Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Hitchcock storyboards for Stagefright up for auction

Revealed: The rare sketches which show how movie suspense master Hitchcock crafted his screen classics

29th April 2011

A rare collection of sketches by Alfred Hitchcock detailing how the legendary director crafted scenes in his films is set to fetch £30,000 at auction.

The hundreds of pencil drawings form storyboards for his 1950 thriller Stage Fright, which Hitchcock directed before going on to mastermind classics like Psycho and Vertigo.
Production files for all Hithcock's films after 1940 are kept in the director's Beverley Hills archive, making the rare drawings a fascinating insight into the great director's creative mind.

The storyboards show how Hitchcock wanted actors to enter shots, instructions for cast and crew, and where the camera should be.

The detailed and intricate instructions appear to confirm the rumour that Hitchcock used to arrive on film sets with movies already finished in his mind.
In the storyboards for Stage Fright, Hitchcock draws out close up shots showing actor dialogue, while another drawing shows detailed set direction and film shots as imagined in the director's mind.

In typical Hitchcock fashion, he also depicted how he wanted one male character to come to a grizzly end - by being decapitated by a theatre security curtain.

The legendary director made various copies of his storyboards and this original version is the only example to have ever come on to the open market before.

It was given as a gift to film producer Hugh Harlow, who stored it in a crate of movie memorabilia in the loft of his home in Kingsbridge, Devon.
Mr Harlow only decided to get the collection valued after rediscovering it during a recent clear out.

It is now being sold on June 7 by auctioneers Bonhams with a pre-sale estimate of 30,000 pounds.

Simon Roberts, senior books and manuscripts specialist at Bonhams, said: 'Before he went into films, Hitchcock worked as a draughtsman and was a competent artist.

'Even so, it must have taken him an awful long time to draw such a detailed storyboard.

'He was obviously very meticulous about every shot and scene and knew beforehand about how he wanted it played out.

'The storyboard is remarkably detailed and even has basic diagrams showing how he wants to camera to move positions in some scenes.
'Hitchcock experts say that he would arrive on set with the film already finished in his head and this storyboard left people in little doubt as to what he wanted.

'I guess you could say there is an element of control freakery about it but he obviously had very clear ideas.

In all there are 130 pages to the storyboard, each containing three pencil sketches within three boxes, which made up about three quarters of the film.

Stage Fright was a crime thriller centred on a killer who dupes a woman friend into helping him try to escape police after he murdered his actress lover's husband.

The movie, which starred Marlene Dietrich, contains an infamous 'false flashback' in which the audience is lied to at the start about how the husband was killed.
This move was slated by film critics who believed the audience should always be given the truth. Hitchcock later stated that it was a mistake.

His storyboard depicts the flashback sequence along with the famous garden party scene and the gruesome finale.

It was given to the film's first assistant director Jack Martin who gave it as a gift to close friend Mr Harlow in 1969.

Mr Harlow, 71, who worked on several Bond movies including Octopussy, said: 'I have this crate of film memorabilia which has moved about with me over the years.

'I was doing a bit of clearing out and found the storyboard and thought about getting it valued.

'It is something I have had for 40 years or more and I thought maybe now was the time to sell it to acquire some additional funds.'

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