Hitchcock: a master of suspense and a guest of Hotel Bristol Palace
Fri, 02/26/2021 - 11:00
Historic image of the Hotel
The director stayed at the Bristol Palace twice, once at the beginning of his career and once at its height. He is one of many celebrities, including internationally renowned artists, politicians and intellectuals, who over the years have been welcomed in this Art Nouveau building, a popular destination for high society. Many anecdotes and legends circulate about Alfred Hitchcock's stay, including one explaining where the spiral theme concept in the film Vertigo came from. Let's take a look.
Memorable parties at the Bristol Palace
A dazzling career from Genoa to Hollywood
A true wizard of film-making, able to create an unnerving atmosphere and reach down into the deepest fears lurking in the depths of our unconscious, Alfred Hitchcock was an inimitable innovator and the maker of some of the most acclaimed films of all time. Born right at the end of the century, in 1899, he grew up with a passion for crime and murder stories and entered the world of cinema through the back door, as a handyman. His skills behind the camera were soon noticed and his career took off.
His first real film as a director was released in 1925: The Pleasure Garden, partly shot in Genoa. From that moment on, he never stopped, producing one film after another. Success came with Rebecca, his first American film, with its Oscar-winning photography. His fame exploded, and he went on to create masterpieces such as The Birds, Psycho, Vertigo and Rear Window.
In the 1960s and 1970s he also produced films for television, always instantly recognisable in the cameo appearances he never failed to include in his many works. He died in 1980 while shooting yet another film.
The spectacular elliptical staircase
The young Hitchcock's Genovese summer
Alfred Hitchcock was 26 when he crossed the threshold of the Bristol Palace in 1925. He was at a turning point in his life: the production company Gainsborough Pictures had commissioned him to direct what would become his first film, The Pleasure Garden, renamed in Italian Il labirinto delle passioni.
Accompanying him on his adventure were Alma Reville, his girlfriend and future wife, his assistant director and editing secretary, and Baron Giovanni Ventimiglia, director of photography. They arrived from nearby Munich, having been forced to abandon their camera at the border because they had failed to declare it.
The Bristol, which had opened twenty years earlier in 1905, was famous for its memorable parties and as a meeting place for high society. Its fame attracted celebrities, writers and heads of state. An elegant landing for the film crew, who was in Genoa to film a scene showing a departing ship. You can almost picture them in your mind, a little bewildered as they enter the Liberty building. Hitchcock would return to stay at the Bristol Palace many years later, in 1955, while filming To Catch a Thief. No longer young and inexperienced, he was by then a world-famous director.
At the entrance of Hotel Bristol Palace there is a spectacular elliptical staircase in white marble that causes wonder in visitors to this very day. It is a perfect example of Art Nouveau style. Leaning over it gives one a dizzying upwards or downwards view.
There is a fascinating story about this imposing decorative feature and the director himself. It is said that its shape inspired Hitchcock to create the spiral that became the theme of the film Vertigo, known in Italian as La donna che visse due volte. The shape can be seen in the opening credits, in the hairdo of the mysterious woman, in tree trunks, in the protagonist's nightmares and in the bell tower's spiral staircase dominating the final scene. An intriguing theory, which just goes to show how the master of suspense has not finished surprising us yet.