Have Gun, Will Aim At Audience

Many of the writers who worked on Have Gun — Will Travel went on to gain fame elsewhere.  …Harry Julian Fink is one of the writers who created Dirty Harry (the opening title and theme scene of the Dirty Harry sequel Magnum Force would feature the same Paladin-like sequence of a handgun slowly cocked, and then finally pointed toward the camera, with a line of dialogue).

The program’s opening theme song was composed and conducted by Bernard Herrmann


Kehr Capsules of the Week: Late Hitchcock selections (1951-1964)

Continue reading “Kehr Capsules of the Week: Late Hitchcock selections (1951-1964)”

Kehrblog: Jimmy Stewart as God

To bluntly restate a notion I’ve tried to develop more extensively elsewhere (i.e., “When Movies Mattered,” still available at an Amazon near you), Stewart usually represents a kind of distanced, detached, self-appointed “authority” in Hitchcock’s films, the man who sits in judgment from on high — the Catholic deity of Hitchcock’s youth, intolerant of human weakness, demanding, whimsical and arbitrary in his law-making and moral dictates, a God who has, most perversely, endowed humans with sexuality while demanding a strict regulation of sexual relations, establishing standards that are impossible to live up to but severely punishing those who do not. “Rear Window” places Stewart in exactly this position, spatially and morally, in regard to the pitifully (yet quite normally) flawed human beings he observes across the courtyard and manipulates for his own entertainment. For most of the film, Hitchcock adheres to his point of view — which, of course, is also that of the author before his work and the audience before the screen — building to that astonishing, excruciating moment when the Raymond Burr character breaks through the screen and into Stewart’s apartment, where he asks, with a combination of fear and supplication, of anger and vulnerability that Burr brings off brilliantly, “What do you want from me?” Stewart, of course, has no answer; the question alone is enough to (temporarily, at least) shake him from his perch. Hitchcock brings all of his great courage and honesty as an artist to bear in making the Burr character an actual killer (instead of a pure victim of circumstance, as in the compromised “The Wrong Man”) and still finding sympathy for him, as he does for Norman Bates, Alexander Sebastian, Marion Crane, Guy Haines and the countless other “criminals” who inhabit his work — including the entire population of Bodega Bay, which is to say, the world.

Kehr Capsule of the Week: A Place in the Sun (1951)

A good example of the kind of soporific nonsense that won rave reviews and armloads of Academy Awards back in the 50s, while the finest work of Ford, Hawks, and Hitchcock was being ignored. George Stevens, a tireless moralizer and part-time embalmer of American myths (Shane), directed this melodramatic adaptation of Dreiser‘s An American Tragedy, and what does not seem facile in it seems overwrought. Curiously, this 1951 film now seems hopelessly dated, while Josef von Sternberg‘s 1931 treatment of the material, filmed under the original title, seems breathtakingly modern. With Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor, and Shelley Winters.

Kehr Capsule of the Week: I Confess (1953)

Alfred Hitchcock’s earliest serious critics, the Catholic-minded Cahiersgroup, revered this 1953 film above all his 50s work; today it’s very seldom revived. Montgomery Clift plays a stone-faced priest (Hitchcock’s only direction to him seems to have been “don’t twitch”) who hears a confession of murder and assumes the killer’s guilt. The movie is more interesting than achieved: it’s the most forthright statement of the transference theme in Hitchcock’s work, but it’s also the least nuanced. Still, there are shots of extraordinary beauty, emerging from the grayish Quebec background like flashes into color. With Anne Baxter, Brian Aherne, and Karl Malden. 95 min.