Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Hitchcock, Hedren and His Film Legacy

I suggested yesterday that there may be clues to Alfred Hitchcock’s psychological condition in his films. Daniel posted this statement in a comment on my blog yesterday: "[Hitch] may have had an obsession with an idealized woman, he may have even committed it to film repeatedly (the makeover montage in Vertigo, Marnie as chameleon). But I just can't let it hinge on whether or not Hitchcock really did or didn't make a pass at Hedren." By "it," I’m assuming that Daniel is talking about interpretation of Hitch’s films. I think there’s good reason to believe that his dealings with Hedren significantly affected his filmmaking decisions.

Hitch's relationship with Hedren was unusually obsessive. It went far beyond merely "taking a pass." For instance, as Ken Mogg reported on January 12, prior to her screen test for The Birds, Hitchcock repeatedly reran the TV commercial he’d seen her in; one of Hitch’s collaborators described him as "quivering with lust" during that screening and that his subsequent behavior during the screen test was like "sexual harrassment." Other onlookers saw that such behavior was very unusual - even by Hollywood standards. As time went by, Hitch’s obsession became increasingly controlling and possessive (he once went so far as to forbid her to fly to New York to accept an award) and she resented it deeply. That's the background against which Hedren and Hitch finally fell out with each other. Considering his behavior and his well-known aversion to conflict, I think it’s possible that the disintegration of their relationship might have been one of the most difficult experiences of his life. At the very least, I don’t see how it could have failed to have an impact on his subsequent projects. In my opinion, these troubles actually caused him to rethink his role as a filmmaker.

Before I can explain that, a few questions arise. What is the role of the filmmmaker? Is there evidence that Hitchcock thought about such things before his experience with Hedren? Finally, how did such ideas actually get played out in his films? I’ll try to provide some answers tomorrow.

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