Hitchcock’s 119th Birthday & 4 Personal Picks

In honor of the master of suspense’s birthday I decided what better time to share a mini pick list. This is not in anyway a definitive list just certain Hitch films I can easily return to. The kind that you can comfortably pop in on a stormy weekend and be swept away into the intrigue.

• Rear Window

When I want Hitchcock in his purest form this is the one I go to. You can never go wrong with Rear Window, each viewing is like the first. In my observation I feel like what makes it such a favorite is how relatable it can appear to the viewer. Now obviously becoming an amateur detective won’t happen to everyone but that’s not exactly my point. My point is the fact that most of us have probably been curious of what lies beyond our neighbors facades. Are they really as they seem? It’s a little point of quandary that can tempt the imagination. Hopefully the Thorwalds’ of the world are few and far between but those like Miss. LonelyHearts or the composer who works tirelessly at his craft are more familiar to the people we may know. That’s what I love about this film; it’s a very humanistic story that spends a lot of time on it’s characters. Rear Window is extremely intimate and introspective, that is why it feels so real and makes you care about what will happen next to this group of people. Compared to others in the Hitchcock filmography we may not be spies on an international chase or witness to a near apocalyptic bird attack…. But many of us could easily find ourselves laid up at home with little to do just like L.B Jeffries. We could all easily be him and that’s exactly what Hitchcock wants you to think and feel.

Extending from that point we can move onto the superb creative and technical prowess of this film. Generally in a mystery you have a lot of movement. Your protagonist goes on the prowl. Lurking and spying on the target, following them around town and interacting with other characters whether they be shady or not. Here you never leave the apartment but never once do you feel as if you are restricted or missing out on key information. The window becomes the stage, the neighbors filling in as a troupe of actors and you as L.B Jeffries become the captive audience. Everything is there it is just in how you observe it.

I also want to briefly touch on how this is my favorite role for Grace Kelly in her three turns as Hitchcock heroine. All roles are fine but as Lisa she is given more independence and drive, finally getting in on the action instead of just being an artfully adorned damsel in distress. This comes across on screen as you can see Grace having an absolute ball in the role. But never once does the action have to take away from the things she likes or her femininity. Lisa proves you can have both as displayed in the final scene where she switches out the book for the latest issue of Harper’s Bazaar. This is why she’s my favorite heroine of Hitchcock’s films.

• Rebecca

Don’t quote me on this but if I remember correctly Rebecca was my very first Hitchcock film. You see my mother was a great fan of Daphne du Maurier as well as Laurence Oliver. But that aside the story of Rebecca was a constant in our home, on crisp autumn days we would even listen to the audio cassettes in the car. That was years ago but even to this day I think of Manderly while driving through a tree lined road dappled with sunlight peeking through the leaves. But I digress…

Rebecca as a film is almost like watching a dream that slowly transforms through each act into a nightmare. At the start it is everything a romance should be; being swept away from drudgery the new Mrs. De Winter is taken into a world of luxury by the debonair Max De Winter. But beyond the glamorous playboy front lies a very sad and paranoid man haunted by the past. The ghosts of the past are never so apparent than in the long deceased Rebecca who remains present thanks to the devilish Mrs. Danvers.

Mrs. Danvers steals the show as the sinister presence lurking to taunt and prey upon the new Mrs. De Winter. To her Rebecca was practically a goddess here on earth and no other person could possibly hold a candle to her… And as long as she’s around they better not try. An unspoken sentiment that becomes loud and clear to Joan Fontaine’s character. Every moment is spent in trying to wear down the strength of Mrs. De Winter in hopes that she would run far away and leave both Max and Manderly behind. As we move along you can almost feel a ticking time bomb lying in wait, as even Mrs. De Winter slowly starts to doubt not only her future but Max himself. All coming to a head in a beautifully tragic cinematic scene of fire and and fury.

• North by Northwest

If it’s tantalizing suspense you want, tantalizing suspense you shall receive if you watch North by Northwest. Cary Grant is in top form as Roger Thornhill – a man in the wrong place at the wrong time. From that point on there is no down time as a case of mistaken identity takes you on a thrilling chase across the country.

You always see screen caps of Cary running from the crop duster plane, but few actually go in depth about the genius of that scene as a whole. There is a beauty in it’s chaos. The nerve rattling anxiety of watching him outrun the plane as it dives in and out of frame. All of this coming to a crescendo when it collides with a passing tank trunk in a ball of fire. All providing the momentary pause needed for Thornhill to escape near death once again.

Drama ensues until we reach what we’ve all been waiting for – the climatic conclusion at Mt.Rushmore. A conclusion that begins at one of the most visually stunning homes ever… Sorry for momentarily fawning over the mid century artistry of Frank Lloyd Wright – back to the movie… The ending to North by Northwest is quite possibly one of my favorite finales. As someone who has a deathly fear of heights the suspense is not lost on me. My blood ran cold the first time I saw Eva Marie Saint dangling off the monument and seeing the drop underneath.

• Stage Fright

Out of my picks listed here today this is probably the lesser known. That being said I absolutely love this film and really wanted to include it so others could check it out. It is one of Hitchcock’s more European pictures with a heavy British fingerprint on it.

Jane Wyman plays our protagonist here, which in 1950 is really refreshing. Main female protagonists for Hitchcock films didn’t really take flight till Janet Leigh and Tippi Hedren. Not much really happens directly to Wyman per say. She is more the lightning rod for the viewer in the situation and the drama surrounds her like the eye of a tornado instead of directly singling her out. Similar to Rear Window we have our protagonist playing a pseudo detective trying to unravel the trickery around her. Since this is a lesser talked about Hitchcock film I don’t want to talk too much about spoilers since it’s so pivotal to the plot, instead I’ll talk more about the marvelous cast of characters…

Besides Wyman we also have the fantastic Alastair Sim playing her father. For a smaller part Sim easily steals every scene he is in with his signature acerbic wit and humor. Next the legendary Marlene Dietrich as a femme fatale with a sketchy alibi, one you don’t know how to sum up until the very end. Helping Wyman along is the ridiculously charming Michael Wilding as an inspector detective.

If you have yet to add this one to your Hitchcock repertoire I highly recommend it.


One Comment Add yours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s