Spellbound (1945): Hitchcock Psychoanalythic Thriller, Starring Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman

One of the three pictures Alfred Hitchcock made for Selznick, “Spellbound may not be Hollywood’s first movie about psychoanalysis, but it certainly the first movie to be so explicit about the subject.
Moreover, it’s the first Hollywood picture to use psychoanalysis as the means of solving a crime, rather than as means of committing a person to an institution for therapy.
The film also achieved fame and notoriety due to the original, if strange Salvador Dali dream sequence, which doesn’t really belong in it, and was perceived by some critics as an arty and publicity gimmick.
 
Selznick, then in heavy psychoanalysis himself, has been wanting to make a film about psychotherapy for some time.  To that extent, he commissioned writer Ben Hecht (also in analysis) to pen the scenario for this movie.
 
As a “realistic” vision of psychoanalytic practices, Spellbound is highly problematic, dealing as it is with a therapist who falls for her patient.  Analyst Constance Petersen (Ingrid Bergman) simultaneously treats and makes love to a patient, John Ballantine (Gregory Peck), an amnesiac psychiatrist who’s falsely accused of murdering Dr. Murchison (Leo G. Carroll).
 
Concerned with the commercial prospects of such an enterprise, Selznick insisted that this romance be pumped up from the subtler, more suggestive one Hecht had originally conceived.  
 
The relationship between analyst and analysand is troubled, Hecht’s insertions of Freudian symbolism are both blunt and funny, and even though Bergman’s treatment works and Peck is finally released from his tormenting past, the healing nature of psychotherapy is kept in doubt by the presence of so many unhappy or naive practitioners in the institution where she works. 
 
Indeed, it’s never clear whether Hitchcock, using a reductionist approach to the subject, actually pokes fun at psychoanalysis as a profession. At one point, undertaking a crash analysis of the amnesiac Ballantine, Dr. Brulov (Michael Chekhov) who’s Constance’s mentor, says: “This is a shortcut, but we haven’t much time.”
 
At the peak of her career, right after winning an Oscar for George Cukor’s suspenser “Gaslight,” Ingrid Bergman shines as the solid, wholesome analyst, giving a very likable performance, which helps compensate for the shortcomings in the writing and credibility of the characterization. 
A tad too stiff, Gregory Peck (in his first of two appearances in a Hitchcock picture) is less effective, though.
 
The film includes a captivating dream sequence designed by the famous surrealist painter Salvador Dali, who had made some experimental films in the late 1920s with Spanish director Luis Bunuel. 
 
One of the top-grossing pictures of the year, “Spellbound” exceeded Selznick’s expectations.  Made on a budget of $1.5 million, the movie grossed close to $7 million at the box-office.
Food and Wine
As in other Hitchcock’s films, some scene involve dining and wining.  First, there’s a lunch scene at Twenty One, one of the chic places for  elegant, high consumers. Then there’sa crucial picnic scene , in which Peck and Bergman exchange important information.
 
Oscar Alert
Oscar Nominations: 6
Picture, produced by David O. Selznick  UA (Selznick International Pictures)
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Supporting Actor: Michael Chekhov
Cinematography (b/w): George Barnes
Scoring: Miklos Rozsa
Special effects: Jack Cosgrove, photography.
Oscar Awards: 1
Oscar for Best Original Score–Miklos Rozsa
Oscar Context
Billy Wilder’s “The Lost Weekend” won Best Picture and other Oscars over Hitchcock’s suspense-thriller “Spellbound” and Leo McCarey’s comedy “The Bells of St. Mary’s,” both starring Ingrid Bergman. The other two nominees were the MGM musical “Anchors Aweigh” and Warner’s noir melodrama “Mildred Pierce.”
The most nominated film was “The Bells of St. Mary’s” (8), though it won only one award, for Stephen Dunn’s Sound Recording, perhaps because it was a sequel to “Going My Way,” which swept most of the 1944 Oscars.
Harry Stradling won the Cinematography Oscar for The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Wonder Man received the Special Effects Award.
The winner of the Supporting Actor Oscar was James Dunn for A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
 
Cast
Dr. Constance Petersen (Ingrid Bergman)
Dr. John Ballantine (Gregory Peck)
Dr. Murchison (Leo G. Carroll)
Garmes (Norman Loyd)
Mary Carmichael (Rhonda Fleming)
Old doctor (Michael Chekhov)

Credits:

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Screenplay by Angus MacPhail and Ben Hecht, based on The House of Dr. Edwardes by Hilary Saint George Saunders and Francis Beeding
Music by Miklós Rózsa
Cinematography: George Barnes
Edited by Hal C. Kern
Production: Selznick International Pictures
Distributed by United Artists
Release date: October 31, 1945 (New York); December 28, 1945 (wide)
Running time: 111 minutes
Budget: $1.5 million
Box office: $6.4 million