Monday, August 13, 2012

Hitchcock's Ladies

In honor of Mr. Alfred Hitchcock's birthday (August 13, 1899), I have compiled a list of my 10 favorite female characters from his films.  Though we all know he was fond of the blondes as leading ladies, he's got a few brunettes in there that deserve some credit too!  I also think the supporting women deserve a bit more credit, as they were sometimes much more interesting than the lead.

1. Joan Fontaine as The Nameless Wife (Rebecca, 1940) Poor thing, she doesn't even get her own name!  Of course, this was the conceit from the novel (and might I add, the very different and much darker novel) which made her just so pathetic.  She finally grows a bit of a backbone in the film, but more than not, you root for her because she's so helpless.  And I think we can all imagine ourselves thrown into the world of Manderley and behaving in just the same way.  Memorable Blunder: The Costume Ball

2. Kim Novak as Madeleine Elster (Vertigo, 1958) What a stunner Kim Novak was in this film.  As a cold blonde becoming possessed with an ancestral spirit, she embodies the perfect blend of romanticism and the occult.  Of course, things twist and turn (I'll try to avoid spoilers, despite it being released over 50 years ago!), but even with her faults, she's still so enticing.  Memorable Costume: That Gray Suit

3. Kim Novak as Judy Barton (Vertigo) Okay, so this is kind of a cheat.  But she's a wonderful, genuine, and well-rounded character on her own.  In fact, I think Novak should get more credit as an actress for this switch.  She's often ignored because of her good looks.  Memorable Feature: Those eyebrows!

4. Patricia Hitchcock as Barbara Morton (Strangers on a Train, 1951) I absolutely love the roles Pat (Hitch's real life daugher) plays in his films.  In Strangers, she's a quippy, sarcastic young girl who romanticizes murder until she comes face to face with it.  Plus, she's got some great one-liners.  Memorable Scene: The Party Strangler

5. Janet Leigh as Marion Crane (Psycho, 1960) The film opens on Leigh in her underwear (yowza) having an affair.  Then she steals a bunch of money and goes on the run.  Not the typical "leading lady" so far.  In fact, nothing she does is leading lady material, though it seemed she had intentions of redeeming herself.  Unfortunately, she never got the chance.  Memorable Prop (other than the shower curtain): The Newspaper Filled with Cash

 6. Ingrid Bergman as Dr. Constance Petersen (Spellbound, 1945) I just adore a love story that gets the audience to forget just how inappropriate the relationship is!  Ingrid Bergman, a psychotherapist who's far too good looking to be that scientific, falls in love with her patient, a dashing Gregory Peck, amidst a backdrop of PTSD and surrealist dreams (done by Salvador Dali himself).  I like Bergman because she's all woman.  She is sometimes vulnerable, but never pitiable.  Memorable Dream: All Those Eyeballs!

7. Barbara Bel Geddes as Midge Wood (Vertigo) Poor Midge is in love with Jimmy Stewart (her dearest friend), he knows it, but he just can't make it happen.  I admire her because she's a straightforward, no-nonsense kind of woman with a good career and a fantastic apartment.  She designs underwear and has a great sense of humor about it.  Unfortunately, she's in competition with Novak and her many assets.  We've all been there.  Memorable Heartbreak: The "Humorous" Painting

8. Thelma Ritter as Stella (Rear Window, 1954) Grace Kelly is lovely, but boring.  There, I said it!  I much prefer Ritter as the wisecracking sidekick she plays in many films, especially this one.  As she becomes embroiled in the murder mystery, her tenacity keeps the detective work alive!  Memorable Quote: "Must've splattered a lot . . . Come on, that's what we're all thinkin'!"

9. Teresa Wright as Young Charlie (Shadow of a Doubt, 1943) Poor Charlie has so much growing up to do.  As much as she idolizes her uncle (the amazing Joseph Cotten), she's got to admit there's something funny going on with him.  I find this film to be particularly frightening because of the family psychology behind it.  Memorable Tune: "The Merry Widow's Waltz"

10. Judith Anderson as Mrs. Danvers (Rebecca) What a creepy bitch!  She is by far my favorite Hitchcock female, perhaps favorite character from any of his films, because she has so much brewing beneath the surface.  Danvers embodies the film's themes of grief, obsession, and betrayal, while offering a sexual undertone that the censors couldn't fight.  Memorable Mindf**k: "Do you think the dead come back and watch the living?"

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