Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Ingrid Bergman in Spellbound (1945)

Ingrid Bergman made three films with Alfred Hitchcock: Spellbound (1945), Notorious (1946), and Under Capricorn  (1949). Spellbound and Notorious would both prove to be very influential. In the case of Spellbound, it would inspire such similar thrillers involving psychiatry as Shock (1946) and Whirlpool (1949). Its dream sequences would have an influence lasting into the Sixties in such films as Rosemary's Baby (1968).

Spellbound was based on the 1927 novel The House of Dr. Edwardes by Hilary Saint George Saunders and John Palmer. Spellbound centres on psychiatrist Dr. Constance Peterson (played by Ingrid Bergman), who soon learns that the new director of her hospital, Dr. Anthony Edwardes (played by Gregory Peck) is an impostor. What is more, the real Dr. Edwardes may have very well been murdered.

Given how well Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck played their roles, it seems inconceivable that anyone else was considered for their roles. That having been said. David O. Selznick (whom Alfred Hitchcock was under contract to at the time) wanted Joseph Cotten, Dorothy McGuire, and Paul Lukas to play the lead roles in Spellbound. Selznick also considered Greta Garbo for the role of Dr. Peterson, although that would have involved somehow luring her out of retirement. He also considered Jennifer Jones for the role, although Alfred Hitchcock rejected her for the part. In the end Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck were cast in the parts of Dr. Peterson and Anthony Edwardes.

Although it might seem amazing today, Ingrid Bergman initially rejected the script because she thought the film's love story seemed unbelievable. Alfred Hitchcock then oversaw rewrites of the script that would place more emphasis on what he called "a manhunt wrapped up in pseudo-psychoanalysis."

Spellbound entered production on July 7 1944, which also happened to be Ingrid Bergman's wedding anniversary. Alfred Hitchcock then ordered a cake to be delivered after shooting wrapped up at the end of the day. Ingrid Bergman would become one of Alfred Hitchcock's favourite leading ladies. Even though they only made two films together, they would remain close friends for the rest of their lives. Miss Bergman also had a good relationship with her co-star Gregory Peck, in some respects perhaps too good. The two had a brief affair during the filming of Spellbound.

Ingrid Bergman credits Alfred Hitchcock with the best piece of direction she ever received. She was having problems with one of the more emotional scenes in Spellbound. She told Hitchcock of her difficulties and, in response, he told her, "Ingrid, fake it!" For the rest of her career she would remember Alfred Hitchcock's advice any time she encountered similar problems with a scene.

Of course, Spellbound is well known for its dream sequences designed by Salvador Dali and Alfred Hitchcock. As originally conceived, Dali's dream sequences would have cost $150,000. This did not sit well with David O. Selznick, who seriously considered doing away with the dream sequences entirely. Fortunately, Hitchcock figured out a means using special effects and projections of Dali's art work that would only cost $20,000. Worse yet, David O. Selznick thought the dream sequences as initially shot were too pedestrian. He then turned to the legendary William Cameron Menzies, who developed a new scenario for the dream sequences.  Both Dali and Hitchcock approved the revised dream sequences. Initially conceived as lasting 22 minutes, the dream sequences in Spellbound were eventually reduced to only two minutes of the film's running time.

Originally Spellbound was to be titled after the novel upon which it was based, The House of Dr. Edwardes. Eventually Selznick decided that he did not like that title and a contest was held at Selznick International Pictures for a new name. A secretary, Ruth Batchelor, won $50 for coming up with the title Spellbound.

Upon its release Spellbound received positive reviews over all. It also performed relatively well at the box office. While Spellbound is not often counted among Alfred Hitchcock's greatest films, it would have a lasting impact on cinema, as mentioned above. It would also be the start of a lifelong friendship between Ingrid Bergman and Alfred Hitchcock.


Virginie Pronovost said...

My favourite Bergman film! I loved your review Terence. You give us a lot of great information and captivate us. I learnt new things! Your text also allows us to understand the importance of this film even if, as you say, it wasn't considered Hitchcock's best. I hope you'll allow me to make a correction: Ingrid in fact starred in three Hitchcock films! The last one was Under Capricorn (her last Hollywood film before going to Italy). It's not as good as Spellbound and Notorious but it has its moments. Thanks a lot for your participation to the blogathon!

Terence Towles Canote said...

Doh! I completely forgot about Under Capricorn! I will correct that! Anyway, thank you for your kind words, Ginnie!