Friend, blog reader and sometime fellow blogger Harvey nudged me gently last week with a bit of information I hadn’t remembered. August 13th, 2014 was the 115th birth anniversary of Alfred Hitchcock. Was I planning to post something Hitchcock-related to mark the occasion?
And how could I not? Hitchcock – in my opinion, one of the best directors cinema has ever seen, regardless of time and place – is a firm favourite of mine. I’ve reviewed several of his films; in fact, one of the first films I reviewed on this blog (The 39 Steps) dates from Hitchcock’s early British period. I’ve reviewed a hilariously black comedy (The Trouble with Harry); I’ve reviewed classics like Rebecca, and relatively little-known ones (among those not Hitchcock aficionados, I hasten to add) like Strangers on a Train or Lifeboat.
Time (and occasion) therefore, I concluded, to review one of my favourite of Hitchcock’s colour films, in the classic suspense mould. Rear Window, about a photographer stuck in his tiny apartment with a broken leg…
While I was watching this film, I was reminded constantly of something Kurt Vonnegut had written when talking of the basics of creative writing. Basic rule #2 was: Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for. The next rule was: Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
In a very literal way, almost every scene of The Flight of the Phoenix resonates with that need for a glass of water. Chapped lips, cracked skin, a desperation for water—and the need to accomplish a task that certainly means the difference between life and death.
No prizes for guessing whom this prize post is dedicated to.
(For those who’re not in the know: I hosted a Classic Bollywood Quiz last year on this blog, and the prizes for that—one for each participant—was a post dedicated to that participant. My friend and fellow blogger Harvey got the Quick Worker Award for the quiz—he had to perforce submit his answers within a couple of days of the quiz being posted, and still managed to get 7 out of 10 right. Impressive).
So: the all-important question. Why am I dedicating this post (about a sweet man whose best friend is an invisible giant rabbit) to Harvey? No, not because I think my pal is nuts. But because Harvey was the one who recommended Harvey to me, and because I found this such an unusual film. And with such an endearing moral to it. Thank you, Harvey. That warmed my soul.
What is it that tempts film-makers to say “Ah! Let’s do a remake of this one!”? A conviction that a script that’s worked once will work again? Also perhaps a somewhat egoistic belief that they will be able to make a better adaptation than whoever made the original film? This story, a classic Ernest Lubitsch romantic comedy, certainly had a lot going for it: sweetness, dewy-eyed romance, and a heart-warming wholesomeness set against a backdrop of wartime Budapest. No wonder, a mere 9 years after it was made, The Shop Around the Corner was remade as In The Good Old Summertime.