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.