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Released in 1963, The Haunting perfectly captured the intensity of fear, paranoia, and the supernatural. Today, its considered a landmark horror film and is respected by directors like Steven Speilberg and Martin Scorsese for its technical and frightening excellence.
1. The film had several different names.
Working titles included Phenomena, Nightcry, Tremolo, The Unheard Of, and The Spell of Hill House. When Director Robert Wise and screenwriter Nelson Gidding met with author Shirley Jackson, they asked if she ever considered a different title for The Haunting of Hill House. Her answer: The Haunting.
2. Susan Hayward was considered for a role.
At least that’s what The Hollywood Reporter reported at the time. Hayward had worked with The Haunting’s director and screenwriter before on I Want To Live!, for which she won a Best Actress Academy Award. “Susan Hayward was a very good actress but she would have been different,” Gidding said. “I can’t imagine anyone other than Julie Harris in the part.”
3. Russ Tamblyn initially turned down the role.
Tamblyn previously worked with Wise on the smash-hit musical West Side Story as Riff. When he received the script for The Haunting, he passed. That is, until MGM reminded him he was under contract. “I read it again and suddenly it looked like a much, much better part,” Tamblyn later joked. He now considers it one of his favorite roles.
4. Richard Johnson turned down James Bond.
While he wasn’t particularly interested in play 007, the seven year exclusive contract certainly didn’t win him over either. Johnson stated, “The best man was Sean. They were extremely lucky to get him.” Interestingly, Johnson’s on-screen wife in The Haunting, Lois Maxwell, eventually played Miss Moneypenny fourteen times in the Bond series.
5. Julie Harris found filming “difficult”.
Perhaps due to the film’s tone, Harris felt depressed and disconnected, though the cast thought she was being “method”. Julie also found a dense incoming “black fog” unsettling, as it turned her 30 minute commute into four hours in near-darkness. After filming ended, she sent a bouquet to Claire Bloom for seeming distant.
6. Theo had a deleted scene.
Claire Bloom filmed a scene in her character’s apartment where she had just broken-up with her girlfriend, a moment which is not in Jackson’s novel. Gidding explained the scene was cut because it was too on-the-nose for a film which relied on implications.
7. The film was almost colorized.
During an event on colorization, Wise was shown a clip of The Haunting in color. “I blew my top,” he admitted. Thankfully, Wise’s contract specifically stated that The Haunting was to be filmed in black-and-white, and his guild helped stop the colorization effort, which he felt defined the film’s tone and atmosphere. The Haunting was his last black-and-white film.