Welcome back, friends, to the Lucky 13 Film Club. What are you doing to distract yourself while in lockdown? I watched a few Alfred Hitchcock films I had missed in an attempt to fill in some blindspots. After watching Suspicion (1941) starring Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine and Rope (1948), I thought to feature these two leading men and consider their collaborations with Hitchcock.
Eight movies from the 1940s and 1950s. Who was better? Cary or Jimmy? What of their leading ladies? Sometimes, they outshined their man. Do the glitz and glamour endear us to the production? What of the storyline? Can you rate them? Okay, I’ll stop. But these questions swirled in my mind as I considered the eight films. Two facts are certain. Their careers benefited from working with Alfred Hitchcock. And Hitch benefited for starring them.
1941 Suspicion. A shy young heiress marries a charming gentleman and soon begins to suspect he is planning to murder her. Co-starring Joan Fontaine and Cedric Hardwicke.
1945 Notorious. American spy film noir about the entanglement of three lives during an espionage operation. Co-starring Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains.
1955. To Catch a Thief. Retired cat burglar Cary Grant and ravishing American party girl Grace Kelly fall in love against a backdrop of fireworks, the French Riviera and a string of unsolved jewel robberies.
1958. North by Northwest. Ad executive Roger Thornhill is pursued by a ruthless spy after Thornhill is mistaken for a government agent. He is hunted relentlessly across the United States. Co-starring Eva Marie Saint and James Mason.
1948 Rope. Just before hosting a dinner party, two college students strangle a mutual friend to death after their college philosophy professor inadvertently inspires them. The body hides in a chest and becomes the elephant in the room as guests eat and chatter. Co-starring Farley Granger, John Dall, and Joan Chandler.
1954 Rear Window. Confined to a wheelchair after an accident, a recuperating news photographer believes he has witnessed a murder after spying with a telephoto lens the occupants of a neighboring apartment complex. Co-starring Grace Kelly, Thelma Ritter, and Raymond Burr.
1956. The Man Who Knew Too Much. A doctor and his wife are on vacation in Morocco when a chance encounter with a stranger alters their lives. The stranger reveals an assassination plot and their son is abducted. Co-starring Doris Day.
1958 Vertigo. An ex-police officer who suffers from an intense fear of heights is hired to prevent an old friend’s wife from committing suicide, but all is not as it seems as he becomes obsessed with her. Co-starring Kim Novak and Barbara Bel Geddes.
EDITH HEAD – collaborated with Hitchcock eleven times. I don’t think you should discount her involvement — her costumes conveyed the character’s personality and often aided in Hitchcock’s setting of mood. Of the eight films discussed today, she was the costume designer for FIVE of them.
Cary Grant was the dashing, cool, smooth operator. His films with Hitchcock were about movement. Chases on foot, cars driving at a cliff’s edge, somewhere to go whether a plane, train, or automobile. Jimmy Stewart’s movies with Hitchcock seemed restricted by comparison. He spends most of the plot confined by space. Of course, he does move in Vertigo and The Man Who Knew too Much, but I’d say a key feature of a Jimmy Stewart performance is he is in a constant state of waiting. Cary Grant rarely sits still in his films. I predict if you lean toward Cary’s films, you like action and adventure. If you like Jimmy, you like the psychological angst of a man who’s in a state of high anxiety. Alfred Hitchcock specialized in both kinds of suspense.
Do you like your actors to be warm or cool?
GRACE KELLY was just too beautiful to be convincing with Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window. She was better suited to stand next to Cary Grant. Their coolness and beauty mirrored each other perfectly. Doris Day was perfect as Jimmy Stewart’s wife in The Man Who Knew Too Much. She was pretty and talented and warm–better suited to the “everyday man”.
Which was the best film for Cary and Jimmy?
When Hitchcock‘s leading pair was a combination of warm and cool, he had a masterpiece.
James Stewart (warm) and Kim Novak (cool) in Vertigo.
Cary Grant (warm) and Eva Marie Saint (cool) in North by Northwest.
For the record, my favorite Hitchcock film is Notorious for the storyline and pairing. Mostly for my love for Ingrid Bergman and the scene-stealing acting by Claude Rains.
Please, tell me what you think, and feel free to kindly comment on what others have to say. Thank you!
Alfred Hitchcock: “Cary Grant is the only actor I ever loved in my whole life.”