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KAREN BLACK RELECTS ALFRED HITCHCOCK & THE GREAT GATSBY

Karen Black on Alfred Hitchcock during the filming of Family Plot
You starred in FAMILY PLOT with Bruce Dern... This was the last film to be directed by the legendary Alfred Hitchcock... How was it working with Hitchcock and what was he like? 

I’m so happy that happened to me. In my life it’s a great thing. He was very playful, truly, truly playful. He loved games. He loved to sort of…

There’s a story, he was on an elevator and he started this terrible story at the top of this building, you know, and everyone in the elevator could hear him as he was talking to a chum. “Oh there was a terrible murder. The body was on the floor. There was blood all over.” And he was telling the story and he was about to solve the problem of the crime very quickly and say who did it when the elevator doors open, and everybody had to walk out. And he knew it. He was just doing it to be funny.

Alfred Hitchcock birthday 8-13
He had a blue party. All the food was blue and all the people had their place-cards all around a big round table and he sat really far away to watch, because nobody at the table…

Nobody at the party had their name on the place card. And they would go on to find their name; find that it wasn’t there. And they would go around again. And he would watch that… He was very playful. He just loved all that.

But in his work, you know, it’s a little bit like Quentin Tarantino’s work. I met Quentin the other week and I told him that he was like Hitchcock in that he keeps people on the edge of their seat – you don’t know what’s going to happen next. He’s playful. It’s a fabulous characteristic for a director to have

Quentin Tarantino
Anyhow, so, we used to bring limericks to each other. I used to tell him limericks and he would try to catch me on my vocabulary; say a word that I wouldn’t understand. [Imitating Hitchcock] “You are being very…” [Big word in purposely hard-to-understand Hitchcock accent…] “Oh,” I said, “You mean keenly perceptive?” “Yes.” He was always trying to trip me up...

I got him a dictionary… He always liked dictionaries. I got him a big red, golden dictionary… Goodbye present. He was a very warm-hearted guy. Very warm, very alive. And very shrewd. It had to be right. He wasn’t gonna put up with anything that wasn’t up to snuff. And at the same time, he would sit and talk to me, and I’d say, “Where did you get the suit?” and he sat looking and looking for the tailor inside the suit. And the A.D. – the assistant director – would come up to him and say, “Mr. Hitchcock, we’re waiting for you." And he’d say (imitating voice), “Aw, but I’m waiting for you.”

It was like that. It was a very interesting combination.
Karen Black in black in Alfred Hitchcock's final film FAMILY PLOT
TAKEN FROM A PHONE INTERVIEW WITH KAREN BLACK
In the 1974 film version of F. Scott Fitzgerald's THE GREAT GATSBY you play Myrtle Wilson, the mistress of high society playboy Tom Buchanan...

I sort of closed in on that role with all my heart: a wonderful miracle. I got to England and I sat in front of Jack Nicholson – I mean, Jack Clayton, across his desk and I read a scene. And he said, “Don’t say advertisement, say advertisement like you did just now.” And he said, “And never, ever, ever say the scene out loud again before we shoot.”

I think what was interesting about that character in that movie is, you know, the Mia Farrow character and Lois Chiles character are women filled with ennui… [Spells word] E-N-N-U-I. They’re tired of life with a kind of high-class social weariness to them.
Karen Black with Bruce Dern in THE GREAT GATSBY
But my character wanted what she wanted very badly. She was motivated. She had a goal. She had a thrust. She had life-force. She wanted to be rich and she wanted to be upper-class and she wanted with all her heart, you know, so, other people in the movie it could be said she may have been… she may have had more aliveness than the rest.

She really had a goal. She really had something she would give her life for.
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