Why the passenger side?
June 20, 2006 10:23 AM   Subscribe

I watched the 1960 Hitchcock version of Psycho and noticed something: Every time a character exited their car, they did so through the passenger-side door. Why?
posted by elwoodwiles to Media & Arts (9 answers total)
 
I don't remember that behavior in the movie but I assume that it was because you could. Back before bucket seats and floor shifters, the front of a car was one big long flat stretch of vinyl. The driver could pretty easily slide over and get out on the right side of the car so as not to step out into traffic. I used to do that when driving my mom's 1970 Ford Galaxy.
posted by octothorpe at 10:40 AM on June 20, 2006


I'll have to watch it again, but my guess it's a combination of what octothorpe said and what worked best on camera.

When filming a story, you make a mental list of what is possible/probable (1. exit driver door; 2. exit passenger door) and then you pick list item that looks best on camera.

Hitchcock was a master at framing shots, so my guess is he chose (the possible/probable) passenger doors because it looked better or because it gave him a more direct way to get from point A of the story to point B of the story.
posted by grumblebee at 10:56 AM on June 20, 2006


I don't remember them doing it, but if they did, it was probably so they didn't have to dolly shot to make an unimportant, static image more interesting. They didn't have the Steadi-Cams we have now, so if you wanted to follow someone (say, if they parked driver-side on the street) around a car, you'd have to set up a dolly (those little train tracks you see on movie sets) to follow the actor.

Since getting out of the car isn't really important except to establish that the character has just arrived, getting out the passenger side when it's parked closest to the sidewalk cuts out 3-4 seconds of boring "walking around the car" action and saves time and money on set up.

Now, why they didn't park the driver's side next to the street, I don't know. May have been an aesthetic thing- most of the movie was shot on Universal's backlot- perhaps the set looked best from a specific location?
posted by headspace at 11:00 AM on June 20, 2006


Octo has it right. In fact in the old days that is what you learned when learning to drive.
posted by Gungho at 11:07 AM on June 20, 2006


Huh. I'll have to watch for this behavior in other 50's to 60's movies. It makes sense to think it saved on equipment/time costs - it's kind of like the 'not saying goodbye on the phone' thread from a week ago. I didn't realize that exiting from the passenger-side was once common.
posted by elwoodwiles at 11:40 AM on June 20, 2006


You see this behavior mostly in films of the 40's and 50's.
It think it's a combination of bench seats and being taught to do so for safety. It sure looks strange, though.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:43 AM on June 20, 2006


I noticed it in Notorious last night. They were both getting out of the driver's side. That was the side against the sidewalk.
posted by thenextword at 11:45 AM on June 20, 2006


I remember quite a few old TV shows and movies where a couple were going for a romantic drive, only to have them both get into the car on the driver's side. The female would slide all the way across the seat and then the male would get in and drive. (I seem to recall this happening constantly on Andy Griffith.)

I always assumed it was because of the car being parked in front of fake background scenery (the camera would be filming directly through the non-existent windshield and missing rear-view mirror), a set up which would not have been conducive to traditional chivalrous vehicle entry...

Anyway, this has nothing to do with the question, so I'll shut up.
posted by daveleck at 11:48 AM on June 20, 2006


daveleck writes "I remember quite a few old TV shows and movies where a couple were going for a romantic drive, only to have them both get into the car on the driver's side. The female would slide all the way across the seat and then the male would get in and drive."

My wife always gets in the driver's side of my PowerWagon:
  1. It is easier to get up into the 4X4 if you have the steering wheel to grab onto.
  2. She sits in the middle so it doesn't really matter which side she gets in she has to travel the same distance.

posted by Mitheral at 2:21 PM on June 20, 2006


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