Torn Curtain (1966)

128 mins | Drama | 27 July 1966

Director:

Alfred Hitchcock

Writer:

Brian Moore

Producer:

Alfred Hitchcock

Cinematographer:

John F. Warren

Editor:

Bud Hoffman

Production Designer:

Hein Heckroth

Production Company:

Universal Pictures
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HISTORY

On 4 Aug 1965, Var announced that actor Paul Newman would star in Alfred Hitchkock’s next film, incorrectly referred to as Iron Curtain. That same day, LAT noted that Torn Curtain would mark Hitchcock’s fiftieth directorial effort. Co-starring with Newman was Julie Andrews, who was currently on the island of Oahu, appearing in the film Hawaii (1966, see entry). Six weeks later, the 20 Sep 1965 DV reported Andrews’s brief visit to Universal Studios for wardrobe and makeup tests before returning to Oahu. Production charts in the 15 Oct 1965 DV and 24 Nov 1965 Var announced the 18 Oct 1965 start of principal photography. Andrews and Newman reportedly entered their dressing rooms that day to find the curtains torn, which the 25 Nov 1965 Los Angeles Sentinel attributed to Hitchcock’s penchant for practical jokes.
       Hitchcock told the 28 Dec 1965 LAT that the plot was reminiscent of Notorious (1946, see entry), which he had directed twenty years earlier. He also dismissed the current cinematic fashion of suggesting a sexual encounter using “that over-the-shoulder shot with the man’s back hiding the woman’s chest.” The director considered it “more provocative” to have the couple in bed, covered in blankets due to a faulty heating system. He also included a montage depicting a murder that required sixty-seven camera setups, demonstrating “how hard it is to kill a man.” A related item appeared in the 6 Jan 1966 Los Angeles Sentinel, noting Hitchock’s request for a sound ... More Less

On 4 Aug 1965, Var announced that actor Paul Newman would star in Alfred Hitchkock’s next film, incorrectly referred to as Iron Curtain. That same day, LAT noted that Torn Curtain would mark Hitchcock’s fiftieth directorial effort. Co-starring with Newman was Julie Andrews, who was currently on the island of Oahu, appearing in the film Hawaii (1966, see entry). Six weeks later, the 20 Sep 1965 DV reported Andrews’s brief visit to Universal Studios for wardrobe and makeup tests before returning to Oahu. Production charts in the 15 Oct 1965 DV and 24 Nov 1965 Var announced the 18 Oct 1965 start of principal photography. Andrews and Newman reportedly entered their dressing rooms that day to find the curtains torn, which the 25 Nov 1965 Los Angeles Sentinel attributed to Hitchcock’s penchant for practical jokes.
       Hitchcock told the 28 Dec 1965 LAT that the plot was reminiscent of Notorious (1946, see entry), which he had directed twenty years earlier. He also dismissed the current cinematic fashion of suggesting a sexual encounter using “that over-the-shoulder shot with the man’s back hiding the woman’s chest.” The director considered it “more provocative” to have the couple in bed, covered in blankets due to a faulty heating system. He also included a montage depicting a murder that required sixty-seven camera setups, demonstrating “how hard it is to kill a man.” A related item appeared in the 6 Jan 1966 Los Angeles Sentinel, noting Hitchock’s request for a sound effect that suggested a skull being crushed. The 2 Feb 1967 LAT described another gruesome sound effect in which a soup bone wrapped in fabric substituted for a human shin as it was struck by a shovel.
       Novelist-screenwriter Brian Moore told the 23 Jan 1966 LAT that Hitchcock commissioned him early the previous year to write a story about an American and his bewildered wife defecting to East Germany. Moore relocated to Los Angeles, CA, in Mar 1965 and spent the next four months in writing conferences with the director. Despite the film’s Cold War theme, Moore insisted that Hitchcock had no interest in the story’s political implications.
       The 21 Nov 1965 NYT stated that Hitchcock intended to shoot the film on location in East Germany, but government officials refused him access unless they were given a copy of the screenplay. The outraged director refused, then dispatched a crew to secretly photograph exteriors, to be reproduced by set designers at Universal. Moore argued in the LAT article that Hitchcock could have obtained permission to film in East Germany, as well as Poland and Czechoslovakia, if he had simply made more of an effort. A news item in the 17 Oct 1965 LAT revealed that portions of the Southern California countryside substituted for Central European landscapes.
       According to the NYT article, Hitchcock used Torn Curtain as an opportunity to experiment with a new color process that employed “reflected light that has been heavily diffused,” giving the picture a more lifelike atmosphere. He also filmed several scenes with the background slightly out of focus to create “fuzzy, impressionistic montages surrounding his hero and heroine.”
       The 9 Nov 1965 LAT reported that British monarch Princess Margaret and her husband, photographer Lord Snowden, visited the set during a tour of Los Angeles. The 7 Mar 1967 DV noted that Paul Newman was unable to work for ten days, due to “a facial irritation caused by virus.”
       On 19 May 1966, composer John Addison and a sixty-piece orchestra began two days of recording the film score, as reported in that day’s DV. Meanwhile, Hitchcock was in Frankfurt, Germany, shooting additional scenes, according to the 25 May 1966 Var. An item in the 6 Jul 1966 Var announced the picture’s 14 Jul 1966 world premiere in Boston, MA. Openings at three New York City theaters followed on 27 Jul 1966. While Hitchcock was in town on a promotional tour, the 6 Jul 1966 NYT announced that he would receive the city’s Medal of Honor from Mayor John Lindsay. The picture opened in Los Angeles theaters on 3 Aug 1966, including the Wiltern, where cake-cutting ceremonies were planned to honor Hitchcock’s fiftieth production. Representing the director was ballerina Tamara Toumanova, who co-starred in the film.
       Despite its enthusiastic reception from the public, several critics considered Torn Curtain to be substandard Hitchcock fare. On 1 Oct 1966, LAT reported that the California chapter of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA), disapproved the film, decrying Julie Andrews’s departure from the innocent characters she portrayed in Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music (1964 and 1965, see entries). Harsher criticism emanated from the National Roman Catholic Office for Motion Pictures (NRCOMP), which declared the film “morally objectionable in part for all,” citing its references to premarital sex and realistic portrayal of “a brutal killing.” Hitchcock defended the latter scene in the 26 Oct 1966 Var, saying it demonstrated how “horrible and difficult” it is to kill another person. He also considered it a commentary “on the growing casualness of violence.” Torn Curtain was listed among the ten worst pictures of 1966 by The Harvard Lampoon, as reported in the 26 May 1967 LAT. However, the 4 Jan 1967 Var also listed the film among the previous year’s ten best rentals, with earnings of $7 million.
       Casting announcements included Gertrud Rothe (2 Dec 1965 Los Angeles Sentinel), Rico Cattani (28 Dec 1965 DV), Maria Schroeder and Hans Von Burhofer (29 Dec 1965 DV), and Charles Bastian (31 Jan 1966 DV). The film also marked the return of Tamara Tomanova to motion pictures following a twelve-year absence, according to the 4 Nov 1965 DV. It was also among the last to feature character actor Ludwig Donath, who died 29 Sep 1967, as reported in the 2 Oct 1967 NYT.
       ”Film Assignments” in the 21 Oct 1965 DV included the following crewmembers: Don Baer and Richard Glassman, assistant directors; Don Morgan, unit publicist; Pierre Valin and Bob Scott, location managers; John F. Warren, cameraman; Frank Shugrue , stills photographer; Walter Blumel and David Mathiews, assistant cameramen; Pierre Wilson, assistant film editor; William Swartz, Jack Danskin, and Howard Wilmarth, sound; Babe Stafford, gaffer; George Dalquist, best boy; C. B. Lawrence and Ron Stafford, grips; Tony Lombardo and Charles Chrisman, props; Willard Buell, Richard Cobos, and Brenda Collins, makeup; Tom Costich, Jim Winn, Dorothy Drake, and Viola Thompson, wardrobe; Bill Gowdy, craft service; Richard Seland, painter; Jean Shepherd, production secretary; John Oser, budget.
       A novelization of the screenplay, written by Richard Wormser and published by Dell, was released 6 Jul 1966, as reported in that day’s NYT. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
20 Sep 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
15 Oct 1965
p. 8.
Daily Variety
21 Oct 1965
p. 10.
Daily Variety
4 Nov 1965
p. 4.
Daily Variety
28 Dec 1965
p. 11.
Daily Variety
29 Dec 1965
p. 4.
Daily Variety
31 Jan 1966
p. 10.
Daily Variety
19 May 1966
p. 3.
Daily Variety
14 Jul 1966
p. 3.
Daily Variety
21 Jul 1966
p. 7.
Daily Variety
19 Aug 1966
p. 3.
Daily Variety
7 Mar 1967
p. 2.
Los Angeles Sentinel
25 Nov 1965
Section B, p. 6.
Los Angeles Sentinel
2 Dec 1965
Section B, p. 6.
Los Angeles Sentinel
6 Jan 1966
Section B, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
4 Aug 1965
Section C, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
17 Oct 1965
Section Q, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
25 Oct 1965
Section C, p. 18.
Los Angeles Times
9 Nov 1965
p. 1, 3.
Los Angeles Times
13 Dec 1965
Section F, p. 29.
Los Angeles Times
28 Dec 1965
Section D, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
23 Jan 1966
Section B, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
23 Jul 1966
p. 23.
Los Angeles Times
2 Aug 1966
Section C, p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
5 Aug 1966
Section C, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
1 Oct 1966
p. 16.
Los Angeles Times
2 Feb 1967
Section C, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
26 May 1967
Section E, p. 12.
New York Times
21 Nov 1965
Section X, p. 11.
New York Times
27 Jun 1966
p. 45.
New York Times
4 Jul 1966
p. 13.
New York Times
6 Jul 1966
p. 39.
New York Times
15 Jul 1966
p. 28.
New York Times
28 Jul 1966
p. 23.
New York Times
31 Jul 1966
p. 77.
New York Times
2 Oct 1967
p. 47.
Variety
4 Aug 1965
p. 17.
Variety
24 Nov 1965
p. 23.
Variety
12 Jan 1966
p. 11.
Variety
25 May 1966
p. 70.
Variety
6 Jul 1966
p. 38.
Variety
20 Jul 1966
p. 5.
Variety
27 Jul 1966
p. 88.
Variety
26 Oct 1966
p. 18.
Variety
4 Jan 1967
p. 8.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
An Alfred Hitchcock Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
Story-scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Pictorial des
COSTUMES
Cost supv
Miss Andrews' cost
MUSIC
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstylist
Miss Andrews' hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit prod mgr
Scr supv
Asst to Mr. Hitchcock
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Iron Curtain
Release Date:
27 July 1966
Premiere Information:
Boston premiere: 14 July 1966
New York opening: 27 July 1966
Los Angeles opening: 3 August 1966
Production Date:
18 October 1965--16 February 1966
Copyright Claimant:
Universal Pictures
Copyright Date:
6 August 1966
Copyright Number:
LP35396
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
128
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

While attending a physicists' congress in Copenhagen, U. S. nuclear scientist Michael Armstrong publicly defects to the Communist side. He flies to East Germany to confer with Russia's top physicist, Prof. Gustav Lindt of Leipzig University, followed by his assistant and fiancée, Sarah Sherman. She learns that Michael's actual plan is to gain information from the professor for furthering U. S. antimissile defense. Aided by members of the East German underground, Michael outwits the Communist security chief, Heinrich Gerhard, and tricks Professor Lindt into divulging his nuclear secrets. Before Michael and Sarah can escape, however, their deception is discovered. Once more the underground goes into action: a woman doctor smuggles them out of Leipzig, other agents transport them to East Berlin on an off-schedule bus, a countess helps them evade the police, and arrangements are made for them to be smuggled aboard a ship transporting a Russian ballet troupe to Sweden. Although the leading ballerina spots them and almost causes their capture, Michael and Sarah elude their pursuers and arrive safely in ... +


While attending a physicists' congress in Copenhagen, U. S. nuclear scientist Michael Armstrong publicly defects to the Communist side. He flies to East Germany to confer with Russia's top physicist, Prof. Gustav Lindt of Leipzig University, followed by his assistant and fiancée, Sarah Sherman. She learns that Michael's actual plan is to gain information from the professor for furthering U. S. antimissile defense. Aided by members of the East German underground, Michael outwits the Communist security chief, Heinrich Gerhard, and tricks Professor Lindt into divulging his nuclear secrets. Before Michael and Sarah can escape, however, their deception is discovered. Once more the underground goes into action: a woman doctor smuggles them out of Leipzig, other agents transport them to East Berlin on an off-schedule bus, a countess helps them evade the police, and arrangements are made for them to be smuggled aboard a ship transporting a Russian ballet troupe to Sweden. Although the leading ballerina spots them and almost causes their capture, Michael and Sarah elude their pursuers and arrive safely in Stockholm. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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