December 8, 2012

Alfred Hitchcock's Final Twist

Alfred Hitchcock's Surprise Ending
A biographer said that the director, at the end of his life, shunned religion. Not true. I was there.

Alfred Hitchcock has returned to the news lately, thanks to an apparently unflattering portrait of him in a new Hollywood production. Some of his biographers have not been kind, either. Religion, too, is much in the news, also often presented in an unflattering light, because clashing beliefs are at issue in wars and terrorism. The violence provokes some people to reject religion altogether. For many who experience religion only in this way—at second hand, in the media, from afar—such a reaction is to a degree understandable.

What they miss is that religion is an intensely personal affair. St. Augustine wrote: "Magnum mysterium mini"—I am a great mystery to myself. Why exactly Hitchcock asked Tom Sullivan to visit him is not clear to us and perhaps was not completely clear to him. But something whispered in his heart, and the visits answered a profound human desire, a real human need. Who of us is without such needs and desires?

Some people find these late-in-life turns to religion suspect, a sign of weakness or of one's "losing it." But nothing focuses the mind as much as death. There is a long tradition going back to ancient times of memento mori, remember death. Why? I suspect that in facing death one may at last see soberly, whether clearly or not, truths missed for years, what is finally worth one's attention.

Weighing one's life with its share of wounds suffered and inflicted in such a perspective, and seeking reconciliation with an experienced and forgiving God, strikes me as profoundly human. Hitchcock's extraordinary reaction to receiving communion was the face of real humanity and religion, far away from headlines . . . or today's filmmakers and biographers.

One of Hitchcock's biographers, Donald Spoto, has written that Hitchcock let it be known that he "rejected suggestions that he allow a priest . . . to come for a visit, or celebrate a quiet, informal ritual at the house for his comfort." That in the movie director's final days he deliberately and successfully led outsiders to believe precisely the opposite of what happened is pure Hitchcock.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:34 PM | Permalink

'I feel like a walking shell: empty, alone and lost.'

'Hold your children tight, love them with every ounce you have'.

A mother-of-three whose husband and children were killed in a terrifying house fire last month has described herself as 'a walking shell' in a heart-wrenching open letter to her local newspaper.

In the note, which she asked to be shared with her community in Bangor, Maine, Christine Johnson begs other parents to 'hold your children tight, love them with every ounce of love you have' and says her 'damaged soul' will never heal after the devastating loss of her family.

Ms Johnson's husband, Ben Johnson III, woke up to the couple's fire alarm early on November 10, and after saving his wife's life by putting her through a window and onto the roof he turned back into the thick, black smoke in an attempt to save their three children.

But the blaze quickly engulfed the Orrington home and the brave father died of smoke inhalation along with his children Ben IV, 9, Ryan, 4, and Leslie, 8. 

 Christine Johnson+Family

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Ms Johnson said in the note that she was distraught after losing her loving husband - a local bowler and bowling coach who worked two jobs to support the family.

'I see my children in my dreams': Mother whose three daughters and parents perished in Christmas Day blaze reveals how their 'visits' helped her overcome her grief

'I still feel the love I had for my husband, but there is no one to return it,' she wrote. 'No one to comfort me, no one to wrap their arms around me and say, "I've got you, baby doll, I've got you."

'No one to chase the nightmares away, or snuggle with on the couch after the kids have gone to sleep. And no one to tell me a joke when I'm crying, just so they can see me smile. My husband loved to make me smile. He said it was because my eyes would sparkle… Now my eyes sparkle no more.'

But she said her children were 'the ones I will forever cry over' because they 'never had a chance at life.''They never got to go on a boat, or ride a roller coaster,' she wrote. 'They never got to see Disney World, or Niagara Falls. They never got to ride on a plane to some far off land, or see a real, live moose.

'My youngest didn't even get to ride a school bus, and I remember him getting excited about the chance to get on one. My daughter never got the dance lessons that she wanted. My oldest never got to build the flying car that he kept bragging he was going to make.'

Unimaginable grief.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:44 PM | Permalink