And Now Let’s All Agree to Never Discuss This Movie Again

Janet Leigh is TCM’s Star of the Month and that is, to say the least, kind of fitting.  After all, Janet Leigh is the most famous cinematic slasher victim of all time in one of the most famous and influential horror films of all time, Psycho, and this is October, the month most movie writers celebrate the horror film.  Psycho is also the only film for which Leigh was nominated for an Oscar (Best Supporting Actress, by the way, but she lost to Shirley Jones for Elmer Gantry) and practically the only film in which she was ever asked about in interviews.  Boy, I bet she got sick of talking about Psycho.  Frankly, I’m kind of sick of talking about it, too.

Smooth Cement

In case you’re feeling bad for Psycho, don’t.  I love it.  I think it’s one of Hitchcock’s very best and I’m sure there’s plenty to talk about concerning it for years to come.  It’s just I have nothing more to say about it.  At all.  I once did a post here about how you can love a movie so much, and watch it so much, that eventually, even though you still love it, you never want to see it again.  This is a close cousin of that article, only concerning movies that both the creators and the viewers can’t hear about even one more time.  Of course, the most gracious stars, lovely people like Janet Leigh, did and do so without complaint.  She kept talking about Hitchcock and that shower scene for the 10,000th time even though I’m sure any time anyone brought up Psycho she probably screamed louder in her head than she ever did in the movie.  Others looked at things differently.

In Peter Bogdanovich’s book documenting his conversations with Orson Welles, This is Orson Welles, he has a notoriously difficult time getting Welles to discuss Citizen Kane.  It takes months, years, to really get anything good or usable from Welles on the subject because every time Bogdanovich brings it up, Welles moans and changes the subject.  Bogdanovich even relates an amusing story of he and Welles meeting Norman Mailer for lunch and the first thing Mailer said was, “I’m really looking forward to asking you some things about Citizen Kane,” to which Welles replied (I’m paraphrasing here), “Please, God, no!  Anything but that!”  Mailer laughed and said he felt the same way about The Naked and the Dead.

Fay Wray did Doctor X and Mystery of the Wax Museum but she also did King Kong and, well, that was it for her.  As I related here before, Hugh Hefner, when he met Fay Wray, said, “I love your movie!”  He didn’t have to say King Kong, she knew exactly what he was talking about.  For the record, I still have plenty to say about King Kong.  Why I have plenty to say about King Kong and nothing more of value to add to the conversation about Psycho I have no idea.

Alec Guinness made one great movie after another, and plenty of my personal favorites, from all of his work with Ealing and Rank to all of his work with David Lean but when you type in his name on IMDB, you see this:


Guinness’ contempt for Star Wars was well known and given the depth and breadth of his film work, it’s easy to see why.  After decades of truly phenomenal screen acting, all he ever heard was “You’re Obi-Wan Kenobi!”  At the same time, he appreciated it, too, and made note in his autobiography that his percentage deal on Star Wars allowed him to live out his days utterly free of financial worry and able to act in only what he chose.  He even wrote, “Blessed be Star Wars.”  So, yes, he hated it and, yes, he loved it and, no, he didn’t ever want to talk about it again.  Neither do I.

Well, Janet Leigh is gone now, as is Welles and Wray and Guinness but if they were still here, I’d tell them all, respectively, how much I loved them in The Manchurian Candidate, Touch of Evil, Doctor X, and The Lavender Hill Mob.  I’d tell Humphrey Bogart he was great as the self-important gangster returning to his old neighborhood in Dead End.   I’d tell Toshiro Mifune how awesome he was in High and Low.  I’d talk to Clark Gable about anything but Gone with the Wind and never mention either On the Waterfront or A Streetcar Named Desire to Marlon Brando.  In fact, I’d talk to him about One-Eyed Jacks just to make him feel better.  If I met Ginger Rogers, I’d ask about all of her dramatic performances and never ask her what it was like to be Fred Astaire’s partner. You get the picture.

There’s a moment from the great The Larry Sanders Show where Warren Zevon is a guest on Larry’s talk show and tells Artie (Rip Torn), the producer, that he’s not going to perform Werewolves of London under any circumstances. After he finishes performing the song he wants to sing, Larry Sanders (Garry Shandling) asks him to sing, of course, Werewolves of London because he loves it so much. Zevon bristles but then performs it anyway. Sanders never has a clue. I’m sure this same situation has played out for many a star and director in the movies going back to the very beginning of cinema and we can thank the Janet Leighs out there for being gracious and kind and never complaining. But, seriously, now that I’ve said that, can we never talk about Psycho again?

21 Responses And Now Let’s All Agree to Never Discuss This Movie Again
Posted By swac44 : October 8, 2014 3:12 pm

The first thing I’d ask Ginger about would probably be The Major & the Minor, but that’s just me.

Posted By James : October 8, 2014 3:40 pm

I suppose most people would ask George C. Scott about Patton (or Dr. Strangelove). I would ask him about They Might Be Giants (the one where he plays a retired judge who believes he is Sherlock Holmes, with Joanne Woodward as his psychiatrist, Dr. Watson), as I love that movie.

Posted By Marty : October 8, 2014 4:40 pm

I would discuss Anatomy of a Murder and The Hustler with Scott.
I’d discuss Run Silent, Run Deep and The Hucksters with Gable.
The Enemy Below with Bob Mitchum
The Best Years of Our Lives with Dana Andrews
Executive Suite with Bill Holden and Frederick March
Ace In The Hole with Billy Wilder and Kirk Douglas
A Star Is Born with Judy Garland and James Mason
The Quiet Man with Maureen O Hara and The Duke
The Caddy, You’re Never Too Young and Artists and Models with Martin & Lewis
People Will Talk and To Catch A Thief with Cary Grant
Father of the Bride and Judgement At Nuremberg with Spencer Tracy
Shall I keep going?

Posted By Jenni : October 8, 2014 6:27 pm

Sadly for you, Greg, Psycho will still get discussed as the younger generations will come along and view it and be amazed that a good thriller/horror film could have been made in 1960. Case in point, I was watching a special that I had recorded off of TCM, a special about suspense movies and of course, a lot of the films discussed were Hitchcock films. Our 18 year old son began watching it with me and commented, when Psycho was discussed, that he’s heard it’s a good movie and wants to see it sometime.

Posted By Emgee : October 8, 2014 7:21 pm

Personally i’d rather write a 400 page book on Psycho than having to read or hear yet another eulogy of Casablanca. Yes, it’s a fine movie but enough is more than enough.

Posted By gregferrara : October 8, 2014 7:24 pm

Jenni, it’s not sad for me as I really do love Psycho and it’s great to have new viewers come to the film. I’ve just run out of things to say about it at this point. That’s happened with a lot of Hitchcock for me because I’ve seen so many of them so many times. As a result, I’m rewatching more of his thirties work that I haven’t seen in years.

Posted By gregferrara : October 8, 2014 7:24 pm

Personally i’d rather write a 400 page book on Psycho than having to read or hear yet another eulogy of Casablanca. Yes, it’s a fine movie but enough is more than enough.

Well there goes my seven part article on Casablanca that I was going to start next week.

Posted By Doug : October 8, 2014 9:43 pm

Here, let’s coin a term for it-’Topic Fatigue’-I’ve said enough, I’ve heard enough, I have no more wisdom to share or learn.
I have a sort of ‘ear fatigue’ going with the music of Thelonious Monk-I’ve listened so often in the past that, even though I love it, I just don’t hear Monk anymore.
Ginger Rogers would be my choice to share a conversation; I would love to hear what she thought of her career, her work as a professional actress, and whatever else she wanted to talk about.

Posted By gregferrara : October 9, 2014 12:19 am

That’s how I feel about actors, directors, writers, musicians, etc. , in general: Whatever they want to talk about in their career would be fine with me.

And I’ve got the music thing, too. So many artists I was obsessed with for years I don’t listen to anymore because I feel I listened them out.

Posted By Dale : October 9, 2014 1:55 am

@swac44: The Major and the Minor was the first Ginger Rogers film I ever saw, working an overnight security job as a teenager (on right before the Joe Franklin show). 32+ years later it’s still my favorite Ginger Rogers movie and I never miss it when it’s on. I’d be right there asking her about that movie with you!

Posted By Jeffrey E. Ford : October 9, 2014 6:14 am

If I had ever been lucky enough to meet Fay Wray, the first movie I would have asked her about was THE WEDDING MARCH with Von Stroheim. And from what I hear, I think she would have really loved that!

Posted By Ghijath Naddaf : October 9, 2014 8:03 am

As for Warren Zevon. Larry Sanders should have ask for
Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner. It´s the better song anyway.

Posted By swac44 : October 9, 2014 11:59 am

Funny about the Hitchcocks, I’ve been trying to fill in some gaps in his filmography lately, catching up with so-called “lesser” Hitchcocks like Murder, Torn Curtain and Under Capricorn. Perhaps not so great when compared to Strangers on a Train or Vertigo but still entertaining on their own terms.

Posted By swac44 : October 9, 2014 12:21 pm

But I can still listen to Monk anytime. Nobody plays “wrong” notes so right quite the way he does. I dread the day I get tired of him.

Posted By jbryant : October 9, 2014 7:17 pm

The problem of course is that when you’ve given interviews about the same film for 40 years, you no longer have anything to say about it that you haven’t already said a million times. An interviewer might as well say, “Hey, how about rehashing all your PSYCHO anecdotes for me so I don’t have to do any research?”

I saw Fay Wray speak before a screening of AFFAIRS OF CELLINI at LACMA in 2001. She was 94 years old, and I can’t imagine what a relief it must have been for her to talk about Gregory La Cava and Fredric March instead of the stop-motion ape for a change.

Speaking of Fredric March, like Marty’s post above, I’d choose EXECUTIVE SUITE to discuss with him. Such a great performance. Some others:

Robert Mitchum – HOME FROM THE HILL
Ginger Rogers – Ditto to mentions of THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR
Alec Guinness – OLIVER TWIST
Humphrey Bogart – IN A LONELY PLACE

Posted By gregferrara : October 10, 2014 1:16 am

Just want to say, since we’ve got a few Monk listeners here, the first time I ever heard him, I honestly thought I was listening to an outtake because it sounded like at certain points he was accidentally depressing the wrong keys.

Don’t even ask me what I thought the first time I listened to Coltrane’s Interstellar Space.

Posted By gregferrara : October 10, 2014 1:16 am

Keep in mind I was about 14.

Posted By Lee : October 10, 2014 6:36 am

I could talk about any movie ad nauseam.

Janet Leigh remained a hottie right up to the end.

Posted By george : October 10, 2014 9:28 pm

The problem is that only a dozen or so old movies (those more than 50 years old) are known to the average person who isn’t a movie buff, so those films are brought up again and again: CASABLANCA, PSYCHO, IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, THE WIZARD OF OZ, GONE WITH THE WIND, and a handful of others.

It sometimes irritates me that Joe and Jane Sixpack only know Capra for WONDERFUL LIFE, or Fay Wray for KING KONG, or Guiness for STAR WARS, etc. But I’ve learned to live with it. At least we have blogs like this, where we can chat with people who do know about IN A LONELY PLACE or HOME FROM THE HILL.

Posted By Marco : October 12, 2014 4:00 am

I’d love to have discussed THE SUNDOWNERS with Mitchum, Kerr and especially Ustinov. None of these three were better in anything else in my opinion, and they were all in some other great movies.

Posted By Doug : October 12, 2014 1:15 pm

A few years ago a co-worker and I were working alone on a Saturday-he is into death metal, I like most everything else.
As we could listen to whichever radio station we wanted, we compromised on NPR and…
I heard a live Monk recording that I KNEW was new to me.
“Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall”
From 1957, the tapes were discovered in 2005-here’s the wiki:
It’s at Amazon for $14.95.

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