Wednesday, May 15th
“People read about love as one thing and experience it as another.” –Constance Peterson
Constance Peterson (Ingrid Bergman) is a renowned psychiatrist at Green Manors hospital in Vermont. She approaches her patient’s problems through textbooks methods. She is constantly wrapped up in her work and her research and her colleagues view her at detached and emotionless. That is, until the new director of the hospital arrives, Dr. Anthony Edwardes (Gregory Peck). However, Dr. Edwardes is not everything he appears to be. That first night at diner Constance draws lines with her fork on the table linen, causing Edwardes to become agitated. The next day, Edwardes and Constance go hiking around the hospital and have a picnic. For the first time in her life, Constance is beginning to open up, laugh, and act on impulse.
That night she goes to Edwardes’s room to discuss his book that she is now reading for the second time, Labyrinth of the Guilt Complex. They both realize that they have feelings for each other and they can both help each other. Literally Constance and Edwardes are opening up to each other.
“It’s quite remarkable to discover that one isn’t what one thought one was.” –Constance Peterson
“It’s like looking into a mirror and seeing nothing but the mirror.” –J.B.
But, then Edwardes’s nerves are struck by seeing the dark lines on Constance robe. They are interrupted by a call that one of the patients has slit his throat; this patient had been suffering from a guilt complex. The patient thinks nothing is wrong with him, but he knows that he killed his father. This fact is not true; the patient has made himself believe it. These thoughts often go back to childhood either caused by a bad thought or dream that the child had that now the adult manifests the guilt. In the operating room, Edwardes has a breakdown. While at his bedside, Constance compares the signature on a note that Edwardes had written her earlier in the day to the signature with the inscription in his book. The signatures are obviously different. Who is this man who is calling himself Dr. Edwardes? All he can remember is that the real Dr. Edwardes is dead and he believes he killed him. In his possession is a cigarette case engraved with the initials J.B. Constance truly believes that he is admitting to the murder because of the guilt complex, and if she can unlock the reasons behind the complex he will get better.
That night J.B. leaves the hospital to go to New York, he leaves Constance a note. Edwardes’s secretary shows up at the hospital with investigators, she has not heard from Edwardes and is worried. Now it is believed that he killed Edwardes to take his place. Reading the note, Constance follows J.B. to New York. Investigators are now looking for both of them and the incredible story about the man taking Dr. Edwardes place has reached the newspapers. The two love birds are on the run and Constance is trying to push J.B. and his memories to unlock his past and the truth about Dr. Edwards.
Producer David O. Selznick pushed for Alfred Hitchcock to make a “psychiatric” story, Selznick was a proponent of psychoanalysis having been through it himself. His own psychoanalysis, Dr. May Romm, worked as a technical advisor on the film. Selznick had been having a difficult time dealing with the death of his brother, Myron Selznick; he had been a Hollywood agent and died of alcoholism. Selznick had also just separated from his wife, Irene Mayer Selznick, the daughter of Louie B. Mayer. His second wife, Jennifer Jones, would to enter psychoanalysis and praised it with saving her life.
The story for Spellbound is based on the novel The House of Dr. Edwards (1927) by Hilary A Saunders and John Palmer. David O. Selznick purchased the rights for $40,000 planning on the film being a vehicle for Joseph Cotten. However, Gregory Peck was chosen to play the role of John Ballantyne (J.B.). Joseph Cotten would play J.B. in the Lux Radio Theater Broadcast on March 8, 1948 with Alida Valli. Hitchcock would often use psychosis as the motivation for many of his characters, but with Spellbound psychosis would now become the forefront of the story.
Spellbound like other Hitchcock films follows the theme of the wrongly accused or identified man, often forcing the character to go on the “run” to prove their own innocence. The character often is unable to trust someone with the circumstances of their situation, and this includes law enforcement. This theme heightens the suspense and keeps the characters moving throughout the film.
With the dream sequences later on in the film, Hitchcock wanted a different look than what had previously been done in Hollywood. He was looking for sharp visuals rather than the hazy look that dreams had previously been filmed. Hitchcock looked to the surrealist painter Salvador Dalí to produce a series of images that could tell the story of the troubled unconscious. Dalí had been interested in the film process, and had studied different film methods. As a surrealist, Dalí would paint his dreams and then interrupt his subconscious based on the painting. Therefore, Dalí was a perfect choice to design the dream scenes. Selznick on the other hand was not pleased with the scenes, but he did feel that Dalí’s involvement in the movie would only benefit the film for publicity purposes. Selznick would bring in William Menzies to reshoot the dream sequence with Dalí, shorting the length of the entire sequence. It is this footage that is in the film.
TCM will be showing Spellbound along with other films on Wednesday as part of a spotlight they have titled “Movies for Grown-ups”:
Forbidden Planet (1956) 8:00PM (ET)
Spellbound (1945) 10:00PM (ET)
Rome, Open City (1946) 12:00AM (ET)
Pennies from Heaven (1981) 2:00AM (ET)
Note: Rome, Open City was directed by Roberto Rossellini, he and Bergman would marry in 1950.
Follow the link for more images from Spellbound. Pinterest Board: Classic Movie Night Recommendation
Images from: Spellbound. Dir. Alfred Hitchcock. United Artists, 1945. DVD.