In which G.M. Norton celebrates the Master of Suspense’s birthday with a furtive glance at his femme fatales.
As regular readers will have picked up from my Cary Grant and Grace Kelly periodical postings, I am a huge Alfred Hitchcock fan.
For me, Hitchcock is the greatest film director that has ever lived. His film career spanned more than 50 years, some of the most recognisable being Rear Window (1954), Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959), Psycho (1960) and The Birds (1963).
It comes as no coincidence that each of those films contains one of his ‘icy blondes’. What I absolutely love about these beautiful and eye-catching characters were the positive traits that he gave them – they were strong, independent, determined ladies. But above all, they were mysterious.
To mark what would have been Hitch’s birthday on 13 August, I thought it would be jolly nice to showcase these femme fatale characters of the silver screen.
Lisa Fremont portrayed by Grace Kelly in ‘Rear Window’
Grace Kelly starred as Lisa Fremont, the wealthy socialite girlfriend of an adventurous photojournalist who took to spying on his neighbours while on the mend from a badly broken leg. Not only was her entrance to the film on a par with Audrey Hepburn’s iconic opening appearance in ‘Breakfast at Tiffany's’ but it also switched the gender stereotypes. Rather than the man getting into a scrape, it was the seemingly innocent Fremont who broke into the suspected murderer’s apartment across the way.
Madeleine Elster/Judy Barton portrayed by Kim Novak in ‘Vertigo’
Novak had a challenging dual role as Madeleine Elster and Judy Barton in this psychological thriller. In the first half of the film, Novak portrayed Hitchcock’s icy blonde to perfection, before she reappeared as mousy Judy Barton in the second half of the film. It was Novak’s remarkable transformation from Judy to Madeleine that always stays in my mind. Set against the eerie green light and Bernard Hermann’s haunting musical score, Kim Novak’s eerie performance is simply splendid.
Eve Kendall portrayed by Eva Marie Saint in ‘North by Northwest’
Sexy spy lady Eve Kendall seduces man on the run, Roger Thornhill played by Cary Grant. With racy dialogue such as “It’s going to be a long night...and I don’t particularly like the book I’ve started”, and "I never discuss love on an empty stomach", it is clear that Eve isn’t your typical train passenger. At least, not like I’ve encountered before. Oozing sophistication from every pore; Eve is smart, beautiful and just plain devious, constantly one step ahead of the dashing duo of Cary Grant and James Mason.
Marion Crane portrayed by Janet Leigh in ‘Psycho’
Marion shocked audiences for three reasons – in her first scene she pranced around in a brassiere during a lunch break tryst with a very lucky chap; then she diced with danger by having the bare-faced cheek to steal thousands of dollars from under the nose of her employer; and thirdly and rather more famously, she was the unfortunate victim of a knife-wielding, cheese sandwich-making psychopath who repeatedly and graphically stabbed her in the shower. Marion is not only a complex character, but an icon on screen: her infamous death scene is one of the most remembered and one of the most haunting of its generation.
Melanie Daniels portrayed by Tippi Hedren in ‘The Birds’
Miss Daniels followed in the dainty footsteps of Miss Fremont as an attractive socialite, immaculately dressed in the finest clothes, with not a blonde hair out of place. Until the swarm of birds arrived, of course. The images of Hedren’s character in her perfectly prim suit with her coiffure picked apart by the wicked black birds are among the most instantly recognisable in American film history.
Which is your favourite of Hitchcock's heroines?
Protagonist of 'Norton of Morton'