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Posts Tagged ‘Lifeboat’

“In many of the films now being made, there is very little cinema: they are mostly what I call ‘photographs of people talking.’ When we tell a story in cinema we should resort to dialogue only when it’s impossible to do otherwise. I always try to tell a story in the cinematic way, through a succession of shots and bits of film in between.” 
—Alfred Hitchcock

Nothing quite ushers in the holidays like the films of Alfred Hitchcock. I’m a big fan of The Criterion Channel and this month they are running 21 Hitchcock movies. While this includes some classics (Vertigo, Rope, Lifeboat) it also includes some of his lesser known silent film work (The Lodger, Downhill).

It’s easy to look at a masterpiece like North by Northwest (1959) and miss that Hitchcock was 60 when that film was released. Like everyone else had to learn to be a filmmaker. If you look back on his early 20s you begin to see how he evolved as a filmmaker. He loved watching movies as a kid, but being a filmmaker wasn’t on his radar. He studied engineering and through his skills as a draftsman, started doing some side work title design work and art directing on two reeler silent movies.

It was while working with the Famous Players—Lasky in London where he says he learned screenwriting from ”some middle-aged ladies.” Mix that with his appreciation of the silent films by Chaplin, Keaton, and D.W. Griffith and he was prepared to start directing himself. Perhaps the real take away for the young filmmaker/content creator today watching Hitchcock’s British-era films is to see how he engineered his shot selection. Working with film and lower budgets in his early days forced him to think though where he was going to place the camera for maximum impact.

Oscar-winning writer/ director Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water) was greatly influenced by Hitchcock and only started his featuring film directing career after a three year study of the films by the master of suspense. Here’s what he had to say about The Man Who Knew Too Much (which is also available on The Criterion Channel this month).

Scott W. Smith is the author of Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles

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Though writer John Steinbeck has been dead for more than 40 years he’s been in the news a few times this year. Earlier in the year producer Brian Glazer announced he was going to remake East of Eden, last month the DVD was release of the six-hour production of East of Eden that first aired on ABC back in 1981 and starred an outstanding cast including Jane Seymour (in which she has said was “the best role of my career”), and also last month one of the 25 DVD movies President Obama gave UK Prime Minster Gordon Brown was Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath.  

More than 15 of his stories have found their way to film and TV screens including Of Mice and Men back in 1939 and the quirky Cannery Row with Nick Nolte and Debra Winger. (Did you know that Hitchcock’s Lifeboat was based on a Steinbeck story? And that it was one of his three Oscar nominations?)

One of my favorite books is John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, In Search of America. I was reading it again yesterday and stumbled upon this little gem:

“I have never passed an unshaded window without looking in, have never closed my ears to a conversation that was none of my business. I can justify or even dignify this by processing that in my trade I must know about people, but I suspect that I am simply curious.”
                                                                    John Steinbeck
                                                                    Travels with Charley 

But you probably want a quote from Steinbeck more in line with writing so here that is: “The profession of book writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business.”

 


 

Scott W. Smith

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