Spy Games: The Prize (1963)

For my third installment of Spy Games I thought I’d take a look at Mark Robson’s THE PRIZE (1963) starring Paul Newman, Elke Sommer, Edward G. Robinson and Diane Baker. Last year The Warner Archives made THE PRIZE available on DVD for the first time and their release of this chic espionage film is commendable. I don’t know if the film has ever looked or sounded better but it definitely benefits from Warner’s careful restoration. It’s the perfect popcorn movie for a slow Saturday night if you’re willing to endure a few stiff line readings and bypass Robson’s uneven direction. The film’s appeal lies in its ability to dazzle the senses and entertain audiences without ever taking itself too seriously.

THE PRIZE was based on a bestselling novel by Irving Wallace and scripted by Alfred Hitchcock collaborator, Ernest Lehman. Besides writing NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959) and FAMILY PLOT (1976) for Hitchcock, Lehman also adapted many successful stage plays and musicals for the screen including THE KING AND I (1956), WEST SIDE STORY (1961), THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965) and WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? (1966). Lehman was capable of writing smart amusing scripts with plenty of twists and turns. And THE PRIZE will undoubtedly remind many viewers of an Alfred Hitchcock film even if it never reaches the baroque heights of Hitchcock’s best work. But Mark Robson was also a talented director and THE PRIZE has a lot going for it, including an attractive cast, nice location photography and a terrific jazz influenced score by composer Jerry Goldsmith.

This glossy cold war thriller takes place in Stockholm while the country prepares to hand out awards to recent Nobel Prize winners. One of the recipients is the handsome hard-drinking author Andrew Craig (Paul Newman). Craig’s renowned around the world for his anti-fascist novel “The Imperfect State” but he secretly writes pulp detective stories to help pay the bills. He’s in Sweden to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature but Craig isn’t interested the prestigious award as much as the $50,000 financial gift that accompanies it. The Swedish embassy doesn’t appreciate Craig’s blasé attitude or his well-publicized drinking problem so they’ve assigned a beautiful blond escort named Inger Lisa Andersson (Elke Sommer) to keep him in line while he’s visiting their country. When these two unlikely lovebirds meet sparks begin to fly but the fun doesn’t last long.

Soon after Craig’s arrival he meets another Nobel Prize recipient, Dr. Max Stratman (Edward G. Robinson). Dr. Stratman is a German physicist who sought refuge in the United States after WW2 and he’s accompanied by his pretty niece (Diane Baker) who also has eyes for Andrew Craig. But before the award ceremony can take place Dr. Stratman is kidnapped by Eastern Bloc spies who replace him with his long lost look-a-like brother. These communist sympathizers plan to accept the Nobel Prize in Dr. Stratman’s behalf then publicly denounce the West while tricking everyone into believing that the good doctor has defected. Paul Newman’s character ends up caught in the middle of this espionage plot when he jokingly mentions that Dr. Stratman might be an imposter during an international news conference. Afterward he finds himself being chased all over Stockholm by ruthless spies who will do anything to keep the doctor’s real identity a secret.

Like many of the best spy films, THE PRIZE is obsessed with the idea of mistaken identity and our inability to get at the truth. People believe that Newman’s character is a highbrow novelist but he’s really a crime writer eager to make a quick buck. Edward G. Robinson introduces himself as a patriotic doctor but he’s soon replaced by a communist kidnapper. His pretty niece might be an innocent bystander or she could be in cahoots with the enemy. And these are just some of the main characters! The rest of the cast is just as perplexing. Kevin McCarthy and Sergio Fantoni play two dueling Nobel Prize winning scientists who may or may not have stolen ideas from one another in order to get their award. And Micheline Presle and Gérard Oury appear as a Nobel prize-winning couple that may or may not be cheating on one another. What’s truth and what’s illusion in THE PRIZE? And why should we care? The film seems to want us to second-guess the entire movie while questioning the idea of rewarding individuals for their vaguely defined claims to fame.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the film is the way it deals with adult sexuality in 1963. Throughout the sixties Sweden was considered one of the international leaders in the worldwide sexual revolution. The “swinging Swedes” had a reputation for making pornographic films while engaging in all kinds of explicit activities, which were often referred to as “the Swedish sin.” We now know that the truth about this Nordic country was more complex and less titillating than imagined. But THE PRIZE seems to enjoy exploiting America’s kinky obsession with Sweden.

Andrew Craig (Paul Newman): “Miss Anderson will you marry me?”
Inger Lisa Andersson (Elke Sommer): “We have a saying in Sweden. Why settle for one dish when there’s smorgasbord?”

In one particularly funny scene, Paul Newman’s character is forced to hide out with a group of Swedish nudists after he’s pursued by some would-be assassins. The film playfully approaches the subject by having the nudists’ discretely hidden in shadows or standing behind various objects so the intimate parts of their bodies are just out of sight. Besides featuring lots of erotic humor, THE PRIZE also contains philandering husbands and sexually aggressive female characters that practically throw themselves at Paul Newman’s feet. And who can blame them? Newman looks incredible in the movie and spends a good portion of the film wearing nothing but a towel when he’s not sporting a tightly tailored suit.

Newman has great chemistry with all of his female costars but his sexy scenes with Elke Sommer are particularly memorable. The two stars seem at ease with one another and they make a stunning couple. When they’re on screen together it’s hard to take your eyes off them. Sommer’s acting was occasionaly hindered by her thick German accent and she was repeatedly cast in ditzy blond roles or forced to play second fiddle to less interesting actresses. But Sommer really gets to shine in THE PRIZE and her natural charisma makes you easily forgive her acting limitations. Other standout performances include Edward G. Robinson who does a terrific job of playing duel characters with clashing personalities and Diane Baker is effective as his love hungry niece. The following year Baker appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s MARNIE (1964) while Paul Newman would go on to star in Hitchcock’s TORN CURTAIN (1966), which deals with similar themes explored in Mark Robson’s film.

THE PRIZE is a sleek confectionary creation that occasionally dazzles the eyes and ears but might leave you feeling hungry for something more fulfilling later. But it’s a wonderful example of a particular type of sleek ‘60s spy romp that rarely gets made anymore and if it does, it usually lacks a charming leading man as effortlessly appealing as Paul Newman. The film is available at Amazon.com or you can purchase it directly from the Warner Archive.

0 Response Spy Games: The Prize (1963)
Posted By Juana Maria : March 8, 2012 6:13 pm

Personally, I think Newman shines radiantly in all his fims, however he is really gorgeous here! I like this movie better than “Torn Curtain” and I think the film is somewhere between that one and “The Man who Knew Too Much”(the one with Jimmy Stewart & Doris Day), since I haven’t really seen the earlier version. It is similiar to other chase movies I call them, like “North by Northwest” and “Charade”. Those are all so exciting.

Posted By Juana Maria : March 8, 2012 6:13 pm

Personally, I think Newman shines radiantly in all his fims, however he is really gorgeous here! I like this movie better than “Torn Curtain” and I think the film is somewhere between that one and “The Man who Knew Too Much”(the one with Jimmy Stewart & Doris Day), since I haven’t really seen the earlier version. It is similiar to other chase movies I call them, like “North by Northwest” and “Charade”. Those are all so exciting.

Posted By John Maddox Roberts : March 8, 2012 6:40 pm

The Prize also features the cadaverous Sacha Pitoeff as a sinister baddie who ends up impaled on the lyre of Orpheus. If he looks familiar, he had a similarly enigmatic and wordless role in “Last Year at Marienbad.”

Posted By John Maddox Roberts : March 8, 2012 6:40 pm

The Prize also features the cadaverous Sacha Pitoeff as a sinister baddie who ends up impaled on the lyre of Orpheus. If he looks familiar, he had a similarly enigmatic and wordless role in “Last Year at Marienbad.”

Posted By sandy ferber : March 9, 2012 10:05 am

I saw this one on the big screen many years ago, at NYC’s old Biograph Theatre. It struck me at the time as a film Hitchcock might have made (like “Charade” and “Arabesque”), and now that I realize the Ernest Lehman connection, I can see why. Thanks for making me see the light, Kimberly!

Posted By sandy ferber : March 9, 2012 10:05 am

I saw this one on the big screen many years ago, at NYC’s old Biograph Theatre. It struck me at the time as a film Hitchcock might have made (like “Charade” and “Arabesque”), and now that I realize the Ernest Lehman connection, I can see why. Thanks for making me see the light, Kimberly!

Posted By Kingrat : March 9, 2012 1:48 pm

Kimberly, thanks for the review of a fun film. What a great collection of stills you put together for us.

Posted By Kingrat : March 9, 2012 1:48 pm

Kimberly, thanks for the review of a fun film. What a great collection of stills you put together for us.

Posted By Juana Maria : March 9, 2012 3:02 pm

The photos are stunning since they contain such lovely people as Elke Sommer and Paul Newman! I have had a huge crush on Newman for years, I guess Joanne Woodward still has to put up with that because her husband still has loving fans. He was gorgeous!! Anyway, this film is so similiar to Hitchcock’s movies. Yes,I do know of Ernest Lehman’s work with Hitchcock. I refer to films that are similiar to Hitchcock movies as “Hitchcockian” probably not a real word. I try to use the word “Dickensian” around my mom and she has no idea what I am talking about!

Posted By Juana Maria : March 9, 2012 3:02 pm

The photos are stunning since they contain such lovely people as Elke Sommer and Paul Newman! I have had a huge crush on Newman for years, I guess Joanne Woodward still has to put up with that because her husband still has loving fans. He was gorgeous!! Anyway, this film is so similiar to Hitchcock’s movies. Yes,I do know of Ernest Lehman’s work with Hitchcock. I refer to films that are similiar to Hitchcock movies as “Hitchcockian” probably not a real word. I try to use the word “Dickensian” around my mom and she has no idea what I am talking about!

Posted By swac : March 9, 2012 4:36 pm

Hmmm…I wonder if the nudist camp scene inspired a similar gag in Blake Edwards’ A Shot in the Dark (also starring Sommmer) which came out a year later?

Posted By swac : March 9, 2012 4:36 pm

Hmmm…I wonder if the nudist camp scene inspired a similar gag in Blake Edwards’ A Shot in the Dark (also starring Sommmer) which came out a year later?

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : March 9, 2012 7:08 pm

Thanks for all the kind comments, folks! Glad you enjoyed the screen caps, Kingrat.

Juana – Re. Newman, me too! Which I think pretty darn clear in my post.

John – Thanks for pointing out, Sacha Pitoeff’s role. I didn’t have time to discuss it but he was perfectly creepy in THE PRIZE. His performance isn’t totally wordless but he’s not much of talker.

Swac – For some reason that scene in SHOT IN THE DARK completely slipped my mind but I think you’re on to something. I suspect Blake Edwards probably saw Elke in this before making his movie.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : March 9, 2012 7:08 pm

Thanks for all the kind comments, folks! Glad you enjoyed the screen caps, Kingrat.

Juana – Re. Newman, me too! Which I think pretty darn clear in my post.

John – Thanks for pointing out, Sacha Pitoeff’s role. I didn’t have time to discuss it but he was perfectly creepy in THE PRIZE. His performance isn’t totally wordless but he’s not much of talker.

Swac – For some reason that scene in SHOT IN THE DARK completely slipped my mind but I think you’re on to something. I suspect Blake Edwards probably saw Elke in this before making his movie.

Posted By Juana Maria : March 9, 2012 8:39 pm

I agree with the connection between the films “The Prize” and “A Shot in the Dark” since they both have the same actress. On the other hand, there are many movies and shows that use nudity for humor. Thanks for writing me back,you have no idea how tempted I was to buy the magazione full of Paul Newman pictures right after his death. Which I didn’t because after all, you can always downloads lots of pictures for free off the Net. I am I too obsessive over Newman? I don’t really care, I still think he is gorgeous!! I love his looks in “Hud” but he was so a jerk! He broke my heart in “Cool Hand Luke”, I first saw that when I was quite young. Throughout life I’d quote the film,especially when working outside. “What we got here is…failure to communicate.” I love that movie but it does break my heart, that one and “Hombre”. I won’t say that “Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid” makes me sad because it doesn’t…I believe with all my heart that they actually get away.Yeah,and then make “The Sting”.Ha ha ha! I loved this article,gracias.

Posted By Juana Maria : March 9, 2012 8:39 pm

I agree with the connection between the films “The Prize” and “A Shot in the Dark” since they both have the same actress. On the other hand, there are many movies and shows that use nudity for humor. Thanks for writing me back,you have no idea how tempted I was to buy the magazione full of Paul Newman pictures right after his death. Which I didn’t because after all, you can always downloads lots of pictures for free off the Net. I am I too obsessive over Newman? I don’t really care, I still think he is gorgeous!! I love his looks in “Hud” but he was so a jerk! He broke my heart in “Cool Hand Luke”, I first saw that when I was quite young. Throughout life I’d quote the film,especially when working outside. “What we got here is…failure to communicate.” I love that movie but it does break my heart, that one and “Hombre”. I won’t say that “Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid” makes me sad because it doesn’t…I believe with all my heart that they actually get away.Yeah,and then make “The Sting”.Ha ha ha! I loved this article,gracias.

Posted By Hecubot : March 10, 2012 9:06 pm

I was also really struck by the chemistry between Elke Sommer and Paul Newman. It just crackled with electricity, and there was a palpable sense that they really enjoyed each other.

Posted By Hecubot : March 10, 2012 9:06 pm

I was also really struck by the chemistry between Elke Sommer and Paul Newman. It just crackled with electricity, and there was a palpable sense that they really enjoyed each other.

Posted By SergioM : March 14, 2012 1:28 am

The Prize is one of my absolute “guilty pleasures” A truly solid piece of work that’s wonderfully entertaining with one of Newman’s most engaging and underrated performances. I was stuck for the longest time watching a badly pan and scan version until I got the Warner Archive DVD last year. The type of film they definitely don’t now how to make anyone. But then again there aren’t any Paul Newmans left anymore

Posted By SergioM : March 14, 2012 1:28 am

The Prize is one of my absolute “guilty pleasures” A truly solid piece of work that’s wonderfully entertaining with one of Newman’s most engaging and underrated performances. I was stuck for the longest time watching a badly pan and scan version until I got the Warner Archive DVD last year. The type of film they definitely don’t now how to make anyone. But then again there aren’t any Paul Newmans left anymore

Posted By dukeroberts : March 16, 2012 6:17 pm

I remember being intrigued from reading the plot synopsis when this came out last year. It sounds kind of like a cross between Foreign Correspondent and North by Northwest. That is certainly not a bad thing. Hey, Sergio! Wanna loan me your copy?

Posted By dukeroberts : March 16, 2012 6:17 pm

I remember being intrigued from reading the plot synopsis when this came out last year. It sounds kind of like a cross between Foreign Correspondent and North by Northwest. That is certainly not a bad thing. Hey, Sergio! Wanna loan me your copy?

Posted By Sergio : March 16, 2012 7:52 pm

I can’t loan you my copy because I loaned it to a friend four months ago or so and he hasn’t returned it yet he liked it so much. I may have to get another copy

Posted By Sergio : March 16, 2012 7:52 pm

I can’t loan you my copy because I loaned it to a friend four months ago or so and he hasn’t returned it yet he liked it so much. I may have to get another copy

Posted By dukeroberts : March 16, 2012 11:21 pm

My best friend had my copy of The French Connection for 13 months several years ago. When he eventually gave it back he said he didn’t even like it that much. Friends suck. I will wait for TCM to show The Prize again.

Posted By dukeroberts : March 16, 2012 11:21 pm

My best friend had my copy of The French Connection for 13 months several years ago. When he eventually gave it back he said he didn’t even like it that much. Friends suck. I will wait for TCM to show The Prize again.

Posted By Harvey Chartrand : March 18, 2012 5:16 pm

It’s too bad Ernest Lehman didn’t write the script for Alfred Hitchcock’s TORN CURTAIN (1966), a turgid, humorless and preposterous Cold War defection story starring a very Method-y Paul Newman, who had zero chemistry with his leading lady Julie Andrews (all wrong for the part). TORN CURTAIN was scripted by Brian Moore (THE LUCK OF GINGER COFFEY). Spy stories were not Moore’s forte. Hitchcock brought in Willis Hall and Keith Waterhouse (co-scripters of BILLY LIAR) to freshen up Moore’s script, to no avail. What a bomb. Even THE DEFECTOR (1966) starring a cadaverous, near-death Montgomery Clift, was a more enjoyable espionage flick than TORN CURTAIN. I saw Mark Robson’s THE PRIZE many years ago and recall that it was a very pleasurable viewing experience. I’d love to sit through it again.

Posted By Harvey Chartrand : March 18, 2012 5:16 pm

It’s too bad Ernest Lehman didn’t write the script for Alfred Hitchcock’s TORN CURTAIN (1966), a turgid, humorless and preposterous Cold War defection story starring a very Method-y Paul Newman, who had zero chemistry with his leading lady Julie Andrews (all wrong for the part). TORN CURTAIN was scripted by Brian Moore (THE LUCK OF GINGER COFFEY). Spy stories were not Moore’s forte. Hitchcock brought in Willis Hall and Keith Waterhouse (co-scripters of BILLY LIAR) to freshen up Moore’s script, to no avail. What a bomb. Even THE DEFECTOR (1966) starring a cadaverous, near-death Montgomery Clift, was a more enjoyable espionage flick than TORN CURTAIN. I saw Mark Robson’s THE PRIZE many years ago and recall that it was a very pleasurable viewing experience. I’d love to sit through it again.

Posted By Sergio : March 18, 2012 6:00 pm

You’re right Torn Curtain is AWFUL (with the exception of the scene when Newman and woman kill the German spy in the cottage) I’ve tried more than once to give it chance but it always defeats me

Posted By Sergio : March 18, 2012 6:00 pm

You’re right Torn Curtain is AWFUL (with the exception of the scene when Newman and woman kill the German spy in the cottage) I’ve tried more than once to give it chance but it always defeats me

Posted By dukeroberts : March 18, 2012 9:26 pm

I agree. Torn Curtain is probably my least favorite Hitchcock. Of course, I haven’t seen Topaz or Family Plot. If I’ve seen Topaz I’ve totally forgotten about it. And yes, the only good scene in Torn Curtain is the killing by oven. It always amazed me how quiet people can be when they’re trying to kill each other. I’d make much more noise if someone were trying to kill me.

Posted By dukeroberts : March 18, 2012 9:26 pm

I agree. Torn Curtain is probably my least favorite Hitchcock. Of course, I haven’t seen Topaz or Family Plot. If I’ve seen Topaz I’ve totally forgotten about it. And yes, the only good scene in Torn Curtain is the killing by oven. It always amazed me how quiet people can be when they’re trying to kill each other. I’d make much more noise if someone were trying to kill me.

Posted By Sergio : March 18, 2012 9:42 pm

I have a genuine bizarre fascination for Topaz. I’ve seen it several times (and I’m talking about Hitch’s original 142 minute version and not the shortened 125 minute version which Hitchock cut after disastrous test previews.) It’s not definitely great or perhaps even good Hitchock and it’s shot in that flat, overlit mid-1960′s TV style which his films had during that period. Eve worse the lead actor the Austrian guy Frederick Stafford is wooden and damn near ruins the film. And yet I find the film somehow very watchable with traces with the old Hitch here and there

Posted By Sergio : March 18, 2012 9:42 pm

I have a genuine bizarre fascination for Topaz. I’ve seen it several times (and I’m talking about Hitch’s original 142 minute version and not the shortened 125 minute version which Hitchock cut after disastrous test previews.) It’s not definitely great or perhaps even good Hitchock and it’s shot in that flat, overlit mid-1960′s TV style which his films had during that period. Eve worse the lead actor the Austrian guy Frederick Stafford is wooden and damn near ruins the film. And yet I find the film somehow very watchable with traces with the old Hitch here and there

Posted By Harvey Chartrand : March 20, 2012 11:20 am

TOPAZ is lesser Hitchcock, but this account of events leading up to the Cuban Missile Crisis and the exposure of a traitor at the highest levels of the French government has much to recommend it: a compelling narrative, a polished screenplay by Samuel Taylor (who knows how to spin an espionage yarn, unlike Brian Moore), best post-Bernard Herrmann-era music score for a Hitchcock film (by Maurice Jarre, so much more stirring than John Addison’s anemic score for TORN CURTAIN), an Oscar-calibre performance by John Vernon as the lovesick Cuban rebel Rico Parra, Karin Dor as a drop-dead gorgeous Cuban double agent, a stellar supporting cast of French players (Michel Piccoli, Philippe Noiret, Dany Robin, Claude Jade, Michel Subor) and familiar American faces from Hitchcock’s TV series, all accomplished character actors (Ben Wright, Edmon Ryan, Lewis Charles, Anna Navarro, Lew Brown, Ray Kellogg). Too bad the leading man is played by Austrian Frozen Dead Zombie Frederick Stafford. (Hitchcock seemed to have great difficulty casting his later films, as his favorite leading men were by then too old, dead and/or retired.) But the competent performances of John Forsythe, Roscoe Lee Browne, John Van Dreelen and Carlos Rivas make up for the black hole created by Stafford. And TOPAZ is not entirely filmed on Universal’s back lot, which TORN CURTAIN was, to ridiculous effect. I’d love to see the full-length version of TOPAZ someday. There seem to be so many different versions of TOPAZ out there to choose from.

Posted By Harvey Chartrand : March 20, 2012 11:20 am

TOPAZ is lesser Hitchcock, but this account of events leading up to the Cuban Missile Crisis and the exposure of a traitor at the highest levels of the French government has much to recommend it: a compelling narrative, a polished screenplay by Samuel Taylor (who knows how to spin an espionage yarn, unlike Brian Moore), best post-Bernard Herrmann-era music score for a Hitchcock film (by Maurice Jarre, so much more stirring than John Addison’s anemic score for TORN CURTAIN), an Oscar-calibre performance by John Vernon as the lovesick Cuban rebel Rico Parra, Karin Dor as a drop-dead gorgeous Cuban double agent, a stellar supporting cast of French players (Michel Piccoli, Philippe Noiret, Dany Robin, Claude Jade, Michel Subor) and familiar American faces from Hitchcock’s TV series, all accomplished character actors (Ben Wright, Edmon Ryan, Lewis Charles, Anna Navarro, Lew Brown, Ray Kellogg). Too bad the leading man is played by Austrian Frozen Dead Zombie Frederick Stafford. (Hitchcock seemed to have great difficulty casting his later films, as his favorite leading men were by then too old, dead and/or retired.) But the competent performances of John Forsythe, Roscoe Lee Browne, John Van Dreelen and Carlos Rivas make up for the black hole created by Stafford. And TOPAZ is not entirely filmed on Universal’s back lot, which TORN CURTAIN was, to ridiculous effect. I’d love to see the full-length version of TOPAZ someday. There seem to be so many different versions of TOPAZ out there to choose from.

Posted By SergioM : March 20, 2012 11:34 am

Universal’s Alfred Hitchcock Collection DVD series has the original 142 minute version along with an informative doc by Leonard Maltin about the problematic making of the film along with the three different endings that Hitchcock shot for the film. And as for your comments about Hitchcock having problem finding suitable leading men I agree. But I suspect that was more to the fact that no major actors wanted to work with him and Hitchcock couldn’t find any big name actor who was willing to put up with him. After his disastrous experience working with Paul Newman on Torn Curtain, that pretty much ended any hope for any big name actor at the time working on a Hitchcock film

Posted By SergioM : March 20, 2012 11:34 am

Universal’s Alfred Hitchcock Collection DVD series has the original 142 minute version along with an informative doc by Leonard Maltin about the problematic making of the film along with the three different endings that Hitchcock shot for the film. And as for your comments about Hitchcock having problem finding suitable leading men I agree. But I suspect that was more to the fact that no major actors wanted to work with him and Hitchcock couldn’t find any big name actor who was willing to put up with him. After his disastrous experience working with Paul Newman on Torn Curtain, that pretty much ended any hope for any big name actor at the time working on a Hitchcock film

Posted By Harvey Chartrand : March 20, 2012 12:34 pm

That’s very sad. Almost a decade earlier, Hitchcock had his pick of great/bankable actors after PSYCHO, guys like Rod Taylor and Sean Connery. Hitchcock assembled a dream cast of English acting talent in FRENZY, but Jon Finch, Barry Foster, Alec McCowen, Billie Whitelaw and Anna Massey weren’t exactly household names in America. (Michael Caine refused Hitchcock’s offer to play the serial killer Bob Rusk, the role taken by Foster.) As for FAMILY PLOT, Hitchcock had to settle for Bruce Dern (the Robert Ryan of his time), vacuous Barbara Harris and William Devane (the poor man’s Jack Nicholson). Devane replaced Roy Thinnes – a TV actor best known for THE INVADERS – in the role of the elusive villain. Hitchcock fired Roy Thinnes because he was, according to the director, too nice to play the jewel thief. Karen Black had a nothing part as Devane’s partner-in-crime. She was on the way down after the mega-flop THE DAY OF THE LOCUST, which she toplined. Karen Black eventually became a scream queen and horror hag, turning up in countless B movies.

Posted By Harvey Chartrand : March 20, 2012 12:34 pm

That’s very sad. Almost a decade earlier, Hitchcock had his pick of great/bankable actors after PSYCHO, guys like Rod Taylor and Sean Connery. Hitchcock assembled a dream cast of English acting talent in FRENZY, but Jon Finch, Barry Foster, Alec McCowen, Billie Whitelaw and Anna Massey weren’t exactly household names in America. (Michael Caine refused Hitchcock’s offer to play the serial killer Bob Rusk, the role taken by Foster.) As for FAMILY PLOT, Hitchcock had to settle for Bruce Dern (the Robert Ryan of his time), vacuous Barbara Harris and William Devane (the poor man’s Jack Nicholson). Devane replaced Roy Thinnes – a TV actor best known for THE INVADERS – in the role of the elusive villain. Hitchcock fired Roy Thinnes because he was, according to the director, too nice to play the jewel thief. Karen Black had a nothing part as Devane’s partner-in-crime. She was on the way down after the mega-flop THE DAY OF THE LOCUST, which she toplined. Karen Black eventually became a scream queen and horror hag, turning up in countless B movies.

Posted By dukeroberts : March 21, 2012 12:39 am

Oh, Harvey…William Devane is the TV version of Jack Nicholson. Michael Ironside is the poor man’s Nicholson. And Robert Ryan was much cooler than Bruce Dern.

Posted By dukeroberts : March 21, 2012 12:39 am

Oh, Harvey…William Devane is the TV version of Jack Nicholson. Michael Ironside is the poor man’s Nicholson. And Robert Ryan was much cooler than Bruce Dern.

Posted By Harvey Chartrand : March 21, 2012 9:03 am

Michael Ironside is the poor man’s Bruce Dern. I came across these comments about Dern on http://www.riverfronttimes.com:
“You need a psycho, get Bruce Dern. He’s gonna deliver — he’s
got that intensity, that look, like he’s about to crack. He really shines in roles like the psycho biker in The Wild Angels, the terrorist in Black Sunday — and it’s really too bad he didn’t get to destroy the Super Bowl in that one. My memory of his roles in the films outweighs my memory of the film itself.”
Dern is great… just not cut out to be a romantic leading man or an A-lister. He was just too damned good at playing psychos. See him in THE ALFRED HITCHCOCK HOUR episode LONELY PLACE (1964), where he casually crushes Teresa Wright’s pet squirrel with his boot. And Dern’s sailor precipitated the trauma that turned MARNIE into a frigid kleptomaniac.

Posted By Harvey Chartrand : March 21, 2012 9:03 am

Michael Ironside is the poor man’s Bruce Dern. I came across these comments about Dern on http://www.riverfronttimes.com:
“You need a psycho, get Bruce Dern. He’s gonna deliver — he’s
got that intensity, that look, like he’s about to crack. He really shines in roles like the psycho biker in The Wild Angels, the terrorist in Black Sunday — and it’s really too bad he didn’t get to destroy the Super Bowl in that one. My memory of his roles in the films outweighs my memory of the film itself.”
Dern is great… just not cut out to be a romantic leading man or an A-lister. He was just too damned good at playing psychos. See him in THE ALFRED HITCHCOCK HOUR episode LONELY PLACE (1964), where he casually crushes Teresa Wright’s pet squirrel with his boot. And Dern’s sailor precipitated the trauma that turned MARNIE into a frigid kleptomaniac.

Posted By dukeroberts : March 22, 2012 1:29 am

I can only think of Bruce Dern as a loathsome villain because he killed the Duke.

Posted By dukeroberts : March 22, 2012 1:29 am

I can only think of Bruce Dern as a loathsome villain because he killed the Duke.

Posted By alfiehiggins : July 18, 2012 10:26 pm

Elke Sommer was perhaps the 60′s most beautiful actress. In this flick she was absolutely perfect, and her chemistry with Paul Newman was awesome.

I have a tattered video tape copy that I pull out and watch once a year, just to fall in love with Elke Sommer once again.

Posted By alfiehiggins : July 18, 2012 10:26 pm

Elke Sommer was perhaps the 60′s most beautiful actress. In this flick she was absolutely perfect, and her chemistry with Paul Newman was awesome.

I have a tattered video tape copy that I pull out and watch once a year, just to fall in love with Elke Sommer once again.

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