Hitch would have liked Hillary's blond ambition
America:Alfred Hitchcock was a bit of a sadist. Certainly, the master of the dark side had a “murderous fascination with blondes”, as the British Film Institute once noted in a tribute.
And now comes Hollywood’s murderous fascination with Hitchcock’s murderous fascination.
HBO’s The Girl depicts the making of The Birds and Marnie, with Toby Jones playing Hitch and Sienna Miller as Tippi Hedren, fighting off rapacious birds and rapacious director at the same time.
In theatres, Hitchcock, with Anthony Hopkins as the auteur and Helen Mirren as his wife and collaborator Alma Reville, depicts the making of Psycho, with Scarlett Johansson taking Janet Leigh’s place in the shower to be stabbed by that crazed mama’s boy Norman Bates.
Next spring, AE will run Bates Motel, a prequel series to Psycho, featuring a young, creepy Norman, with Vera Farmiga as his (blond) mother.
Why the fresh fascination with the man with the famous profile? Perhaps the more Hollywood churns out rancid movies, the more it appreciates Hitch, who never got an Oscar.
Hitchcock’s fetish for “Nordic” women, as he called them, started in his 1927 silent film The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog, about a Jack-the- Ripper-style lunatic. He had his brunette lead actress don a blond wig and he made all the serial killer’s victims blondes.
As Donald Spoto wrote in his book Spellbound by Beauty, Hitch preferred blondes because he saw them as “easier and more dramatic to photograph in monochrome, and he considered their ‘coolness’ and elegance appropriate contrasts to the kind of passion he wanted to reveal beneath the surface”.
Hitch’s blondes came in two shades: those, like Leigh in Psycho and Kim Novak in Vertigo, who were sexy and duplicitous victims doomed to die in spine-tingling ways, and those, like Ingrid Bergman in Spellbound and Notorious, Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief and Rear Window and Eva Marie Saint in North by Northwest, who were sexy and sneaky survivors.
It is illuminating to consider Hitchcock’s obsession with luminous blondes because Americans are obsessed with a pair of them at the moment.
One is Carrie Mathison, the bipolar CIA agent on Homeland, played by Claire Danes. Homeland exerts the same hypnotic pull as The Godfather or The Sopranos, a violent, sexual netherworld with casual immorality but its own code of honour.
In the upcoming Kathryn Bigelow-Mark Boal movie Zero Dark Thirty, about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, Jessica Chastain portrays a driven CIA analyst named Maya. Like Carrie, Maya is a tough, attractive woman, but her sex is largely irrelevant.
Maya is monomaniacally consumed with capturing bin Laden, not hooking up with agents or sources. Carrie, on the other hand, has braided her love life and work life so completely, it is impossible to tell whether she is working for love or loving for work.
She is not a Hitchcock blonde. Rather than icy, she is red hot, prone to frequent meltdowns.
She is frantic that she is not being heeded, and rightly so – her hunches are unerring.
She doesn’t care about fashion and seems to have only one go-to black sequined top to wear when she wants to relieve stress by going to a jazz bar to pick up guys.