In 1945, Salvador Dalí’s movie agent called him up and ordered a nightmare.
The request came at the behest of director Alfred Hitchcock, busy planning the dream sequence for his psychoanalytic thriller Spellbound (1945). Although Dalí had officially broken with the Surrealists a few years earlier, his fantastical paintings—replete with melting clocks, deep shadows, and long vistas—ensured his continuing status as an American celebrity.
But Hitchcock didn’t hire him for the publicity value. “I wanted Dalí because of the architectural sharpness of his work,” the filmmaker explained in a 1962 interview. Rather than the traditional, blurred Hollywood dream sequence, Hitchcock “wanted to convey the dream with great visual sharpness and clarity, sharper than the film itself.”