Alfred Hitchcock’s career spanned across six decades and over 50 feature films. The acknowledged “Master of Suspense” practically invented the thriller and was a brilliant technician who deftly blended sex, suspense and humor into the genre.
He repeatedly focused on ordinary men wrongly accused of crimes they didn't commit and icy heroines - typically blonde - who brought more trouble than expected. Here are seven Hitchcock movies that sometimes get overlooked by his more popular works.
Hitchcock made his American debut with this suspense thriller that starred fellow Brit, Joan Fontaine
, as the naïve second wife of the urbane Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier). Her arrival at her husband’s country estate causes friction with the wait staff, especially the manipulative Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson). During production, Hitchcock battled controlling producer, David O. Selznick, who wanted a faithful adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s novel. But Hitch wanted drastic changes and won the day by editing his film in camera and leaving little film left over to make changes in post-production. Despite their conflict, Rebecca
won the Academy Award for Best Picture – the only such honor of Hitchcock’s career.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
One of Hitchcock’s best and most underappreciated thrillers. This one stars Joel McCrea as the titular correspondent, Johnny Jones, who uses the pseudonym Huntley Haverstock to cover the war in Europe, only to stumble upon an assassination that leads him to discovering a covert spy ring. Hitchcock's second American film, Foreign Correspondent
contained several thrilling sequences, including the famed alternating windmills chase in Amsterdam and the climactic plane crash. But McCrea proved to be a rather uncharismatic Hitchcock hero – Cary Grant or James Stewart would have fared much better – though that doesn’t seem to have affected the fact that this is one of his most entertaining films.
Turner Home Entertainment
Hitchcock once again cast Joan Fontaine as a naïve heroine, who this time played a wealthy woman who impulsively marries a charming rogue (Cary Grant, of course), only to later suspect he wants to kill her for her money. Based on Francis Iles’ 1932 novel Before the Fact
is entirely hinged on Fontaine’s performance as the spinsterish Lina McLaidlaw, which won the Academy Award for Best Actress and made her the only actor male or female to win an Oscar for her work with Hitch. Without that performance, the film may have been labeled an also-ran in the director’s canon due to its much-debated ending that deviated from the novel – a change Hitchcock loathed to make, but did anyway, and regretted the rest of his career.
20th Century Fox
Often getting lost beneath the popularity of Psycho
, Rear Window
and North by Northwest
, this taut ensemble thriller takes place aboard a tiny boat adrift in the Atlantic containing the survivors of a Nazi U-boat attack. Keeping his focus on character rather than action or special effects, Hitchcock crafted a compelling drama about diverse people coming together under trying circumstances to work together and often failing in the process, especially when a suspected Nazi is rescued. The film was anchored by Tallulah Bankhead, who delivers the performance of her career. Though it may appear too static for modern audiences, Lifeboat
remains on of the Hitch’s best.
Anchor Bay Entertainment
In this psychological thriller, Ingrid Bergman – who once called Hitchcock an “adorable genius” – starred as a psychoanalyst who falls for her new boss (Gregory Peck
), only to learn that he’s a troubled amnesiac and may possibly be a killer as well. Spellbound
was best remembered for its long dream sequence to uncover the source of Peck’s amnesia, which was designed by surrealist Salvador Dali. Hitchcock had little to do with film the sequence in part because of his many clashes with Selznick – who was obsessed with the idea of doing a movie about psychoanalysis – and the therapist hired as a technical advisor. But it’s still top shelf Hitchcock thanks to the layered performances of Peck and Bergman, the latter of whom was regarded as the most compelling of Hitch's leading ladies
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
In 1954, actress Grace Kelly
– by far the most alluring of his leading ladies – made two pictures with Hitch, Rear Window
and Dial M for Murder
. Of course, the former is her most remembered of the two. Here, she was the wealthy wife of an idling tennis pro (Ray Milland) who thinks she’s cheating on him and plots her murder in order to take her money. Dial M for Murder
wasn’t the greatest Hitchcock effort because of its overall stagey-ness – it was after all based on the popular Frederick Knott play – and lacked his typical visual flair. Still, Hitch coaxed an excellent performance from Milland, though Kelly had to do her best with an under-drawn character.
Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Another classic that flies under the radar, The Man Who Knew Too Much
was actually a remake
of a 1934 film he made during his British period, which starred Peter Lorre and was considered to be the best picture he made during that time. Twenty years later, Hitchcock – who in part wanted to fulfill his contractual obligations to Paramount Pictures – had a bigger budget and the opportunity to work with one of his favorite leading men, James Stewart. The actor played an American tourist who witnesses a murder of a newly befriended Frenchman, who tells him about an assassination plot before drawing his last breath. The assassins find out and kidnap his son, leading the tourist and his wife (Doris Day
) to find him on their own. Argument still rages over which version is better, but this one does have Stewart in the lead.