Program Notes for Alfred Hitchcock’s “Saboteur”

Please note that this movie was filmed in black and white so colors will not be mentioned in these notes.  For those of you who are interested when Alfred Hitchcock makes his cameo, I will identify him by name and give his location at the time.

The action in tonight’s film occurs during the days of World War II.  The costumes are typical of what Americans were wearing in the mid-1940s.  Both men’s and women’s clothing styles borrowed from the current military uniforms.  Shoulders were reinforced with pads for a wide and boxy silhouette.  The rest of the contour was a bit narrower thanks to wartime restrictions limiting, among other things, the width of pants legs and the length of  hemlines.  Epaulets, strips of fabric or leather that ran along the tops of the shoulders and fastened with a button, were a common embellishment.  A popular style of jacket, sometimes called an Eisenhower jacket after General Eisenhower, was short and came to the bottom of the waist or top of the hip with a band around the bottom. This type of jacket was very popular with workmen and for casual wear. Variations of the Eisenhower jacket were used widely for both men’s jackets and women’s clothing such as suits or two-piece dresses.  Wide lapels were found on both men’s and women’s suits.  Many men still wore suits and ties for all occasions.  A knee length dress coat similar to what is worn today would be worn over that attire.

Women’s dresses came to just below the knee although floor length gowns were still worn for formal evening attire.  Women’s evening gowns were often ornamented with elaborate designs made of sequins, small shiny disks that were sewn onto the gown, across bodices and along the shoulders and/or bottoms of the sleeves.  Evening wear for men meant white or black tie for civilians (again, similar to what is worn today) and dress uniforms replete with ribbons and medals for the military men.

Hats were commonly worn.  The fedora with its high crown dented at the top and pinched in front and a 2.5” brim was the most popular style for men. Workmen, such as truck drivers, would wear a flat cap with a soft slouchy crown and small visor.

Hairstyles for women were somewhat different from what is worn today. Hair was worn long.  Shoulder length was popular with younger women and was frequently worn with   the front or sides of the hair rolled away from the face and the back worn loose.  Older women also may have worn the hair around the face rolled but the back would have been pinned up as well.  Curly or wavy hair was considered desirable and many men also sported wavy hair. Their hair was worn short on the back and sides and a little longer on the top, generally with a side part before the hair was brushed away from the face and slicked down with Brilliantine or some other hair pomade that held the hair in place and gave it a great amount of shine.

Some the places in which the action occurs are an airplane factory in California, a cabin in the woods, a mansion in New York City and the Statue of Liberty.

The airplane factory has walls of corrugated steel.  The narrow folds of the metal are vertical and it resembles corduroy. The wide space of the factory floor has ceilings high enough not only to house the rows of airplanes being built but also to allow workers to work on the upper portions of the planes and for the necessary lighting to be hung from the ceilings.  The ceilings themselves are obscured by the system of girders and bracing necessary for its support.  The area where the planes are constructed is very light and bright. The mess hall or canteen area is various shades of grey and has rectangular wooden tables and benches for the workers to eat at.  The canteen area is defined by welded wire partitions and a low corrugated steel roof.  In the background, soldiers carrying rifles with bayonets upon their shoulders are seen marching back and forth as they patrol the area.

The cabin sits in a clearing at the edge of a forest of redwood trees.  Its low single-story profile contrasts with the soaring trunks of the surrounding trees.  Mountains are seen in the distance behind the house.  The house is a log cabin with a rough fieldstone foundation that comes up the to the bottom of the multi-paned windows.  The shingled roof has a shallow pitch and the eaves are at the tops of the windows. A wide chimney sits in the center of the roof.  The front door is to the far right. Inside, the main room has a large stone fireplace opposite the door.  Dark gleaming wood and cushioned upholstered furniture contrasts with the roughness of the fieldstone surrounding the fireplace and the rough-hewn split logs and chinking on the far right wall.  The far left wall is paneled in knotty pine.  Log beams span the width of the room below the peaked ceiling.  A baby grand piano sits at one end of the room, to the left of the front door.  A sofa sits below a window, between the door and the piano, opposite the fireplace.  Club chairs with plaid upholstery flank the fireplace.  A low round coffee table sits in the center of the room.  To the right of the door is a rectangular dining table with four chairs around it.  Tall candlesticks stand on either side of the fireplace opening.  A silver candelabrum rests on the dining table. An assortment of bric-a-brac is displayed on a shelf above a sideboard to the right of the fireplace, behind the dining table.  Framed pictures hang on the walls.  A kitchen is seen through a door at the left end of the room.

The mansion in New York City is a large well appointed home and decorated in a very “Old World” style:  antique chairs with gilded exposed wooden frames and needlepoint upholstery, heavy ornate carved and gilded tables and cabinets, tapestries and large elaborately framed oil paintings hanging on the walls. The ballroom is a large open space over seen from the low balustrade of the second floor corridor.  A wide curving double staircase leads down to the ballroom floor. Several large crystal chandeliers hang from the two story high ceiling.  A low bandstand is at the far end of and a parquet dance floor is in the center of the room.  The study is a spacious room with a sitting area around a large fireplace. The fireplace has a carved stone mantle.  Figurines, vases, small dishes, boxes, and lamps cover every flat surface in the room.  The room has wood paneling with large panels that are covered in a flame patterned jacquard silk fabric.  A large intricately carved and gilded desk of dark wood sits in front of wall of bookshelves.  The kitchen is large and utilitarian, like a restaurant kitchen and has several workstations in the middle and around the edges of the room.

The Statue of Liberty is a colossal statue that stands on a tall rectangular pedestal upon a large starburst shaped base on a small island in New York Harbor.  The figure of Liberty is woman, standing, holding a torch above her head in her right hand and cradling a book in her left arm. She is dressed in toga knotted over her left shoulder worn over a loose long-sleeved, floor-length robe. The toga has diagonal folds and the robe has vertical ones.  She wears a seven-pointed crown on her head. The narrow triangular points radiate outward like a halo.  Below the points is a band composed of 25 arched windows.  She stands erect, her right arm raised straight up with a flaming torch in her hand. The wide loose sleeve falls down to her shoulder into deep folds.  Her left arm is at her side. It is bent at the elbow as she cradles a book. The book is inscribed with the date July 4, 1776 written in Roman numerals (the word July followed by IV, MDCCLXXVI).  Her bare foot is seen stepping out beneath the drapery of her robe pooling on the ground. According to the National Park Service website, the Statue of Liberty is 305 feet 1inch from the ground to the tip of the flame or the equivalent height of a 22-story building.  Some other measurements, also from the National Park Service website, to give an idea of scale are:

Heel to top of head:  111’1” or  the equivalent of 19 average height men

Head (from chin to cranium): 17’3”

Width of head:  10’

Width of eye: 2’6” (two and a half feet)

Length of hand:  16’5”

Index finger: 8’

Liberty holds the torch aloft by a shaft that is a little longer than her hand.  Atop the shaft is a circular dish that surrounds the flame. The wall of the dish is open metalwork and looks like interlocking upside-down heart shapes.  The flame flares out of a short cylinder that rises above the edge of the dish.  Today the torch has been replaced and the flame is gilded in 24 karat gold but in the 1940s, the torch still sported the original copper flame that had earlier been pierced with mostly rectangular holes and fitted with glass.

Although made of copper, the Statue of Liberty is a matte green due to natural oxidization.

And now for a few words about the main characters in tonight’s movie:

Barry Kane: A black haired man in his early 30’s, Barry Kane has short, wavy, slicked back hair parted on his left.  He has dark slightly arched eyebrows and dark eyes. Barry’s mouth is full lipped.  We first see him wearing a dark leather bomber style jacket over a dark shirt and striped tie worn with flat front work pants.

Patricia “Pat” Martin:  Pat is a young woman in her mid-to late 20’s. She has wavy long blond hair that is pulled up, back and rolled away from her face in a pompadour before it falls to rest in soft, billowy curls upon her shoulders.  She has light colored eyes beneath gently curving eyebrows. Pat’s lips are full and dark with lipstick; the lower one is a little pouty.  We first see Pat wearing a light colored suit with a knee length skirt and platform shoes.  A wedge of a dark, collarless top can be seen in the open V between the pale broad lapels of her suit jacket.  She wears a sparkly pin on the left lapel.

Frank Fry:  A slight man with blonde hair, Fry has a high forehead, prominent nose and receding chin. He is in his late 20’s/early 30’s.

Charles Tobin:  Tobin is an older gentleman in his late 50’s. His salt and pepper hair is brushed back from his high forehead in flowing waves.  He has a thin mustache that comes straight down from his nose before curving off on either side to follow the line of his upper lip. He is very thin and has narrow shoulders.

Freeman: A man in his mid-30’s, Freeman has a high forehead with a receding hairline.  His hair is a medium tone.  He has a neat mustache over his upper lip that is lighter than the hair on his head.  He wears rimless eyeglasses with round lenses and metal stems.  Freeman wears a suit and tie beneath an overcoat.  He wears a fedora on his head in most scenes.