Hitchcock’s 50th Film: “Torn Curtain” (1966) starring Paul Newman & Julie Andrews

Prof. Michael Armstrong (Paul Newman- the hottest scientist ever) is heading via boat to Copenhagen to attend a conference w/ his assistant/fiancée, Sarah Sherman (Julie Andrews). Once they arrive, Michael informs her that he’ll be staying for a while and she should go home. Sarah follows him and realizes Michael is actually going to East Germany (behind the Iron Curtain). She is shocked when Michael announces that he’s defecting; the U.S. government cancelled his project after 6 yrs. In truth, Michael is there to get info (which a professional spy couldn’t understand) from another nuclear physicist!

I did not have to act in ‘Torn Curtain’. I merely went along for the ride. I don’t feel that the part demanded much of me, other than to look glamorous, which Mr. Hitchcock can always arrange better than anyone. I did have reservations about this film, but I wasn’t agonized by it. The kick of it was working for Hitchcock. That’s what I did it for, and that’s what I got out of it. -Julie Andrews

The idea behind this film came from the defections of British diplomats (Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean) to the Soviet Union in 1951. Sir Alfred Hitchcock was very intrigued re: Maclean’s life in the Soviet Union, incl. about Melinda Marling (his wife) who followed her husband a year later w/ their three children. In the end, Hitch was so unhappy w/ this movie that he didn’t make a trailer w/ his appearance in it (as was his habit). Bernard Herrmann (composer) wrote an original score, but Universal execs convinced the director on something more upbeat. Hitchcock and Herrmann had a big fight and never worked together again! Steven Spielberg admitted on Inside the Actors Studio (1994) that as a young man he snuck onto the soundstage; he was there for 45 mins. before an assistant producer asked him to leave.

I think Hitch and I could have really hit it off, but the script kept getting in the way. -Paul Newman

The working relationship between Hitch and Newman was problematic; the actor came from a different generation than Cary Grant and James Stewart. He questioned the director re: the script and his characterization, which Hitch later said he found “unacceptable and disrespectful.” As a Method actor, Newman consulted Hitch about his character’s motivations; Hitch replied that his “motivation is your salary.” Also, no romantic chemistry developed between Newman and Andrews (another disappointment to the director). Though the screenplay drags along, the colorful Eastern European supporting actors do fine w/ what they are given. Many critics/viewers recalled the (memorable) killing scene where Gromek fights Armstrong and a housekeeper in the farmhouse.

[1] Pity. I love Hitchcock. There is a detachment here never seen before in a Hitch flick. As if the master was tired or uninterested.

[2] The main thing about Torn Curtain is the photography. It’s full of pretty pictures- one of the most beautifully filmed of all Hitchcock’s films, with lots bold swaths of primary colors and attractive and constantly changing locations…

[3] This was Alfred Hitchcock’s last star vehicle. At the time this was made Julie Andrews was fresh from Mary Poppins and had all kinds of roles offered her. …she and Newman really have no chemistry at all.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

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