The real question is how can you choose just five Alfred Hitchcock movies, so many classics has the legendary director made. Beginning his career with silent movies before establishing himself as one of the Britain’s best early sound thriller makers and then relocating to the USA just in time for the golden age of Hollywood. So yes it is hard to just choose five Hitchcock flicks but the quintet below definitely scale the heights of greatness and also serve to give you a nice idea of the longevity of his career.
The Lady Vanishes (1938)
The high point of Hitchcock’s British films is a beguiling mystery story. A group of English travelers on a train across Europe includes a sweet old woman (Dame May Whitty) . . . for a while. Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave get pulled into a web of intrigue when, after Lockwood gets beaned on the head, the lady disappears, leaving only her name written in frost on the window. When they set out to find her, Lockwood’s memory and sanity are questioned, particularly by a scheming Lukas. The Hitchcock touches, the sly wit, the unsuspecting hero plunged into a baffling situation, are already apparent.
Cast: Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, Dame May Whitty
In order to escape the oppression of her rigid, wealthy parents, Joan Fontaine embraces the attention of Cary Grant though she knows his reputation as a cad. When his friend Nigel Bruce turns up dead, Fontaine begins to think she’s next and frets about the nightly glass of milk Grant brings her. Her fears reach a crescendo on a careening drive on a twisting road. Academy Award Nominations: 3, including Best Picture; Best Score.
Cast: Joan Fontaine, Cary Grant, Nigel Bruce, Leo G. Carroll, Cedric Hardwicke
Rear Window (1954)
This thoroughly enjoyable mystery classic from Hitchcock pokes amiably at the inherent voyeurism of the movie audience. Restless magazine photographer James Stewart bides his time while confined to a wheelchair with observing the behavior of his neighbors from the vantage point of his rear window. His only other distractions during the day are visits from his model girlfriend, Grace Kelly and nurse, Thelma Ritter. After waking in the night, Stewart is convinced he sees thesalesman, Raymond Burr, disposing of evidence that would indicate a hideous murder, with his nagging wife the obvious victim. But when Stewart’s story doesn’t wash with a policeman pal, he sends Kelly into the apartment to search for more clues. As Stewart watches helplessly, Burr returns to his apartment. Now aware of Stewart’s snooping, Burr attacks the wheelchair-bound voyeur. Witty and beautifully produced (Hitchcock constructed the largest set of its time at Paramount – 31 full-scale apartments), this is an enduring popular and critical favorite. A restored version of this Hitchcock masterpiece (by the team that accomplished wonders with “Vertigo”) is due to be released in the fall of 1999. Selected for the National Film Registry. Academy Award Nominations: Best Director; Best Screenplay; Best Cinematography; Best Sound.
Cast: James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Raymond Burr, Wendell Corey, Thelma Ritter,
North by Northwest (1959)
This is one of Hitchcock’s greatest, with suspense, action, and comedy in one non-stop motion picture. In one of his patented ordinary-man-in-exceptional-circumstances plots, advertising executive Cary Grant gets kidnapped from a business engagement and winds up in a baffling, twisting battle with enemy agents and on the run from both police and the agents. This technically superb film yielded some of Hitchcock’s best-known images: the crop duster bearing down on Grant in a remote cornfield, Grant and Eva Marie Saint dangling from Mt. Rushmore, Saint’s frank seduction of Grant on a train. Essential viewing. Academy Award Nominations: 3, including Best (Original) Screenplay.
Cast: Cary Grant, Leo G. Carroll, Josephine Hutchinson, James Mason, Philip Ober, Eva Marie Saint
The Birds (1963)
Hitchcock, the master of suspense, ventures into the realm of horror with the depiction of a world in which nature can go suddenly, terrifyingly mad. When Tippi Hedren appears in the idyllic coastal village of Bodega Bay with two lovebirds in tow, the local birds inexplicably begin to wage an all-out war on humans. Hitchcock’s follow-up to “Psycho” tops even that landmark for shock value. Loosely based on a Daphne du Maurier short story. Academy Award Nominations: Best Visual Effects.
Cast: Tippi Hedren, Rod Taylor, Veronica Cartwright, Ethel Griffies, Charles McGraw,
Kick-Ass TV Heroines: Xena – Warrior Princess
What was not to love about Xena? As Lucy Lawless says: “Xena is a bad-ass, kick-ass, pre-Mycenaean girl.” Evildoers, clearly, must stand down, but not only bad guys (and girls) have Xena-phobia. Even heroes quake when she swings her broadsword.
Originally created as a syndicated complement to Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena pretty much kicked Herc to the curb. It was like when the Bionic Woman made us lose interest in the Six Million Dollar Man–only more so.
Unlike Lindsay Wagner’s early half-woman, half-machine, Xena wasn’t prone to frailty. Nor did she need robot parts. In fact, the Warrior Princess never lost. If she’s down, it’s not for long.
Plus, she was in touch with the dark side: This big-boned bruiser had definite moments of blood lust, as well as lust of some other varieties. Garbed in a leather miniskirt and armed with her trademark razor-edged, boomerang-action chakram, we watched Xena single-leggedly kick down entire platoons of Roman soldiers.
Sure, there were murmurings about Xena and her softer female sidekick, Gabrielle (actress Renée O’Connor). So what if they liked to conserve bathwater by doubling up? And what’s wrong with close friends frenching once in a while?
Then again, maybe it was true–and there’s anything wrong with that.
Actress: Lucy Lawless
Show: Xena: Warrior Princess
Classic TV Revisited: McMillan And Wife
Starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James, McMillan and Wife was a super cute crime-solving saga from the 1970s made for the NBC’s Mystery Movie series.
Who were they?
Hubby was the debonair San Francisco police commissioner Stewart McMillan.
Sally was a foxy, rather scatterbrained dame with a knack for finding corpses.
Worked down the morgue did she?
Hardly. Sally’s finds were usually in some glitzy mansion which the couple were frequenting for a weekend cocktail party. She also had a habit of getting her life threatened or being kidnapped.
Who was in it?
Tragic Hollywood star Rock Hudson no less. He took on Stewart McMillan in his first TV role, after years as a matinee idol with movies such as Giant.
Fans of the lantern-jawed star were dismayed when he went public about having Aids. He had long kept his homosexuality secret. He carried on working in ’80s glam drama Dynasty, but make-up could not disguise the deterioration of this once-statuesque man. He died in 1985, aged 59.
What about Sally?
That role fell to raven-locked Susan Saint James. The Ali MacGraw lookalike was previously in shows such as Alias Smith And Jones and The Name of the Game.
A vital ingredient to McMillan And Wife was sharp-tongued housekeeper Mildred, played by Nancy Walker. Somebody needed to keep the place tidy while they gallivanted about solving crime.
Famous guest stars?
The couple’s conception?
Like Hart To Hart, the idea was borrowed from Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man books of the ’30s.
Gritty crime drama?
Hardly. These were cosy whodunnit cases, where the brutality of murder was never portrayed. The show was more about the interplay between McMillan and Sally.
Had viewers arrested?
Certainly in the US. It was the fifth highest-rated show in 1972 and 1973.
Fate of the golden couple?
Susan Saint James quit in 1976 over a contractual dispute. Nancy Walker also packed away her duster as housekeeper Mildred.
The dame’s exit was a fatal blow?
Certainly for the character of Sally – she was killed off in a plane crash. But Rock soldiered on with new assistant Sgt Steve DiMaggio (Richard Gilliland). The show became McMillan.
Audiences dwindled and the plug was pulled.
Cosy pillow talk, cocktail parties, Rock Hudson, pyjamas and numerous corpses.
Let’s go to bed. Turn the light out, darling.
Must you eat toast in bed, darling. Apologies, but I’ve got terrible flatulence. Separate bedrooms.
Not to be confused with
My Wife Next Door, Harold Macmillan, The Merry Wives Of Windsor and Mr And Mrs.
Classic TV Revisited: The Royal
The Royal was an ITV drama commission and was inspired by its sister programme Heartbeat.
The lowdown: This nostalgic family drama is set in the swinging 1960s and centres on the staff of a cottage hospital in Yorkshire. Newly qualified doctor David Cheriton (Julian Ovenden) is determined to make a difference to the world and arrives at St Aidan’s Royal Free Hospital in Elinsby full of big ideas. But he clashes with the hospital’s secretary TJ Middleditch (Ian Carmichael) who is determined to run things his way. Then there is the Matron (Wendy Craig) who rules her nurses with a rod of iron and tries in vain to stop them being distracted by the handsome arrival.
Memorable moments: Watch out for former Heartbeat favourite Bill Maynard who crosses dramas and continents as Claude Jeremiah Greengrass. Greengrass has returned from a Caribbean holiday with a mystery illness but that doesn’t stop him trying to earn a fast buck. It doesn’t take long before Claude attracts Matron’s ire.
Trivia: The Royal is a family affair for real life husband and wife Robert Daws (Ormerod) and Amy Robbins (Weatherill). No fewer than seven members of their clan have appeared in the series including their daughters and stepson.
Michelle Hardwick, who played receptionist Lizzie, says her favourite moment in the whole series didn’t come on screen but in the actors’ green room. She says: “I was sitting in there with Wendy Craig and Honor Blackman and we were having a lovely conversation. I sat back and thought ‘Wow, this is great, I can’t wait to tell my gran’.”
A modern day set version called The Royal Today aired 7 January – 14 March 2008.
First broadcast: 2003
Starred: Wendy Craig, Ian Carmichael, Michael Starke, Robert Daws and Julian Ovenden
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