Paycox

paycox

Hitchcock’s cameraman, Jack Cox, seems almost as fond of cameo appearances as the Master himself. In THE MANXMAN his name appears as signatory on a sailors’ petition, and here in JUNO AND THE PAYCOCK, he’s apparently a partner in the law firm that provides the plot’s, well, “MacGuffin” might be too dismissive a word for it.

Here’s Ronald Neame, quoted in Charlotte Chandler’s It’s Only a Movie: Alfred Hitchcock, a Personal Biography (personal? is there another kind?) ~

“I was just starting out, and I was terribly overeager. Someone sent me to fetch the ‘sky hook,’ which I was told was a terribly valuable piece of equipment. I looked all over until I got to THE FARMER’S WIFE set. A rather plump twenty-seven-year-old director named Alfred Hitchcock was rehearsing the actors.

“For several minutes, I forgot all about the sky hook and watched the great director at work. Then I approached Hitchcock’s cameraman, Jack Cox.

“This kind man said, ‘You have been given a sort of initiation, because the sky-hook is a leg-pull. Why don’t you go back and tell them it was sold last week because it wasn’t being used.’

“Because of that nonexistent sky hook, I was able to watch Hitchcock directing, and I met Jack Cox, with whom I would be working.”

Later, Chandler quotes Roy Ward Baker ~

“Cox was very tall, a man of very few words, with a complete lack of pretense, and a sardonic wit. He didn’t chatter, you know. He just got on with his lighting.”

I suspect most cinematographers are a bit like that. My friend Scott Ward is, even down to being very tall. And Hitchcock wouldn’t be attracted to the “rock star” kind of cinematographer who puts his personal style first. I saw Nestor Almendros talk once, a charming, gentle man, and somebody from the audience asked him if he’d like to have worked with Hitchcock. A strange question, really, but Almendros graciously replied, saying that he’d have loved the chance, and that it could have happened. But I wonder if their styles would have fused or clashed?

8 Responses to “Paycox”

  1. Reminds of Woody Allen firing Hassell Wexler from Hollywood Ending. Now there is a “rock star” cinematographer. Apparently he kept on asking if he could try “one more take-my way”. Bearing in mind how much more interesting Wexler can be and how dull that film turned out, was Woody wrong?

  2. Arthur S. Says:

    Woody Allen has worked with Gordon Willis, Sven Nykvist, Carlo DiPalma, Zhao Fei (who shot the stunning THE HORSE THIEF and for Woody, SWEET AND LOWDOWN), so he is more than comfortable with “rock-star” DPs. I personally have never been overly taken with Haskell Wexler(AMERICA AMERICA aside).

    Hitchcock’s only outing with a famous DP was Rudolph Mate for FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT, I believe. And of course Jack Cardiff on UNDER CAPRICORN. Robert Burks shot Vidor’s THE FOUNTAINHEAD before but it was Hitchcock who made him a star with whom he made VERTIGO, one of the most beautiful films ever made.

    Nestor Almendros has himself worked with a diverse range of film-makers Rohmer and Truffaut, then Terence Malick. Monte Hellman. Then I haven’t seen it but he shot Rossellini’s final feature, an industrial film about the George Pompidou centre and Rossellini was as anti-rock star DP as you could get(he dropped the great Aldo Tonti after misunderstanding him for supposed arrogance). If Almendros could work with Rossellini, Hitchcock would be no problem. Hitchcock might have been interested to work with Almendros since he worked with Truffaut(and Hitchcock loved THE WILD CHILD’s powerful Black and White)

  3. Seems to me you should know what you’re getting into by hiring Wexler, and ideally you should let him do it his way. But there is a division of duties between director and cinematographer, and maybe Wexler has trouble staying on his side. Still, there are enough Allen films and not enough Wexler films, so I’d like to have seen him given free reign.

  4. It certainly makes sense that Hitchcock would be attracted to self-effacing artists like Cox and Burks, given his personality.

    Almendros was obviously adaptable, but he had firm rules too. He said he would walk out of any film that used diffusion, for instance. Which would rule out Vertigo for a start.

  5. Arthur S. Says:

    Well like all rules, he can make exceptions. VERTIGO was a film of the studio era and Almendros was a child of the New Wave and worked with Rohmer and Truffaut who obviously didn’t have Hitchcock’s vast resources. Hitchcock’s own style of film-making might have been opposed to Almendros since he hated shooting on-location. But then Almendros shot PERCEVAL LE GALLOIS.

    Besides how did he get those images in LIFE LESSONS of Rosanna Arquette bathed in blue, if he didn’t use filtering.

  6. Maybe filtering was OK, but diffusion unacceptable? I can’t remember the scene, was there a possible naturalistic reason for the blue?

  7. Interesting. I only recently had a phone conversation with a friend who had just watched a documentary on Wexler, and told me what an unlikable and egocentric character he was made out to be, by none other than his son. I’ll relate more when I get a chance to talk with him further.

  8. Yeah, the doc certainly shows that Wexler can be supremely difficult, and his family aren’t spared. But it’s an arrogance that seems to be associated with his knowing when he’s right.

    I saw Wexler’s documentary Who Needs Sleep a couple years back. Not great filmmaking, but an impassioned plea for better working conditions in the US film industry.

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