“Hitchcock’s movie was the first big moment for him to do some of the things he’d been wanting to do for the last 15 years,” King explains.
Ultimately, however, Dalí’s grand ideas were cut short. Initially envisioned by the artist as a 20-minute long clip, roughly three minutes remain in the final edit. Some vignettes were discarded from the outset because they would be nearly impossible to film, including a ballroom scene with fifteen grand pianos suspended over the dancers’ heads. Others were filmed but later cut after Dalí and Hitchcock had left the set, like the moment when Bergman’s character morphs into a plaster-cast Classical sculpture.
The film’s producer, Hollywood titan David O. Selznick, became increasingly concerned about the scene. On October 25th, 1944, he wrote: “The more I look at the dream sequence for Spellbound, the worse I feel it to be… It’s not Dalí’s fault, for his work is much finer and much better for the purpose than I ever thought it would be. It is the photography, set-ups, lighting, et cetera.”
Eventually, Selznick brought on production designer William Cameron Menzies of Gone With The Wind fame to rein in the footage. “When you look back at some of Selznick’s memos, it’s very clear that he’s worried and he sought legal counsel to see if the artist could sue them based on what they did to his work,” says King.