7 October 2014

Who does Hitchcock think he is?!

Alfred Hitchcock had always wanted to make a movie involving the famous Mount Rushmore monument. A chase across the monument was what he dreamed of. In 1959, he fulfilled his long ambition with the spy thriller "North by Northwest", starring Cary Grant and Eve Marie Saint. But before the film could be made, Hitch first had to get permission from the National Park Service (NPS) and the Department of the Interior. In the summer of 1958, permission was granted to film at Mt. Rushmore, but on the condition that no scenes of violence were filmed on or near the sculpture, or even on studio replicas of the monument. Hitchcock ignored the rules. Admittedly, he did not shoot any of the chase scenes on the actual monument, but he did film them in the studio on a giant replica and also used the sculpture as background for further violent scenes (the replica was so convincing that one film critic mistakenly said that the sequence had been shot at the real monument). Of course, the NPS and Department of the Interior fiercely objected to the scenes being used, but in the end there was little they could do about it. (They did ask to be removed from the credits which acknowledged their cooperation in the film.) 

Cary Grant and Eve Marie Saint relaxing on location at Mount Rushmore (left) and on the run in the thrilling Mt. Rushmore sequence (right and below).
In September 1958, Hitchcock started filming on Mount Rushmore. Shortly thereafter, complaints came pouring in from citizens who felt that their beloved monument was being desecrated. Below you'll find three short letters from angry citizens: one sent to a newspaper, one to the National Park Service and the last one addressed to President Eisenhower.


Transcript:

left image
Oak Park, Sept. 10
I agree with this morning's letter protesting the movie now being made which will "come to a climax on Mount Rushmore, where the chase ends with Grant running up and down Lincoln's face." The lofty sculpture cannot help but instill a feeling of reverence, and I am sure the sad eyes of Abraham Lincoln would be sadder if he thought the people of his country would allow a man to run up and down on his face. There are plenty of other places Cary Grant can run up and down.
MRS. FRANK M. WRIGHT

right image:
Just who does the English director Alfred Hitchcock think he is that he could send another Englishman running up & down over Lincoln's face?
Rushmore is a shrine to the American people and they don't want it defaced or debased by Alfred Hitchcock. An American director wouldn't have have [sic] tried such a thing. People are on the alert to such things American.


Transcript:

Los Angeles, Calif.
September 17 1958

Dwight D. Eisenhower,
President of the United States;

My dear President:

Are you going to allow these crazy Hollywood producers to desecrate our National Park? Read the inclosed clippings from recent issues of the Los Angeles Examiner (Louella Parsons' column). This is no laughing matter. It concerns every red blooded American. It is not only in very bad taste, but a violation of all common decency. 
Is Mount Rushmore a national shrine of democracy or just another "setting" for motion pictures?

Hitchcock flanked by three members of his cast: Cary Grant, Eve Marie Saint and James Mason.

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