Posts Tagged ‘Canada Lee’

A motley shipwrecked crew struggles to survive in Hitchcock’s ‘Lifeboat’

March 2, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
March 2, 2015

In the first shot of Lifeboat, Alfred Hitchcock’s 1944 war drama, we see the smokestack of a freighter framed by an infinite expanse of ocean. The opening credits — actually, all of the credits — appear over this image as melodramatic minor chords from a score composed by Hugo Friedhofer play ominously.

After about a minute, with all (all!) the credits having been shown, the camera pulls back slightly. We see that the smokestack is not just framed by the waves — it is sticking out of them, all that protrudes above the surface of a ship that has been torpedoed. Within seconds, the groaning smokestack submerges, and the frame turns almost entirely white as the turbulent water fizzes and churns.

Hitchcock’s camera pans across a carefully curated selection of flotsam. There’s a wooden supply crate, which is labeled as having been shipped from New York. A copy of The New Yorker bobs gently, face up, displaying a seemingly timeless image of Eustace Tilley, the magazine’s top-hatted, monocled mascot. A bag floats quietly, along with some kind of diploma or certificate (one that perhaps bears a six-pointed Star of David), as does an evidently lifeless sailor who wears an flotation vest bearing the insignia of Nazi Germany.

Eventually, the camera lands on Constance Porter sitting alone in a lifeboat. Tallulah Bankhead’s well-to-do journalist could hardly seem more out of place: Draped in a fur coat, Connie calmly smokes a cigarette and grimaces at some imperceptible flaw in her fingernails or her shoe polish or her stocking.

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