Salvador Dalí Goes to Hollywood & Creates Wild Dream Sequences for Hitchcock & Vincente Minnelli

Sal­vador Dalí and Luis Buñuel report­ed­ly car­ried rocks in their pock­ets dur­ing the pre­miere of their first film Un Chien andalou, antic­i­pat­ing a vio­lent reac­tion from the audi­ence.

It was a fair con­cern. The movie might be almost 90 years old but it still has the pow­er to pro­voke – the film fea­tures a shot of a woman get­ting her eye slashed open with a straight razor after all. As it turned out, rocks weren’t need­ed. The audi­ence, filled with such avant-garde lumi­nar­ies as Pablo Picas­so and André Bre­ton liked the film. A dis­ap­point­ed Dalí lat­er report­ed that the night was “less excit­ing” than he had hoped.

Un Chien andalou fea­tured many of Dalí’s visu­al obses­sions – eye­balls, ants crawl­ing out of ori­fices and rot­ting ani­mals. Dalí delight­ed in shock­ing and incit­ing peo­ple with his gor­geous, dis­turb­ing images. And he loved grandiose spec­ta­cles like a riot at a movie the­ater.

Dalí and Buñuel’s next movie, the caus­tic L’Age d’or, exposed the dif­fer­ences between the two artists and their cre­ative part­ner­ship implod­ed in pre-pro­duc­tion. Buñuel went on to make a string of sub­ver­sive mas­ter­pieces like Land With­out Bread, Exter­mi­nat­ing Angel and The Dis­creet Charm of the Bour­geois; Dalí large­ly quit film in favor of his beau­ti­ful­ly craft­ed paint­ings.

Then Hol­ly­wood came call­ing.

Alfred Hitch­cock hired Dalí to cre­ate a dream sequence for his 1945 movie Spell­bound. Dalí craft­ed over 20 min­utes of footage of which rough­ly four and a half min­utes made it into the movie. “I want­ed to con­vey the dream with great visu­al sharp­ness and clarity–sharper than film itself,” Hitch­cock explained to Fran­cois Truf­faut in 1962. The sequence, which you can see imme­di­ate­ly above, is filled with all sorts of Daliesque motifs – slashed eye­balls, naked women and phan­tas­magoric land­scapes. It is also the most mem­o­rable part of an oth­er­wise minor work by Hitch­cock.

Dalí’s fol­low up film work was for, of all things, the Vin­cente Min­nel­li com­e­dy Father of the Bride (1950). Spencer Tra­cy plays Stan­ley Banks whose beau­ti­ful daugh­ter (Eliz­a­beth Tay­lor, no less) is get­ting mar­ried. As Stanley’s anx­i­ety over the impend­ing nup­tials spi­rals, he has one very weird night­mare. Cue Dalí. Stan­ley is late to the wed­ding. As he rush­es down the aisle, his clothes mys­te­ri­ous­ly get shred­ded by the tiled floor that bounces and con­torts like a piece of flesh.

This dream sequence, which you can see at the top of the arti­cle, has few of the visu­al flour­ish­es of Spell­bound, but it still has plen­ty of Dalí’s trade­mark weird­ness. Those float­ing accusato­ry eyes. The way that Tracy’s leg seems to stretch. That floor.

Father of the Bride marked the end of Dalí’s work in Hol­ly­wood, though there were a cou­ple poten­tial col­lab­o­ra­tions that would have been amaz­ing had they actu­al­ly hap­pened. Dalí had an idea for a movie with the Marx Broth­ers called Giraffes on Horse­back Sal­ad. The movie would have “includ­ed a scene of giraffes wear­ing gas masks and one of Chico sport­ing a deep-div­ing suit while play­ing the piano.” Though Har­po was report­ed­ly enthu­si­as­tic about the pro­posed idea, Grou­cho wasn’t and the idea sad­ly came to noth­ing.

Lat­er in life, Dalí became a fix­ture on the talk show cir­cuit. On the Dick Cavett Show in 1970, he flung an anteater at Lil­lian Gish.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Two Vin­tage Films by Sal­vador Dalí and Luis Buñuel: Un Chien Andalou and L’Age d’Or

The Seashell and the Cler­gy­man: The World’s First Sur­re­al­ist Film

Alfred Hitch­cock Recalls Work­ing with Sal­vador Dali on Spell­bound

A Soft Self-Por­trait of Sal­vador Dali, Nar­rat­ed by the Great Orson Welles

A Tour Inside Sal­vador Dalí’s Labyrinthine Span­ish Home

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veep­to­pus, fea­tur­ing lots of pic­tures of vice pres­i­dents with octo­pus­es on their heads.  The Veep­to­pus store is here.

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