Seven Movies for Hitchcock’s Birthday (& a Contest)

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The 1998 Alfred Hitchcock stamp was the fourth in the Legends of Hollywood series. (Alfred Hitchcock™ & © The Alfred Hitchcock Trust. Alfred Hitchcock Presents © Universal Studios.)

Perhaps no other filmmaker in history was as good at feeding our appetite for “thrills and chills” as Alfred Hitchcock. Born on this day in 1899, the “Master of Suspense” brought a distinct visual style to American movies, captivating us over and over again with powerful films built on mounting anxiety and haunting realism. “There is no terror in the bang,” he once said, “only in the anticipation of it.”

An expert manipulator, Hitchcock was interested in more than shock value, however. His films have stood out for their delicate balance of terror and humor—ordinary and absurd. Behind many blood-chilling scenes lay undercurrents of comic relief or bizarre irony. “Always make the audience suffer as much as possible.”

Tonight, in honor of Alfred Hitchcock’s birthday, why not take a break from the heat with some creepy chills inspired by the master of the macabre? Here are seven recommendations:

  • Notorious: In this 1946 spy thriller, Ingrid Bergman plays a women recruited by a government agent (Cary Grant) to spy on a group of her father’s Nazi colleagues in Rio de Janeiro. What won’t she do to complete her mission?
  • North by Northwest: An ad man, Cary Grant, and a beautiful blonde (Eva Marie Saint) go on the run in this classic 1959 drama (sometimes comedy) about mistaken identity. (Would Don Draper have these problems?) The unforgettable climax at Mount Rushmore is just one of this movie’s many charms.
  • Rear Window: In this 1954 whodunit, James Stewart stars as a wheelchair-bound photographer who spies on his neighbors during a summer heat wave and sees something he shouldn’t have. Or did he?
  • To Catch a Thief: Cary Grant and Grace Kelly team up in this 1955 romantic thriller about a reformed cat burglar who must prove himself innocent when a string of jewel thefts plagues the beautiful and rich along the Riviera.
  • The Birds: Thinking of following your love to a beautiful seaside town in California? Don’t. Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) does just that in this 1963 horror classic, and soon after she arrives the once-peaceful birds of the area begin to attack. Psst…Pay special attention to the man who leaves the pet shop with two white terriers.
  • Rebecca: Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier star in this 1940 film adaptation of the fantastic gothic novel by Daphne Du Maurier about a woman tormented by memories of her husband’s first wife.
  • Vertigo: Don’t let the dizzying close-up montages scare you away. This 1958 psychological suspense thriller will have you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. James Stewart stars as a police detective with a fear of heights and an obsession that he can’t shake.

HitchcockNow, just to make things interesting, let’s up the ante on this Hitchcock celebration with a contest. We are giving away one official first day souvenir. Issued on August 3, 1998, the souvenir (which is sealed) includes a pane of 32-cent Hitchcock stamps, as well as an Official First Day Cancellation. To enter to win, all you have to do is answer the following question correctly:

Famous for his dry, outrageous comments, Alfred Hitchcock made cameo appearances in nearly all his own films, often with a funny twist. In Blackmail (1929) a boy bothers him while he reads in the subway, and in The Paradine Case from 1947, Hitchcock can be seen leaving a train with a cello case. In what memorable movie does Hitchcock’s silhouette appear through a window—wearing a cowboy hat?

Send your answer to uspsstamps [at] gmail [dot] com. One winner will be selected at random from those who answer correctly. The deadline for entries is noon EDT on Friday, August 16. Good luck!

2013 Christmas Stamps Revealed

Surprise! It’s Christmas in August. (Really, who can wait for December?) We’ll be releasing two new Christmas stamps this year and here’s your first look at them.

Holiday rectangle pairThe first stamp features a cheerful poinsettia, the most popular holiday plant in the United States. The second shows a detail from “Virgin and Child” by Jan Gossaert. Both are timeless symbols of the Christmas season, but can you guess in what century Gossaert created his oil-on-wood painting?

Both stamps will be issued as Forever® stamps in October.

La Florida Stamps Join Historic Museum Collection

Last month, the Historical Museum in Plantation, Florida, welcomed members of the local community to an open house in celebration of the 500th anniversary of the discovery of Florida.

Museum staff turned out in period costumes, and the public, too, was encouraged to wear something distinctive of Florida during the last 500 years. Flip flops and bnews17s3-largeustles, anyone? Retired USPS Operations Support Specialist John Feeney and his wife Cathy arrived dressed as Ponce de León and the “First Lady of Florida,” respectively. Their son, Robert, showed up dressed as a ship’s navigator. All three mingled among other costumed museum members and the standing-room only crowd of spectators.

The highlight of the festivities was the presentation of an enlargement of the four La Florida stamps released on April 3 in St. Augustine. Fort Lauderdale Customer Service Operations Manager Alex Sepulveda gave a brief history lesson on the discovery of Florida and then presented the enlargement to museum officials.

The enlargement has now been added to the museum’s wonderful “Florida: 500 Years of History” exhibition on display through October 26, 2013. The exhibition also includes memorabilia and photographs, flags, postcards (yay!), and other artifacts and ephemera from Florida’s 500-year history. Especially worthwhile is the display of items from the era of the conquistador.

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Send a note about your summer travels to your friends and loved ones using the brand-new La Florida stamps and matching note cards. Click the image for details.

The lovely La Florida stamps have been issued as Forever® stamps. (Forever stamps are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail one-ounce rate.) You can find them online, by calling 800-STAMP24 (800-782-6724), or at your local Post Office.

You’re Invited to a West Virginia Birthday Bash

WVStatehood-Forever-single-BGv1Wild and wonderful West Virginia will celebrate its 150th birthday on Thursday, June 20, and we’re all invited to the party.

Mountaineers and West Virginia lovers of all kinds, please come join us for the official dedication of the brand-new West Virginia Statehood Forever® stamp. Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and U.S. Senators John D. (“Jay”) Rockefeller and Joe Manchin will offer remarks. Stamp photographer Roger Spencer will be among the honored guests.

The ceremony, which begins at 1:50 p.m. and is part of the state’s sesquicentennial celebration, will take place on the steps of the state capitol building in Charleston (1900 Kanawha Boulevard East). The event is free and open to the public. We hope to see you there!

Happy Birthday to America’s First Futurist Painter, Joseph Stella!

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Joseph Stella’s oil-on-canvas painting, “Brooklyn Bridge” (1919–1920), measures 84 x 76 inches and is in the collection of the Yale University Art Gallery.

Today we’re celebrating the art of Joseph Stella, who was born on this day in 1877. Stella’s large 1920 oil painting, Brooklyn Bridge, is one of 12 works featured on the Modern Art in America stamp sheet released in March.

Look closely at the image on the stamp. It depicts the familiar pointed arches of the Brooklyn Bridge, but perhaps you also see the lines of a Gothic cathedral. If so, that’s exactly what Stella intended. The painting was inspired by his experience standing late one night on the bridge’s promenade. “I felt deeply moved,” he later wrote, “as if on the threshold of a new religion or in the presence of a new divinity.” Rather than a faithful representation of the New York landmark, Stella’s portrait of the Brooklyn Bridge suggests the possibility for spiritual transcendence in the modern world. Can you think of other paintings or works of art that do the same thing?

Although Joseph Stella is best remembered for his multiple images of the Brooklyn Bridge and other iconic New York scenes, he was a versatile artist who worked in a variety of styles—including Dada, realism, and symbolism—and the full range of his talent is now widely recognized.

Stella was born in Italy and came to the United States in 1896. (He became a U.S. citizen in 1923.) Early in his career he worked as an illustrator for various magazines and won wide acclaim for a series of drawings of coal miners and steel mill workers. Later, impressed by the art of the Italian Futurists, he painted Battle of Lights, Coney Island, Mardi Gras (1913–1914), which is considered the first American Futurist painting. (Responding to the speed of modern society, the Futurists attempted to portray the rush of sights and sounds that characterized modern life.) Two of his works were exhibited at the 1913 Armory Show, a watershed for the development of modern art in America.

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You can find the Joseph Stella Forever® stamp on the Modern Art in America stamp sheet, which is available now online, by calling 800-STAMP24 (800-782-6724), and in Post Offices around the country. (Forever stamps are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail® one-ounce rate.)

Have a favorite Joseph Stella painting? Tell us about it in the comments.