There are some movie directors who can conjure up an image or a mood just by the mention of their names.
John Ford -- Westerns and valor. Frank Capra --1930s and 40s America and patriotism.
Steven Spielberg -- Epic films and adventure. Martin Scorsese -- Crime films and redemption.
Alfred Hitchcock -- Suspense films and, well, suspense.
Hitchcock is a particular favorite of mine. He was a master manipulator of his audience’s emotions. Watching his films, you couldn’t help getting caught up in the story he wanted to tell. Hitchcock would telegraph his next move, increasing the viewer’s involvement and dread. Sometimes knowing what’s coming is worse than the shock of a something totally unexpected. As a member of the audience, you can do nothing to stop the turn of events being played out before you. And yet we’re like little kids who love playing with a jack-in-the-box. We know that the jack will jump up to scare us, but we keep turning the crank, waiting for the thrill of that moment. That’s why we keep going back to the films of Alfred Hitchcock. We just love that suspense and that thrill.
Hitchcock is still an influence in movies today. A well-crafted suspense film is invariably called “Hitchcockian.” A mysterious blonde woman is called a “Hitchcock blonde.” But while many filmmakers copy the master’s style, remakes are rarely undertaken. Instead, two upcoming films deal with Hitchcock’s life behind the camera. Hitchcock, a theatrical release coming early next year, stars Anthony Hopkins as the director and focuses on the making of the classic Psycho. The Girl, an HBO production scheduled for later this month, stars Toby Jones as Hitchcock, and examines the director’s tumultuous relationship with actress Tippi Hedren (played by Sienna Miller) and the making of the movies The Birds and Marnie.
If you’re interested in the kind of suspense movie they just don’t seem to make anymore, we’re fortunate to have many of Alfred Hitchcock’s films available to check out here. Some of my favorites are listed below.
Rebecca (1940) – Joan Fontaine, Laurence Olivier, Judith Anderson, George Sanders
Foreign Correspondent (1940) – Joel McCrea, Laraine Day, Herbert Marshall
Shadow of a Doubt (1943) – Teresa Wright, Joseph Cotten
Lifeboat (1944) – Tallulah Bankhead, John Hodiak, Walter Slezak
Notorious (1946) – Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant, Claude Raines
Strangers on a Train (1951) – Farley Granger, Robert Walker
Rear Window (1954) – James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Thelma Ritter, Raymond Burr
To Catch a Thief (1955) – Cary Grant, Grace Kelly
Vertigo (1958) – James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes
North by Northwest (1959) – Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason, Martin Landau
For more insight into Hitchcock and his work, check out The Dick Cavett Show. Hollywood Greats. Or any of the following books.
Alfred Hitchcock: a Life in Darkness and Light – Patrick McGilligan
Alfred Hitchcock: Filming Our Fears – Gene Adair
Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho – Stephen Rebello
The Alfred Hitchcock Story – Ken Mogg
Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies – Donald Spoto
Finally, you can also see Hitchcock himself in introductions to his television series Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The series ran from 1955-1961, with the director greeting his audience with the words that I used for the title of this blog.