Today is Alfred Hitchcock's birthday and what better way to celebrate the master's 108th than through his women? His wounded, weird, gorgeous, sexually strange but extraordinarily erotic women--femmes who'd drive most of us to a state of amour fou. And Hitchcock understood such mad love. He also, despite some claims to the contrary, understood women, or rather, a certain kind of woman. Hitchcock, whom people love to apply the actors as cattle quote ad nauseam, saw something deeply disturbed inside womankind--especially blonde womankind. He understood their perfected calculations, their sexual mystery, their age-old competitions, and their alternately reserved and hysterical glamour and power.
Though I could point out numerous Hitchcock films (Psycho with Janet Leigh for one), three stick out: Vertigo, The Birds and Marnie. All reveal the director's predilection for leaving his heroines vulnerable to danger, dementia and doom. In these films, we can see Hitchcock's bent, or as Camille Paglia states in her excellent assessment of The Birds, his "perverse ode to woman's sexual glamour...in all its seductive phases, from brittle artifice to melting vulnerability."
Who more perfect to represent Paglia's declaration than Kim Novak, who gave the best performance of her life in Vertigo, and Tippi Hedren, a woman whose career seems to have revolved around Hitchcock's? The luminous Grace Kelly may be considered the quintessential Hitchcock blonde goddess but she's not as cinematically artistic as Novak or Hedren. She is a supreme Hitchock heroine for certain--an assured actress with mathematically perfect features, a patrician on the outside and a sexual animal underneath, Kelly's not a simplistic princess. But Kelly is interesting because she's too perfect (James Stewart's complaint in Rear Window and why Sinatra fell for her in High Society). And with that, she never touched the wounded, transgressive eroticism of Hedren or Novak. Part of that could lie in Hitchcock himself--he never tortured her. The more neurotic Hedren and Novak appeared in his pictures (and Hedren was a particularly bizarre interest for the director), the more responsive they seemed to the darker situations their auteur placed them in.
Read more Kim Morgan at Sunset Gun.