One thing I absolutely adore doing is picking a director and going through their entire filmography.
I’ve already ranked Paul Thomas Anderson’s movies (and even still find myself thinking about Licorice Pizza every now and then), as well as many other directors.
But, I have a bit of a problem when it comes to Alfred Hitchcock movies, because there are just so many of them. Plus, even with my beloved Netflix DVD plan (which I’m still processing the end of), not all of them are easy to find. That said, for the many Hitchcock movies I have seen, I’ve learned a few things about the director. Here are just a few.
Alfred Hitchcock Really Seemed To Like Cross Country Stories
Alfred Hitchcock sure loved his cross country stories, or, what I like to call his “on the run” movies. With the over-50 films the director made, some of the most famous on-the-run stories that I can think of are The 39 Steps, Saboteur, and of course, North by Northwest with Cary Grant. In these types of films, a leading man is often either mistaken for a crime they didn’t commit, or framed. They go on the run, and meet a beautiful woman along the way who goes on the adventure with them.
For instance, in the 1937 film, Young and Innocent, its heroes, played by Derrick de Marney and Nova Pilbeam, are on the run after the male character is mistakenly taken for a murderer because he was at the crime scene shortly after it happened. The female character is the police chief’s daughter, and she falls in love with our protagonist, and then goes on the run with him to clear his name.
But, here’s the thing. Even though Hitchcock had dipped into this well on multiple occasions, that doesn’t mean that the movies feel similar. For instance, Young and Innocent feels nothing like Saboteur, even though there’s another mistaken identity storyline in that one as well.
In fact, all of Hitchcock’s on-the-run movies feel quite different, so I think that’s a credit to the famed director’s creativity. But, yeah. I guess if you watch enough films by one director in a row (Like I have with Hitchcock), then you’re bound to start seeing a pattern.
Hitchcock Employed Cary Grant For Thrills, And Jimmy Stewart For Chills
Some actors, no matter how many films they might do, still seem intrinsically tied to a specific director. For example, Robert De Niro is often thought of in the same sentence as Martin Scorsese. The same goes for Johnny Depp and Tim Burton. These actor/director teams can seem like a match made in Heaven, as the pairings can sometimes produce gold.
Well, while I can’t say that Hitchcock had any actors on the same scale as De Niro/Scorsese, who now have 10 feature length films together, or Depp/Burton, who have 8, I will say that Hitchcock definitely found a place for both Cary Grant, and Jimmy Stewart, as he made 4 films apiece with the actors.
For Cary Grant, those films were Suspicion, Notorious, To Catch a Thief, and North by Northwest, and for Jimmy Stewart, they were Rope, Rear Window, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and Vertigo. Now, I’ve recently seen all 8 films, (the remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much was actually on my list of 10 movies from Netflix DVD that I recently watched, and what I noticed was that Hitchcock used both actors very differently.
For Cary Grant, he used him in a more “action star” kind of way. I’m not saying that a movie like Suspicion, or North by Northwest are “action movies,” as they’re very much thrillers. But, there is definitely a lot more action in them than say, a movie like Rope, which sees Jimmy Stewart as a prep school housemaster who has thoughts on Nietzsche’s Ubermensch philosophy, or his character in Rear Window, who is confined to a wheelchair throughout the film.
In a lot of ways, I feel like Hitchcock called upon Cary Grant when he wanted a convincing leading man who could run away from a plane, and called upon Stewart when he needed somebody for a more psychological thriller, such as Vertigo.
Hitchcock’s Favorite Film Of His Is My Favorite Film Of His, Too
It’s been well-documented that Hitchcock’s favorite film of his own was Shadow of a Doubt, and you know what? It’s my favorite movie of the director as well. In the movie, which stars Teresa Wright, and an utterly terrifying Joseph Cotten, a young woman (Wright) gets a visit from her much adored uncle (Cotten), only to learn that the visit isn’t just a random one, and her uncle may have a very, very dark past.
What I love most about this movie is Cotten’s performance, as he truly sells the idea that even the seemingly nicest people can actually be the worst people on Earth. My favorite moment is a dinner-time scene where Cotten’s character seems to go into a trance and reveal his innermost, misogynistic feelings. It’s really quite shocking to see in a 1943 movie, and I really do like this film more than many of Hitchcock’s bigger, more revered movies like Psycho, The Birds, and Vertigo. It just hits differently.
Hitchcock Really Should Have Won Best Director At Least Once
When it comes to the greatest movies to ever win Best Picture, I would definitely put Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca on that list. It’s spooky, dark, and layered with subtext. In other words, it’s an excellent movie directed by a master filmmaker, and it did win Best Picture.
But, guess what. Alfred Hitchcock didn’t win Best Director at the 13th Academy Awards. That distinction went to John Ford for The Grapes of Wrath, which is an okay movie (The book is way better), but I don’t know if I would say the direction in that movie is superior to Rebecca (Though, to be fair, how much direction did Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine really need to knock it out of the park?).
It doesn’t end there, though, as Hitchcock NEVER won Best Director, even after being nominated five times (He should have been nominated even more if you ask me!). This is just as egregious as my all-time favorite director, Stanley Kubrick, never winning for Best Director, even though he certainly deserved it as well. I mean, yes, I know. Winning a trophy isn’t everything, but for all the magnificent films Hitchcock directed, he seriously couldn’t win Best Director once? Outrageous!
Hitchcock’s Last Movie Was Actually A Really Interesting Final Film To Go Out On
As I mentioned in the last section, my favorite director is Stanley Kubrick, and his last movie, Eyes Wide Shut, is a really fascinating denouement to a staggering career. That said, Eyes Wide Shut is definitely a Stanley Kubrick movie. In other words, I would never confuse it with another director’s work. Its coldness has Kubrick written all over it.
However, I can’t say the same for Hitchcock’s last movie, Family Plot, which is about a shady couple hired to look for a grown man who was once adopted… who also turns out to be a murderer and a thief. It’s often labeled as a “black comedy thriller,” but I’d call it more comedy than thriller. This is really interesting, because I’d expect something else entirely from a man who built a great deal of his reputation on making much darker films. For him to end on a lighter note really just goes to show that Hitchcock wasn’t any one thing, despite what people might have thought of him.
And, that’s just some of the stuff that I’ve learned about Hitchcock after watching several of his movies. But, what do you think? Have you also seen a number of movies from the “Master of Suspense”? For more news on other classic movies, be sure to swing around here often!
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