Hitchcock comes to Meadow Brook

By Rory McCarty

Senior Reporter

A man witnesses a murder from out his apartment window. A small town is ravaged by an unnaturally coordinated attack by flocks of birds. A couple that witnesses an assassination soon finds themselves embroiled in deadly international espionage.

These are the plots for some the more recognizable films of Alfred Hitchcock, who is regarded as one of the best film directors of all time. His movies are the focus of Meadow Brook Hall’s “Dinner and a Movie” event, which runs through September.

Meadow Brook Hall has shown Hitchcock’s films for “Dinner and a Movie” in past years and has returned this year with a new selection of Hitchcock movies.

“It’s been Hitchcock the last three years. We decided that ‘Hitchcock at the Hall’ had a nice ring to it,” Meadow Brook Marketing Coordinator Shannon O’Berski said.

For $35, visitors to Meadow Brook Hall will receive a three-course meal and view one of Hitchcock’s films in the Hall’s ballroom.

Hitchcock’s films are famous for their unique cinematography and often macabre subject matter. Over the course of his directing career, which began in 1919 and lasted until 1976, Hitchcock made over 50 films.  

Hitchcock is famous for his unrelenting desire to control his actors. He cared little for their artistic freedom, notoriously commenting that “Actors are cattle.”  

Hitchcock is also credited with popularizing the concept of “The MacGuffin,” an object that characters strive for, but which serves no purpose other than to move the plot along.  His films frequently involved characters caught up in cases of mistaken identity.

Hitchcock films like “Psycho” and “The Birds” are familiar pieces of popular culture and tend to project the image of him as a horror director, although many of his films are subtle thrillers.

For some, “Dinner and a Movie” is an opportunity to pass their affection for Hitchcock down to the next generation.

“I grew up watching Hitchcock’s films. As a kid I probably saw all of them,” patron Jaqueline Willis said. She said she decided to take her daughter to the event because seeing the film on the big screen with a big group of people is a different experience from watching it in your home on television.

Hitchcock is known for effectively bridging gaps of genre and attracting viewers who generally would not be inclined to watch such dark material.

“I’m a person who doesn’t like scary movies, but I love Hitchcock’s movies,” Willis said.

Earlier this month, the Hall showed two of Hitchcock’s films “Rope,” and “Spellbound,” on Sept. 4 and Sept. 18, respectively. Meadow Brook also has plans to show “To Catch A Thief” on Sept. 25. “Suspicion” was originally to be screened on the Sept. 11, however that showing was cancelled due to lack of public interest.

Although the event’s audiences generally do not consist of many OU students, O’Berski said that they would like to see more students, and adds that tours of Meadow Brook Hall are free.

The film shown on Sept. 18, “Spellbound,” features Ingrid Bergman as a psychiatrist who suspects that the new head of the mental hospital she works at is an impostor. Hitchcock appears in a cameo, as he does in most of his films, carrying a violin case.

The meal served with the movie is structured so that the food will complement the narrative arc of Hitchcock’s films. The Meadow Brook Hall staff serves the first course, shows about half of the movie, serves the main course during an intermission, shows the remainder of the film and ends with dessert.

“We usually stop it at a suspenseful point, so people can discuss it,” event coordinator Leanne DeVreugd said.

James Brammer says he thinks movies today cannot compare to the ones that Hitchcock used to make.  

“When there aren’t all those special effects, the story really has to be good,” Brammer said.

Though they were made over 60 years ago, people continue to watch Hitchcock’s films for their timeless qualities. The Sept. 25 showing of “To Catch a Thief” is already sold out.