to pursue typing instead, a public-speaking teacher mentored her and provided her with plays to read. He also arranged for her to spend two summers at the Wharf Theater in Provincetown.

In the two summers preceding her graduation, after receiving a scholarship, she began apprenticing at the Wharf Theatre in Massachusetts appearing in such plays as The Vinegar Tree and Susan and God.

She performed in school plays and graduated from Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey graduating in 1938, then made the decision to pursue acting professionally and then moved to New York.

Wright had to drop her first name when she found out that another actress named Muriel Wright was already registered with Actors Equity.

In 1938, in her first play, she landed an understudy role in Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” on Broadway and then toured in the play.

It was a minor role, but also served as a chance to understudy the lead ingénue character of Emily, actress Dorothy Maguire however when Maguire failed to return, Teresa continued in the same role under Martha Scott. Wright would eventually replace Martha Scott when the actress adapted the role of Emily in the film version.

Following her successful stage performances, Wright made her remarkable Broadway debut as Mary in Life With Father in 1939. This caught the attention of playwright Lillian Hellman, who recommended her to Goldwyn for the screen version of Hellman’s The Little Foxes.

It was during her one-year run performance in Life with Father when a talent scout from Goldwyn saw her and Teresa Wright landed her breakout role as Alexandra in The Little Foxes in 1941.

Herbert Marshall Teresa Wright and Bette Davis in The Little Foxes 1941.

She gained recognition for her work alongside Bette Davis (who played the cold calculating mother Regina) and Patricia Collinge who reprised her unparalleled Broadway role as the mercurial Aunt Birdie) in the film.

At that time she had signed a contract with MGM but refused to do publicity stunts or cheese-cake shots that would turn her into a centerfold:

“The aforementioned Teresa Wright shall not be required to pose for photographs in a bathing suit unless she is in the water. Neither may she be photographed running on the beach with her hair flying in the wind. Nor may she pose in any of the following situations: In shorts, playing with a cocker spaniel; digging in a garden; whipping up a meal; attired in firecrackers and holding skyrockets for the Fourth of July; looking insinuatingly at a turkey for Thanksgiving; wearing a bunny cap with long ears for Easter; twinkling on prop snow in a skiing outfit while a fan blows her scarf; assuming an athletic stance while pretending to hit something with a bow and arrow.”

Though she became the unwilling pin-up girl, Teresa Wright became Goldwyn’s biggest overall star during the 1940s.

Teresa received Oscar nominations for her roles in “Mrs. Miniver” (1942) the only movie she made for her studio MGM and “The Pride of the Yankees” (1942), winning the Best Supporting Actress trophy for Mrs. Miniver.

In both roles, Teresa Wright gave heartwarming performances as the granddaughter in the sentimental war-era Mrs. Miniver and as baseball icon Lou Gehrig’s kindhearted wife in Pride of the Yankees starring opposite Gary Cooper. Wright now one of the most appealing newcomers in Hollywood had garnered two Best Supporting Actress and Best Actress nods in the same year.

She holds the record for receiving back-to-back Academy Award nominations in her first three film roles, which still stands today.

Teresa Wright received top billing for Shadow of a Doubt a film that was her personal favorite and which earned every bit of that limelight in Alfred Hitchcock’s psychological thriller placing Wright at the center of the story as serial killer Joseph Cotten’s unsuspecting niece Charlie.

Unsuspecting at first…

When Young Charlie (Wright) is over the moon about her favorite Uncle Charlie coming to her sleeping California town for a visit, the whole family celebrates his arrival. Her mother Emma, Charlie’s older sister (Patricia Collinge who appeared with Wright in The Little Foxes and Casanova Brown) can’t wait to dote on her baby brother. But soon, it comes to light that Charlie might have left strangled wealthy women in his wake, and in fact, may be The Merry Widow killer the police have been furiously chasing down up and down the coast. Now young Charlie who once dreamt of leaving her boring existence behind has stumbled onto a terrifying secret that threatens her life.

Teresa Wright manages to give a nuanced performance as Charlie Newton who daringly holds her own in a game of cat and mouse with Joseph Cotten, all tangled up in danger as she carefully draws out his murderous impulses.

Wright never falters or is self-conscious in the role and her chemistry with Cotten is electric. She brings a complex emotional depth to young Charlie that elevates the film beyond its thriller trappings. Overall, Wright’s performance in Shadow of a Doubt is a testament to her skill as an actress and her ability to imbue even the most seemingly ordinary moments with profound emotional gravity.

Young Charlie is in alignment with killer Charlie’s acumen for subterfuge. In the house, all cracks on as simple as one of Emmie’s cakes if you don’t crack the eggs. But in the shadows beyond the edges, the family is unaware of, the two characters diverge – one set on self-preservation with a malignant disgust for fat lazy wives who live off their husbands and the other who seeks out the truth and bends toward humanity. Their same names are where it begins and ends. And Wright is a glowing jewel in the blackness of Hitchcock’s nightmare.

Uncle Charlie: The cities are full of women, middle-aged widows, husbands dead, husbands who’ve spent their lives making fortunes, working and working. And then they die and leave their money to their wives, their silly wives. And what do the wives do, these useless women? You see them in the hotels, the best hotels, every day by the thousands, drinking their money, eating their money, losing the money at the bridge, playing all day and all night, smelling of money, proud of their jewelry but of nothing else, horrible, faded, fat, greedy women.”

Young Charlie: ”But they’re alive. They’re human beings.”

Uncle Charlie: ”Are they? Are they, Charlie? Are they human or are they fat, wheezing animals, hmm? And what happens to animals when they get too fat and too old?”

After marrying screenwriter Niven Busch in 1942, and appearing in the disappointing Casanova Brown 1944, Teresa Wright returned to form as Peggy Stephenson in William Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives, featuring the ensemble cast of the Academy Award-winning film in 1946. Wright played the caring daughter of Fredric March and Myrna Loy who develops a romantic connection with the troubled veteran played by Dana Andrews.

Teresa Wright told friends that in William Wyler’s post-war drama, she was relieved to play an aspiring home wrecker.

“I’m going to break that marriage up! I can’t stand it seeing Fred tied to a woman he doesn’t love and who doesn’t love him. Oh, it’s horrible for him. It’s humiliating and it’s killing his spirit. Somebody’s got to help him. “

At last, she could finally shed her wholesome persona trying to save the man she loved from a no-good tramp (Virginia Mayo as Marie) who barely knew Fred (Dana Andrews), but director Wyler couldn’t even give her credit- calling her “the best cryer in the business.” And Goldwyn continued to cast her as the unworldly, vulnerable lasses.

1946 with Dana Andrews in The Best Years of Our Lives.

In 1946 she would star in Lewis Allen’s romantic drama The Imperfect Lady with leading man Ray Milland.

Next, Wright played Thor Callum in her husband’s screenplay for Raoul Walsh’s Pursued 1947 – a western starring Robert Mitchum and Judith Anderson about a young boy plagued by nightmares of his family’s brutal murder who is taken in by a neighboring family. He falls for his kind-hearted adoptive sister, but he faces trouble from his hateful adoptive brother and enigmatic uncle who want him dead.

So In 1948 she was once again cast as an innocent waif Lark Ingoldsby in the romantic drama Enchantment.

And while she was unhappy with the picture, the critics sang its praises-Newsweek said she “glows as the Cinderella who captivated three men,” and The New York Times said of her performance that she “plays with that breathless, bright-eyed rapture which she so remarkably commands.”

But Wright had enough of playing Cinderellas and after refusing to go on a long publicity tour promoting the film, Goldwyn canceled her $ 5,000-a-week contract and publicly criticize her as “uncooperative.”

“I will gladly work for less if by doing so I can retain the common decency without which the most acclaimed job becomes intolerable,” she told The Times during the wildly public brouhaha more than half a century ago.

Teresa Wright would wind up starring in three films for studios other than Samuel Goldwyn Productions, and in the end, Enchantment opposite David Niven and Farley Granger would turn out to be her last picture with Goldwyn after she refused to star in the studio’s next film.

In December 1948, after rebelling against the studio system that brought her fame, Teresa Wright had a public falling out with Samuel Goldwyn, which resulted in the cancellation of Wright’s contract with his studio. In a statement published in The New York Times, Goldwyn cited as reasons her refusal to publicize the film Enchantment, and her being “uncooperative” and refusing to “follow reasonable instructions”.

In her written response, Wright denied Goldwyn’s charges and expressed no regret over losing her $5,000 per week contract.

“I would like to say that I never refused to perform the services required of me; I was unable to perform them because of ill health. I accept Mr. Goldwyn’s termination of my contract without protest—in fact, with relief. The types of contracts standardized in the motion picture industry between players and producers are archaic in form and absurd in concept. I am determined never to set my name to another one … I have worked for Mr. Goldwyn for seven years because I consider him a great producer, and he has paid me well, but in the future, I shall gladly work for less if by doing so I can retain my hold upon the common decencies without which the most glorified job becomes intolerable.” –Teresa Wright

Even though her removal resulted in Wright losing a salary of $125,000, it did not diminish her capability to secure distinguished parts. Despite working on her subsequent film for a significantly lower budget of $20,000, it turned out to be another timeless classic – a post-war era drama that was released in 1950. Teresa gave a marvelous performance in Fred Zimmerman’s The Men starring newcomer Marlon Brando.

Working freelance with other studios she appeared in several inconsequential pictures that were never critical successes, though she did star in screenwriter husband’s western thriller Pursued in 1947 starring alongside Robert Mitchum, and another of his, The Capture in 1950 another crime western starring with Lew Ayers.

She starred in Something to Live For in 1952 directed by George Stevens, starring Ray Milland and Joan Fontaine.

She appeared in California Conquest in 1952, Count the Hours! 1953 a film noir directed by Don Siegel and starring Shadow of a Doubt co-star Macdonald Carey. And after that, she appeared in Track of the Cat in 1954 and Escapade in Japan in 1957.
In 1952 Teresa Wright made her foray into television with an episode of Robert Montgomery Presents. The show was called And Never Come Back and 2 episodes of Betty Crocker Star Matinee.

Also in 1952, she starred with Joseph Cotton in Andrew L. Stone’s The Steel Trap an obscure film noir about a Los Angeles bank manager (Cotten) who comes up with a plan to steal money from the bank’s vault and flee to Brazil with unsuspecting wife Laurie. (Wright) Andrew L. Stone made quite a few off-the-beaten-path noirs like A Blueprint for Murder in 1953, The Night Holds Terror in 1955, and Cry Terror! In 1958.

In 1953 she was cast in The Actress, although she was only in her early 30s, Teresa Wright began taking on character roles, even playing Jean Simmons’ mother.

The Actress directed by George Cukor and written by Ruth Gordon it is an account of the actress/playwright Ruth Gordon’s life. Teresa Wright plays Annie Jones, with Jean Simmons as Ruth Gordon Jones. The film also stars Spencer Tracy, Ian Wolfe, Anthony Perkins, Kay Williams, and Mary Wickes.

During a period in which Teresa Wright struggled to find dramatic roles, though immersed in her distinguished career in the theater she started to do considerable work for television starting with live dramatic anthology series.

The Golden Age of TV provided another lifeline to active work. She remained the strong actor that she was in productions including a TV adaptation of the beloved holiday classic, The Miracle on 34th Street (1955), in which she played the role Maureen O’Hara brought to life.
Wright was keeping very busy on television. She would appear as Mary Todd Lincoln in Love is Eternal installment of General Electric Theater and that same year in 1955 she appear on The Elgin Hour, Your Play Time, The Loretta Young Show, 3 episodes o Lux Video Theatre, The Alcoa Hour and a TV movie called The Devil’s Disciple. In 1956 she appeared on Screen Directors Playhouse and 2 episodes of Four Star Playhouse, 3 episodes of Climax!, Star Stage, The Star and the Story, Celebrity Playhouse, Studio 57, and 2 episodes of The 20th Century-Fox Hour.

Between 1952 and 1957 she appeared on several episodes of Schlitz Playhouse and The Ford Television Theatre, also in 1957 with an episode of The Web and Playhouse 90. Between 1954-1962 she made 5 appearances on The United States Steel Hour.

She also began shifting her focus to the stage, where she found the dependability her acting craved. She appeared in productions of Salt of the Earth in 1952, Bell, Book and Candle, and The Country Girl in 1953. In 1954 she starred in Henry James’ The Heiress and in The Rainmaker in 1955. In 1957 she co-starred with Pat Hingle in The Dark at the Top of the Stairs returning to Broadway.

Throughout her television career, she received three Emmy nominations. The first nomination was for her portrayal of Annie Sullivan in the 1957 CBS adaptation of “The Miracle Worker.” Her second nomination was for her role as the renowned photographer in “The Margaret Bourke-White Story” on NBC in 1960. Lastly, she was nominated for a guest appearance on the short-lived CBS series “Dolphin Cove” in 1989.

She starred as Ruth Simmons in the captivating, low-budget The Search for Bridey Murphy (1956) which tells the story of an American housewife who believed she lived before. And in 1958 she appeared in the film noir crime drama The Restless Years with John Saxon and Sandra Dee.

And In 1959, she married playwright Robert Anderson, continuing to focus on the stage and working in television. She appeared in Anderson’s emotional drama I Never Sang for My Father in 1968 in the role of Alice.

The film would be adapted to the screen in 1970 and starred Gene Hackman and Melvyn Douglas, with Estelle Parson in the role of the adult daughter Alice.

In 1969, Teresa Wright would be cast as Jean Simmon’s mother giving the strongest performance in Richard Brook’s bleak drama The Happy Ending starring Jean Simmons as a disillusioned wife who runs away from her stifling married life in a depressed fugue binging on Casablanca, popping pills and drinking.

Wright Was just 11 years older than star Jean Simmons who played her daughter in The Actress in 1953 and The Happy Ending in 1969.

During the 1960s, Teresa Wright returned to the New York stage, starring in three plays: Mary, Mary (1962) at the Helen Hayes Theatre as Mary McKellaway, I Never Sang for My Father (1968) at the Longacre Theatre as Alice, and Who’s Happy Now? (1969) at the Village South Theatre as Mary Hallen. She also toured across the United States in stage productions of Mary, Mary (1962), Tchin-Tchin (1963) as Pamela Pew-Picket, and The Locksmith (1965) as Katherine Butler Hathaway.

Teresa made numerous television appearances throughout the decade, including on CBS’s The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (1964), NBC’s Bonanza (1964), CBS’s The Defenders (1964, 1965), and CBS Playhouse (1969). She would also appear in numerous made-for-TV movies.

In 1975, Teresa Wright appeared as Linda Loman opposite George C. Scott in the Broadway revival of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. In addition to her previous roles, she depicted the rigid Aunt Lily in a 1975 revival of Eugene O’Neill’s Ah, Wilderness! on Broadway, as well as in “Mornings at Seven” during its Broadway run and subsequent tour.

And in 1980, she won a Drama Desk Award as a member of the Outstanding Ensemble Performance for her appearance in the revival of Mornings at Seven.

During her appearance in Los Angeles for a performance in Mornings at Seven at the Ahmanson Theater, she shared a bit of her wisdom with aspiring actors in a USC class in 1982. “I wouldn’t pursue film, and I didn’t back then. I’d use every angle to try to get into a repertory company.”

In 1989, she earned her third Emmy Award nomination for her performance in the CBS drama series Dolphin Cove. Teresa also appeared in Murder, She Wrote in the episode “Mr. Penroy’s Vacation”. Her final television role was in an episode of the CBS drama series Picket Fences in 1996.

Teresa Wright’s later film appearances included a major role as Laura Roberts in Somewhere in Time (1980), playing the grandmother in The Good Mother (1988) alongside Diane Keaton, and her last role as Matt Damon’s eccentric landlady Miss Birdie in John Grisham’s The Rainmaker (1997), which was directed by Francis Ford Coppola.

“I’m just not the glamour type. Glamour girls are born, not made. And the real ones can be glamorous even if they don’t wear magnificent clothes. I’ll bet Lana Turner would look glamorous in anything.”

Teresa Wright was a masterful actor, luminous, unflinchingly genuine, and too – she is unforgettably resilient, and undeniably beautiful.

TRIVIA:

According to A. Scott Berg’s book, “Goldwyn: A Biography”, it is stated that Samuel Goldwyn “offered her a contract that night” (pg. 358). However, in a 1959 interview with Reel Classics, Teresa expressed her interest in playing the part of Alexandra in “The Little Foxes” but was hesitant about committing to a long-term studio contract. Despite this, after the film wrapped and her attempts to return to the stage were unsuccessful, she ultimately signed with Goldwyn and remained in Hollywood. (The interview is archived in the Columbia University Oral History Research Office.)

Her nickname was “Mooch”.

Married two famous Playwrights: Niven Busch and Robert Anderson, both also native New Yorkers.

Was the first female star signed under contract to Samuel Goldwyn Productions.

Was supposed to star in The Bishop’s Wife opposite David Niven and Cary Grant, which is a vehicle that Goldwyn had bought especially for her.

In honor of her heartfelt performance in The Pride of the Yankees (1942), when Teresa Wright died in 2005, when the roll call of former Yankees who had passed on was announced, her name was read out among all the ballplayers.

Along with Fay Bainter, Barry Fitzgerald, Jessica Lange, Sigourney Weaver, Al Pacino, Holly Hunter, Emma Thompson, Julianne Moore, Jamie Foxx, Cate Blanchett, and Scarlett Johansson, she is one of only twelve actors to receive Academy Award nominations in two acting categories in the same year. She was nominated for Best Actress for The Pride of the Yankees (1942) and Best Supporting Actress for Mrs. Miniver (1942) at the 15th Academy Awards in 1943, winning the latter award.

Her husband, Niven Busch, originally penned Duel in the Sun (1946) for her to play the lead, as a departure from her girl-next-door roles. But pregnancy forced her to drop out, and Jennifer Jones got the lead.

She was originally set to star in producer David O. Selznick’s Duel in the Sun (1946), which was written by her then-husband, Niven Busch. However, shortly before filming was to begin she got pregnant, and Busch had to go to Selznick’s office to inform him that she would have to bow out of the film. Selznick, known for his single-mindedness, tried to talk Busch into letting her play the part, which called for a lot of physical action, and Busch absolutely refused. As he turned to leave the office, Selznick blurted out, “Dammit, Busch, she isn’t the only one you screwed!”

She was nominated for the 2015 New Jersey Hall of Fame for his services in the Performance Arts.

Teresa Wright’s cheeky stroke of genius in this episode is filled with macabre and black humor delivering a diabolically composed and humorous resolve as she works her way through each of Dan Duryea’s other wives, as casually as a housewife doing chores. A serial murderer housewife that is.

It is perhaps one of my favorite performances of Wright because of the comical dark side she invokes, quite the departure as Wright greatly envisioned from the ‘best little cryer’ that had been hitched to her in the 1940s and 50s.

Her chemistry with Duryea is fabulous as they play off each other and slowly the revelation comes to his character that she’s been shadowing him on each of his routine rendezvous’ with the other Mrs. Browns at his 3 other homes. It’s a brilliant setup. As he realizes she’s a killer and he’s out three wives.

And now… THREE WIVES TOO MANY!

Dialogue:

Marion Brown tells her husband (Duryea)- “You have been a bigamist 4 times. Now you can stay alive with me or be dead away from me!”

SYNOPSIS:

Dan Duryea is a gambler and a proud bigamist name Raymond Brown. Ray has a passion for fine cuisine and is a professional gambler who uses his wealthy wive’s money to finance his bets.
Each of his wives believes he is a salesman, so he uses his trips away from home to visit his bookie when spending a few days with each wife in three different cities.

He truly loves his wife… I mean all four of them. But something is going quite wrong. One by one his wealthy meal tickets are all turning up dead.

Though Marion is Ray’s third and they’ve been married for three years. She is the most central wife and has been the long-time dutiful wife who discovers that Ray is a bigamist. Marion has been patiently waiting to finally have her philandering husband all to herself.

Could she be the one who is bumping off all of Ray’s wives? Wright takes a much different approach from the gentle farm wife Stella in The Alfred Hitchcock Hour’s Lonely Place and shows herself off to be quite resourceful when holding onto her cheating husband.

Marion who is the wealthiest and oldest of the bunch is driven to murder by jealousy and the survival instinct to keep Ray all to herself. She visits each of the other wives and quietly dispenses with them by lacing their cocktails with poison.

Each town Ray arrives at home to see one of his wives, the police are there while she is being carried out on a stretcher. At first, the police just chalk up each death to suicide and he convinces the cops that he has an alibi. Raymond starts to suspect that Marion is behind the deaths, but he doesn’t have any proof.

Because each murder has happened in 3 different cities, the police never connect the women’s deaths. Marion is able to move easily from murder to murder because she is a refined, beautiful, and charming woman who can easily seduce unsuspecting women into dropping their guard.
And she has learned to be a fantastic bartender who brings her own strychnine.

Ray has managed to stick to an unchallenging subterfuge with his four wives, in order to prevent them from knowing about each other.

Directed by Joseph M. Newman, who directed 10 episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Three Wives Too Many is a powerfully satirical parody with sharpened edges pulled off masterfully by Teresa Wright who is the strong protagonist Marion Brown, in a predominantly woman-centered thriller. Leaving Duryea on the periphery looking in on the wake of his misadventures and marital anarchy. The episode explores greedy love, betrayal, and delicious revenge.

As Brown comes to the realization that all of his wives are now dead, the television adaptation abandons suspense, instead going for the cynical observations about post-war American gender roles of husbands and wive in the 1960s.

The episode is a masterful bit of dark humor as the two paths converge, the take-offs and landings of Ray and Marion both traveling on the same path but for different reasons, and only Marion is aware of both.

The show begins in Newark, N.J. where a taxi pulls up to an apartment complex. A woman, elegantly attired and with a little grey in her hair, steps out of the cab. There’s a close-up of her finger pressing the doorbell of an apartment. The card on top of the button bears the inscription “Mr. & Mrs. R. Brown.”

Now inside the apartment, a younger woman in pants gets up from an upscale modern sofa (a contrast to the traditional interior design and furnishings of her home in Baltimore) to answer the door. Marion, tells Bernice that she flew in from Baltimore just to see her. After dancing around with niceties, she lays it out that she’s a relative by marriage…

Bernice –“Forgive this place I’m a terrible housekeeper when my husband isn’t around -well even when he is.”
Marion “It’s difficult to care when your husband’s gone so much.”
Bernice “Oh well won’t you sit down I didn’t even ask your name.”
Marion “Mrs. Brown.”
Bernice “Mrs. Brown?”
Marion “Mrs. Raymond Brown we’re kind of related.”
Bernice “Well that’s kind of reassuring, knowing I belong to such a large family.”
Marion “Haha tremendous. I’m just astonished at how many relatives keep showing up in Baltimore.”
Bernice “Are you here on a pleasure trip Mrs. Brown- Oh that sounds like I’m talking to myself.”
Marion “My name is Marion. Sort of on business for all of us but your husband said that for any big investment, both of you have to agree.”
Bernice “Oh no not always.”
Marion “I mean since the money is really yours.”
Bernice “He told you that?”
Marion “Well it’s true isn’t it?”
Bernice “Well in a way. When we were first married he needed some extra money and I had some. But then husbands and wives share don’t they?”
Marion “Oh yes always, everything.”
Bernice “You say that so pointedly.”
Marion “My dear the Browns are famous for getting to the point.”
Bernice “You’re not related are you There’s something in back of this Mrs. Brown what is it? You’re not remotely related to my husband.”
Marion “That’s right.”

She maintains that sardonic southern charm that stings like a snake bite.

Marion “It’s more than remotely.” her eyes flicker as she looks at Bernice
Bernice “I don’t understand.”
Marion “I’m related directly to your husband.”
Bernice “How?”
Marion “By a previous marriage.”
Bernice “You’re his ex-wife?”
Marion “His present wife. He’s my husband too.”
Bernice “How could he! how could he!”
Marion “By being selfish.”
Bernice “He was kind.”
Marion “He married both of us. there may be others.”
Bernice “He loved me.”
Marion “I know it hurts but you must realize what he is.”
Bernice “How can you be so unemotional about it?”
Marion “I’ve had my tears…”

As the scene unfolds, Marion reveals Ray’s bigamy to Bernice (Jean Hale) and to us. Shaken, Bernice is consoled by Marion, who suggests they should both retaliate against their husband.

Marion tells her, “’ You are a beautiful woman, Bernice, you’ll have no trouble at all finding a new husband. But a woman my age, now I would have a problem.'”

However, Marion’s own sinister plan comes to light as she prepares cocktails for the two of them, but secretly laces Bernice’s drink with poison.

Having premeditated the murder, Marion takes great care to wipe her fingerprints from the bottle and glass. Bernice unwittingly ingests the lethal drink and promptly collapses onto the floor and Marion goes home to Baltimore.

Brown is seen trimming a flower outside his house before he heads inside to give it to Marion. On the surface, it seems the perfect image of a happy couple. However, their easy banter carries an ominous undertone, evident to both Marion and us who have already seen Bernice lifeless on the floor after a lethal dose of Marion’s payback to Ray.

Ray thinks he’s been successful at hiding his secret life, but what Ray doesn’t realize is that Marion is onto him. Now both he and Marion share a blueprint of duplicitous and now sinister transgressions.

She’s happy he’s finally home. He tells her that he plans on taking her to Europe, where women in their 40s come into their own.

At some point, the scene turns ominous as Ray and Marion go down to the cellar to inspect the hole and the oil tank that will eventually be installed there. We’re aware that Ray feels something lurking as he slips and falls into the hole like a grave. He gazes up at the tank that is suspended over his head held only by a chain.

Marion reaches for a crank handle that could potentially trigger the tank to release abruptly. Brown cautions her to handle it carefully, oblivious to the fact that she is privy to his marital treachery.

She tells him ”It just wants you here all the time.” and when she goes to hug him, he falls into the hole. He yells at her to take her hand off the handle. But she lingers a bit… one slip and the tank could fall and crush him.

As the camera follows Marion up the stairs it pauses and something in her eyes says that she knew exactly what she was doing when her hand lingered on the handle.

Once Ray goes back upstairs Marion strokes the handle following his footsteps flirting with the idea of killing him. She seems to be holding it like an old friend. Or maybe a new one?

Teresa Wright is an absolute natural beauty. She’s glowing and totally empowered.

Another plane lands, prompting Brown to drive to a nearby public park where he rendezvouses with Bleeker, who outwardly appears like a businessman but is, in reality, a bookie. Brown places a significant bet and Bleeker who is already on his third marriage and confesses that he’s constantly arguing with his wife. Brown offers some discreet and telling advice, that you can choose to marry “for love AND money…

“I’m a creature of habit.”

Ray gets home to see Bernice and finds the police swarming all over the apartment, investigating what they say is an apparent suicide. The scene is played as an absurd comedy as he seems utterly flustered by the commotion, all the while hiding the fact that this is only one of his many wives. He insists that she wouldn’t kill herself. She just bought a new cookbook, because she knew he liked fine cooking. Everything she did was to please him. She was happy. “She was beautiful and strong. I loved her.”

”I envy you…”

Following the funeral, Brown is confronted by Bernice’s sister and brother-in-law at the empty apartment he lived with Bernice. Her catty sister confronts Ray about Bernice having cried every day from loneliness, and his being on the road all the time. This paints a very different picture of their seemingly ideal marriage. She blames him for her death However, as they leave, the sister’s timid husband tells Ray that “I envy you”, a hint that he wishes his overbearing wife would meet a similar fate.

Ray is now in Hartford he goes to call his other wife Lucille. But by now she has answered the door and once again Marion is waiting for her and doesn’t waste any time putting her cards on the table.

“Why did you do it? Why did you marry my husband?”

She asks, “‘Why did you marry my husband?'” As she points a small pistol at Lucille. This other beautiful wife tells Marion that they’ve been married for five years, which means she’s been married the longest to Ray.

Marion toys with Lucille and tells her that she has not yet decided whether to kill her or not.

The two women begin to talk about him and Marion shares her insight with Lucille, ‘A man is what he does, not what he says.’

Quote shockingly, Lucille defends Ray ‘I admire any man who can get along with so many women.”

As part of Marion’s method of choice, she goes into the kitchen to prepare the drinks and slips the poison into the bottle. One more to go…

Lucille (Linda Lawson) played the role of the enigmatic mermaid in Curtis Harrington’s surreal NIGHT TIDE.

THE BEACH PARTY BLOGATHON- CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954) & Night Tide (1961) : Gills-A LOVE STORY!!!

“He seemed happy.”
“Well, he pretended so much how could you tell? A man is what he does not what he says. Why should we spare his feelings we’re not his only wives.”

”Mix it with something.” Marion laughs, “what did you say?” I said mix it with something.” “Delighted!” She pours the poisonous cocktail.

Once again Ray arrives as Lucille’s lifeless body is being taken out of their apartment. And once again he is greeted by another policeman who says she must have killed herself. Ray is absolutely aghast at this point, “She loved life too much!'” And in this odd twist on the husband always being suspected, he is not suspected of foul play.

Ray phones Marion that he’s leaving for Boston and for the first time she asks to go with him and he says yes. In their hotel room, she is beaming after having had a ‘wonderful day.’
He tells her that he has a late-night business appointment, but she informs him that she’s going home that night. Revealing in a cryptic comment –

 ‘I know I’m becoming more important in your life every day,’ she says, and he responds, “‘More than you realize …'” Wright is so comically effective with all her dialogue using a cheeky sardonic purr that tickles you with each delivery. This particular line highlights its best example.

Ray suspects Marion but still isn’t quite sure, those his facial expression conveys it with mocking distress, as she pulls the strings. He meets Bleeker one more time and tells him that he’ll need more financial backers before he can proceed with any more wagers. Though he loves each one of his wives, essentially they have been business ventures after all.

The last wife is carried out by the police.

He enters his house in Baltimore and finds Marion lying on the couch, and he fears the worst.

When she wakes up and seems perfectly fine, Brown feels relieved. Marion suggests they have a cocktail informing him that she’s become very good at mixing drinks.

And as they talk, he notices a pamphlet titled The Widow’s Guide on the coffee table and grows visibly worried.

He runs downstairs to check the basement and discovers that the hole is still there and will remain as a reminder that it can always turn into a grave. But the tank suspended above it is now gone.

“Marion!!!!!”

“Why did you yell at me like that?” “You were so still. So motionless.”

Marion insists on mixing Ray a cocktail. “Where’s the harm? A drink here and there never harmed anybody. At least not me… I turned over a whole new leaf”
“It sounds like you turned over a whole new tree.” “You are delicious!”


“She tells him to stop acting like a fugitive from justice .”Why’d you say that?”
“As if the police had you linked with some terrible crime.”
“Out with it! Say it and get it over with.”
Marion uses his traveling sales job as a metaphor.
That the company has asked too much of him. That he should concentrate on this area. ‘Our Area.”  Meaning their marriage.
“What if I don’t like it?”
“You don’t have to like it. You just have to accept it.”
“Then it’s true You did it… all of them.”
She drinks from both glasses. “See a marital bond.”

When he goes to call the police, she warns him, “I will see you executed for murder if you leave me.”

Whatever the police find out they’ll only discover that you had a motive. ”The police accepted my explanations.”Explanation singular. One explanation yes, two…maybe… three.” (she shakes her head)

“I will see you executed for murder if you leave me.”

Now you can be happy with me or be dead away from me.”

“I was a happy man.” “A very unhappy man.” “Ecstatically happy.”

She gives him the choice. If not the police… there’s always the hole in the cellar.

CREDITS:

Three Wives Too Many was adapted for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and broadcast on CBS on Friday, January 3, 1964. It was written by Kenneth Fearing who wrote seven novels, including The Big Clock in 1946, which the 1948 film that kept the title was released. It was later adapted as No Way Out in 1987. From the mid-1950s to 1960 he had several of his stories were published in crime and mystery digest.

Arthur A. Ross wrote the teleplays for eight episodes in the last two seasons of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, airing in 1964 and 1965. Beginning his career as a scriptwriter for films in 1942, he diversified to radio in 1951 and television in 1952.

Ross was responsible for the screenplays of The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) and The Creature Walks among Us (1956), although he endured a period of blacklisting in the 1950s. He won an Edgar Award for collaborating on the script of the Kraft Mystery Theatre episode “The Problem in Cell Block 13” (1962) and continued to write for both television and film until 1980.

Joseph Newman embarked on his Hollywood career in the 1930s, initially as an assistant director, before progressing to directing shorts. Eventually, in 1942, he earned the distinction of a feature director. One notable film he directed during the span of 1942 to 1961 was “This Island Earth” (1955). Newman transitioned to television directing from 1960 to 1965, helming notable episodes of “The Twilight Zone” and “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour,” including the acclaimed episode “An Unlocked Window.”

Dan Duryea (1907-1968), cast as Richard Brown started out on Broadway in the 1930s before venturing into film in 1941. Duryea made frequent appearances in Westerns, and at times entered the world of villainy during the dark, sordid, and guilt-ridden days of film noir including Fritz Lang’s “The Woman in the Window” (1944) and “Scarlet Street” (1945). He also had roles in The Great Flamarion, Criss Cross, Too Late for Tears and Johnny Stool Pigeon, Black Angel, Terror Street, and The Burglar -He also made an appearance on “The Twilight Zone.” episode Mr. Denton on Doomsday.

Robert Cornthwaite portrayed Bleeker, Brown’s bookie. His on-screen presence extended from 1950 to 2005, encompassing numerous television appearances in shows like “Thriller,” “The Twilight Zone,” “Batman,” “The Night Stalker,” and two episodes of “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.” You might remember his performance as the altruistic scientist who insists on making friends with the volatile super-carrot-like alien in Howard Hawk’s The Thing from Another World” (1951).

David Fresco who portrayed Bernice’s sister-in-law’s husband who envies Duryea being free of his wife can be seen in numerous television roles in shows such as “The Twilight Zone,” “Batman,” “Night Gallery,” and “The Odd Couple.” Impressively, he was featured in a total of 12 episodes of the Hitchcock show, including “The Gloating Place.”

 

Continue reading “It’s the pictures that got small! – “Good Evening” Leading Ladies of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour Part 3″

BRIDES OF HORROR – Scream Queens of the 1960s! 🎃 Part 4: The Dark Goddess-This Dark Mirror

 BARBARA STEELE   – BLOODY WELL BELOVED

The role Barbara Steele plays in the legacy of Italian Gothic cinema of the 1960s achieving cult status, is arguably her most recognizable contribution to the sub-genre of the horror film. She’s been christened The High Priestess of Horror, Queen of Horror, and The Dark Goddess, the latter, the implication being her prowess is proof there’s a link between beauty (a woman’s power) and evil. Steele’s persona is suitable as a femme fatale, and the sum of her work is extremely feminist.

According to journalist Maitland McDonagh, she is The Face that Launched a Thousand Screams. She is the sadomasochistic Madonna of the “cinefantastique”; the queen of the wild, the beautiful, and the damned.”

“Of all the stars of horror cinema, Barbara Steele may have come the closest to pure myth {…} she suggests a kinky and irresistible sexual allure” – (David J Hogan)

“With goldfish-bowl eyes radiating depraved elfin beauty, and what she calls herold, suspicious Celtic soul burning blackly within, Steele played the princess in a dark fairytale.” ‘They sense something in me’ she once said of her fans, but surely it was true of her directors also. Steele followed with ‘Maybe some kind of psychic pain. The diva Dolorosa of the 1910s, reincarnated as a voluptuous revenant.’ – (from David Cairns and Daniel Riccuito for Sight and Sound)

“Angel Carter (1982) named the three surrealist love goddesses as Louise Brooks first and foremost followed by Dietrich and third Barbara Steele. With regards to Steele however, not all the following descriptions emanate from surrealists caught in the grip of amour fou” (obsessive passion).- (The Other Face of Death: Barbara Steele and La Maschera Del Demonio by Carol Jenks from NECRONOMICON edited by Andy Black)

“The very symbol of Woman as vengeful, alien and ‘other’.” (Nicholls 1984)

“Steele perfectly embodies both the dread and the desire necessary to imply alluring and transgressive sexuality.” (Lampley-Women in the Horror films of Vincent Price)

“It’s not me they’re seeing. They’re casting some projection of themselves, some aspect that I somehow symbolizes. It can’t possibly be me.” Barbara Steele quoted-(Warren 1991)

“You can’t live off being a cult.” Barbara Steele

“When did I ever deserve this dark mirror?”

 

Continue reading “BRIDES OF HORROR – Scream Queens of the 1960s! 🎃 Part 4: The Dark Goddess-This Dark Mirror”

Rod Serling’s Night Gallery 9 Terrifying Halloween Treats!

*THE CEMETERY -PILOT TV movie AIR DATE NOV.8, 1969
*THE DEAD MAN-AIR DATE DEC. 16, 1970
*CERTAIN SHADOWS ON THE WALL-DEC.30, 1970
*THE DOLL-AIR DATE JAN.13, 1971
*A FEAR OF SPIDERS -AIR DATE OCT. 6, 1971
*COOL AIR-AIR DATE DEC.8, 1971
*GREEN FINGERS-AIR DATE JAN.8, 1972
*GIRL WITH THE HUNGRY EYES AIR DATE OCT.1, 1972
*SOMETHING IN THE WOODWORK AIR DATE JAN.14, 1973

Next time up, The Tune in Dan’s Cafe, Lindenmann’s Catch, A Question of Fear, The Sins of the Father, Fright Night and There Aren’t Any More McBanes.

Available on DVD: with Season 2 Audio Commentary from Guillermo Del Toro and from historians Scott Skelton and Jim Benson and Season 3 also with Audio Commentary from historians Scott Skelton and Jim Benson.

There will be no need for spoilers, I will not give away the endings …

The way the studio wants to do it, a character won’t be able to walk by a graveyard, he’ll have to be chased. They’re trying to turn it into a Mannix in a shroud.—Creator Rod Serling

“Good evening, and welcome to a private showing of three paintings, displayed here for the first time. Each is a collectors’ item in its own way – not because of any special artistic quality, but because each captures on a canvas, and suspends in time and space, a frozen moment of a nightmare.”-Rod Serling Host

With the major success of The Twilight Zone (1959-1964), after it was canceled in 1964, Rod Serling continued to work on various projects. He wrote the screenplays for the movie versions of Pierre Boulle’s Planet of the Apes and The Man based on the novel by Irving Wallace. In 1970 he created a new series, Night Gallery which was tales of the macabre based on various mystery/horror/fantasy writers, H.P Lovecraft, Algernon Blackwood and even Serling himself. The show was produced by Jack Laird and Rod Serling. The show ran six episodes each, part of four dramatic series under the umbrella title Four-In-One. In 1971, it appeared with its own vignettes on NBC opposite Mannix. In 1971 the Pilot for the show had three of the most powerful of the series. The Cemetery starring Ossie Davis, Roddy McDowall, and George Macready. Eyes star Hollywood legend Joan Crawford plays an unpleasant tyrant who is blind and is willing to rob the sight of another man in order to see for a short period of time. The segment was directed by Steven Spielberg. The last playlet starred Norma Crane and Richard Kiley as a Nazi who is hiding out in a South American country and dreams of losing himself in a little boat on a quiet lake depicted in a painting at the local art museum.

Then Night Gallery showcased an initial six segments and the hour-long series consisted of several different mini teleplays. In its last season from 1972-1973, the show was reduced to only a half hour.
Night Gallery differed from The Twilight Zone which was comprised of science fiction and fantasy narratives as it delved more into the supernatural and occult themes. The show has a unique flavor in the same way Boris Karloff introduced each one of Thriller’s divergent stories, Rod Serling would introduce each episode surrounded by his gallery of macabre and morbid paintings by artist Gallery Painter: Tom Wright Serling would open his show with a little soliloquy about life, irony and the upcoming tale of ghoulish delights.

Rod Serling was not a fan of Night Gallery and did not have the revelatory passion and inducement to plug the show the way he did for The Twilight Zone, in fact, the series was panned by the critics. Two of the shows Serling wrote were nominated for Emmys, “They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar” starring William Windom and Diane Baker, and The Messiah of Mott Street “ starring Edward G. Robinson.

From Gary Gerani-Fantastic Television: A Pictorial History of Sci-Fi, the Unusual and The Fantastic
“No stranger to the interference of sponsors, networks and censors, Serling once again found himself locked by contact into an untenable situation..{…}… He owned Night Gallery, created it and it was sold to network and audience on his reputation . The competitor on CBS was Mannix, a formula private-eye shoot-and rough-‘em up. Serling felt that NBC and Universal were doing their best to imitate Mannix, with an emphasis on monsters, chases and fights. They turned down many of his scripts as “too thoughtful” Serling lamented. “They don’t want to compete against Mannix in terms of contrast, but similarity.” Not only was Serling unable to sell them scripts he was also barred from casting sessions, and couldn’t make decisions about his show—he had signed away creative control. As a result he tried to have his name removed from the title, but NBC had him contract-bound to play host and cordially to introduce the parasite to the TV audience.”

 

Continue reading “Rod Serling’s Night Gallery 9 Terrifying Halloween Treats!”

The Great Villain Blogathon 2019 Dame Judith Anderson as Mrs. Danvers “Do you think the dead come back and watch the living?”

Thanks to Ruth of Silver Screenings. Kristine from Speakeasy and Karen of Shadows and Satin!

REBECCA (1940)

Men are simpler than you imagine my sweet child. But what goes on in the twisted, tortuous minds of women would baffle anyone. –Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca

First off, while I cover a good deal of the film, I take it only as far as I can before giving anything away about the great Rebecca. My focus is on the mystery surrounding the first mistress of Manderley’s devoted servant Mrs. Danvers. So I will not be referencing any departures from du Maurier’s novel, nor Rebecca herself or Olivier and Fontaine’s marital outcome. I believe there are still fans of Hitchcock who have not seen the picture, and I want to leave them something to enjoy!

One of the most enduring classic thrillers, psychological thriller, suspenseful and intriguing in the realm of romantic Gothic mysteries. Considered a ‘woman’s picture.’ Brooding atmosphere, perfect pacing, and acting composition from the score to the set design to the cinematography. Manderley is a ‘castle of the mind.’ It is too shadowy too remote too unreal because it IS in the mind. It exists now only in the heroine’s mind. “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again” As these words are visualized on the screen, we don’t see a real Manderley, but a Manderley of the mind, a nightmare, a ghost. So imperceptible and subtle, Manderley is one of the vital characters of the story.

As the archetype of the woman-in-peril, Joan Fontaine conjures up the timid young woman who marries the moody and brooding Maxim de Winter, though all actors are overshadowed by Anderson’s on-fire performance.

As scholar Mary Ann Doane points out that Rebecca is “initiating the ‘paranoia’ strand of the woman’s picture, a sub-genre in which gullible women discover that the men they married possess strange and sinister intents. The cycle continued through the 1940s-Suspicion (1941) Gaslight (George Cukor 1944) and Secret Beyond the Door… (Fritz Lang, 1948).”

Rebecca was adapted from author Daphne du Maurier and brought to the Gothic paroxysm on screen not only by master Alfred Hitchcock but by the exquisitely low burning maniacal machinations of Dame Judith Anderson (Lady Scarface 1941, All Through the Night 1942, Kings Row 1942, Laura 1944, And Then There Were None 1945, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers 1946, The Red House 1947, The Furies 1950, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof 1958, Inn of the Damned 1975) as Miss Danvers — the epitome of the word villainess.

Mrs. Danvers– That austere cold stare, the measured calculating rhythm of each syllable spoken like serpent-toothed silk cutting like finely sharpened knives to cut the jugular — a harridan — no, a harpy — no, a carefully slithering serpent of a woman in the vein of Angela Lansbury’s sinister housekeeper Nancy who helped the poor bedevil Ingrid Bergman feel gaslighted in Gaslight 1944 or the menacing Gale Sandaagard as Mrs. Hammond that same year in The Letter (1940), but Anderson has the benefit of du Maurier’s dialogue and Hitchcock’s direction at her command.

Interestingly enough, in reading the tensions that had developed over the autonomy in making du Maurier’s story on screen between two headstrong filmmakers, I imagined what the film might have been like in the hands of Val Lewton. Here is an excerpt from Leonard Leff’s book- “For Selznick who read a synopsis of the manuscript in late spring 1938, the story of the novel’s awkward and shy heroine seemed ideal. Selznick’s most impressive discoveries tended to be young women, including Ingrid Bergman, Vivien Leigh, and Joan Fontaine; furthermore, had had long been associated with the industry’s premier “women’s director” George Cukor. In certain respects a “woman’s producer,” attuned to the sensibilities and psychology of the American female (at least as purveyed by the era’s mass-circulation magazines), Selznick agreed with story editor Val Lewton that the second Mrs. de Winter “probably exemplifies the feeling that most young women have about themselves.”

From Hitchcock and Selznick: The Rich and Strange Collaboration of Alfred Hitchcock and David O. Selznick-by Leonard J. Leff- Among the hundred of manuscripts, galley proofs, ad publish novels that poured into the East Coast offices of Selznick International every month, Kay Brown read only a few that she could enthusiastically recommend. Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca became one of them. Rebecca is “the most fascinating story I have read in ages,” Born wired Hollywood, a certain best-seller. In the novel, a plain and innocent young women (the first-person narrator, whose name du Maurier never reveals) serves as paid companion to a crass American dowager visiting the Riviera. Gossip has it that the aristocratic Maxim de Winter has fled England to Monte Carlo in order to elude painful memories of his recently deceased, much-beloved wife, the fabulously beautiful Rebecca; yet almost inexplicably he proposes marriage to the unglamourous paid companion. Following a honeymoon in Venice, the newlyweds return to Manderley, de Winter’s mansion. Here, the young bride confronts not only the memory of Rebecca-which seems to permeate the estate and to preoccupy and torment its owner-but also her morose husband and the forbidding Mrs. Danvers, Rebecca’s devoted housekeeper.”

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock with a screenplay by Robert Sherwood and Joan Harrison (who produced Alfred Hitchcock’s anthology suspense crime television show.) Adapted by Philip MacDonald and Michael Hogan from the 1938 novel by Daphne du Maurier. Music composed by Franz Waxman (Suspicion 1941, Sunset Boulevard 1950, A Place in the Sun 1951.) whose score at times sounds like a classic B horror film by RKO with its eerie organ tremolos.

Cinematography by George Barnes. (That Uncertain Feeling 1941, Ladies in Retirement 1941, Jane Eyre 1943, Spellbound 1945, Mourning Becomes Electra 1947, Force of Evil 1948, The File on Thelma Jordon 1950, War of the Worlds 1953). Art Department/Interior Design -Howard Bristol, Joseph B. Platt, and Eric Stacey. Art director Lyle Wheeler. Film editor James Newcom. Supervising film editor Hal C. Kern. Interiors designed by Joseph B Platt. Fashions by Irene.

The lighting for Rebecca creates a forbidden sense of place. The shadows distinguish where the secrets lurk, with the Gothic architecture and repressed desire.

“She” is in the innocence of white and Mrs. Danvers is always advancing in black…

Rebecca (1940) is auteur Hitchcock’s Gothic style thriller that often delves into the realm of classical horror, ‘old dark house’  or haunting ghost story triggered by the remnants of a beautiful dead woman’s hold on an ancestral manor house and the new marriage brought home to thrive in its shadow. As scholar Tania Modleski writes Rebecca is a ‘presence’ which is never actually present. The character of Rebecca is symbolic of a subversive female desire, and Maxim de Winter who represents the patriarchal rule is terrorized and bound by her presence though she cannot be seen, her power remains intact within the walls of Manderley.

There was tension and discord between director Hitchcock who wanted control over the project and producer David O. Selznick. Though Hitchcock is one of the directors who manages to shake off any solid labels on his work, Rebecca is considered his first film noir. It was Hitchcock’s first American/Hollywood film, although it exudes that distinctly British style from his earlier mysteries. The melancholy tone of Robert E. Sherwood and Hitchcock regular Joan Harrison’s screenplay captures Daphne du Maurier’s 1938 disquieting Gothic novel perfectly.

Behind the scenes of Rebecca 1940 Alfred Hitchcock and Judith Anderson photo by Fred Parrish

Rebecca stars Laurence Olivier as Maxim de Winter, Joan Fontaine as Mrs. de Winter, George Sanders as Jack Favell, Judith Anderson as the sinister chatelaine Mrs. Danvers Nigel Bruce as Major Giles Lacy, C. Aubrey Smith as Colonel Julyan Reginald Deny as Frank Crawley, Gladys Cooper as Beatrice Lacy, Philip Winter as Robert, Edward Fielding as Frith, Florence Bates (The Moon and Sixpence 1942, Whistle Stop 1946, Portrait of Jennie 1948, A Letter to Three Wives 1949, Les Miserables 1952) as Mrs. Van Hopper, Leo G. Carroll as Dr. Baker

The master Hitchcock and cinematographer George Barnes know how to create a moody, atmospheric landscape of suspense. In Rebecca, Joan Fontaine is given the role of an innocent and painfully shy young heroine who remains nameless throughout the film, as she is in du Maurier’s novel. I read that there were early drafts of the original script where the heroine’s name was Daphne as in the writer, but obviously, the decision to keep her without a given name. She meets the brooding aristocratic widower Maxim de Winter played almost too effortlessly by Laurence Olivier who is the master of Manderley. They marry and Maxim brings his new bride back to his ancestral home. At first, she is clumsy and awkward trying to find her way around as mistress of the house. The second Mrs. de Winter is bewildered and haunted by the unseen presence of the first Mrs. de Winter, the uncanny and beautiful Rebecca, who has died in a boating accident a year before. Mrs. de Winter is psychically tortured by the sinister Mrs. Danvers who was Rebecca’s faithful and adoring servant played by the always imposing Judith Anderson, who bombards Joan Fontaine with memories and tactile possessions of the dead woman, whom we never see. She is truly a phantom that haunts the film, the narrative, and our heroine.

Considered for the leading role in Rebecca was Loretta Young, Margaret Sullivan, Anne Baxter, and Vivien Leigh who was restricted by her role in Gone With the Wind 1939. Director Alfred Hitchcock won the Oscar for Best Picture his first and only Best Picture Oscar. George Barnes also won the Academy Award for his Cinematography. Judith Anderson was nominated for Best Supporting Actress as the menacing Mrs. Danvers, the only time in her career she was ever nominated.

Continue reading “The Great Villain Blogathon 2019 Dame Judith Anderson as Mrs. Danvers “Do you think the dead come back and watch the living?””

Postcards From Shadowland: no. 15

Anna The Rose Tattoo
Anna Magnani in Tennessee William’s The Rose Tattoo (1955) directed by Daniel Mann
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director Jean Cocteau’s The Blood of the Poet (1932) starring Enrique Rivero
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Lillian Gish stars in Broken Blossoms in D. W. Griffith’s (1919) visual poetry
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Kongo (1932) Lupe Velez torments Virginia Bruce in this remake of West of Zanzibar (1928)
GIULETTA MASINA in Fellini's masterpiece oneric journey Juilet of the Spirits 1965
Guiletta Masina is brilliant in Juliet of the Spirits (1965) Fellini’s masterpiece oneric journey
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director Kaneto Shindô’s Kuroneko (1968) a beautifully disturbing ghost story
Anita Louise as Titania
Anita Louise as Titania Queen of the Faeries in A Midsummer Night’s Dream 1935
Brando and Schneider The Last Tango in Paris
Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider in The Last Tango in Paris 1972
Ohmart and Franz The Wild Party
Arthur Franz, Anthony Quinn and Carol Ohmart in The Wild Party 1956
Annex - Alexander, Katharine as Alda Death Takes a Holiday)_01
Death Takes a Holiday (1934) Katherine Alexander as Alda with Fredric March as Prince Sirki/Death
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Richard Fleischer directs Tony Curtis in The Boston Strangler 1968
Dead of Night
Part of several segments of this classical ghost story, Alberto Cavalcanti directs Michael Redgrave in perhaps one of the most famous frightening tales in “The Ventriloquist’s Dummy” Dead of Night (1945)
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Peter Breck is attacked by Nymphomaniacs in Sam Fuller’s Shock Corridor (1963)
Brighton Rock Dick Attenborough as Pinkie Brown with Carol Marsh
Film noir thriller Brighton Rock (1947) starring Richard Attenborough as Pinkie Brown co-stars with Carol Marsh
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John Ford’s epic western drama -My Darling Clementine 1946 starring Henry Fonda and Linda Darnell
The Maids 1933 men in drag
Charles Busch, left, and Peter Francis James in a 1993 Classic Theater Company production of “The Maids” (1933) in which the sisters were men in drag
The Living Dead Man 1926-Michel Simon Jérôme Pomino
The Living Dead Man 1926-Michel Simon as Jérôme Pomino
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François Truffaut’s tribute to Alfred Hitchcock with The Bride Wore Black (1968) starring the incomparable Jeanne Moreau
The Sea Hawk 1924
The Sea Hawk (1924) directed by Harold Lloyd starring silent film idol Milton Sills
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Harriet Andersson in Through A Glass Darkly (1961) director Ingmar Bergman
The notorious Last Supper sequence in Luis Buñuel's VIRIDIANA.  Credit: Janus Films.  Playing 4/24 - 4/30.
The notorious Last Supper sequence in Luis Buñuel’s VIRIDIANA Janus Films. 

The Changeling (1980) “How did you die, Joseph…? Did you die in this house…? Why do you remain…?”

The Changeling 1980 wheelchairs are scary

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Here’s a blogathon that will enlighten you about many truly wonderful artists, actors, & filmmakers who proudly hail from the Great White North country of Canada! Kristina of Speakeasy  and Ruth of Silver Screenings are paying tribute to Canada… So this New Yorker is doing her part to join in with a classic ghost story that will give you the ‘pip and the whim whams!’ After all even Martin Scorsese thinks this film is one of the 11 scariest films he’s ever known!

I’m always grateful when I’m asked to join in on one of these marvelous celebrations, and my gratitude continues, so without further ado…

Door Opens Changeling

O Canada & The Changeling — IMDb trivia tid bits- The house seen in the movie in real life doesn’t and never actually did exist. The film-makers could not find a suitable mansion to use for the film so at a cost of around $200,000, the production had a Victorian gothic mansion facade attached to the front of a much more modern dwelling in a Vancouver street. This construction was used for the filming of all the exteriors of the movie’s Carmichael Mansion. The interiors of the haunted house were an elaborate group of interconnecting sets built inside a film studio in Vancouver.

The name of the history group was the Seattle Historical Preservation Society. The name of the campus where Dr. John Russell ( George C. Scott ) taught music was the University of Seattle though interiors set there were filmed at the University of Toronto in Toronto, Canada.

Though predominantly filmed in Canada, the picture was set in Seattle, USA where establishing shots were filmed. These included the Rainier Tower, the SeaTac Airport, the University of Washington’s Red Square, and the Lacey V. Murrow Memorial Bridge. Some location filming was shot in New York. Most of the movie was filmed in Vancouver and its environs in British Columbia with Victoria in the same Canadian province also used. Interiors set at the university were shot in Toronto in Canada’s province of Ontario.

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THE CHANGELING (1980)

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Minnie Huxley: “That house is not fit to live in. No one’s been able to live in it. It doesn’t want people.”

The Changeling was produced by Lew Grade who tried to start up his own production company that never quite made it, however, during this time he was responsible for releasing Boys From Brazil 1978 and On Golden Pond 1981 and our featured ghost story The Changeling. The story is by Russell Hunter and the screenplay was written by William Gray and Diana Maddox. Directed by Peter Medak (The Ruling Class 1972, The Krays 1990, Romeo is Bleeding 1993)

Director of Photography John Coquillon (The Impersonator 1961 The Conqueror Worm 1968 Cry of the Banshee 1970, Straw Dogs 1971, Cross of Iron 1977, Absolution 1978, The Osterman Weekend 1983) Coquillon has a magical touch of creating environments that seemed closed in whilst surrounded by the vast natural world. Because the players are about to implode from too much-twisted pathology & secret sin eating, his camera work translates a tense universe on screen so well, that it elevates the narrative to a more uncomfortable level.

WHEELCHAIR CHASE

Rick Wilkins is credited for the film’s stunningly haunting score, but that effectively poignant yet eerie music box theme was composed by Howard Blake as part of a work called Lifecycle which is a collection of 24 piano pieces using only 24 keys.

The film stars George C. Scott as John Russell a tragic figure of loss, Trish Van Devere as Claire Norman, Melvyn Douglas as Senator Carmichael, Jean Marsh as Joanna Russell, Barry Morse as the Parapsychologist, John Colicos as Captain DeWitt, Madeleine Sherwood as Claire’s mother, and Ruth Springford as the Historical Society’s creepy secretive Minnie Huxley.

The Changeling (1980) is one of those rare masterpieces that fall into the cerebral tale of otherworldly & supernatural torments that are defined as ‘intimate drawing room’ ghost stories. Much like The Uninvited (1944), Dead of Night (1945), The Innocents (1961), The Haunting (1963), Ghost Story (1981), Lady in White (1988),  and The Others (2001).

Abject sadness

The Changeling is a SUPERIOR ghost story permeated with moody angst, atmosphere, and some of the most chilling moments in classical haunting/ horror cinema. It is said that the movie is based on actual events that took place at a mansion called the Henry Treat Rogers Mansion not in Canada but in Denver Colorado. Writer Russell Hunter claims he witnessed these events while living in the house during the 1960s. IMDb trivia tells us that ‘The Chessman Park neighborhood in the movie is a reference to Cheesman Park in Denver, where the original haunting transpired.’

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I saw The Changeling upon its theatrical release in 1980 and believe me when I say that those ‘frightening’ jarring moments are as effective as they were 36 years ago, they can still cause that jump-out-of-your-seat reflex!. The house used in The Changeling is as imposing and chills-inspiring on its own. “The house was totally created by set designers and you won’t forget its eerie corridors, stairway, and dark rooms.” -John Stanley from Creature Features Movie Guide. As Stanley figures, this memorable ghost story operates on 3 though I count 4 different levels.

1) as a pure ghost story 2) as the journey of John Russell’s struggle with loss 3) as a morality tale about good vs evil. And 4) a tale of murder, power and greed.

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George C Scott plays John Russell a concert pianist/ music professor who is haunted by the vision of witnessing both his wife (Jean Marsh in a tiny flashback role before she is killed) and daughter dies in a freak car accident. The film opens with this tragic event, in order to set the pace for Russell’s unbounded grief and inconsolable trauma. Russell decides to pack up the Manhattan apartment, including little Kathy’s red rubber ball, and moves to Seattle (Canada) where he has taken a new teaching job. The atmosphere is grim and rainy, cold and alienated as we understand how heartbroken John Russell is. Waking in the middle of the night sobbing, he cannot fathom, living in this world without his beautiful wife and daughter. John needs a large house that is removed from everything so that he may compose without being bothered by neighbors. The realtor Clair Norman (Trish Van Devere- Scott’s wife at the time. This would be their 8th film together) who is an agent for the Historical Preservation Society shows him the old Chessman Park House which has been unoccupied for twelve years.

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Trish Van Devere appeared in her own ghost story, the more toned-down surreal The Hearse (1980).
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Van Devere in outre creepy The Hearse 1980

John is curious about the reasons behind the house being empty for so long, but Claire being fairly new to the society can’t give him an answer, except that the society hasn’t tried to find a new tenant for the house. Curiouser and curiouser. She also explains that there had once been plans to renovate the house and turn it into a museum. She thinks the house would be a perfect place for John to compose because of its sizable music room. So John moves in and begins teaching at the university, his classes become a big hit, with students accepting the SRO conditions.

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John Russell: “It’s my understanding… that there are, uh… twenty-three students registered… for this series of lectures on advanced musical form. Now, we all know it’s not raining outside, and unless there’s a fire in some other part of the building that we don’t know about, there’s an awful lot of people here with nothing better to do.”

As John gets settled in, he is invited to a cocktail party/fundraiser for the Historical Society where he sees Claire again, also meeting Mrs. Norman her mother played by Madeleine Sherwood. Senator Joseph Carmichael (Melvyn Douglas) who is on the board and one of the Historical Society’s biggest donors is making a speech…

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At six a.am. Russell is aroused from bed by a loud pounding noise echoing through the house, reminiscent of the sonic assault that Clair Bloom and Julie Harris experienced in The Haunting 1963. It is one of the first moments that clue us in that something is wrong with the house. John assumes it’s the old pipes and so forgets about the incident.

John has a quartet of students over to work on a chamber piece. After they leave, he hears what sounds like dripping water, or someone taking a bath. The kitchen sink tap is running, so he shuts it off, but he can still hear running water from somewhere in the house. He follows the noise up to the 3rd floor. In a truly frightening moment. In the bathroom, he sees a tub filled with water and the faucet still running. As he shuts off the water, he sees for a brief second the face of a little boy peering up at him from under the water… It is still one of THE most frightening scenes that I can recall.

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John sits at the piano working on a beautifully simple melody that he is recording on his reel-to-reel tape recorder. One of the keys is sticking, and with John not being able to find the rest of his new melody yet, stops playing.

The handyman Mr. Tuttle (C.M. Gamble) comes in to tell John that he’s got a replacement water heater for the one that’s been banging on the walls with cannon balls, John leaves the piano and sees to the job. the lone key that would not depress while John was playing intones as if an unseen finger has pressed it. This eerie moment is the second cue that John is not alone in the house

Claire comments while John is listening back to his composition that it sounds like a lullaby. She also finds the little rubber ball that was Kathy’s. A token of her John chooses to keep as a reminder of his little girl. Claire realizes that this has hit him hard, and so invites him to come horseback riding with her since it’s a lovely day.

John has flashback nightmares of the day his wife and daughter were killed. He wakes up sobbing. But what is peculiar is that it is once again at 6 am and the eerie pounding is reverberating through the house once more. Mr. Tuttle is once again called in to look the boiler over again, it’s most likely trapped air in the pipes. Tuttle tells John, “A furnace is like anything else. It’s got habits. It’s an old house. It makes noises.”

John is now drawn into the mystery of the house, the noises, and the vision of the little boy. He visits the Historical Society in order to find out if there have been accounts of ghostly sightings with previous owners. Clair chalks up John’s anxiety to the trauma he’s been through losing his family believing it to be all in his head. But Miss Huxley (Ruth Springford) one of the eldest Society members pulls John to the side and lays it on the line. He should never have been allowed to rent that house, and that Claire had business circumventing the Society’s rules. “That house is not fit to live in. No one has been able to live in it. It doesn’t want people. “ Huxley just confirms John’s suspicions that there has been something tragic connected to the house and it is indeed haunted.

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While John pushes all his weight against the door, it will not budge. Once he steps back, the door opens with ease as if by unseen hands

There is a scene afterward where John is leaving the Chessman Park house and a tiny stained glass window blows out from the inside leaving the shards on the ground in front of him. Something is definitely trying to get his attention and hold it. So he goes back inside back up to the third floor and opens a door that at first seems to be merely a linen closet.
But he discovers that the shelves are covering up a hidden bedroom. The ungodly pounding begins once again while John hammers at the lock until it breaks, Pushing his weight against the door, he cannot open it. Once John gives up, the door creaks open on its own leading into a darkness that exudes a fowl shadowy heaviness.
He walks up a decrepit cobwebbed staircase that leads to a time-forgotten dust-covered attic room. There he sees an old-fashioned wooden wheelchair small enough to be a child’s. The wheelchair seems to embody a kind of foreboding terror. Why?

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John finds a dusty old music box. Also the red glass that burst outward onto the grounds in front is subtly shown missing from the stain glass panel from this attic’s window

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Aside from the fact that everything in this child’s attic room seems petrified, the wheelchair acts as a symbol of a child who might have suffered in that house. For whatever primal spark the chair ignites in us fear chills. John finds a child’s desk with a notebook dated January 1909, which has the initials C.S.B. There is also a music box, that when opened mysteriously plays the exact melody John has been wrestling with at the piano. Like an old tune, he’s heard before but can’t remember the rest of the notes. He has been directed to this room, by the pounding, the window pane shattering, the vision of the little boy in the bathtub, and from the beginning the melody that underscores Johns’s consciousness. All trying to lead him to a dark secret that needs to get out and be exposed to the light of day.

John plays the music box lullaby for Claire swearing he had never heard the melody before in his life then he proceeds to show her his reel-to-reel recording of the song he thought he was composing. The two are identical… it is a poignantly creepy moment, as it somehow binds John to the house in a way that feels precious and imminent- showing how the house is influencing him in much the way certain events controlled Eleanor (Julie Harris) in The Haunting.

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Claire tells John “I agree it’s a startling coincidence” John swears he’s never heard that melody before

While the coincidence isn’t necessarily frightening…  All the while it gives me the ‘pip and the whim whams’ ( heard David McCallum use that line in an episode of Marcus Welby. Been waiting to find a place to use it…)

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John meets with a Parapsychologist at the University played by the wonderful Barry Morse

Claire has researched the house back in 1920 but can find no record of anything significant happening that would make sense of the experiences John is having. He begins to realize that the house isn’t trying to drive people out, more importantly, something or someone is trying to reach out for help.

John shows Claire the attic room. Then the two go to the Historical Society to look up any records of the immense yet lonely house. They find out that the last people who occupied the house left there after only two years. back in 1967. That’s when the Society took control of the old Chessman Park House with a grant bestowed by the Carmichael Foundation representing Senator Carmichael ( Melvyn Douglas) Oddly, there are no files for the house prior to 1920, they are missing! So John and Claire ask Miss Huxley about the records of who lived there around 1909. She tells them that a man named Bernard lived there with his son and daughter but sold the house a year later after a terrible tragedy.

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Clara's grave

Once John and Claire go through library newspaper records they find a story about a Dr. Walter Bernard, whose seven-year-old daughter Cora died from injuries sustained by being hit by a coal cart. Could the initials C.S.B. stand for Cora Bernard? John and Claire then go to the family cemetery to visit the graves of Cora, her brother, and her parents. John wonders if Cora is reaching out to him because he lost his own daughter and she sees him as a kindred spirit. Claire encourages John to leave the house no matter what the reason. That his suffering is linked to the house now.

John reminisces about his lost wife and daughter by looking at old photographs. Suddenly the pounding begins again. When he goes to investigate, he sees Kathy’s little red rubber ball, bouncing down the long staircase, thump thump thump thump. This moment is yet again, one of THE most frighteningly memorable scenes in classical horror history. On the outward level because it is inexplicable, yet it is also heartbreaking because it tears at the wound John is already bleeding from about losing his little girl. Terrifying and sad is a potent combination and makes for a superior ghost story.

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John takes the little ball and drives to a nearby bridge and throws the tiny object into the water below. But… when he returns home, the little red ball which is now wet from the river, bounces down the long staircase yet again!!! The scene just amplifies the shock from the prior scene and does so in a way that isn’t cliché.

The wonderful character actor Barry Morse plays a parapsychologist from the university who sets up a séance with mediums Leah and Albert Harmon (Helen Burns & Eric Christmas) Once at the house, they already sense a presence there, which leads Leah who is psychic up toward the creepy attic room.

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CapturFiles_57 “You’ve suffered a cruel loss John Russell. you’ve lost a wife and child. The presence in this house is reaching out to you through that loss"
“You’ve suffered a cruel loss John Russell. you’ve lost a wife and child. The presence in this house is reaching out to you through that loss.”

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They begin to hold the séance John, Claire and her mother and the Harmons. Leah Harmon begins to ask questions of the spirits. She begins doing automatic writing by scribbling on a piece of paper, hoping that messages will appear through the written scrawlings. “The spirit is that of a child not at peace.”
But it is not Clara who had been killed by the coal cart. It is that of a young boy named Joseph. who died in that house and is begging John to help him. Leah keeps repeating the question, “Did you die in this house? Did you die in this house, how did you die?

Leah is in a deep trance, asking the little boy how he died with no audible answer. The camera swings around the house leading from the third floor down the staircase following the invisible presence as it moves toward the gathering. It’s an effective use of camerawork as what is unseen to us is made quite palpable. A glass and a few other trigger objects such as the tin tube that are on the table, fly into the air across the room and shatters to pieces.

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Once everyone leaves, John listens back to his reel-to-reel tape recording of the séance and begins to hear the faintest voice of a child answering Leah’s questions. Words are imprinted on tape like -‘ranch’ ’Sacred heart”  ‘well’ ‘Can’t walk’ and “medal.” John psychically connects with past events, he sees the vision of the boy and how he came to an end in the house. A little boy is being drowned in his bathtub by his father in that attic room. The music box is playing the song until he succumbs and the box is turned over. The source of the pounding is now represented by the boy’s little fists pounding against the tub as he struggles against drowning. The last words John hears on the tape recording is “My name is Joseph Carmichael.”

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Claire listens to the tape and cries. She recognizes Sacred Heart as an Orphanage that used to operate in the area. Claire is frozen in terror, as she looks upstairs. When John goes to look, we see the child’s wheelchair at the top of the stairs. Yet another chilling moment well paced and placed.

The secretive and nefarious Miss Huxley fills Senator Carmichael in on John and Claire’s nosing around the house’s past. He’s afraid they will find out that he was born in the old Chessman Park house in 1900, his mother dying during childbirth.

There is a great mystery, tragedy, and evil deeds surrounding the Senator, the little ghost child Joseph. If I give away too much of it, it would spoil the story and ultimately the climax.

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LIttle Girl:Boy in the well

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Without giving away too much, another frightening sub-plot is when John and Claire track down the ranch house belonging to Mrs. Grey (Frances Hyland) whose daughter had frightening visions that same night as the séance.
She dreamt of an impish boy, almost wicked in his appearance as he tried to reach up through the floorboards and stare at her.

Mrs. Grey worried about her daughter Linda’s night terrors. She starts sleeping in her mother’s room, so she allows John and Claire to dig up the bedroom floor, which sits atop an old well. A few nights later, Linda in a somnambulist state wanders into her bedroom and sees the image of the little boy floating under the water staring at her. The Changeling continues to employ moments that are starkly frightening. John digs up the floor down to the bottom of the well, where he not only finds a little boy’s medal that comes up from the dirt like a flower shoot popping out of the mud. John also finds the bones of a child.

John and Claire call the police but only give them limited information about how they knew to look under the floorboards of Mrs. Grey’s house, and they have no suspicions as to the identity of the skeleton.

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John tries to talk to Senator Carmichael on his private jet, but the police take him away thinking he is a crazy protester.
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Senator Carmichael-Melvyn Douglas is more than a bit worried.
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Actor John Colicos plays police Captain DeWitt who is a personal friend of Senator Carmichael, and impresses upon John to leave the Senator alone… or else!

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John Colicos plays Captain DeWitt a friend of Senator Carmichael who is dauntless in his investigation to get to the truth behind John and Claire’s meddling and what the connection between the skeleton in the well, an old medal, and Senator Carmichael who thinks they are trying to blackmail him.

I’ll leave the rest of this phenomenal ghost story/murder mystery for those who haven’t seen it yet. But perhaps I’ll add just this last bit of shock treatment to entice those who aren’t faint of heart…

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HIDDEN HORROR-
written by Don Sumner for the section on The Changeling (1980) in Hidden Horror edited by Aaron Christensen and William Lustig.

“It is interesting that The Changeling should be a Hidden Horror rather than a recognized household classic. The film swept the Canadian Genie Awards, winning Best Picture, Actor, Actress and several technical awards, and returned fair U.S. box office receipts $12 million against it’s approximately $600K CAN production budget. Still, it under-performed when compared to other 1970s Canadian horror efforts and remains lesser known. than its brethren to this day… For example, that same year’s Prom Night had the benefit of rising scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis while David Cronenberg’s Scanners featured a game-changing head explosion. “

As far as I’m concerned The Changeling will forever remain one of the most captivating cinematic ghost stories that has retained it’s haunting quality after all these years.

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This is your EverLovin’ Joey saying ‘It’s been a ball’

 

Carnival of Souls (1962): Criterion 60s Eerie Cinema: That Haunting Feeling

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The Criterion Blogathon is hosted by three truly prolific bloggers, and I want to thank them for allowing me to join in paying tribute to the collection of landmark, art-house & original films from around the globe! Hosted by Aaron at Criterion Blues, Kristina at Speakeasy and Ruth at Silver Screenings!

When they started to hint that this blogathon was going to be BIG… none of us had any idea just how BIG!!!! BIG was!

Criterion Eerie Cinema of the 60s -‘That Haunting Feeling!

The trend of classical Gothic ghost stories in a decade of disorder…

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Carnival of Souls 1962:

Carnival of Souls

  • “When we are young we read and believe the most fantastic things. When we grow older and wiser we learn with perhaps a little regret that these things can never be. We are quite, quite wrong!” Noel Coward, Blithe Spirit

  • Is all that we see or seem… But a dream within a dream?” Edgar Allan Poe – A Dream Within a Dream

  • “I don’t belong in the world”Mary Henry-Carnival of Souls 1962

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Carnival of Souls (1962) was produced & directed by Herk Harvey who originally shot industrial & educational geographical shorts and found himself traveling all over the United States. He came across some inspiring locations when he decided to try his hand at an intellectual horror story. When he stumbled onto the abandoned Pavilion in Utah, which at one time was a grand party spot in the earlier part of the century, between the corrosive salt water air and the years of neglect, Harvey knew that he had found the right place to film his arty horror film.

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Saltair Pavilion: Historical photograph

Carnival of Souls doesn’t rely on it’s sparse dialogue to tell it’s story, for it’s the visual cues, and the spasms of unreality that become the narrator. Mary Henry (Candace Hilligoss) is a ‘liminal’ wanderer , a heroine who is in a state of transition who occupies both sides of a threshold between reality & oblivion.

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When Mary experiences bouts of her non-existence in public places, where people act as if she isn’t there, and when all noises and sounds go away and she is stuck in a silent world… she can touch a tree and the chirping of birds re-connects her to reality. This image represents the liminal space she occupies. But don’t get smart alecky with me, I know the difference between liminal and a tree limb! just a co-incidence people just a co-incidence…

After having several unfortunate mis-dealings with corrupt distribution houses like Hertz Lion on it’s initial release, and small indie companies that packaged the film as part of collection of B-Movie horror box sets in 1989. In 2000 Carnival of Souls received it’s rightful induction into the Criterion Collection when they put this beautifully artistic horror gem in their extraordinary catalog.

Herk Harvey was a devotee to Ingmar Bergman and more specifically his cinematographer Sven Nykvist (The Virgin Spring 1960, Through a Glass Darkly 1961 Persona 1966, Pretty Baby 1978, The Postman Always Rings Twice 1981, The Unbearable Lightness of Being 1988). Harvey tried to impart this inspiration to his camera guy Maurice Prather, in terms of how he envisioned lighting the film.

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Here’s a dismissive description of our female heroine aside from ‘misfit heroine’ which at least the character sees herself as an ‘outsider’… going through some life altering surreal journey … from Roger Ebert in 1989: “The movie stars Candace Hilligoss, one of those worried blonds like Janet Leigh in Psycho (1960)…

When women have something praying on their minds , it’s called worry, or if she takes that worry further and voices her anxiety, it’s called hysteria. If the same situation befell a man, he’d be a courageous loner trying to find his way through a challenge. No look of worry on his face. It would be called ‘determination.’

Film critic Roger Ebert also had this to say about Carnival of Souls back during it’s revival in 1989. Carnival of Souls” is a odd obscure horror film that was made on a low budget in 1962 in Lawrence Kansas., and still has an intriguing power. Like a lost episode from “Twilight Zone”, it places the supernatural right in the middle of everyday life and surrounds it with ordinary people. It ventures to the edge of camp, but never strays across the line taking itself with an eerie seriousness.”…{….} And another effective moment when she’s in a car on a deserted highway and the radio only picks up organ music.”

Harvey came up with the story but it was scripted by writer John Clifford, who fashioned his hallucinatory version of the story as a psychological fun house ride in the same mold of Rod Serling’s anthology series, Twilight Zone. I got the same vibe myself when re-viewing the film, as it reminded me of the Hitch-Hiker episode with Inger Stevens. You can see the correlation between the heroine falling into a nether space that mimics life’s mundane locations, yet something is quite off — between her reality and the connection to those places. The tone of Carnival of Souls is somber and the colors are monochromatic which allows for the emergence of the “Man” to project even more supremacy over the mood and motion because of the lack of grey areas. He stands out superbly as the film’s boogeyman. Carnival of Souls is a story that doesn’t rely on elucidating or crucial dialogue. It is driven by eerie & arresting visual cues.

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Carnival of souls is hauntingly gritty, menacing and an ethereal nightmarish journey that our ‘misfit heroine’ (source -Jarenski) -archetype Mary Henry must roam through in order to find her place in the world… it is a visual and sensory driven allegory. Mary Henry, straddles the plain between reality and unreality, life & death, belonging & alienation, an outcast who is “unfit for the mundane world.” The film works based on the premise that Mary is unusual, an outcast or outsider. Even the people surrounding her act jittery, a bit bewildered and uncomfortable by her strange manner.

Gene Moore was responsible for the score that consists of REUTER ORGAN with exposed pipes. He had access to the Reuter Organ Factory and became inspired to use it as the musical undercurrent of calliope. It also gave Harvey the idea to use this motif as Mary Henry’s profession, and place of employment. With all the organ inflections and swells it is only Mary and us, who ever hear the magnificent instrument playing, filling out all the nuanced spaces without intruding, it is subtle and multi-layered for such a powerful instrument, that works well with the macabre carnival atmosphere.

The art and set direction are literally the real locations that Harvey and Clifford felt inspired by. They would sneak the crew in to film before getting booted out. The amusement park Pavilion called the Saltair, was shot in Great Salt Lake City Utah.

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With the exception of Candace Hilligoss who trained in New York City as a method actor under the tutelage of Lee Strasberg, and character actor Sidney Berger as the lascivious neighbor John Lindon, the rest of the cast is virtually unknown non actors. Herk Harvey had requested that they scout for an accomplished New York Actress, and they found Hilligoss! Although Harvey refused to give Hilligoss any cues or background motivation for her character. She, like the other players had no rehearsals nor were they allowed or given any re-takes.

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Herk Harvey himself plays the ever-present ‘the Man’ as he is credited, who is the sinister presence that stalks Mary throughout the film. He creates an unsettling presence like the lurking archetype of ‘Death.’

Both Herk Harvy and John Clifford evaluated the final film saying that it had the art-house feel that they were shooting for, in their words  “The visual style with an Ingmar Bergman look & the mood of a Jean Cocteau film.” with a supernatural theme.

The film could also be viewed slightly in the realm of a Neo-Realist work, ‘Post WWII, Italy working under the constraints of a war torn nation, they were filmed in real locations with non-professional actors.’ -Gary J. & Susan Svehla

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Carnival of Souls attains a gritty naturalism, with the non created sets or the use of recognizable actors, except for Candace Hilligoss who wasn’t even given any direction about her character’s motivation! ironic for a method actor who trained under the master Lee Strasberg… Hilligoss’ state of un-ease was authentic…

The make up for what I’m calling the ‘Dead Ensemble‘ came about because of the budgetary restrictions. Using egg whites, yes egg whites, what happened as a happy accident was a chilling & effective look of rotting flesh, and the pale gray glow of death. The egg whites created the pasty grey and flaky tone due to the use of B&W film stock.

To get permission to film the car plunging into the Kaw River in Kansas, the film crew had to agree to pick-up the tab for any repairs to the bridge. In fact the police attempted to arrest Harvey for attempted murder til Harvey showed it to be a simulation for their film and not a real accident.

Filming the entire movie in a month much of the footage was executed with guerrilla -like shooting tactics because they would have to get in and out of the settings, grab the few shots on that location due to not having permits to be there or to close the streets for filming! Most of the audio was post-dubbed, so it was an impossible task to get the syncing just right.

Sadly, With all the financial problems and the lack of recognition that the film failed to get initially turned both Herk Harvey and John Clifford off from making another picture.

The film opens on a street of a Midwestern heartland town where three young women in a car are being challenged to a drag race by a gang of young hoodlums. When the driver agrees, the girls begin to tear up the road and head over the very narrow bridge. All three including Mary Henry (Hiligoss) plunge off the bridge into the murky waters below. As the car falls beneath the clouded river, the film’s credit’s ripple over the surface of the water, creating an eerie prelude to the story.

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This image strikes me as a portrait of Americana- a photo that Shelby Lee Adams might have taken. The menfolk almost looming like apathetic vultures over the car wrecked in the river below

out of the water onto the landing

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another similar view -the men looking down on Mary Henry -objectification & a silent pronouncement from the patriarchy!

The sole survivor, Mary emerges from the cold river, drenched like a drowned and rotting water lily, smeared and splattered in mud. While the rescue party arrives on the scene, local townspeople are there, and the police work on raising up the submerged car, Mary walks out of the water staggering onto the jettee. Mary is asked about the other two women in the car but she tells them that she doesn’t remember anything. Mary just walks away from the scene of the accident.

As if the entire ordeal was just a dream you wake from to find that it isn’t real, it hasn’t happened, Mary walks away and returns to her job at the organ factory. She tells her boss that she has decided to make a change in her life. She has taken a position as a church organist in another city in Utah. When her co-workers gossip about Mary’s decision they remark in a bit of foretelling dialogue, giving away some dreary foreshadowing of things to come for Mary , “If she’s got a problem, it’ll go right along with her.”

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“Mary it takes more than intellect to be a musician… put your soul into it.”

Mary leaves town, she drives past the scene of the accident. She begins to experience a sense of panic, of trepidation washing over her , but she makes it across the bridge safely. It’s nighttime, shes driving by herself and she sees the abandoned pavilion which instantly sparks her interest. But when she reverts her gaze back to the road she sees directly in front of her a vision of the pale faced stranger who’s sinister presence startles her, and for a moment she veers off the road. Managing to gain back control of the car she makes it onto the road and continues driving til she gets to the gas station.

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The only music Mary can get on the car radio is organ music…

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Once there, she is haunted by either strange hallucinations or actual supernatural contact of a sinister man (Herk Harvey) with a macabre pale dead face in a off the rack suit and then a tuxedo.
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The monochromatic frames work to intensify the look of the ‘Man’ who literally appears to be part of the seducing void & darkness moving around Mary.
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Mary meets her new landlady at the boarding house where she’s taken a room, near the church where she’ll be the organist.
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The minister tells her that the congregation would be interested in meeting their new organist but she coldly replies to him. If they say I’m a fine organist that should be enough”
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“We have an organist capable of stirring the soul” sure but consider the fact that she’s a ‘lost’ soul herself!

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She makes it to her new rooming house, getting ready for bed she catches another glimpse of the ‘Man’ outside her bedroom window. In the morning , she goes to her new job at the church. The minister (Art Ellison) tells her that he’d like the congregation to meet her as she’s the new organist and part of the community now. Yet, odd bewildered Mary isn’t interested in this ceremonious display, he imparts a fatherly cliché to her “You can’t live in isolation from the human race.”

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the ‘Man’ appears at the church looking strangely at the stain glass panel, what is he thinking? it’s an interesting juxtaposition of the image of a pious figure being gazed at by the figure of ‘death’

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Mary feels cut off from the world and is believed to be crazy by the people she encounters. She also becomes drawn to a decaying old amusement park where the ‘Man’ who visits her hallucinations, escorts her into a waltz of the dead in the empty ballroom. Meantime, the police are back at the scene of the accident pulling up the wreckage of the car from the river. Mary is pursued by the sleazy roomer at the boarding house, John Linden who’s got plans on getting Mary in the sack!

From CRITERION The Liner notes by Bruce Kawin–there are fun references to other movie titles like “Call it Orpheus meets An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge–organ

there are similarities.. After the accident she plays the church organ without any religious conviction and has a date without desire, She is accused of having no soul.
She feels cut off and doesn’t know why and to find out the reason is to be destroyed : To synchronize with and , quite literally meet her fate.

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Mary can see Saltair Pavilion from her bedroom window

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The film is filled with signals and omens that forewarn that something has shifted in Mary’s life either through her dreams or her new reality. John Clifford’s script seems inspired by the old expressionist fantasy dramas and Harvey’s direction allows the atmosphere to embrace a weird style, that could easily have been a silent film. Carnival of Souls depends much on visual cues, and a quirky narrative filled with curiosity, honesty and repressed primal fear.

Once Mary walks away from the commotion of the accident she drives to a local garage for assistance. She sees the ‘Man’ and flees on foot. (This is very reminiscent of the Twilight Zone episode called The Hitchhiker starring Inger Stevens being stalked by what looks like a hobo, but just might be death himself trying to take her back with him.)

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Inger Stevens is Nan Adams in The Hitch-Hiker episode of Rod Serling’s brilliant anthology sci-fi/fantasy show The Twilight Zone The Hitch-Hiker aired on Jan. 22 1960.

On Mary’s day off she goes shopping, and in the midst of a retail transaction she becomes disconnected from her surroundings. First people refuse to acknowledge her as if she’s not there. (great idea for a film effect right M Night Shyamalan? yeah as I was saying) Then Mary begins to lose her sense of hearing. Nothing seems to make noise, there isn’t a sound to be heard.

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While shopping in the department store, the people around Mary act as if she isn’t there. As if she were a ghost… 

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“why can’t I hear anything?”

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Mary becomes hysterical when she thinks the older gentleman at the water fountain is the ‘Man’ Dr Samuel’s tells her she’s hysterical and that she should control herself…

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She flees to the tranquility of the city park and leaves the urban stresses behind her, and suddenly her senses start coming back to her. Once she lays her hands on a tree trunk the natural world let’s her in again. She can hear bird’s chirping and becomes connected to reality again. But this is only shortly lived as it lasts briefly before, she thinks she sees the ‘Man’ standing by the a water fountain. Mary becomes hysterical. Dr. Samuel’s comes to her aide, tells her she’s hysterical and to control herself. He takes her to his office across the street.

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Mary- “It was more than just not being able to hear anything, or make contact with anyone. It was as though, as though for a time I didn’t exist. As though I had no place in the world. No part of the life around me.” Dr. Samuels-“And then you saw this, this man?” He tells her that perhaps the Man represents a ‘guilt’ feeling. She tells him that it’s ridiculous. Mary  “Well I know one thing. If my imagination is playing tricks on me, I’m gonna put a stop to it!” He tells her she’s strong willed. She tells him that she’s survived if that’s what he means. He tells her that the Pavilion holds some kind of meaning to her. She’s going out there alone and prove that it’s just her imagination.

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She tells him she has no interest in being with other people. She also figures that her unease is somehow connected to the abandoned Carnival/Pavilion. So fixated on it is she, that she feels compelled to return there and try to exorcise these recent terrors. While visiting it during daylight she interprets it as a harmless place. But… she is unaware of the ‘Man’ lying beneath the surface of the water… waiting for her.

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cast the devil out

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Mary is cast under the spell of the lurking dead and the strange draw to the abandoned & desolate Saltair

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“Profane… sacrilege What are you playing in this church. Have you no respect Do you feel no reverence? Well I feel sorry for you… and your lack of soul. This organ the music of this church these things have meaning and significance to us. I assumed they did to you. (to Mary it was just a job) But without this awareness I’m afraid you cannot be our organist. In conscious I must ask you to resign”
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At Church Mary is compelled to play the organ like a feverish madwoman, beyond the control of her hands, she hits the keys and creates dark progressions. Her music becomes malevolent on the pipe organ (Much like Siohban McKenna’s Emmy in Daughter of Darkness 1948) As Mary strokes the keys inflamed, overcome and aroused by the inexplicable desire, she sees images of the ‘Man’ and the others, the dead ensemble rising from the water, then waltzing at the Pavilion, moving in a quick pace, toward her. The jump cuts are very effective, as if they create the illusion of the dead ones hurling themselves at her. The minister interrupts Mary’s day-mare he cries ‘Sacrilege’ and he dismisses her from her post at the church.

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CRITERION liner notes: All the music with the exception of the jukebox is the organ.

“The organ is the music of Mary’s mind and of the world in which she finds herself. the world as a gain the way things are. It may be that she imagines her story in her own terms. With a soundtrack as cold as she is said to be, or that she ‘really’ lives for awhile in a world where the dead intrude. The underscoring and the underwater undead make it likely that what we see and hear is her windscreen. But the horror film can have it both ways.”

“An alternate world and an imagined one. Aside from the music the most artistically daring element of this film-one that defies a central convention of the horror genre -is its flight from romanticism , it’s concentration not on a foaming monster or on the hammering bosom of a Hammer heroine, but on a cold fish. If she is a magnet for the Gothic , there is nothing exciting or sexy about it. The thrills of this carnival are cold ones…. bits of death.”

The ‘Man’ continues to pursue Mary, she sees him everywhere, even while she’s playing the organ. The minister shows Mary around town and she asks him to accompany her to the Pavilion. Strange too, Mary can see it from her bedroom window.

When she returns to the rooming house Mary has to rebuff the seedy lecherous John Linden (Sidney Berger) who keeps trying to insinuate himself into Mary’s apartment. She also sees the ‘Man’ again.

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Mary is fixated on the Pavilion in the way Eleanor Lance (Julie Harris) is fixated on Hill House. The Pavilion has become a catalyst, a place of connection to Mary who til now has been literally disconnected from the living world. The old rusted machinery of the ballroom, and the rusted collapsing spiral staircase reveal the old is enticing both women who don’t belong in this world that is new and young and vibrant. Both Eleanor and Mary Henry exist in a dust filled space of detachment and estrangement.

Mary accepts a date with her sleazy predatory neighbor Lindon, but refuses to drink, dance or be held close. They go back to her room, she sees John’s face become the ‘Man’s’ reflection in the mirror. The next morning she checks out of the rooming house, determined to leave this town behind. She is detained by car trouble. Dropping off the car at the gas station even proves to be an ominous affair.

at the garage

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at the garage the man

Having been fired, wanting to leave town, the car is the garage, she goes to the bus depot, but can’t buy a ticket because no one hears or sees her. She tries to get onto the bus, the dead ensemble are inside laughing approaching her She tries to get on the train, they close the gate on her. she runs, there is a motorcycle cop, but he pulls away, as does the taxi cab that doesn’t see her…she runs the organ and the heels of her shoes, in a frenzy, her inner monologue why can’t they hear me, why can’t I hear anything.

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Trying to buy a bus ticket people walk right over her, the teller doesn’t acknowledge her. She is invisible to the world.
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She tries to get onto the train. they close the gait in her face. She is not there…
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Mary screams… “Why can’t anybody hear me!!!”

She attempts to buy a bus ticket, and becomes separated from the world again, so she attempts to just get on the bus. Jumping through the open door of the idling bus, she is confronted by the passengers, the dead ensemble.

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She meets with Doctor Samuels again in his office. He sits and listens with his back to her, she tells him “I don’t belong in the world” As the psychiatrist turns to answer her, it is revealed to be the ‘Man’ sitting in the chair. Mary screams… and wakes up in the garage. For a moment Mary is allowed to acknowledge the experience as a dream.

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Mary to Doctor Samuel’s chair back -“You’ve got to tell me what to do!”

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Mary drives away from town, directly to the Pavilion. The outside lights are illuminating the dead ensemble dancing. Mary sees herself as one of them. She’s dancing with the ‘Man’, caught in his embrace. The quick cuts create a frenetic dizzying night torment. The dead ensemble begin to chase Mary onto the sand by the beach. Then the scene changes to the austere sky and bleached out white of daylight.

There she is haunted by strange visions involving the pasty-faced wraith who continues to be a menacing force. Mary  is disconnected from the natural world, and the people around her experience her as odd perhaps even crazy. Even the most ordinary and mundane places like church, retail shops, parks, train stations and doctor’s offices are not safe as the pale-faced wraith that shadows her seems to be everywhere.

It is this feeling of isolation & being alienated by the world that draws Mary to the eerie abandoned Pavilion. At the Pavilion she is escorted by the ‘Man’ to come join the dance with the ‘pale-faced pushing up daisy’s gang’ in the empty ballroom.

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The quick cuts of the ‘Man’ are appropriately horrifying because of the lack of grey tones, he appears with the ghastly pasty white face in dark contrast to his evening wear and the dark corners in which he appears to be occupying.

The power in the Pavilion comes on and the festive lights come up in the ballroom -the dead ensemble in their evening attire are waltzing. She see herself as one of them, she is dancing with the ‘Man’- she screams and runs but they chase her down to the beach. Now it’s daytime, the cold light of day at the Pavilion-slipping in and out of a dream, reality, darkness & light or belonging of terror.

We see the police, the minister of the church and the locals are investigating Mary’s disappearance. Mary’s car is still at the Pavilion. There are many sets of footprints leading down toward the beach and then… they end abruptly.

Is she trapped between the world of the dead or the world of the living? Mary Henry avoids death throughout the film as she is stalked and seduced by the pale-faced ‘Man’ with the mocking gaze and the ‘Lifeless Mob’, the ‘Dead Ensemble’ but it might just be a tryst she’ll have to show up for eventually…

Just to recap- The opening prelude shows us Mary rising from the cold waters of the river, her hair splattered with mud, she staggers onto the river bank passing the rescue party. She moves awkwardly as she emerges. It is perhaps the most powerful scene in Carnival of Souls, as Mary Henry indifferent toward ‘rescue’ or ‘deliverance.’ The extraneous attempt are mocked by the reality that Mary doesn’t seek salvation, and soon will embark on a nightmare journey trying to find her way out of purgatory. She is lured to the deserted Pavilion, trying to exorcise the nightmarish wraiths that stalk her even in the stark light of day.

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The film fell into obscurity for a while because of a bad deal struck with the corrupt Hertz-Lion Company to distribute the film in small theaters , who either didn’t understand or didn’t care to embrace Harvey/Clifford’s vision for the film. So Hertz Lion packaged it as a B-Movie venues exclusively, and playing at drive ins in the Southeastern U.S, not allowing it’s intended urban city Indie arty audience to see it. The Company also kept the profits then went out of business in 1964. Leaving Harvey and Clifford unpaid, the film lab who struck the release print unpaid as well. Carnival of Souls was edited for release to be used as double billing. The film was butchered by Hertz Lion, sacrificing mood and the script’s intelligibility for the sake of a shorter print, which would be easier to distribute.

Now you may suppose that the film’s continuity was sacrificed by this, yet Carnival of Souls does not seem to suffer from lack of atmosphere, unique camera work or said continuity, the film still deserves the art-house label as Herk Harvey and John Clifford originally intended.

Even after  ‘it languished in obscurity’ due to the dubious distribution strategy by the corrupt Hertz Lion Company and despite all the cuts and edits from the original film, Carnival of Souls has gained a tremendous cult following,

It’s one of my favorite classical horror films of the 60s! With many of us discovering this horror gem on late nite television with it’s spooky programming like Chiller Theater, Creature Feature and Night Fright on WOR Channel 9 in New York… all of which I was nourished on as a really young horror fan in the 60s & 70s.

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Candace Hilligoss was frustrated with Herk Harvey because he gave her NO motivation for her character, little to no explanation for Mary’s actions. Coming from the method school of acting, this created a conflict with her role, yet the blank stare and the disconnection to the narrative inadvertently or unconsciously created the no- affect heroine that propelled Mary even further into a netherworld caught between reality and unreality. Sound and silence. Visibility and imperceptibility. Mary Henry walks through the film perplexed and alienated.

Hilligoss would appear in one more horror picture from the 60s Corpse of the Living Dead (1964) a gruesome horror whodunit with a heavy dose of cynicism and sadism, Del Tenney style.

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Carnival of Souls has a visual narrative that is somewhat like a dark poem, or a funeral dance.

I’ve read an interesting essay that touches on a corollary between Carnival of Souls and Robert Wise’s 1963 ghost story The Haunting based on Shirley Jackson’s novel, The Haunting of Hill House. From Hidden Horror the chapter on Carnival of Souls by Prof. Shelly Jarenski- They make a few interesting comparisons. Such as the prelude… “… And we who walk here… walk alone.” in my malleable childhood mind, both the prelude and the coda stayed with me like a creepy lullaby or maudlin soliloquy. Jarenski says “The film’s core themes are encapsulated in that line uttered by the misfit heroine Eleanor Lance.”

Jarenski also mentions that ‘Eleanor seemed happiest becoming a ghost, belonging to the house.’

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Words like ‘we’ or ‘walking’ does create an ominous ambiguity. That Eleanor will either join the collection of lost souls in Hill House or be doomed to walk alone for all eternity in ‘isolation and despair.’

Jarenski asserts that Carnival of Souls can be understood as a corollary to the more ceremonious and celebrated The Haunting because “It portrays what being part of the community of the dead, while simultaneously feeling utterly alone, looks like.”

Source From: More Things Than are Dreamt of- they point out the idea that The Haunting is much more than just a ghost story. As Shirley Jackson wrote in her novel, “During the whole underside of her life, ever since her first memory Eleanor had been waiting for something…”

Because of the key player Eleanor Lance not being a professional para-psychologist or a willing believer, what surfaces during the story’s reveal is that we are witnesses not just to a haunting, but a lonely woman, a disillusioned spinster, most likely a virgin who is yearning for release.

Mary Henry is also an isolated outcast, drawn to something possibly nefarious, but it’s something better than being a nothing, or being invisible around regular people… “I have no desire for the close company of other people.”

Mary Henry goes through portends and psychic spells that tamper with her senses, spells that are jarring and utterly frightening. The idea of abject ‘horror’ as with The Haunting (1963) or Daughter of Darkness (1948) doesn’t necessarily prove or disprove the existence of a supernatural force behind the fear that is awakened. The apprehension of evil, the supernatural or the fine line between life and death are made a disturbing odyssey as we aren’t sure what is happening to Mary or us. The disturbing tone as Jarensky puts it, is ‘atmospheric oddness.’ The oddness that is familiar in Robert Wise’s The Haunting as Hill House’s angles were all ‘odd’ leaving one to feel that there is one big distortion as a whole. Mary Henry has been shifted off the mortal plain, journeying through a dizzying quagmire of nocturnal terrors or daytime sensory ordeals and alienation from the world.

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I’ve made my own connection with another stunning picture that deals with the fine line between death and life, reality and unreality. I’m talking about Tim Robbins in Jacob’s Ladder (1990) where the hero also takes a grotesque and frighteningly nightmarish journey from life… through death…

So is it a ‘death journey’, a collective hallucination, or is Mary Henry going mad?

From the booklet notes of CRITERION by Bruce Kawin

“In Carnival of Souls (1962) one place is allowed to be blatantly creepy: The Amusement park where ghosts rest under the water and rise to dance. The rest of the world appears both normal and somehow wrong and part of what is wrong about it -and within stand encompassing it- it the liminal protagonist , Mary Henry (Candace Hilligoss) For she has gone wrong , and in the world with her. It may be her subjective world, as in the Cocteau and Bergman films that producer -director Herk Harvey and screenwriter John Clifford admired, but it is ours as long as we are in the theater, and it look too much like the real world outside the theater for comfort.

Mary Henry could also be said to be the archetypal “alienated heroine’, ‘the misplaced heroine’ or as Jarenski calls it ‘the misfit heroine’ who also feels like she lives on the fringes of society, with no place she truly belongs.

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Now this is where Mary Henry and her queer mannerism, church organ playing that becomes almost diabolically fevered, and the peculiar magnetism to either attract men or repel them still puts me in mind of director Lance Comfort’s Daughter of Darkness (1948) concerning the odd Irish lass Emily ‘Emmy’ Beaudine (Siohban MacKenna) Emmy too, was the church organist, who aroused every man in the county with a supernatural allure, yet she repelled dogs, horses and the womenfolk. And, when a man did want to go further she would scratch their eyes out or murder them in a fevered rage. Emmy is a wild thing, driven out of town for being one of the devil’s own. When Emmy played the organ, she became entranced not unlike Mary Henry, often she would lose herself in long drawn out musical conflagration to darkness. But was it supernatural or a monstrous feminine morality play about women’s primacy.

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Both women, provocative and strange possess a power to attract and repel, with Emmy’s boxer and Mary’s neighbor Linden. Mary plays the organ with a “pragmatic irreverence.” When the minister admonishes her, calling it ‘sacrilege’ she leaves her town “I am never coming back!

The parishioners talk behind her back, “If she’s got a problem, it’ll go right along with her.

But even as Mary is seen as renegade, wicked or immoral she still doesn’t seem comfortable in her own skin, not as much as the people on the periphery of her world are. Those who inhabit the tenuous wall between life & death.

When Mary states that she feels separate from other people, we are dropped into a scene where the outside world that invades and surrounds her, loses all it’s sound. It is a marker to how she is cut off from the world.

Julia Kristeva the scholar who expanded brilliantly on Freud’s postulations on the sub-conscious & fear in his The Uncanny describes something that is pervasive through Carnival of Souls. The film takes the mundane, the familiar and these familiar points of reference, department stores, city parks, train stations and brightly sunlit beaches, suddenly become ‘out of place’ This is what happens to Mary Henry as she bares witness to the manifestation of the uncanny. She experiences a ‘profound psychological disturbance’ that is virtually impossible to describe.

As Jarensky says, “everything seems familiar to her, and yet she feels an inexplicable sense of separateness.”

With each time the sinister and other-worldly ‘Man’ shows himself to Mary, the film begins to spiral into a nightmarish hazy Kaleidoscope of eerie unreality. It not only seems like an assault on Mary, it makes us really uncomfortable as well, causing us anxiety.

Carnival of Souls has an enduring eerie charm that has sustained it’s cult status for years. Part of what works so well for this unique film is the lack of direction Hilligoss got from Herk Harvey leaving her as authentically lost as her character Mary Henry wandering through a netherworld too frightening to navigate. Low budget, filled with happy accidents that when viewed in retrospect bares the look of an art-house horror though unintentional the low grade quality creates a haunting appeal….

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Continue reading “Carnival of Souls (1962): Criterion 60s Eerie Cinema: That Haunting Feeling”

MonsterGirl’s Halloween 🎃 2015 special feature! the Heroines, Scream Queens & Sirens of 30s Horror Cinema!

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Horror cinema was at it’s spooky peak in the 1930s~ the era gave birth to some of the most iconic figures of the genre as well as highlighted some of the most beautiful & beloved heroines to ever light up the scream, oops I mean screen!!!!

We all love the corrupted, diabolical, fiendish and menacing men of the 30s who dominated the horror screen- the spectres of evil, the anti-heroes who put those heroines in harms way, women in peril, –Boris, & Bela, Chaney and March… From Frankenstein, to Dracula, from The Black Cat (1934), or wicked Wax Museums to that fella who kept changing his mind…Jekyll or was it Hyde? From the Mummy to that guy you could see right through, thank you Mr. Rains!

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Gloria Stuart The Invisible Man

Last year I featured Scream Queens of 40s Classic Horror! This Halloween 🎃 – I felt like paying homage to the lovely ladies of 30s Classic Horror, who squealed up a storm on those stormy dreadful nights, shadowed by sinister figures, besieged by beasts, and taunted with terror in those fabulous frisson filled fright flicks… but lest not forget that after the screaming stops, those gals show some grand gumption! And… In an era when censorship & conservative framework tried to set the stage for these dark tales, quite often what smoldered underneath the finely veiled surface was a boiling pot of sensuality and provocative suggestion that I find more appealing than most contemporary forays into Modern horror- the lost art of the classical horror genre will always remain Queen… !

Let’s drink a toast to that notion!

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The Scream Queens, Sirens & Heroines of 1930s Classic Horror are here for you to run your eyes over! Let’s give ’em a really big hand, just not a hairy one okay? From A-Z

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Phantom in the Rue Morgue 1954.

ELIZABETH ALLAN

Elizabeth Allan

A British beauty with red hair who according to Gregory Mank in his Women in Horror Films, the 1930s, left England for Hollywood and an MGM contract. She is the consummate gutsy heroine, the anti-damsel Irena Borotyn In Tod Browning’s campy Mark of the Vampire (1935) co-starring with Bela Lugosi as Count Mora (His birthday is coming up on October 20th!) Lionel Atwill and the always cheeky Lionel Barrymore… Later in 1958, she would co-star with Boris Karloff in the ever-atmospheric The Haunted Strangler.

Mark of the Vampire is a moody graveyard chiller scripted by Bernard Schubert & Guy Endore (The Raven, Mad Love (1935) & The Devil Doll (1936) and the terrific noir thriller Tomorrow is Another Day (1951) with sexy Steve Cochran & one of my favs Ruth Roman!)

The film is Tod Browning’s retake of his silent Lon Chaney Sr. classic London After Midnight (1927).

The story goes like this: Sir Karell Borotin (Holmes Herbert) is murdered, left drained of his blood, and Professor Zelin (Lionel Barrymore) believes it’s the work of vampires. Lionel Atwill once again plays well as the inquiring but skeptical police Inspector Neumann.

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Irena (Elizabeth Allan) and Professor Zelen (Lionel Barrymore) hatch an intricate plot to trap the murderers!

Once Sir Karell’s daughter Irena ( our heroine Elizabeth Allan) is assailed, left with strange bite marks on her neck, the case becomes active again. Neumann consults Professor Zelin the leading expert on Vampires. This horror whodunit includes frightened locals who believe that Count Mora (Bela in iconic cape and saturnine mannerism) and his creepy daughter Luna  (Carroll Borland) who trails after him through crypt and foggy woods, are behind the strange going’s on. But is all what it seems?

Mark of the Vampire (1935)

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Elizabeth Allan (below center) and Carroll Borland as Luna in Tod Browning’s Mark of the Vampire (1935).
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Elizabeth Allan and Carroll Borland Mark of the Vampire (1935)

The Phantom Fiend (1932)

Directed by the ever-interesting director Maurice Elvey (Mr. Wu 1919, The Sign of Four, 1923, The Clairvoyant 1935, The Man in the Mirror 1936, The Obsessed 1952) Elizabeth Allan stars as Daisy Bunting the beautiful but mesmerized by the strange yet sensual and seemingly tragic brooding figure- boarder Ivor Novello as Michel Angeloff in The Phantom Fiend! A remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s first film about Jack the Ripper… The Lodger (1927) starring Novello once again.

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Ivor Novello is the strange & disturbing Michel Angeloff. Elizabeth Allan is the daughter of the landlords who rent a room to this mysterious fellow who might just be a serial killer. Daisy Bunyon falls captivated by this tormented and intense young man…
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A.W. Baskcomb plays Daisy’s (Elizabeth Allan)father George Bunting and Jack Hawkins is Joe Martin the regular guy in love with Daisy.
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Michel Angeloff (Ivor Novello) to Daisy Bunting (Elizabeth Allan) “Stay away from me… don’t ever be alone with me…{…} -You trust me, no matter whatever I’ve done?”

The Mystery of Mr. X (1934)

There is a murderer loose in London who writes the police before he strikes with a sword cane, he signs his name X. It happens that his latest crime occurs on the same night that the Drayton Diamond is stolen. Robert Montgomery as charming as ever, is Nick Revel the jewel thief responsible for the diamond heist, but he’s not a crazed murderer. The co-incidence of the two crimes has put him in a fix as he’s now unable to unload the gem until the police solve the murders.

Elizabeth Allan is the lovely Jane Frensham, Sir Christopher Marche’s (Ralph Forbes) fiancé and Police Commissioner Sir Herbert Frensham’s daughter. Sir Christopher is arrested for the X murders, and Nick and Jane band together, fall madly in love, and try to figure out a way to help the police find the real killer!

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HEATHER ANGEL

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Heather Angel is a British actress who started out on stage at the Old Vic theatre but left for Hollywood and became known for the Bulldog Drummond series. While not appearing in lead roles, she did land parts in successful films such as Kitty Foyle, Pride and Prejudice (1940), Cry ‘Havoc’ (1943), and Lifeboat (1944). IMDb notes -Angel tested for the part of Melanie in Gone with the Wind (1939), the role was given to Olivia de Havilland.

Heather Angel possessed a sublime beauty and truly deserved to be a leading lady rather than relegated to supporting roles and guilty but pleasurable B movie status.

The L.A Times noted about her death in 1986 at age 77 “Fox and Universal ignored her classic training and used her in such low-budget features as “Charlie Chans Greatest Case and “Springtime for Henry.”

Her performances in Berkeley Square and The Mystery of Edwin Drood were critically acclaimed… More gruesome than the story-lines involving her roles in Edwin Drood, Hound of the Baskervilles or Lifeboat put together is the fact that she witnessed her husband, stage and film directer Robert B. Sinclair’s vicious stabbing murder by an intruder in their California home in 1970.

Heather Grace Angel was born in Oxford, England, on February 9, 1909.
Heather Angel in Berkeley Square (1933) Image courtesy Dr Macro

The Hound of the Baskervilles (1932)

Heather Angel is Beryl Stapleton in this lost (found negatives and soundtracks were found and donated to the British Film Institute archives) adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes thriller Originally serialized in The Strand magazine between 1901 and 1902.

In this first filmed talkie of Doyle’s more horror-oriented story, it calls for the great detective to investigate the death of Sir Charles Baskerville and solve the strange killing that takes place on the moors, feared that there is a supernatural force, a monstrous dog like a fiend that is menacing the Baskerville family ripping the throats from its victims. The remaining heir Sir Henry is now threatened by the curse.

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Mystery of Edwin Drood (1935).

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Douglass Montgomery as Neville Landless and Heather Angel as Rosa Bud in the intensely superior rare gem The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1935)

Mystery of Edwin Drood (played by David Manners) is a dark and nightmarish Gothic tale of mad obsession, drug addiction, and heartless murder! Heather Angel plays the beautiful and kindly young student at a Victorian finishing school, Rosa Bud engaged to John Jasper’s nephew Edwin Drood. The opium-chasing, choir master John Jasper (Claude Rains) becomes driven to mad fixation over Rosa, who is quite aware of his intense gaze, she becomes frightened and repulsed by him.

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The brooding & malevolent Rains frequents a bizarre opium den run by a menacing crone (Zeffie Tilbury), a creepy & outre moody whisper in the melody of this Gothic horror/suspense tale!

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Valerie Hobson plays twin sister Helena Landless, the hapless Neville’s sister. (We’ll get to one of my favorites, the exquisite Valerie Hobson in just a bit…) When Neville and Helena arrive at the school, both Edwin and he vies for Rosa’s affection. When Edwin vanishes, naturally Neville is the one suspected in his mysterious disappearance.

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Olga Baclanova

Though I’ll always be distracted by Baclanova’s icy performance as the vicious Cleopatra in Tod Browning’s masterpiece Freaks which blew the doors off social morays and became a cultural profane cult film, Baclanova started out as a singer with the Moscow Art Theater. Appearing in several silent films, she eventually co-starred as Duchess Josiana with Conrad Veidt as the tragic Gwynplaine, in another off-beat artistic masterpiece based on the Victor Hugo story The Man Who Laughs (1928)

Freaks (1932)

Tod Browning produced & directed this eternally disturbing & joyful portrait of behind-the-scenes melodrama and at times the Gothic violence of carnival life… based on the story ‘Spurs’ by Tod Robbins. It’s also been known as Nature’s Mistress and The Monster Show.

It was essential for Browning to attain realism. He hired actual circus freaks to bring to life this quirky Grand Guignol, a beautifully grotesque & macabre tale of greed, betrayal, and loyalty.

Cleopatra (Baclanova) and Hercules (Henry Victor) plan to swindle the owner of the circus Hans, (Harry Earles starring with wife Frieda as Daisy) out of his ‘small’ fortune by poisoning him on their wedding night. The close family of side show performers exact poetic yet monstrous revenge! The film also features many memorable circus folks. Siamese conjoined twins Daisy & Violet Hilton, also saluted in American Horror Story (Sarah Paulson another incredible actress, doing a dual role) Schlitze the pinhead, and more!

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Anyone riveted to the television screen to watch Jessica Lange’s mind-blowing performance as Elsa Mars in American Horror Story’s: Freak Show (2014) will not only recognize her superb nod to Marlene Dietrich, but much reverence paid toward Tod Browning’s classic and Baclanova’s cunning coldness.

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( BTW as much as I adore Frances McDormand, Lange should have walked away with the Emmy this year! I’ve rarely seen a performance that balances like a tightrope walker, the subtle choreography between gut-wrenching pathos & ruthless sinister vitriol. Her rendition of Bowie’s song Life on Mars…will be a Film Score Freak feature this Halloween season! No, I can’t wait… here’s a peak! it fits the mood of this post…)

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Baclanova and Earles

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“You Freaks!!!!”
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Gooba Gabba… I guess she isn’t one of us after all!

here she is as the evil Countess/duchess luring poor Gwynplain into her clutches The Man Who Laughs (1928).

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Flicker Alley and Universal Pictures Present Paul Leni’s The Man Who Laughs (1928) The Tortured Smile “Hear how they laugh at me. Nothing but a clown!”

Continue reading “MonsterGirl’s Halloween 🎃 2015 special feature! the Heroines, Scream Queens & Sirens of 30s Horror Cinema!”

Halloween treats with no tricks!: Obscure 40s Horror!

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Frenzy aka Latin Quarter (1945)

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Derrick DeMarney as Charles Garrie & Joan Greenwood as Christine, a Ballet dancer/artist’s Model star in this rare ghost story about a Bluebeard-type mad sculptor Manetti (Beresford Egan whose hair style & beard is frightening enough!), and his beautiful wife Christine who haunts her lover Charles in order to get at the truth! Very atmospheric and creepy obscure horror, including a séance!… thanks to director Vernon Sewell (Black Widow 1951 Ghost Ship 1952)

The Seance

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House of Darkness (1948)

A very young Laurence Harvey is the greedy and twisted pianist Francis Merryman who wants the family inheritance and the house all to himself! When he murders the violinist’s father John Merryman (Alexander Archdale) it seems to place a curse on the house in particular over Francis who descends into madness! The film also co-stars Leslie Brook. Directed by Oswald Mitchell of the Old Mother Riley series. Very nice touches that make this a pleasing little dark tale of greed and things that go bump in the night!

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