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Released in 1963, The Haunting perfectly captured the intensity of fear, paranoia, and the supernatural. Today, it's considered a landmark horror film respected by directors like Steven Speilberg and Martin Scorsese.
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 her novel, 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,” screenwriter Nelson 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 that 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.
Johnson wasn't especially interested in playing 007. When he learned that the part came with a seven year exclusive contract, he quickly declined. Johnson stated, “The best man for it was Sean Connery. 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 from others. The cast thought she was being “method" though. To make matters worse, Harris' commute to set was often accompanied by a dense "black fog." The unsettling British weather could turn her 30 minute commute into four hours in near-darkness. After filming ended, she sent a bouquet to Claire Bloom to make sure her castmate knew that she never intended to seem distant.
6. Theo had a deleted scene.
Claire Bloom filmed a short scene in her character’s apartment after she had just broken up with her girlfriend, a moment which is not in Jackson’s novel. Screenwriter Nelson Gidding explained the scene was cut because it was too on-the-nose, especially for a film which relied heavily on mystery.
7. The film was almost colorized.
Years after the movie's release, during an industry event on film 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. His guild was then able to stop the colorization effort, which he felt defied the film’s tone and atmosphere. The Haunting was his last black and white film.