Spellbound (1945)

Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck

Alfred Hitchcock's 'Spellbound' is a mystery thriller made in 1945 starring Gregory Peck, Ingrid Bergman, Michael Chekhov and Leo G. Carroll.

The movie received six Academy Award nominations including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor (Michael Chekhov) and won one Oscar, for Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture, for Miklós Rózsa's romantic theme and pioneering use of the electronic hum of the Theremin.

'Spellbound' was a major commercial success. It was the third highest grossing film of 1945 and in total earned nearly $8 million on a budget of $1.7 million. In its first week in New York alone it grossed $60,000, breaking the previous record set by 'Gone with the Wind' in 1939.


'Spellbound' presents an intriguing and pleasing mystery of a plot. Dr. Murchison, played by Leo G. Carroll, the head of Green Manors, a mental asylum in Vermont, is retiring, to be replaced by Dr. Anthony Edwardes, a famous psychiatrist, played by Gregory Peck.

Dr. Edwardes turns out to be an amnesiac, and, realizing he's not who he thinks he is, enlists Dr. Constance Peterson, played by Ingrid Bergman, to help discover his actual identity, as well as the fate of the person he's apparently impersonating. With 'Dr Edwardes' now using the name 'John Brown' they go on the run to try to solve the mystery of what happened to the real Dr. Edwardes.

But fascinated by the novelty of psychoanalysis, 'Spellbound' spends a little too much time focusing on the subconscious and not quite enough time focusing on actual suspense. It is a movie which is memorable for its acting, design, and musical score but, unusually for Hitchcock, the suspense and mystery are lacklustre.

When the couple, who have by now fallen in love, unlock John Brown's repressed memories, the police are able to find Dr Edwardes's body and Brown, now using his real name, Ballantyne, is imprisoned for his murder. Dr. Petersen returns to work at the hospital but is able to work out who the real murderer is. There is a happy ending with the lovers reunited.


In late 1943, Hitchcock was requested by producer David O. Selznick to create a movie involving the relatively new science of psychiatry. Hitchcock had already purchased, in 1943, the rights to a detective novel 'The House of Dr Edwardes', written by two British writers who worked under the pseudonym "Francis Beeding", and he sold them to Selznick for $40,000. An adaptation of the novel was made by Hitchcock and his wife, Alma Reville, together with screenwriter, Angus MacPhail.

For the screenplay, Selznick hired screenwriter Ben Hecht, himself the recipient of psychoanalysis. To research the background, Hitchcock and Hecht visited psychiatric wards in hospitals in Connecticut and New York.

Filming began on July 7, 1944 and most of the film was shot on Hollywood sound stages. The skiing scenes were shot at the Wasatch Mountains in Utah and the picnic scenes at the Cooper Ranch at Northridge in the San Fernando Valley. For the skiing sequence, Hitchcock used doubles for Bergman and Peck, neither of whom could ski. Principal photography was completed on October 13, 1944.

Hitchcock's traditional cameo comes after about 40 minutes when he emerges from an hotel elevator carrying a violin case.

The dream sequence which Peck imagines under hypnosis, was envisioned by Hitchcock who did not want to use the traditional blurred screen method of depicting dreams. He suggested to Selznick that he hire Spanish painter Salvador Dali to design the sequence,and the haunting images which Dali created, remain as mini works of art in themselves. Dali was paid $4,000 for his work.

Selznick originally intended that Joseph Cotten and Dorothy McGuire should star in the picture, but after casting Cotten in another of his films, 'I'll Be Seeing You', he decided on contract players Ingrid Bergman and rising hearthrob, Gregory Peck in the lead roles. Much later, after Bergman's death Peck acknowledged that the two had had an affair during filming.

Leo G. Carroll who played Dr. Murchison, was Hitchcock's most frequent actor, appearing for the director in more films than any other actor. His other movies for Hitchcock were 'Rebecca' and 'Suspicion' in 1941, 'The Paradine Case' and 'Strangers on a Train' in 1951 and 'North by Northwest' in 1959. He later achieved great fame on television as spymaster Alexander Waverley in the 1960's series 'The Man from UNCLE'.

Because psychiatry was still relatively unknown, all the cast had to learn how to pronounce the terms involved. Rhonda Fleming, was just seventeen and had to ask her mother the meaning of "nymphomaniac" before actually playing one.

Main Cast

Gregory Peck .... Dr. Anthony Edwardes / John Ballantine
Ingrid Bergman .... Dr. Constance Petersen
Leo G. Carroll .... Dr. Murchison
Michael Chekhov .... Dr. Alexander 'Alex' Brulov
Steven Geray .... Dr. Graff
John Emery .... Dr. Fleurot
Paul Harvey .... Dr. Hanish
Rhonda Fleming .... Mary Carmichael
Donald Curtis .... Harry
Norman Lloyd .... Mr. Garmes
Wallace Ford .... Stranger in Empire State Hotel Lobby
Bill Goodwin .... House detective of Empire State Hotel
Art Baker .... Det. Lt. Cooley
Regis Toomey .... Det. Sgt. Gillespie


Director ... Alfred Hitchcock
Producer ... David O. Selznick
Studio ... Selznick International Pictures, Vanguard Films, Inc.
Story by ... Francis Beeding from his novel, 'The House of Dr. Edwardes'
Screenplay ... Ben Hecht
Format ... B & W
Initial Release ... 31 October, 1945
Music ... Miklós Rózsa
Cinematography ... George Barnes
Distributed by United Artists
Running time 111 min.

Academy Awards

1 Win:
Music(Music Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture) ... Miklós Rózsa
5 Unsuccessful Nominations:
Best Director ... Alfred Hitchcock
Best Picture ... Selznick International Pictures
Best Supporting Actor ... Michael Chekhov
Cinematography ... George Barnes
Special Effects: Photographic Effects ... Jack Cosgrove