Saturday, September 28, 2013

Reel Connections: Disney's Cruella De Vil in "101 Dalmatians" (1961): A Touch of Tallulah Bankhead

I've always had a soft spot in my heart for 101 Dalmatians because it's the first movie that I ever remember watching. Whenever I picture that VHS flickering away on that old boxy TV, I can't help but having a moment of... I don't know, joy. I've looked long and hard for a way to bring 101 Dalmatians into the blog, and I think I finally found the way.
If you haven't been able to tell from my previous Edna Mode (The Incredibles) and Evil Queen (Snow White) post, and even my most recent Prince Charming (Cinderella) post, I am fascinated by character inspiration and the connections one can make between art, pop culture, and animated characters.  So, when I did a little research, I was pleasantly surprised to find such a connection in 101 Dalmatians. Furthermore, this connection dealt with one of my favorite movie villains: Cruella de Vil.
At this point, I have to make a confession. Unlike most posts, where I come upon connections on my own, in this one I relied on two distinct points of research that act as my chief sources: production notes available on the web and a post from the great Disney blog "Deja View" about the character development of Cruella as seen through various sketches. The latter is especially a great read and I encourage you to follow the link and read his stuff- it's really very interesting if you are interested in the Disney creative process.
Original Book Illustration
Like most Disney characters, Cruella is not purely, original-Disney, she is an adapted character. Originally she appeared in the source material, Dodie Smith's children's book of the same title, One Hundred and One Dalmatians. I've never read the book, but as any student knows, the beauty of the internet is that you don't have to. As far as I can tell, Cruella originally appeared as a cold, tasteless washed-out heiress character with some evil aspirations. I've included an original an original illustration for your viewing.
Davis working with Betty Lou Gerson
As you can tell, this is very far from what Disney's Cruella would end up looking like. Disney loved the story when he first read it and he bought the rights in 1957, a year after the novel was first published. He then gave future-children's book illustrator, Bill Peet, the task of writing the story. Eventually, the task of creating the villain for the film was given to legendary animator Marc Davis.
Davis was apparently inspired, by of all people, legendary actress and diva Tallulah Bankhead. Tallulah was well known in Hollywood during her long career for her incessant smoking, her exaggerated gestures and her deep voice. When I first read this, I began viewing Cruella from a new light, or in fact, I started trying to view her from any perspective at all. Cruella the Maniac, simply became Cruella the Deranged Film Star.

Think about it, the obvious and obnoxious showing off of her wealth, her Rolls Royce Phantom, her constant smoking, her bizarre fashion statements, and her obvious contempt for those "below" her. From this description, Cruella almost sounds like Norma Desmond's British cousin.
I would say this Hollywood-attitude can be supported rather well by some of Davis' earlier sketches. Cruella looks less insane. She has, of course, the black and white plaits that Smith wrote her with, but she has almost a sort of elegance. Perhaps even a touch of sensuality. It's here, in these early sketches, that I feel the Tallulah influence can be justified. Remember how I mentioned in my Snow White post, that the Queen was said, by some, to have been inspired by Joan Crawford to add elements of attractiveness to the villain. I would say that the same logic applies here.

Gradually, Cruella becomes more and more recognizable to the modern audience. At first, Davis seemed to gradually abandon the attractive villain approach and instead turned to a laughable one. But he also seemed to quickly abandon that approach as well and turned more to an insane Cruella, the one we know and love, or at least love to hate, today.
As you can tell, Cruella's features became more exaggerated. I would say this is a result of Davis' collaboration with the live action model, Mary Wickes, and the voice artist, Betty Lou Gerson, who together would help finally create the gestures and voice of the villain that we are so familiar with. In case you didn't know, Disney often hired live action models to act out his animated scenes to help inspire animators.
Literally engulfed in flames, with crazed expression, Cruella becomes the
classical embodiment of evil, living up to her name. 
I think the chief element that Davis added to his original sketches was just pure exaggeration. Cruella's features became sharp, and larger than believable (while Roger and Anita seem fairly normal). Her coat's size and cigarette's length defy logic. Her broad, sweeping gestures are the expressions of a madwoman. Which is obviously the point- Cruella is deranged to the point of parody. She has lost every inch of sophistication that appeared in the novel and clings desperately onto her last artifact of her class. The end result is both terrifying and absolutely fascinating. When she appears on the screen, you don't dare look away.
The demon-phone, the fire-inspired color scheme and the maniacal laugh-
elements that Davis uses to paint Cruella as a modern devil
and terrifying villain. 
I find it absolutely incredible to see the incredible process of the creation of a character like this, from its original illustrated stage to the character we know on the screen. While I enjoy discussing the motivations of Davis' approach, I can't come near to "Deja View"s logistical, visual post. If you enjoy this, I encourage you again to read the post. 
I think it's in those final moments we have with Cruella that Davis' character becomes fully realized. She no longer even clings to the sheen of glamour, she is pure, crazed insanity. How terrifying was it when you first watched her transform into the literal "devil" and drive after those puppies. Davis' Cruella reminds that all that glitters, or perhaps only tries to glitter, is not gold. Wealth is not goodness, riches lead to downfall, greed leads to destruction: these are classic and timeless morals that are embodied in the conclusion of the Cruella story. The pursuit of such things, Disney warns to his young audience, may be more (wonderfully) terrible than you can possible imagine. Or at least, imagine with the help of creative geniuses like Walt Disney, Bill Peet, and, especially, Marc Davis.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Reel Connections: Disney's "Cinderella" (1950) from the Hapsburg perspective

The other night, I saw Disney's classic Cinderella (1950) for the first time in many, many years. Probably, too many. I of course enjoyed it tremendously. How could you not? It features some of the best music that even appeared in a Disney film (in my opinion) by Mack David, Jerry Livingston and Al Hoffman. It has an incredible voice cast, topped by the lovely Ilene Woods. The story is, of course, to die for. And with its beautiful animation drawn by Marc Davis, Eric Larson, and Milt Kahl among others, Cinderella has a certain elegant grace that makes it a timeless film.
It was the animation that really struck me when I saw Cinderella. There was a certain element of sophistication that I simply loved. And because I loved it, I began doing some outside research in an attempt to find the inspiration for the design. And then it hit me- there was a profoundly Hapsburg influence!
Stick with me for a while and give me a chance to explain. I know it sounds absolutely ludicrous, but, as usual, I'll have the visual evidence to back me up. In case you're not up on your European History, the Hapsburgs were the imperial dynasty that ruled the Austrian Empire for centuries. I usually think of the Hapsburgs in their later years, before the utterly destructive World War I, in the later 19th century. I think of Franz Josef, of beautiful Vienna, and Strauss' timeless waltzes.
 A young Franz Josef I
Portrait ca. 1851 by Johan Ranzi
It was the thoughts of Emperor Franz Josef that really got me thinking. And when I began looking up some 19th century Austrian imperial portraiture I realized why. Prince Charming and the King are both based highly on this style.
Prince Charming appears highly influenced upon the younger portraits of Franz Josef and even some of his sons. Just look at the uniform, the hair, the bearing. I think that cream-colored tunic with gold trim and red and gold pants look a little suspect. Not to mention the fairly obvious imitation of the style of clothing. If Disney had included a red and white sash for the prince, the subtle allusion would become much more obvious, don't you think.

When you think of it from this angle, the King also shares these similarities. And from similarities, I mainly am alluding to Franz Josef's prominent mutton chops that he wore later in his life, as well as the uniform. While I doubt that the noble emperor had the temper of the king in Cinderella... who knows?

As an aside, I also noticed this time a fleeting look at some animated Dresden Shepherd china figures. The Dresden Shepherds (and Shepherdesses) were a popular China design that appeared throughout Europe starting at the end of the 18th century and they have generally remained pretty popular because of their cute, elegant appeal. Dresden, as you may know, was an important and noted china manufacturer in Germany prior to its devastating destruction in World War II. The king uses the lovely figurines to show how he's going to set the prince and his soon-to-be bride together. His improbable (but actually successful) plan seems as fragile as the china figurines he's using as a demonstration.
Whether Mary Blair, a Disney pioneer who is often considered one of the driving forces in the iconic look and design of Cinderella, did this purposely will probably be forever unknown. Charles Perrault's fairy tale which served as the version of the story that Disney adapted, took place in 17th century France, while Disney's Cinderella is almost certainly 19th century Continental European. I like to think that the animators, seeking to encapsulate an elegant world of fleeting beauty, looked to the bygone Austrian Empire and the graceful sophistication that its monarchs embodied, as their inspiration. As you know, when it comes to art and film, I rarely believe in coincidences and I strongly support the idea that art and film are so interconnected it is hard to believe. Regardless of the inspiration behind the characters, the end result is undoubtedly fantastic and as timeless as ever.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

MoMA Exhibit: Hopper to O'Keefe: Hitchcock connections

Yesterday, I visited the Museum of Modern Art in NYC for the first time yesterday. I can't belief I waited this long to go. (Well, the admission price can explain part of that...) Anyhow, while there I was thrilled to see that they were showing a special exhibit of American Modern artists, featuring especially the work of Georgia O'Keefe and my personal favorite artist, Edward Hopper.
The House by the Railroad
by Edward Hopper (1925)

Lo and behold, what do I see while perusing but House by the Railroad. If you remember from a previous post, that painting is said to have been Hitchcock's inspiration for designing the Bates House in Psycho. When I told my friend who were with me (and consequently a little less art-in-film savvy), they were pretty impressed by the similarities. I have to say though, the painting was just spectacular in person, much more vividly real than any picture can convey.
Night Windows
by Edward Hopper (1928)
MoMA's collection of Hopper was very impressive. They had a lot of sketches he did of generally rural areas. But, what really struck my eye was a painting showing a view of a lonely, lovely woman through her apartment window. I was immediately reminded of, what else but Rear Window, my favorite film. Perhaps its unlikely, but I wondered whether Hitchcock, already proven to be inspired by Hopper's work, saw this painting and was inspired in the making of Rear Window. This particular painting, Night Windows (1928) reminded me especially of the lovely "Miss Torso" in Hitchcock's masterpiece. And if you really consider it, Edward Hopper's work shares the voyeurism that appears in many Hitchcock films, such as Rear Window, but more importantly conveys the loneliness and isolation that individuals felt in the city: such a key theme in the movie. It's worth thinking about. One of the most interesting reads for Hitchcock lovers, "Alfred Hitchcock Geek" did a very broad analysis of Hopper's influence on Hitch which I encourage you to read in the link I have attached for your convenience. I found it extremely enlightening. 
"Miss Torso"
Rear Window (1954)
I know this is just a short little post, but I thought that all you Hitchcock-lovers would enjoy it nevertheless. Perhaps I'm just trying to connect my favorite artist with  my favorite director, but then again, considering the coincidences, perhaps not. And of course, as a final note, I encourage you to get to MoMA if you can. It is certainly worth your while.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Blackmail pt 2: Allusions to the Future

In my last post, I noted the large role that the murdered artist's painting of a jester played in Hitchcock's Blackmail (1929). The jester served as an omniscient role, accusing the respective characters and mocking the ignorance of others. If you missed the post-I'll include a link here.
Blackmail was not only exceptional because of the role this painting had. Rather, I found Blackmail more exceptional because it included elements that would appear famously in later, more well-known Hitchcock films. I've decided to include a few instances of that here.
It is, of course, no surprise that Hitchcock would use the same motifs and elements in films over and over again. In fact, it is very well known that certain basic themes run through many Hitchcock films: the cool blonde, the mother, the wronged man... you know what I'm talking about. I'll admit, I'm not very well versed in my early Hitch and it's possible that the elements I'm going to include below were present in earlier films and later in other later films. I'm offering a sampling of repeating elements that I've recognized.

1. The Cool and Dangerous Blonde: Alice and Marnie
The Hitchcock blonde is perhaps one of the most famous repeating elements of Hitchcock's films, or classic cinema in general. Their names are now world-renowned, usually because of Hitch's superb direction: first Madeline Carroll, then later Grace Kelly, Kim Novak, Doris Day, and Tippi Hendren. In Blackmail, the leading lady, Anny Ondra, is not merely an woman desired, she is a woman with a dark, murderous secret. More then twenty years later, Hitch would play with that same theme in Marnie (1964).
Marnie (Tippi Hendren) also committed an unintentional murder against a sexually aggressive man, not unlike Crewe in Blackmail. Marnie also becomes obsessed by all red-objects, which send her into an reverted, agressive state. In a lesser manner, the painting of the jester has the same effect of Alice. When she sees it again towards the end of the film, she is filled with anxiety and guilt. Granted, in Blackmail the degree of crime and anxiety is much lesser, but it's clearly there. In Blackmail and later in Marnie, Hitch suggested that more than simply passion existed below his cool, beautiful blonde's exteriors.

2. The Bird's Eye Stairs
Blackmail (1929)
In Blackmail I noticed a technical shot that would be repeated with varying nuances throughout Hitch's career. Hitch, as you probably know, originated many film techniques through his career and I believe this bird's eye shot was one of them. I think Hitch loved the flat look of people climbing or descending stairs, as it appeared from above. It's interesting to see how and where's its appeared over the years and with what effect.
Vertigo (1958)

Famously, Hitch would add a major nuance to this style shot in Vertigo (1958). The original angle can be traced to Hitch's early films like Blackmail while the dolly effect that became so famous in Vertigo was unique to that film.
Psycho (1960)
Later still, Hitch would use a similar angle in Psycho (1960) when Martin Balsam's character is killed. Remember: he's climbing up the steps, and all of a sudden you see the stairs from what appears to be the ceiling and... whoops- he's dead!
North by Northwest (1959)
The angle, minus the stairs is also used in North by Northwest 1959) when Hitch uses a similar bird's eye view to show the cars leaving the United Nations. Or rather, that wondrous matte of the UN.

3. The Monument Chase: Pharaohs vs. Presidents 
Blackmail (1929)
Despite my love of the "painting shots" in Blackmail, historically, the most famous shots are a chase scene that occur near the end of the film. Tracy, the blackmailer of Alice has become the chief suspect of Scotland Yard and is on the run. He rushes through the British Museum, sprinting past the unsympathetic eyes of the pharaohs and scaling a rope in front of a gigantic Egyptian head. Finally, just as he is about to tell the truth about his innocence, he crashes through the glass dome of the British Museum's reading room. It's a series of absolutely magnificent and dramatically stirring shots played in front of recognizable historical icons.
North by Northwest (1959)
Years later in Hollywood, Hitch Americanized this theme in North by Northwest when the chase scene at the end of that film has the heroes and villains scaling Mount Rushmore, an iconic American monument in the style of the mammoth Egyptian sculpture pictured in the British Museum. Once again, the heroes struggle in front of the unsympathetic eyes of historical and literal giants.

4. The Devilishly Shadowy Gentleman: A study in visual juxtaposition 
Blackmail (1929)
This one is a stretch, but I noticed this very striking scene in Hitchcock and then realized that it may have been a forerunner to a much more famous scene. While Crewe is "entertaining" Alice in his studio, there's a moment when shadows appear on his face. It gives him this rather devilish appearance for a brief moment before he returns to his usual "charming" self.
Psycho (1960)
When I started thinking of it, I was reminded of the closing scene of Psycho (1960), when the image of "Mother" is juxtaposed on Norman's face. I'm sure you're familiar with that absolutely terrifying shot. This comparison is slim to say the least, but it's worth noting.
Barney Oldfield's Race for Life (1913)
A Max Sennett comedy
While I was struck by Crewe's brief, almost demonic look, Hitch later would say he attempted to make the shadows look like a curled mustache that was a hallmark of the silent movie villain. He called it his farewell to the silent movie era by paying homage, even in his first talkie, to this common silent element.

5. The "Ghost" Painting
Blackmail (1929)
The Jester: The presence of Crewe 
If we return to the beginning of my "Art in Film" theory, you'll recall that many portraits and paintings that appear in films signify a ghostly presence of a deceased character. I'm concluding my musings on Blackmail with where I started: the jester painting. I noted how the audience is given the role of the accusatory jester. But, when I started examining the film again I realized how complicated the role of the jester painting is. To Alice, the painting not only personifies the guilt she feels after the murder and her own conscience's response to such actions, it also represents the presence of Crewe, the artist who created the work of art and who was murdered by his unwilling "lover" (deservedly, I may add).
Rebecca (1940)
The Presence of the dead Rebecca
Right now, I can't think of another instance where the painting represents the deceased creator but the use of the "ghost painting" signifying the dead is certainly not unique to Hitchcock. It's an element repeated again and again throughout film history, as you've seen in this blog. Of note, I'll mention the Rebecca portrait which serves as a reminder of Rebecca to the second Mrs. de Winter, even though the painting itself does not portray Rebecca. Like I said, this is not a Hitchcockian innovation. But it is worth remembering that Hitch did innovate countless techniques and styles in film, including some I've mentioned here.

If you feel I missed anything- comment and let me know!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Jester Painting in Hitchcock's "Blackmail" (1929)

I'm very happy to say that I have finally returned to Hitchcock again, after waiting almost two months to post about a Hitch masterpiece after my "Master of Images" month of Hitchcock. It wasn't easy, and I have to admit that I did slip into a few innocent re-watchings, but I feel I can now guilelessly have another Hitchcock post. So, here we go.
When I was looking back on the past Hitchcock films that I've written about, I noticed that I had a dearth in posts about Hitchcock's early British career. I'm ashamed to admit it's only been in the last couple months, when I started really getting seriously "academic about Hitchcock- reading the Truffaut interviews and other opinions and such- that I began making an effort to watch his early silent and talking pictures. And, of course, I was not disappointed. How could you be? Even in his early films, even in silent films like The Lodger, those classic Hitchcock touches are there (but more on that in the next post). Unfortunately, until recently, I wasn't able to find a subject in one of these early Hitch films to post about. Until now.
That's because I watched Hitchcock's (and Britain's) first successful talkie, Blackmail (1929). When I researched the production history, I discovered that the film's production has (wonderfully) a ring of Singin in the Rain to it. Hitch originally planned on shooting the film silently and cast the Czech actress Anny Ondra as his leading lady. Beautiful and sophisticated, the cool blonde Ondra seems like a perfect silent leading lady for Hitch. But her thick Slavic accent made her position as the talking star a little less desirable. When Hitch decided to shoot the film with sound, he needed a replacement for Anny's voice. Without dubbing technology, the problem was resolved by having another actress, Joan Barry, speak the words off camera while Anny mouthed the words on screen. It's really quite ingenious, if not a little crude. But back to the film.
Hitch and Ondra on the set for Blackmail (1929)
When you watch Blackmail, you realize that Hitchcock's career had matured noticeably, so that even by '29 many classic Hitchcock elements are apparent. I'm going to concentrate on that aspect in the next post, but just to mention a few: Blackmail features a cool blonde with a dark secret, sexual drama, a wronged man, and several dramatic shots that Hitch would become famous for. Another aspect that I wanted to note was Hitch's inclusion of a painting as an important plot device. While less famous than other Hitchcock paintings, say Vertigo or Rebecca, the painting in Blackmail features much more screen time, and much more importance.
Crewe lets the naive Alice into his studio
Blackmail tells the story of a lovely blonde, Alice (Ondra), who unwittingly leads on a bed-minded artist, Crewe (Cyril Ritchard). Crewe leads the naive Alice to his studio, amuses her for a while, and then, when the pretty dumb Alice realizes whats going on and what Crewe wants, she tries to leave. However, Crewe had already made his plans and tries to rape her. In self-defense, she murders him and then the film deals with how her and her police-boyfriend Frank (John Longden) deal with the aftermath. It's extremely well done and contains several memorable images and moments that I'll leave you to watch for yourself.
Hitch's cameo appears early on in the film as a passenger on the train

Crewe, as I stated, is an artist (that low-down, immoral group!) and consequently and very unsurprisingly, his "studio" contains some art. For one, there is a blank canvas which Alice paints a smiley face on, which Crewe (abandoning all efforts of subtlety) paints a naked woman's body on. But more importantly, there is this painting of a jester laughing which Alice notices initially as she nervously enters the studio. This is where you, the reader, should get all excited because this means analysis is coming.
Alice initially laughs at the painting that will become an important
thematic element and motif throughout the film. 

Throughout the film, this one painting appears and reappear throughout with differing meanings. As far as film history paintings go, this is probably the most important early example I've come across so far. What I'm going to do is to analyze scene by scene what the meaning of this painting is.

1. Alice initially views the Painting: The Naive vs. the Cosmopolitan
The Blackmail jester painting (detail)
As I said, Alice initially sees the painting and laughs at the humorous picture of a funny little man laughing and pointing. Even in this early moment, Hitchcock puts the viewer in the place of the painting. Throughout the film, the audience is omniscient, and the way the painting is used and reused, it is suggested that the painting also knows whats going on.
Crewe's actions, song, and painting all lead viewers to realize her true,
less than honorable intentions. 
In this case, we (the painting and the viewer) know what Crewe's intentions are. Alice is blithely unaware that by entering the man's room late at night she is expected by Crewe to... return the hospitality, if you will. She is the innocent virgin, while we, the audience, with greater knowledge of worldly matters, can foresee what is to come. We are put in the Jester's place. We're laughing at Alice because she's so unaware. She thinks this is all an exciting adventure and game... but the joke's on her. Or so we think. Through the painting, Hitch makes fun of his leading lady's ignorance and lets the audience understand that a pretty serious "joke" is about to be played on Alice.

2. Alice after the murder: The Personification of Guilt
The famous, post-murder scene
Alice (Ondra) holding the knife, emerges from the bed

Eventually, after an unwanted passionate kiss, Alice finally realizes whats going on and decides to leave. Crewe has other plans however. He throws her dress and when she tries to retrieve it and leave, he forces her into his bed. As an aside, a modern moral of Blackmail is that date-rape is never a good idea. Because, Crewe, instead of having a willing lover, gets knifed by the poor, virginal Alice.
Alice's dress initially obscures the painting
She emerges from the bed and stares, obviously shocked at the camera. I'm sorry, but the main thing that strikes me through Blackmail is that Alice has to be the biggest idiot ever: forget the Hitchcock blonde, Alice fulfills another blonde stereotype. The magnitude of her actions doesn't really strike her right away, but when it does, she realizes (by viewing the cop outside) that she has to go. So, she begins gathering her things. She goes to her dress, which coincidentally is hanging over the jester painting.
In anger at herself, at the painting's silent, mocking accusation,
Alice lashes out at it. 
First, to show that she's angry, she punches the canvas- real mature Alice. But the next scene is this simply perfect Hitchcock moment. She lifts her dress off the obscured painting, and with the same effect of a curtain opening, the painting once again is clear to the viewer. And what is the result? Obviously, the jester is still laughing and pointing at Alice. But this time, the jester's role is different. He points to her, laughing at her crime, laughing at her future fate when her crime is discovered. Most importantly, he's laughing because he knew this was going to happen all along.
In one of the best shots of the film, Alice stares at the camera,
as the jester laughs on. 

3. Frank: The unwitting accomplice

Frank studies the painting, just as Alice did, when he
first enters the studio. 
Let's fast-forward the film to the part where the police finally find out about Crewe's murder and search his studio for clues. Frank, Alice's on/off boyfriend is (of course) put on the case. He also notices and examine's the (now-damaged) painting of the jester. This time, the omniscient jester is laughing at Frank because he/we know that the culprit of this crime is none other than the object of Frank's love. "If only you knew," laughs the joker, "you poor idiot, getting mixed up with a stupid, idiot girl." Of course, the dialogue is all implied but trust me, if you've seen the movie, you'll know what I'm talking about.
Frank realizes the truth about Alice's involvement with the murder,
as subtly, the jester laughs in the background. 

4. The Inspector: the stereotypical thick-headed detective

The painting is brought into the inspector's office
Fast-forward again. Now, Frank and Alice are in it together and they're being blackmailed. Meanwhile, back in Scotland Yard, the police have received a tip of a possible culprit. The cogs of the investigative machine begin moving, and finally the chief-inspector decides that they have their man. As he starts the manhunt, the painting of the jester, which was brought in earlier, sits behind him, pointing and laughing at the irony of the whole situation. Not only does the police force have it wrong, the very man on the case is implicated it in.
In almost an identical shot to Alice's post-murder scene,
the smug inspector is secretly laughed at by the omniscient painting
Throughout all these situations, Hitchcock is using the jester to tell the audience how, if they were in a particularity cynical mood, they should be reacting to the events transpiring. Without the murder, its a simple comedy of errors, with all the characters ignorant about the truth of the matter, leaving only the audience (and the jester) to shake our heads at the incompetence.

5. Guilt, re-visited, for Good

The film concludes with Alice's failed attempt to turn herself in. As she and Frank decide that they will just live with the guilt themselves, what comes by but a police officer carrying the painting. Alice shirks back, reminded of the night of the murder, reminded of her actions, and reminded that she alone is the true culprit, now responsible for two deaths, not just one. The jester still laughs and accuses, as if to say, "You think you got away with it, but I know!" And of course, it's implied that the weak character of Alice, which has already been established, probably not be able to live with the guilt of her actions. Legally, she isn't punished, but all signs (and paintings) point to the fact that she will be crushed under the pressure of her guilt.
Alice tries to live with her crime. 
It's a deeply unsatisfying ending, an innocent man is framed and a murderer escapes all under our very noses, but the ending is so satisfying. The repeated motif of guilt, ignorance and the painting is just such a perfect Hitchcock ending, its hard to dislike.
A final shot of the painting, it's brought away, reminding the audience
and Alice of the truth. 
The next question is obviously where is this painting now? The response is: I simply don't know. I searched the web and some film journals for it, but I just could not find out who painted the jester, what happened to it and who has it now. It reminds me a little (but not much) of William Merritt Chase's famous painting Keying Up- The Court Jester from that late 19th century because of pretty basic content, but I am sure that Chase didn't paint the Blackmail painting. I would hope that it would not have been destroyed or lost as it is an essential prop of an essential early Hitchcock, but that would be assuming that Hollywood made sense, which would be a demonstration of naivete as great as Alice's.
Keying Up- the Court Jester
William Merritt Chase

More on Blackmail in my next post. 
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