Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Now, I've Seen Everything Department: Alfred Hitchcock Part II (Addendum)

It's been awhile since I've done "Now I've Seen Everything" post (but I've been working on them...oh, I have been working on them), but once in awhile one comes across something new. Rather than re-post the whole bloody series again, I'll just attach this addendum and incorporate it into the longer series later.

Bon Voyage (1944) Hitchcock was too old to serve during World War II, obviously, but he asked David O. Selznick for a leave of absence to go back to London to make propaganda films for the British Ministry of Information. Selznick initially refused, but released Hitchcock from his contract for one month (as long as he continued work on the script for Spellbound). At the beginning of 1944, Hitchcock began work on two french-language films, using displaced French actors—with the exception of this film's John Blythe—to be distributed in Europe to encourage Nazi resistance.

The first, Bon Voyage, is the shorter of the two but the most complex. Rather than making a flag-waving propaganda piece, Hitchcock tells the story of a young RAF pilot (Blythe) who has made it it back from a POW camp and tells his story to a couple of intelligence officers. The story tells how he and a fellow escapee crossed Nazi-occupied France with the help of the French Resistance. He now carries a personal letter from his companion to a loved one. When he finishes his story, the officers ask to see the letter, but the young pilot refuses out of duty to his friend. The officers then go through the story again, this time telling him the true story—that his companion was actually a Gestapo agent, charged with finding out who worked in the Resistance and eliminating them...and the letter?

Moral ambiguity does not make for good propaganda in government circles and so Bon Voyage received limited distribution in Europe.

Aventure Malgache (1944) Hitchcock's second thirty minute propaganda film is even further removed from the first. Actor Paul Clarus (real name Claude Dauphin) tells other actors, preparing for a play, of his activities in 1940 for the French Resistance in Madagascar, planning evacuations and running an underground radio station while, in his role as a lawyer, running afoul of the Chef de la Sûreté, Michel (Paul Bonifas), leading to his capture and imprisonment, until the day of liberation when he is set free to broadcast to the entire island not resist the British invasion. In a scene reminiscent of Casablanca, after Michel listens to his broadcasts, he replaces his bottle of Vichy water with scotch and soda and his portrait of Phillipe Petain with one of Queen Victoria. Hitchcock's production is even less elaborate than Bon Voyage with minimal sets spruced up with impressive lighting and hard edits even for the flashback sequences. 

Although Bon Voyage did see some relative exposure in Europe, but Aventure Malgache, with its political cynicism, never made it out of the Ministry of Information and was not seen until the BFI restored it in 1993.

No comments:

Post a Comment