Saturday, March 28, 2015

Spending the Weekend with Frankie Bailey - Review of What The Fly Saw - Tomorrow!


Harry, and Me

By Frankie Y. Bailey

            In my mind, I associate cats with Alfred Hitchcock. Maybe that’s because until last year, in late October, I had never owned a cat as an adult and I barely remember the cat my family had briefly when I was a child. We lived outside the city (not really country but enough room for front and back yards). The dogs – my father’s hound or two for hunting and the dogs I had as pets – passed through our lives, leaving their stories to be told in fond memory. But cats . . . even though I wanted to be a vet, I was drawn to dogs.
When I was a grad student, I volunteered as a feeder/cleaner at a no-kill shelter. I thought when I volunteered that the shelter had dogs (a failure to do my research). Having signed on as a volunteer, I stayed for a while. This experience gave me a chance to observe cats up close. Watching them coming toward me as I opened the door did make me feel as if I were in the middle of a Hitchcock movie. But I learned to appreciate their beauty and grace and varied personalities. Still – given my decades-long lack of interest in becoming a cat owner, I am astonished that I now have a large Maine Coon mix named Harry (formerly Tyson) in my life.
            Harry has green eyes. He sometimes sits hunched under a bright yellow coffee table watching my every move with an unblinking stare. At first, I found that unsettling – until I realized he was watching me to see if I was heading toward the kitchen counter where his dry food is kept or about to sit down in my chair at the dining room table and provide him with the opportunity to settle into my lap for a nap. Harry is an affectionate cat -- a “love bug” (quoting his sitter) of a cat.  But he still occasionally makes me think of a Hitchcock movie – like those moments when I’m talking to him and turn to see he has disappeared or when I turn and he is right behind me. Or those moments when we are playing with his stuffed bird on a pole and he suddenly hisses and I remember that he is a predator and that he is not just admiring those real birds when he sits watching them through the window with his ears forward and his tail twitching.

Having thought so much about cats and Hitchcock, I felt compelled 

the other day to go back and see if there really are cats in Hitchcock

films. I imagined them moving through the shadows and being 

stroked by Hitchcock characters.

Norman Bates should have had a cat. But he didn’t. Bates preferred stuffing small birds for display. And there is that wonderful final scene at the end of Psycho (1960) when Norman (sitting wrapped in a blanket a police officer has brought him) is thinking in his “Mother’s voice” about an insect: “I’m not even gonna swat that fly. I hope they are watching. They’ll see. They’ll see and they’ll know. And they’ll say, ‘Why she wouldn’t even harm a fly.’”
            Of course, as you might guess from my title, What the Fly Saw, I am also fascinated by flies and their little eyes. But getting back to Hitchcock and cats. . .as I said, I went in search of cats in Hitchcock films. I was sure they must be there. And it’s possible that if I should spend more time on this, they will turn up. After all, Tippi Hedren, star of Hitchcock’s horror movie, The Birds (1963),

has a sanctuary for abused and mistreated exotic cats. But in that movie, when Hitchcock makes his onscreen cameo, he is walking two of his own Sealyham Terriers. 

There is a well-known episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, “Miss Paisley’s Cat,” about a lonely spinster who kills the local bookie who killed, Stanley, the tough alley cat that she had taken in. And, of course, in To Catch a Thief (1955), Hitchcock’s romantic thriller set on the Rivera, Cary Grant’s
debonair retired jewel thief, is known as “The Cat.” But the television episode and the movie were based on a short story and novel, respectively.

            In fact, dogs outnumber cats in Hitchcock movies. Among the Hitchcock films in which a dog or dogs appear:  The 39 StepsThe Man Who Knew Too MuchStrangers on the TrainRebeccaSaboteurRear Window, and The Birds. Of course, this had something to do with the works on which Hitchcock based these films. As writers and readers know, dogs in crime fiction work well as “characters” because they can disrupt any scene by bounding into it. Dogs can bark and attract attention. Or, not bark, and indicate the culprit might have been known to them. Dog can be taken for walks. Dogs dig things up. If you’re making a film, it’s must be easier to get a dog (than an independent-minded cat) to take direction. And, let’s face it, a cat in a Hitchcock film would be overkill. Or, at least, this is what Harry is 
suggesting as he stares up at me as I try to type while he stretches in my lap.
Certainly, the absence of cats in Hitchcock films should not be taken as an indication that he preferred dogs -- any more than the fact that my protagonist Hannah McCabe adopts a dog rather than a cat should be perceived as a preference on my part for canines. After all, I do have cats in scenes in both McCabe books. Obviously, Harry is suggesting with his stare, I have always had a latent admiration and deep respect for cats. When he is sure that I understand this, we can discuss adding a dog – the dog of his choice – to our household.

A couple of Vids to allow you to meet the Author:

Frankie, I'm having such fun having you visit this weekend! I hope you don't 
mind that your article topic kinda "set me off" to match your research... I wasn't sure what Hitchcock thought about it... What about you?! LOL

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