Tag: Alfred Hitchcock

October 6, 2015 / / Main Slate Archive

Although I consider Alfred Hitchcock my favorite director, I must confess that I’m not too familiar with his British-era films aside from THE 39 STEPS, THE LADY VANISHES and THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH. As for SABOTAGE, I had seen a rough DVD copy about five years ago, sitting in my college library. My memory of the film is spotty so seeing it now felt like the first time.


(Contains spoilers) 

“I know Mr. de Winter well. I knew his wife too. Before she married she was the beautiful Rebecca Hentridge,” declares Mrs. Van Hopper at the beginning of REBECCA, greatly overstating her familiarity with the de Winters. In Daphne du Maurier’s novel, Rebecca has no maiden name, and her familial and social origins are unclear; other characters’ recollections of her fail to capture the true identity of the elusive, complex woman now unable to speak for herself. While the late Rebecca functions as an apparition haunting the second Mrs. de Winter’s imagination, she was based on a real person. Margaret Forster, du Maurier’s biographer, notes that the character was inspired by Jan Ricardo, but provides few details about her, making Jan seem as mysterious and enigmatic as Rebecca. While biographical analyses of novels and films have certain limitations, a closer look at the archival record of Jan’s life sheds light on the making of REBECCA and its famous central characters, and offers new contexts for understanding and appreciating this iconic film.   

No movie Alfred Hitchcock made prior to Psycho (1960) had prepared audiences for the shock and stunning surprises of his Gothic thriller. Many moviegoers, critics and film scholars consider it not only the “Master of Suspense’s” best film but also one of the best films ever committed to celluloid. While Hitchcock made some of Hollywood’s most romantic thrillers (Rebecca, Suspicion, Notorious, Spellbound), Psycho is his anti-romantic bid: characters look for love, redemption, connection, honor, but in the end they are thwarted by their identities and personal histories. As a wise friend of mine used to say, “We can never outrun our backgrounds, our childhoods, our past. They catch up with us eventually”.


During his decades-long reign as Hollywood’s Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock had made a number of classic films. If you were to point to any film within Hitch’s career, I’m sure you would find at least a small pocket of the film community declaring it his best (save for perhaps THE PARADINE CASE). But if any film deserves to sit on the Iron Throne of the Hitchcock oeuvre, it is the magnetic and mystifying VERTIGO.

September 20, 2012 / / Main Slate Archive

Vertigo – 1958 – dir. Alfred Hitchcock

I never get tired of talking about Alfred Hitchcock; he is my favorite director. His movies bear up under repeated scrutinies. They appear as fresh and as new on the 10th or 15th viewing as they do on the first. As I have said before — the least effort by Hitchcock is far superior to the best effort of a lesser director (same with Woody Allen). Both men became masters of their craft such that they are able to elevate even a slight storyline into the world of the sublime. Do you agree with me, or do you?

March 22, 2012 / / Main Slate Archive

The 39 Steps – 1935 – dir. Alfred Hitchcock

Tone, in novels and films, has always been a make-or-break affair: In a work with thousands of parts, the wrong word in the wrong place, or the wrong image at the wrong time, can unravel the emotive state the storyteller is trying to induce in the audience. Balancing two different tones together in one work is an even greater challenge, especially when the thrilling and suspenseful is being mixed with the carefree and jokey. Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps attempts just that, and succeeds for reasons that are well worth examining.

September 9, 2010 / / Main Slate Archive

Marnie – 1964 – dir. Alfred Hitchcock

The rumor mill reports that following her neophyte triumphs in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds and Marnie, Tippi Hedren spurned the director’s advances (Hitch was notorious in his predilection for frosty, young blondes), and so he ruined her career in movies. Hedren certainly has never done any work as lastingly memorable as she did in these two films. One cannot off the top of one’s head think of any other of her movies. And that is a shame because the much-underrated Marnie and Hedren’s searing, knowing performance in it stand as proof that she was, outside her looks, an actress of skill and depth.

September 9, 2010 / / Main Slate Archive

The Birds – 1963 – dir. Alfred Hitchcock

The peerless Alfred Hitchcock once again commands the screen of the Brattle Theater with his coruscatingly brilliant ode to mayhem and chaos in The Birds (1963).

Just as audiences were afraid to take a shower for weeks after watching Anthony Perkins make hamburger out of Janet Leigh in 1960’s Psycho three years before, people, after seeing The Birds, bit their nails and quickened their step every time they saw so much as a city pigeon.

December 1, 2008 / / Film Notes

By Amy Tetreault

The 39 Steps – dir. Alfred Hitchcock – 1935

It began with the 1915 spy novel The Thirty-Nine Steps, written by John Buchan. Then came the 1935 Hitchcock film, The 39 Steps, loosely based on Buchan’s novel. And then came more film versions, including one that’s “in production,” according to IMDB. Oh, and don’t forget about “The 39 Steps” Broadway show. It’s described as a mixture of Hitchcock, a juicy spy novel and Monty Python.

And although I haven’t seen the Broadshow show . . .

And I haven’t read Buchan’s original novel . . .

And I haven’t seen all the remakes . . .

I’m gonna go ahead and say that Hitchcock’s version is the my favorite. And not just because of the great camera angles, witty dialogue, and fascinating characters.

October 20, 2008 / / Film Notes

By Gerry Waggett

Mr. & Mrs. Smith – 1941 – dir. Alfred Hitchcock

The 1941 screwball comedy Mr. & Mrs. Smith should not be mistaken as the original version of the 2005 Angelina Jolie/Brad Pitt action comedy.  The premise of the 2005 Mr. & Mrs. Smith – a husband and wife hiding from each other their secret careers as paid assassins – actually sounds closer to the sort of film audiences have come to expect from suspense master Alfred Hitchcock.  The big secret in the 1941 Mr. & Mrs. Smith?  The titular couple (played by Robert Montgomery and Carole Lombard) discover that their marriage was never legal.  It’s a twist on the comedy of remarriage genre popular during the 30s and 40s, but not exactly what we think of when we hear the term “Hitchcockian twist.”