World-famous scientist Michael Armstrong (Paul Newman) and his fiance/assistant, Sarah Sherman (Julie Andrews), travel to Copenhagen for a physics conference. When Sarah mistakenly intercepts a message meant for Armstrong, she believes that he is secretly defecting to East Germany. Or is he? As Armstrong goes undercover to glean top-secret information, the couple find themselves running for their lives from enemy agents in this action-packed thriller.
TORN CURTAIN was Alfred Hitchcock's 50th film and signals a return to the espionage-romance theme the director showcased in such films as SECRET AGENT and THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH. Hitchcock created a distinct look for the film, subduing lighting and gauzing the lens to give a more natural, less studio-produced feel. Notably, it was the strength of studio influence that contributed another change in the look of the film relative to most Hitchcock pictures, casting leads that departed from traditional Hitchcock types. Paul Newman and Julie Andrews, both at the heights of their popularity when the film was released, anchor this cold war spy thriller. An American scientist (Newman) attends a convention in Copenhagen with his fiancée-assistant (Andrews). While there, she picks up a message meant for him and is drawn into a complex web of espionage behind the Iron Curtain that he had intended to face alone. Her presence throws all his plans into disarray, and the two lovers discover too late that it's easier to get in than to get out again. In one of the film's most memorable scenes, Hitchcock shows his audience just how difficult murder can be when opposed by the will for survival.
When Sarah Sherman learns that her once-patriotic fiancé--a physicist--has defected to communist East Germany, she cannot believe it. And she's right: He's gone undercover in an attempt to obtain classified military information. Unfortunately, Sarah is determined to find answers to her questions, so she follows him behind the Iron Curtain, involving them in espionage and danger.
Theatrical Release |
Hitchcock cameo: The director appears in the hotel lobby holding a baby.
Paul Newman had established his animal sexiness in HUD and COOL HAND LUKE before shifting gears to play the restrained physicist in TORN CURTAIN.
Julie Andrews, though blonde, was a departure from Hitchcock's standard leading lady, typified by Kim Novak, Ingrid Bergman, Tippi Hedren, and Grace Kelly.
According to François Truffaut's book on Hitchcock, Hitchcock experimented with lighting in this film; he aimed the lights against white walls and covered the camera with gray gauze in an attempt to get a "natural" instead of a "studio" look.
Since MARNIE, Hitchcock's previous film, was a commercial flop, executives at Universal chose the stars for TORN CURTAIN. Ordinarily, Hitchcock carefully handpicked his own actors.