Thursday, June 5, 2008

Tippi Hedren: Alfred Hitchcock's Waterloo?

'Tippi' Hedren was Alfred Hitchcock’s "last great obsession and arguably his downfall." So said Donald Spoto in recent statements published in the London Daily Express. “Considering the films he made and the leading ladies who came after Tippi, it is clear he lost all interest in his women, his actors, his stories – indeed, in movies.”

Ouch. That's harsh.

But Spoto doesn't stop there. According to the author of the upcoming book Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and his Leading Ladies, the great director's genius died in 1964 while filming Marnie, his second feature with Hedren. "Marnie," he says, "marked the end of his art.”

Really? The end? No more art? So, like, uh, Hitch just phoned in his direction for Torn Curtain, Topaz, Frenzy and Family Plot?

Admittedly, it's generally agreed that the four films that came after Marnie were not his best. But they cannot be harshly dismissed as the work of a man who has 'lost interest in movies.' Fans, students and scholars continue to find much to appreciate about them.

As I suggested in two recent Hitchcock Geek posts (find part 1 and part 2), the absence of a "Hitchcock blonde" in these movies may indeed be attributed to his conflicts with Hedren. It may also indicate that he finally pursued that vision of icy cool femininity as far as it could go and, like any artist, he moved on to other material. Those two explanations can coexist.

Spoto's reductive analysis notwithstanding, abundant evidence shows that Hitch's decline cannot be pegged to only one cause. Other well-documented factors, such as advancing age, ill health and increased interference from the studio front office affected the quality of his later films as well.

So much for the Daily Express article. Perhaps Spoto's book will present a less sensational, more sensitive, nuanced portrait of someone who was not only a great artist, but a fellow human who deserves a fair shake.

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2 comments:

Dave Pattern said...

There are two further UK newspaper articles related to the book:

A real Psycho and his Birds (Daily Mail)

Hitchcock's leading ladies (Daily Telegraph)

For those unfamiliar with UK newspapers, the Daily Mail and Daily Express are both low-brow tabloids, whilst the Telegraph is a slightly more up-market broadsheet. All three are right-wing/Conservative newspapers (the Mail was pro-Nazi in the lead up to the World War II).

It'll be interesting to see how the more well-respected newspapers (e.g. The Independent, The Guardian, etc) review the book.

Joel Gunz said...

Thanks for the update, Dave! Yep, the Daily Express story seemed rather tabloidy.