Monday, June 1, 2009

Hitchcock Style

While it's often hard to equate the legendary rotund British director-auteur-master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock with the word style, his films certainly gave us some great moments in fashion, glamour and interiors.

His penchant for sophisticated blondes is the stuff of legends -- from the tortured Tippi Hedren in The Birds (1958) and Marnie (1961) , Kim Novak in Vertigo (1958) and The Wrong Man (1956) and Doris Day in The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) to Grace Kelly in Rear Window (1954) , Dial M for Murder (1954)  and To Catch a Thief (1955), Janet Leigh in Psycho (1960) and Eva Marie Saint in North by Northwest (1959) -- icy, cold, unattainable, chic and often heroines turned victims, he never met a blonde he didn't like. (One can look at  Suzanne Pleshette's fate in The Birds to see how brunettes fared).

Sean Connery and Tippi Hedren on the set of Marnie

Kim Novak in Vertigo who Hitch wanted to turn into "the new Grace Kelly"

Cary Grant and Grace Kelly in Edith Head's designs  for the film To Catch a Thief

Que Sera Sera: Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day in The Man Who Knew too Much

Grace Kelly on set

Whether hero or cad or a combination thereof, Hitch liked his male characters handsome, dapper, and above all, well dressed.

Sean Connery takes a break in between Bond films to star in Marnie

Nothing says south of France like an Ascot in the fifties
Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief

The woman responsible for it all was Academy Award winning costume designer Edith Head who designed everything from Tippi's shredded suit in The Birds to Grace Kelly's memorable black and white cocktail dress in Rear Window. More on Ms. Head's contributions in a future post.

From Jimmy Stewart's studio apartment  in Rear Window, Norman Bates house to Rebecca's Manderlay, a Hitch set is designed for suspense, anxiety, action and danger.

The Psycho House on the Universal backlot

His set for the film Rope (1948) was ultra modern and would fit in with today's standards. With its panoramic windows, the Manhattan penthouse apartment was completely designed for city viewing  and the leather sofa  is custom made to fit the entire length of the windows. In a classic Hitch move, look for his profile on one of the illuminated signs.

Hitch with the cast of Rope

James Mason as Phillip Vandamm  in a Long Island for North by Northwest

Even Hitch's symbolism is stylish. The film Vertigo is of course, based on images of a swirl design. We see it in the various motifs... Jimmy Stewart/Scott McKittreck's office,         
the famous bell tower...

Movie Poster for Vertigo

and even Kim Novak's classic french twist has a swirl...

Hitch on set with a sense of humor

For the DEFINITIVE book on the subject, read French film critic Jean-Pierre Dufreigne's book Hitchcock Style by Assouline, 2004. A must have for any Hitchcock fanatic.

Photo Credits: Hitchcock Style, Assouline, 2004.