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Attention LA Film Geeks: Restored Hitchcock Silent Films Screening This Month At Aero Theatre!

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Um, wow. Does your head feel like Jimmy Stewart’s did in VERTIGO? For those that love and adore Alfred Hitchcock, possibly the greatest film director of all-time, you better find a way to get to Santa Monica over the next month. The British Film Institute has recently restored several of Sir Hitchcock’s original films, many of them from the silent film era. Some of the entrants will be accompanied by a live score from Cliff Retallick, and the event, “Hitchcock 9, Plus 9″ also features many of his other classics, like VERTIGO, ROPE, a 60th anniversary screening of REAR WINDOW and REBECCA. For the full rundown, and schedule…just venture below.

To buy tickets, go to American Cinematheque’s Fandango page. Aero Theatre is located at 1328 Montana Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90403.

Director Alfred Hitchcock (1899–1980) is widely regarded as the ultimate master of suspense and one of the pantheon directors of the 20th century. He made more than 50 films over the course of six decades, and his command of cinematic form and content is virtually unrivaled. While among the most beloved mass entertainers in motion picture history, Hitchcock also was a very personal director, giving his obsessions free creative rein for all the world to enjoy.

Born in England, Hitchcock began making movies in the 1920s, and much of the work preceding his 1939 move to Hollywood remains little-seen; to help remedy that, the British Film Institute embarked on a recent campaign to restore the great director’s silent films. “The Hitchcock 9” includes all but one of these (THE MOUNTAIN EAGLE is considered lost), ranging from 1925’s THE PLEASURE GARDEN to 1929’s BLACKMAIL, which was also released as a talkie.

While few of these silents are suspense films, many of their themes and techniques recur in Hitchcock’s more famous later thrillers. Viewing his output across decades, what impresses is not just that the director’s visual and storytelling arsenal was extraordinary from the start, but that he managed to add so much to it over the years.


Series compiled by Grant Moninger and Gwen Deglise. Program notes by John Hagelston.

VERTIGO (1958): Friday January 17th, 7:30 PM

With its hypnotic visuals and palpably wistful characters, director Alfred Hitchcock’s psychological suspense masterpiece VERTIGO continues to entrance audiences. Retired San Francisco police detective “Scottie” Ferguson (James Stewart) becomes obsessed with Madeleine Elster (Kim Novak), a troubled woman he is privately hired to follow. Before he can remotely understand Madeleine’s neurosis, tragedy strikes. Scottie’s obsession with the glacial blonde spirals out of control (literally, thanks to the retina-like coil designs of graphics great Saul Bass), and reaches a fever pitch when he stumbles upon Judy Barton (also played by Novak), a young woman who bears a striking resemblance to Madeleine. With Barbara Bel Geddes as Scottie’s hopelessly overlooked admirer, Midge.


THE LODGER (1926) & STRANGERS ON THE TRAIN (1951): Saturday January 18th, 7:30 PM

Director Alfred Hitchcock’s first thriller was a box office success that put him on the path to become “the master of suspense.” Ivor Novello stars in the title role as a mysterious man who rents a room in London; as local women fall prey to a Jack the Ripper-type killer, the lodger comes under increasing suspicion. Look out for Hitchcock in the first of his trademark cameos! Features a newly commissioned score by Nitin Sawhney.


A chance encounter between tennis champion Guy (Farley Granger) and psychopath Bruno (Robert Walker) on a train triggers an unstoppable race toward double murder. Hitchcock’s classic thriller is a finely-tuned engine of suspense and a spine-tingling story of fate, coincidence, guilt and psychopathology – favorite themes of noir writer Patricia Highsmith, whose novel was adapted by the great Raymond Chandler. With Ruth Roman.


SPELLBOUND (1945) & NOTORIOUS (1946): Sunday January 19th, 7:30 PM

When bespectacled psychiatrist Ingrid Bergman discovers Gregory Peck is not the famous visiting shrink, Dr. Edwardes but a traumatized amnesiac, she suddenly realizes she’s in love with him. But is Peck a victim of circumstance or the missing doctor’s killer? Director Alfred Hitchcock tackles Freudian territory as well as repressed memories (ably abetted by Surrealist Salvador Dali, who designed the startling dream sequence) and seamlessly blends the elements into a romantic and suspenseful spellbinder.


In Hitchcock’s superb espionage thriller and intoxicating love story, allied agent Cary Grant convinces disillusioned party girl Ingrid Bergman, the daughter of a supposed traitor, to marry and spy on her father’s Nazi friend (Claude Rains) – a plan thwarted by the smoldering romance that emerges between Grant and Bergman. Set in Brazil during WWII, the film has an exceptionally subtle yet menacing portrayal of the Nazis, as exemplified by Rains’ show-stealing, weirdly sympathetic performance.


THE PLEASURE GARDEN (1926) & STAGE FRIGHT (1950): Thursday January 23rd, 7:30 PM

Fans of Alfred Hitchcock will likely notice familiar visual cues and themes in his directorial debut, which was released only after THE LODGER had proven a hit. American silent star Virginia Valli plays Patsy Brand, a chorus girl at the Pleasure Garden Theatre who befriends aspiring performer Jill Cheyne (Carmelita Geraghty). While Jill trifles with her many suitors, Patsy is faithful to her man – and it almost costs her her life.


Jane Wyman plays a struggling actress who helps to hide fellow student Richard Todd when he’s accused of killing his lover’s husband. Marlene Dietrich co-stars in this murder mystery set in the world of the theater.


THE RING (1927) & THE MANXMAN (1929): Friday January 24th, 7:30 PM

Director Alfred Hitchcock was a boxing aficionado, and his first original screenplay is set in the ring. “One Round” Jack Sander (Carl Brisson) takes on all comers at the circus until he gets decked by a pro (Ian Hunter) and must fight to regain the affections of his girlfriend (Lillian Hall-Davis). Highly accomplished cinematography, editing and use of symbolism mark this as one of Hitchcock’s best silents.


An innkeeper’s daughter (the luminous Anny Ondra) falls in love with a lawyer on the rise (Malcolm Keen) but agrees to marry the man’s fisherman friend (Carl Brisson) – whose temporary disappearance complicates all three lives. Anchored by a darker love triangle than that of THE RING (which also starred Brisson), this drama is set on the Isle of Man and was shot in Cornwall, displaying some spectacular scenery.


REAR WINDOW (1954): Saturday January 25th, 7:30 PM

James Stewart is L.B. Jeffries, an ace photographer stuck in a wheelchair after breaking his leg. Despite receiving visits from his high-fashion sweetheart, Lisa (Grace Kelly), Jeffries is bored and soon resorts to spying on his tenement neighbors through a telephoto lens. Suddenly, he realizes he may be privy to the alarming disappearance of his neighbor’s ill wife.


DOWNHILL (1927) & REBECCA (1940): Sunday January 26th, 7:30 PM

Popular composer and performer Ivor Novello cowrote the play upon which this drama was based. He stars as Roddy Berwick, a top rugby player at an English boarding school who takes the blame for his best friend when a girl both had dated gets pregnant – and his life goes downhill from there. Told with minimal intertitles, this silent benefits enormously from Hitchock’s visual panache. Features a newly commissioned vocal score by Shlomo.


Director Alfred Hitchcock’s Gothic romance asks the question: Did guilt-ridden, rich widower Laurence Olivier do away with his notorious wife Rebecca or not? And what secret does sinister, manipulating housekeeper Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson) hold? As the widower’s second wife, a young Joan Fontaine attempts to unravel the mystery.


CHAMPAGNE (1928) & THE FARMER’S WIFE (1928): Thursday January 30th, 7:30 PM

In this effervescent romantic comedy, British star Betty Balfour plays a spoiled rich girl whose free-spending ways inspire her father (Gordon Harker) to play a trick that will teach her a little frugality – and test the true intentions of her fiancé. Though the film is far afield thematically from the director’s later work, Hitchcockian touches bubble up from the opening champagne glass shot to the surprise ending.


When longtime widower farmer Sweetland (Jameson Thomas) is inspired by his daughter’s marriage to look for a new wife, he enlists his steadfast housekeeper (THE RING’s Lillian Hall-Davis) to help him come up with a list of possible spouses – who each put the proud Sweetland through the gauntlet. Hitchcock’s sense of humor is rarely shown to better effect than in this touching film.


EASY VIRTUE (1927) & ROPE (1948): Friday January 31st, 7:30 PM

This adaptation of Noel Coward’s play skewers high-society hypocrisy with a couple of familiar faces from the director’s DOWNHILL, Isabel Jeans and Robin Irvine. Suspected of adultery, Larita Filton (Jeans) is divorced by her husband and flees the scandal for France, where she meets a young man (Irvine) unaware of her past. They marry, but soon Larita’s reputation as a woman of “easy virtue” returns to haunt her.


This startling film was doubly daring for 1948: First, it risked depicting the Leopold & Loeb-like tale of homosexual lovers committing murder solely for the thrill. As if that weren’t enough, it told the tale in a series of long, 10-minute takes, unlike anything any director had previously attempted. Having passed over the heads of most audiences when originally released, the film is a revelation by today’s standards. With James StewartFarley Granger and John Dall (GUN CRAZY).


BLACKMAIL (1929) & PSYCHO (1960): Thursday February 13th, 7:30 PM

Shot as both a silent and a talkie (Britain’s first), this outstanding suspense thriller puts both Anny Ondra and police detective boyfriendJohn Longden to the test after a man is killed in self-defense and a blackmailer threatens to spin it as murder. Among the most involving of Hitchcock’s pre-War films. The climactic chase through the British Museum will leave you breathless.


Lovely embezzler Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) takes refuge from a rainstorm off the beaten track on a lonely California highway. Unfortunately, she checks in at the Bates Motel, presided over by young Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), a strange fellow living with his mother in a nearby mansion. One of the most influential chillers ever made.

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