4 Outstanding Actresses: It’s 1964 and there’s cognitive commotion!

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Anne Bancroft as a lady who lunches and listens to gossip in The Pumpkin Eater – being held hostage by the intensely neurotic Yootha Joyce a lonely housewife sitting next to her while trapped under the hair dryer of life…
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Woman at hair dressers-“It’s like I told you, my life is an empty place!” Jo-“Well what do you want me to do about it?”

“The question isn’t who’s going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” – Ayn Rand

Cognition–ˌkägˈniSHən|
(noun)
the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.
• a result of this; a perception, sensation, notion, or intuition.

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These 4 particular films seem to be part of a trend of films that deal with either women’s brewing emotional turmoil or in the case of Jean Seberg’s Lilith- a creeping organic madness, perhaps from childhood trauma that is not delved into. 

Let’s consider women either in distress or the oft used “hysterical’ trademark that summons every neurotic ill associated with women. With these 4 films it’s the same root problem: Why should society determine what counts as an emotional problem? This is especially true for women, as if she was the engendering source of a specific kind of female mayhem, the creator of the tumult itself… Capable of giving birth, does she also give birth to a certain kind of madness directed inwardly or aimed outward at society and it’s unyielding ethical questions?

It’s not that I think Barbara Barrie is troubled because she falls in love with a black man. It’s that the world is troubled by her decision. Because of her choice -a society inherently cruel punishes her by taking away the one thing she had personal power over, to remove her child from her life. Although, she has a wonderful relationship with Frank both are being judged and condemned.

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The judge who awards custody of her little girl to the biological father even though he is not the better parent. Not too long ago, women could be hospitalized just for being menopausal, based on what their husbands say.

Women were at the mercy of white male society’s judgment. So if a white woman loves and marries a black man in the volatile climate of the civil rights 60s it would absolutely cause turmoil and quite the commotion.

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All these women experience cognitive commotion, but are not necessarily crazy. One Potato Two Potato is about the societal impositions forced upon an inter-racial couple and the strain of a child custody battle forcing her to qualify herself as a good mother. The sentiments of the time, the courts and society in general are dis-empowering Julie through her motherhood.
This inflicts an agonizing torture on Barbara Barrie’s character Julie. Barrie’s performance as well as Bernie Hamilton as a man whose own masculinity is tested, tears me up inside…
A white woman, Julie Cullen falls in love with Frank Richards, a black man, against the will of everyone around them, including his parents who think he should stick with his own kind. Eventually Franks mother and father come around and embrace Julie, and her daughter who considers Martha and William her grandparents.
Julie has a son with Frank…and suddenly is being faced with a white judge deciding on who will gain custody of her little girl from a previous marriage to a man Joe Cullen who abandoned them years ago. Not til he finds out that she is being raised by a black man does he rise to take action and gain custody of his daughter.
This is a courageous story to relate in 1964. Barrie’s anguish is one that is not self inflicted, there is no mental disorder, or neurotic dilemma yet it would challenge anyone who dares to be truthful and follow their heart in a world where many people must hide who they are. A beautiful love story that becomes tainted by the stain of ingrained hatred and ignorance. And causes ruination to a happy family.
Barbara Barrie’s performance as Julie Cullen Richards is nothing short of intuitively astounding.
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Just for funzies I wanted to paint some contrast into the mix, therefore pointing to films that truly deal with women and mental illness. More than cognitive commotion, they’re unstable, non compos mentis, deranged, knife wielding, murderous femmes, traumatized, delusional dames… or all out CRAZY NUTS!!!!!!!!!
And…
I’ll probably write about all these films mentioned–the women on the verge of a nervous breakdown or already on the shoulder of the weary road of life with all four tires flat at some point. I’ll Consider Charles Vidor’s Ladies in Retirement 1941 where Ida Lupino has to take care of her two dotty sisters Elsa Lanchester and Edith Barrett as the Creed sisters… They’re wonderfully Cukoo!!! I did a little piece on this gem a while back…
Robert Siodmak’s The Dark Mirror 1946 with Olivia de Havilland playing twins Terry & Ruth Collins, Gene Tierney gorgeous yet cunningly homicidal in Leave her To Heaven 1945, Laraine Day is totally unhinged in The Locket 1946, Joan Crawford as Louise Howell has a nightmare filled flashback in Curtis Burnhardt’s Possessed 1947.
“she is shown as alienated and stricken with psychological torture”– {source Marlisa Santos The Dark Mirror; Psychiatry and Film Noir 
Then again in Anatole Litvak’s story actually set in a mental institution with Olivia de Havilland stuck in The Snake Pit 1948, Vivien Leigh is the consummate delusional Blanche Dubois in Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire 1951Marilyn Monroe gives a riveting performance as the deranged babysitter–(oh god kid just be quiet for Nell) in Roy Ward Baker’s Don’t Bother to Knock 1952, Joanne Woodward is in emotional conflict with three different personalities all herself…in The Three Faces of Eve 1957.
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Eleanor Parker gives a stunning portrayal of multiple personality disorder in Hugo Haas’ Lizzie 1957, I’ve written about Liz Taylor almost getting her frontal lobe sucked out at the request of her domineering Aunt -(Katherine Hepburn) just to hide her son’s sordid secret life in Suddenly, Last Summer 1959, Jean Simmons tries to find happiness in a loveless marriage that isn’t her fault in the engrossing Home Before Dark 1958, Ingmar Bergman’s Striking minimalist piece about mental turmoil in his beautifully photographed Through a Glass Darkly 1961, William Castle’s groundbreaking gender bending Homicidal 1961.
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Woodward in The Three Faces of Eve 1957
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Joan Marshall is Homicidal 1961 in William Castle’s answer to Psycho
Carroll Baker is a traumatized rape survivor in Something Wild 1961 and what I found to be a misogynist romp wasting several wonderful actresses who were offered these humiliating roles in The Chapman Report. In particular Clare Bloom who deserved better with her talent -as a nymphomaniac struggling with her sexual desires until she ultimately commits suicide in The Chapman Report 1962 and good old William Castle’s once again with his Strait-Jacket 1964 starring one of the ultimate Grande Dames Joan Crawford this time wielding an axe in addition to her nightmarish flashbacks.

Now… none of the 4 women I am covering here are homicidal or dangerous, all these women are experiencing a psychic struggle with issues that speak from their place in the world as women… who are defining somehow in their own way, what their identity means to them… Well, perhaps Lilith is a bit more volatile in terms of how she wields her sexuality and influences men & women both! But she is a divine innocent albeit-nymphomaniac living in a dreamy world of her own –not a homicidal vamp who devours men and spits them out… She is an innocent without malice. The men do the damage to themselves…

“And her eye has become accustomed to obvious ‘truths’ that actually hide what she is seeking. It is the very shadow of her gaze that must be explored”--Luce Irigaray

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Max von Sydow,, Harriet Andersson and Gunnar Bjormstrand in -(1961)-Through the Glass Darkly directed by Ingmar Bergman
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Gene Tierney as the murderously deranged Ellen Berent Harland in Leave Her to Heaven 1945

Seance on a wet afternoon 1964 previous post HERE

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Kim Stanley gives an unnerving performance as a delusional and dangerous woman who plots to kidnap a child so she can claim her psychic powers then located her…

And of course the two titans of Grande Dame Guignol fêtes courtesy of Robert Aldrich…

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? 1962 & Hush… Hush Sweet Charlotte 1964

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Roman Polanski’s very post-modern almost Brechtian/Picassoesque ode to insanity starring Catherine Deneuve in his Repulsion 1965 –
There’s always Hitchcock’s Marnie (1964) showcasing an unstable female in distress brought on by childhood trauma. Considering Hitch’s lavish colors, and overt psychological embellishments that have created a pulpy romanticized landscape, that at times obfuscates the mental turbulence rather than letting it surface on it’s own. I chose to set this film aside and instead include the more off the beaten path of psychological leaning-‘women’s pictures.’ 1964 seemed to be one hell of a  year for Women in Distress by virtue of the female psychological crisis, once again to reiterate -not the ‘hysteria’ kind, mind you.”
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Tippie Hedren and Louise Latham in Hitchcock’s Marnie (1964)
“From the socially conservative 1950s to the permissive 1970s, this project explores the ways in which insanity in women has been linked to their femininity and the expression or repression of their sexuality. An analysis of films from Hollywood’s post-classical period (The Three Faces of Eve (1957), Lizzie (1957), Lilith (1964), Repulsion (1965),Images (1972) and 3 Women (1977)) demonstrates the societal tendency to label a woman’s behavior as mad when it does not fit within the patriarchal mold of how a woman should behave. In addition to discussing the social changes and diagnostic trends in the mental health
profession that define “appropriate” female behavior, each chapter also traces how the decline of the studio system and rise of the individual filmmaker impacted the films’ ideologies with regard to mental illness and femininity.”

— from FRAMING FEMININITY AS INSANITY: RE PRESENTATIONS OF MENTAL ILLNESS IN WOMEN IN POST-CLASSICAL HOLLYWOOD by Kelly Kretschmar

WOMEN ON THE VERGE… OF A BREAKTHROUGH!

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Curt Jurgens carries Samantha Eggar after she has fallen off her horse. There is more going on that Patricia Neal’s blind eye can see

Psyche 59 (1964)

Patricia Neal and Sammantha Eggar in Psyche 59
Patricia Neal and Samantha Eggar in Psyche 59 (1964)

The Pumpkin Eater 1964

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Ann Bancroft and Peter Finch are a married couple in crisis. Having perpetually popped out a myriad of children she is yet again pregnant. Will this keep him home this time…? The Pumpkin Eater (1964)

One Potato Two Potato 1964

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Barbara Barrie falls in love and marries Bernie Hamilton. Once her ex-husband realizes that his child is being brought up by a black man, times get even tougher for the couple

Lilith 1964

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THE WOMEN!!!

Barbara Barrie

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Patricia Neal

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Anne Bancroft

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Jean Seberg

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LET’S BEGIN WITH…!

Alison Crawford (Patricia Neal)“Love has to stop somewhere along the line otherwise it’s almost like… like committing suicide “

PSYCHE 59 (1964) Alexander Singer (A Cold Wind in August 1961 with Lola Albright and Scott Marlowe) directs the remarkable Patricia Neal as Alison Crawford, a woman struck down with a form of psychosomatic or hysterical blindness. Alison is aware that the affliction is all in her mind since the doctors can’t find anything organically wrong with her sight. Her ‘hysterical blindness’ and memory loss of the events leading up to her accident follows a fall down the stairs while she is pregnant. When she awakens she is unable to see.

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Alison “My Brain won’t accept the images that my eyes make.”

What is happening for Alison is that she is subconsciously blocking out the truth about her husband and her younger, coquettish sister Robin.

She is now living a very quaint life with her husband played by the austere Curd Jürgens (I love him as the devilishly urbane concert pianist Duncan Mowbray Ely in The Mephisto Waltz 1971).

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Aside from her intense husband Eric, Alison’s very sexually charged sister Robin (Samantha Eggar) has now come to live with the couple after a divorce. Robin hovers very close to Eric like a carrion bird waiting to pick the bones of Alison’s troubled marriage. While Alison doesn’t have any cognitive memory of what led up to her fall, it’s obvious to us that she can sense the strong attraction between her husband and younger sister. At one time, her younger sister Robin and Eric and been involved before Alison caught and married him. Robin hasn’t stopped lusting after him. Slowly Alison’s memory comes back as the flashes and images of what she experienced right before she lost her sight literally comes into view.

Singer builds the tension in the air slowly, methodically until it all comes to a head set against the skillfully contained cinematography by Walter Lassally (The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner 1962, Zorba the Greek 1964, To Kill a Clown 1972).

IMDb tidbit-Patricia Neal was offered the lead in The Pumpkin Eater, but it was not 100% confirmed she would get the role. She then opted, to her later regret, to make Psyche 59 (1964) instead, since it was an official offer.

Neal gives a restrained yet powerful performance of a woman who is trapped in self imposed darkness by her fear of the truth…

There is very subtle theme of self-brutality that exists for each of the characters, Alison’s self imposed sightlessness, Eric’s indignant stoicism is palpable as he walks through the story like a trapped stray dog, He is agitated by Robin’s presence, because he can not resist her.

Robin, her younger sister who must have been quite young at the time of her relationship with Eric begs the question of appropriate behavior on his part. Robin is constantly asserting a seductive influence on Eric right in front of the disadvantaged Alison.

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She is both a hyper-sexual narcissist and a bit self-destructive at the same time, either way she gets off on playing the seductress torturing Eric, right in front of her sister, dark sunglasses and delicate pout. Although Alison suffers from blindness, she maintains a certain dignity that although as all three characters seem like she is, one of the trapped animals in a psycho-melodramatic forest, we get a sense that she will one day regain her freedom and spread her wings and fly away from it all truth in hand.

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Alison “We must be near the marshes” Robin “We just passed it … Coming to the old windmill soon…its still turning.. nothing’s changed” Alison “There’s a factory there now, Don’t protect me Robby. Don’t make up windmills.”

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Based on the novel by Françoise des Ligneris, with a screenplay by Julian Zimet (who wrote Horror Express 1972 and one of the best atmospheric little horror obscurities The Death Wheelers 1973 formally called Psychomania about a group of British motor cycle thugs and their pretty birds who dabble in the occult. Beryl Reid and George Sanders being one of their relatives, they learn the secret of immortality. But you have to die first to obtain it.)

Psyche 59 is an interesting psychological mood piece, almost post modernly impressionistic with it’s stark and polished black and white photo work. And Patricia Neal who had just won an Oscar for her role as Alma Brown in Hud 1963 and gave a command performance in 1957 as Marcia Jeffries in A Face in the Crowd is just exceptional as Alison who is trying to navigate the dark world surrounding her.

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The film is strange and at times subtly cruel yet Neal’s character relies on our visual journey which becomes quite painful at times yet beautiful as she begins to emerge. In the film Patricia Neal’s relationship with Curd Jürgens has an eerie parallel to real life marriage to writer/spy Roald Dahl, but I don’t want to get into the sensationalized tidbits of public people’s wreckage.

The Film also stars Ian Bannen as Robin’s poor befuddled boyfriend , Elspeth March and Beatrix Lehmann plays Alison’s staunch and science fiction reading grandmother-wish I had one of those!

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Continue reading “4 Outstanding Actresses: It’s 1964 and there’s cognitive commotion!”

Alfred Hitchcock: The Television Years: 8 Indelible Episodes

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“There are moments when even to the sober eye of reason, the world of our sad humanity may assume the semblance of hell”-Edgar Allan Poe

Alfred Hitchcock Presents opening credits

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The camera frame evolves into a most simplistic line-drawing, a chubby caricature of Alfred Hitchcock’s endearing profile which then converges with Charles Gounod’s “Funeral March for a Marionette” as suggested by Bernard Herrmann. Bernard Herrmann had scored so many of Hitch’s feature films, as well as John Williams and Dimitri Tiompkin. Hitchcock appears at first in a shadowy silhouette from the corner of the screen, then stepping prominently into the outline, filling his place as the master of the evening’s suspenseful ceremonies.

Now,I offer a brief snap shot or oeuvre featuring some of my very favorite episodes of both Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. They never stale, they always tickle and cause that most delicious little shudder, from some of the finest mystery and suspense writers and re-experiencing the delight of seeing how the show had given some of the best acting talent their very first start…right here.

THE GLASS EYE

Season 3 episode 1 aired on (6 Oct. 1957)

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Jessica Tandy, Tom Conway, William Shatner, Rosemary Harris and Billy Barty

From Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Directed by Robert Stevens and written by Sterling Silliphant.

Jim Whitely (William Shatner) and Dorothy (Rosemary Harris) begin cleaning out the apartment of his dead Cousin Julia (Jessica Tandy), Jim comes across a small wooden box that contains a mysterious glass eye, and starts to relate the strange and macabre story to his wife of why it remains in Julia’s possession.

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The proper, lonely and romantically repressed Julia had fallen in love with a famous ventriloquist named Max Collodi (Tom Conway)Becoming obsessed with the performer she saw all his performances, sending him letters requesting to meet him.Eventually quitting her meager job, in order to follow his show around Europe, Max agrees to meet Julia, setting forth certain conditions upon their first encounter.

Once she arrives at his hotel room, she finds him sitting in a dimly lit atmosphere of mystery, surrounded by shadows and subterfuge. The darkness envelopes him, and he asks her to keep her distance. He sits at a table with his small dummy George.

Overcome with passion as the two begin to talk, Julia tries to reach out and touch the object of her undying passion -Max Collodi, but it comes along with grave consequences.

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An Unlocked Window

Season 3, Episode 17 aired on (15 Feb. 1965)

Dana Wynter as Stella, T.C. Jones as Nurse Betty Ames, and Louise Latham as Maude Isles

From The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, directed by Joseph M. Newman, from a story by Ethel Lina White.

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Nurse Killer-“You’re Such a Pretty Nurse, Freda” cackle, cackle

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Over the course of  two weeks a psychotic maniac is on the prowl, being reported all over the television and radio.The police are baffled by this madman who is preying exclusively on live-in nurses.

Set the stage for a dark and stormy night, where Nurse Stella Crosson (Dana Wynter) and Nurse Betty Ames (T.C. Jones) are held up by the storm at the house of the man they are taking care of (John Kerr) He’s got a bad heart and lives in a creepy old mansion on the outskirts of town.

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Suddenly, the women get a phone call from the murderer telling  them that he knows they’re alone, and is on his way over to kill them both. Stella goes around the house making sure all the windows and doors are locked tight, but discovers that they overlooked a small window in the basement that is flapping open from the storm. Is he already in the house?

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Maude Isles-“I read a book about a man who only killed trombone players, he beat them to death with their own trombones.”

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WATER’S EDGE-

aired on (19 Oct. 1964) Season 3 episode 3

Starring the vivacious, the amazing  Ann Sothern, & John Cassavetes.

From The Alfred Hitchcock Hour directed by Bernard Girard with a teleplay by Alfred Hayes, based on a short story by Robert Bloch.

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The prolific Robert Bloch, genius writer of the horror suspense genre

John Cassavetes plays Rusty Connors who tricks his prison cellmate Mike Krause (Rayford Barnes) into telling him every detail about his gorgeous girlfriend Helen Cox (Ann Sothern). On his deathbed, Mike reveals to Rusty that he’s got a stash of $56,000 hidden away with the help of his dead accomplice, Pete Taylor.

Once Rusty is released, he goes in search of the epic Helen, and finds her in the small town of Hanesville working as a waitress in a greasy spoon diner slinging hash and, and not quite as divine as Mike had related in his verbal memoirs.

Rusty pretends to be enamored with the voluptuous Helen, in order to enlist her in helping him find the stashed cash from the robbery.The journey leads them to a ramshackle boat house on a lake, inhabited by a sea of hungry rats.

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LAMB TO THE SLAUGHTER

Season 3, Episode 28 aired on (13 Apr. 1958)

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Barbara Bel Geddes as Mary Maloney, Harold J. Stone as Lieutenant Jack Noonan, Allan Lane as Patrick Maloney,

From Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Directed by Alfred Hitchcock himself with teleplay and story by the great darkly humorous British writer Roald Dahl.

Produced by Joan Harrison and associate producer/actor Norman Lloyd.

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British writer of the darkly comedic fairy tale world, Roald Dahl

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Barbara Bel Geddes plays the dutiful Mary Maloney, devoted wife and housekeeper. Husband police chief Patrick Maloney comes home and coldly tells her that there’s another woman he wants to marry and that he wants a divorce. Oh, yeah and Mary’s pregnant with his child, but he’ll let her have the child, they’ll probably be okay.

The usually composed and polite Mary erupts in a moment of rage killing him by way of blunt force trauma to the head with a giant frozen leg of lamb.

She then calmly calls the police, giving them her quick alibi, a story that she’d been out shopping, while the murder occurred. Lieutenant Noonan is the investigating officer on the case. He is bewildered by the lack of a murder weapon missing from the scene of the crime.

Mary being the ultimate hostess and good cook invites the hard working detective Noonan and the other police officers to stay for dinner. Noonan says while stuffing his face with Mary’s fine meal, “For all we know, it might be right under our very noses.”

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“Old Mrs Keating gave me the ring test today… dangled it over my tummy, and it’s a boy”
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“I want a divorce…now we’ve got to be calm and sensible about it”
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“You must have your supper darling, I wouldn’t ever let you go without your supper”

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I won’t let you leave, you can’t… you can’t
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“Try and stop me”

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Road Hog

Season 5, Episode 11 aired on (27 Sep. 1962)

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Raymond Massey as Sam Pine, Robert Emhardt as Fred Fratus, Ray Teal as Ben Tulip, Richard Chamberlain as Clay Pine, Brad Weston as Sam Pine Jr. (27 Sep. 1962)

From Alfred Hitchcock Presents directed by Stuart Rosenberg, teleplay by Bill S. Ballinger from a story by Harold R. Daniels. Produced by Joan Harrison and associate producer/actor Norman Lloyd

Dynamic character actor Robert Emhardt is deliciously vile as a very selfish and rude traveling trashy and risqué, novelty salesman who willfully forces a truck off the road, making it virtually impossible for the young injured Pine boy to make it to the hospital for medical care. He ultimately dies because of Salesman Fratus’ actions.

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Don’t Look Behind You

Season 1, Episode 2 aired on (27 Sep. 1962)

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From The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, directed by John Brahm and written by Barré Lyndon

Vera Miles is Daphne engaged to Harold (Jeffrey Hunter) Abraham Sofaer plays Dr.McFarlane, Dick Sargent (the 2nd yet inferior Darrin on Bewitched) is Dave Fulton who is madly in love with Daphne, Mary Scott is Wanda Hatfield and Alf Kjellin is Edwin Volck a brilliant composer.

The world of academia is occupied by intellectual types, social misfits and radical thinkers. At one such particular local college, there is a fiend ravaging women while they walk home through the neighboring woods. At a social gathering of faculty, they speculate the motives of the madman, using their knowledge of criminal psychology and floating theories around while drinking cocktails and fawning over the beautiful Daphne. Is Daphne going to be the maniac’s next victim?

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Return of Verge Likens

Season 3, Episode 1 aired (5 Oct. 1964)

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From The Alfred Hitchcock Hour directed by Arnold Lavin and based on a short story by Davis Grubb

Peter Fonda is Verge Likens a simple, respectable farmer’s boy who’s father is murdered by a ruthless politician again perfectly befitting the acting chops of Robert Emhardt as Riley McGrath who thinks he can get away with anything. George ‘Goober’ Lindsay plays D.D. Martin, McGrath’s cutthroat flunky in a role that is quite a contrast from the oafish and good natured Goober Pyle.

But Verge is smart, patient, and not impetuous when it comes to laying the blueprints for his master plan of revenge.

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Lonely Place

Season 3, Episode 6 aired on (16 Nov. 1964)

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Starring Teresa Wright, Pat Buttram and Bruce Dern.

From The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Directed by Harvey Hart, with a teleplay by Francis Gwaltney from a short story by C.B. Gilford

This is perhaps one of the most disturbing pieces of suspense television, that would quite aptly fit onto the larger  screen adapted as a major motion picture. The cinematography is stunning and Teresa Wright and Bruce Dern’s acting is so distinctively nuanced that it lifts the narrative beyond mere television drama. The theme of isolation, dread and psychological/physical abuse by Emery and Jesse is stunning and at times nightmarish. Teresa Wright plays the meek Stella, a woman who has been so beaten down by her obnoxious and domineering cretin of a husband Emery played by Pat Buttram. Stella is a gentle soul, who loves animals, befriending a little squirrel who becomes her only source of joy. Along comes the menacing Bruce Dern as the mysterious Jesse who is willing to work for $5 a day picking peaches, knowing all too well that Emery is exploiting his labor. He proceeds to terrorize Stella, kill her pet squirrel, and turn the ineffectual and spineless Emery against her, as he is unwilling to protect or defend his own wife, being a cowardly neanderthal himself.

Dern inhabits one of the most striking performances as a vicious socio-pathic drifter, so transcendent for it’s day that it’s utterly chilling to watch the narrative come to force . Dern’s Jesse makes his sleazy character Keeg in Cycle Savages 1969 pale in comparison.

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The landscape of a Gothic Americana horror story

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‘GOOD EVENING’-MonsterGirl