You Know You Really Like A Director If...(Part Two)
You know you really like a director if you can make a top ten list of your favorites from among his films. In the second in an occasional series of looks at my favorite directors I present my ten favorite Alfred Hitchcock movies. In part one I offered my ten favorite Woody Allen films.
Hitchcock is known as the master of suspense and it is an appropriate moniker. Yet it’s also limiting. He did ever so much more. His films had action, adventure, comedy, drama and romance as well as suspense. He directed classic horror stories, dark comedies and spy stories. Most of all he was an unmatched storyteller. His career began in England during the silent era and ended in Hollywood during the 1970’s.
I defy anyone to come up with a better list of stars than the ones Hitch worked with over the years. Just for starters: Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant, Henry Fonda, Gregory Peck, Joel McCrea, Robert Montgomery, Ray Milland, Sean Connery, Paul Newman, Robert Donat, Laurence Olivier, Michael Redgrave, Montgomery Clift, Charles Laughton, Ingrid Bergman, Janet Leigh, Joan Fontaine, Grace Kelly, Vera Miles, Eva Marie Saint, Kim Novak, Carole Lombard and Shirley MacLaine. Impressed yet?
Hitch was an innovative director. His use of the camera to tell the story, particularly evident in films like Vertigo and Notorious, was at once stunning and unobtrusive. Set pieces in particular highlighted his storytelling prowess. But his choices were all about moving the story forward rather than drawing attention away from it. Hitch the director was like athletes who make the spectacular seem routine.
He made everyone else around him seem better at their jobs. Actors gave better performances. Cinemaphotographers were more artistic and screenwriters more clever by half. (Or was it him?). And just to prove beyond any doubt what a crock the Academy Awards are, Hitchcock never -- no, not even once -- won a best director Oscar.
Here’s my top ten.
1.Vertigo (1958). It’s in many critical top ten greatest films lists including my own. It’s a story of one man’s obsession with one stunning blond. The city of San Francisco is the other beauty in the story. Stewart and Novak star, as does the city by the bay. Technicolor at its best.
3.Foreign Correspondent (1940). I esteem this film more than most people do. I believe it his most underrated. More stunning camera shots in this film than most directors manage in a career. The then timely story of a reporter covering what turns out to be the outbreak of World War II. Joel McCrea’s only Hitch film and I wish like hell he’d been in a few more.
4.Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941). Hold on a second, a screwball comedy? Hitch directing one of the great screwball comedies of all time (and it is) is like Picasso writing a terrific novel or Willie Mays throwing a touchdown pass. No fair! Final proof that Hitch could do it all. Montgomery and Lombard starred.
5.Shadow of a Doubt (1943). Reportedly his favorite film. Joseph Cotton is a killer on the lam who hangs out with his unknowing extended family in Santa Rosa, California which plays the role of Anytown U.S.A. Teresa Wright is the adoring niece who slowly comes to see Uncle (Cotton) for what he really is. The sneak.
6.Psycho (1960). I assume you know the story of the young man who own has a strange relationship with his deceased mom. He operates a motel and Janet Leigh drops in takes a shower. Oh the humanity! It was ground breaking then and still a wonder today.
10.The Trouble With Harry(1955). New England in the fall never looked lovelier. A dark (but not too dark) comedy with an interesting cast including Maclaine, John Forstyhe, Edmund Gwenn and Jerry Mathers but not as the beaver. There's also a dead fella named Harry that brings everyone together. Fun stuff.
And you know you really, really, really like the director if after the top ten list you can offer a half dozen honorable mentions, like so: