Manipulative, passionate, (mostly) blonde and cool: The Alfred Hitchcock Heroines personified incredibly complex, deeply sensual characters. Without these strong women, his movies would never have been so successful, so thrilling, so intense!
Finde den deutschen Beitrag hier: Hitchcocks Heldinnen.
The Master of Suspense worked with numerous leading actresses in the five decades of moviemaking. Many of them became legends, until today.
In the following post I would like to honour some of his heroines, with the focus on my favourite women, and my very own interpretation of their intense and powerful look, together with photographer Katrin Lorenz and filmmaker Jens Esch.
Photos by the amazing portrait photographer Katrin Lorenz.
The cool, blonde Heroine
With his films, Alfred Hitchcock created a new image of women. The leading female characters of his movies were elegant and cool, mostly blonde Femme fatales. To Hitchcock, the „conventional big bosomed blonde“ was not mysterious. He saw the perfect woman of mistery as subtle and Nordic.
The Hitchcock heroines were surrounded by darkness and depth – manipulative, passionate, self-confident, complex and sensual. Some of them obsessive.
Alfred Hitchcock brought the dark sides of human nature to the surface. He was interested in the human psyche, in the unconscious.
To sum up: The Master of Suspense was fascinated by the menacing woman.
All of these aspects of the human character have been shown in the most different facets in his films – portrayed by 47 actresses throughout the decades of Hitchcock’s career.
„Blondes make the best victims. They’re like virgin snow that shows up the bloody footprints.“
I kindly received this coat from Topvintage Boutique*. It is, unfortunately, sold out already, but the shop in general is a good recommendation for finding pretty, affordable retro fashion! Take a look here*!
Here are five of the most memorable Alfred Hitchcock Actresses.
Alfred Hitchcock had the most famous actresses of their time starring in his movies. Some of them grew popular because of his films. It is quite difficult to say who were the most outstanding female heroines of his films, so this is my very personal choice, and you are invited to add your own opinion in the comments!
Kim Novak – Vertigo
Actually, Kim Novak was second in row for the leading role in Vertigo! Original actress Vera Miles left due to pregnancy, so Novak got to play the dual role of Judy Barton / Madeleine Elster. This woman becomes the sole obsession of the acrophobic police detective John Ferguson (James Stewart), while Madeleine is obsessed with her own death.
Ferguson’s vertigo stops him from saving her life, and he meets Judy. Her deeply held secrets cause his world to spin again.
Novak played an icy, seductive character – this role defined her for the rest of her career.
„Vertigo is the conflict between the fear of falling and the desire to fall.“
Kim Novak and James Stewart in Vertigo (1958). Via Wikimedia Commons.
Grace Kelly – Dial M for Murder, Rear Window & To Catch a Thief
Probably one of the most elegant Hitchcock actresses was Grace Kelly. She turned the typically icy blonde heroine of Hitchcock’s films into a warmer, more vivacious character.
In Rear Window, she was part of one of Hitchcock’s greatest films alongside James Stewart, a photojournalist claiming that one of his neighbours killed his wife.
Her third and last film with Hitchcock was 1955’s To Catch a Thief. In this movie, in she was the target of a copycat burglar mimicking the modus operandi of a notorious but retired jewel thief, personified by Cary Grant. This film is an absolute classic!
Though she left acting to become the Princess of Monaco, Kelly’s three films with Hitchcock were the highlights of her short career.
Grace Kelly and James Stewart in Rear Window (1954). Via Wikimedia Commons.
Tippi Hedren – The Birds & Marnie
Tippi Hedren starred in the last of Hitchcock’s great films. In The Birds, Hedren plays a wealthy young woman, travelling to the seaside of California to pursue a new beau. She finds herself among the townspeople, pecked to death by swarms of seagulls.
After The Birds, she played with Sean Connery in Marnie. This was often called Hitchcock’s final masterpiece. Hedren starred as a troubled young woman with a weakness for theft. Connery, her boss (and later husband) begins digging into her dark past. Marnie is the tense tale of a woman so haunted by events in her life that she is afraid of thunderstorms, the colour red and boning.
Apart from her acting, there is another topic that one needs to discuss when focussing on Tippi Hedren.
Hedren: Alfred Hitchcock sexually assaulted me
Unfortunately, in later interviews Hedren confessed, that Hitchcock was obsessed by her. She said the director grabbed her, attempted to kiss her and had a secret door installed between his office and her dressing room.
When she rejected his advances, Hitchcock promised to make her life a living hell – and did so.
It seems that Alfred Hitchcock was not the cinema hero, the Master of Suspense with the clean slate, that most people may see in him today. It is to question whether Hedren was the only actress that was assaulted by Hitchcock, or whether she is just the only one talking about this in public.
Official Press Photo for Marnie (1964), showing Hitchcock and Hedren. Via Wikimedia Commons.
This is a very sensitive topic, something I do not want to speak about more deeply, as I do not want to make false assumptions. But you can read more about Hedren’s dramatic story in this article by the Guardian, as well as in her autobiography „Tippi: A Memoir“.
In my opinion, this is something that should be put more emphasize on today, when speaking about the worldfamous director. I had to research directly for this theme, as many articles about the filmmaker praise his art, but ignore the fact that he sexually assaulted his well-known actress!
Janet Leigh – Psycho
It is probably the most famous scene in movie history: Janet Leigh steps into the shower and is killed brutally with a knife. Her violent death is accompanied by genius Bernard Herrmann’s minimalistic string Staccato, captivating the shocked audience on their seats.
Though only on screen for the first third of the movie – which was a very unusual element for a Hitchcock movie – Janet Leigh’s appearance in Psycho was the most popular of all his heroines.
Leigh played Marion Crane, a secretary who embezzles $40,000 from her employer in order free her lover from debt. On a drive from Phoenix to California, Marion stops at the isolated Bates Motel, where she meets the repressed Norman Bates, played by the phenomenal Anthony Perkins.
On my Instagram page, someone recently asked me, which movie by Hitchcock I would recommend watching first. I answered „Psycho“. In my opinion, this is a film that everybody needs to watch at least once in his / her lifetime.
Vera Miles, John Gavin and Janet Leigh in Psycho (1960). Via Wikimedia Commons.
The list of amazing leading Hitchcock actresses of course can be followed by many, many other strong women throughout Hitchcock’s film career! As there were for example Ingrid Bergman, Joan Fontaine, Eva Marie Saint, Carole Lombard, Madeleine Carroll, Julie Andrews and numerous more!
Maybe you also have a favourite Hitchcock heroine, which should be mentioned as well?
Shooting Series and Shortfilm: Our Homage to Hitchcock’s actresses
Alfred Hitchcock turned tension into the highest form of art. Of course – from today’s point of view, regarding all the technical and cinematic developments – the extremely scary aspect of his movies may not be as captivating as it was back in his days.
But his movies are masterpieces, and they always will be – his point-of-view-shot, his storytelling, the brilliant timing and the fulminant music celebrating each of the sequences.
For a recent photoshoot with Leipzig based photographer Katrin Lorenz (“Hammermännchen”), I had the idea of honouring two of my favourite Hitchcock heroines, two women whose Hitchcock movies I love most, I feel most related to, I felt most inspired by.
Katrin Lorenz is a master of taking emotional, stunning and atmospheric portraits, so she was definitely the perfect choice for this project. I was lucky that she already contacted me in late summer with the wish for a new shooting series, so we got this idea together and it took almost half a year to plan!
A friend of hers, an amazing filmmaker, offered to capture our work with the film camera, the amazing result you can see below.
If you would like to take a closer look at Katrin’s amazing work, you can find her photographs on her Instagram page!
The Leipzig based label Gracy Q recently released a Hitchcock inspired retro fashion collection, called „Love Crimes“. This is where I got most of the looks for this shooting from! For example, here I am wearing the „Drama Coat“.
I big thanks also goes to Rittergut Schloss Proschwitz, a beautiful large, historical estate including an early 18th castle and winery! There we could find wonderful sceneries for our photo series.
I chose Tippi Hedren as inspiration for our pictures, as she was not only a very brave woman as Melanie Daniels in The Birds, the first Hitchcock movie I ever watched in my life. Tippi Hedren was the archetypical Hitchcock blonde.
I also felt very touched by the stories that occurred behind the scenes of the filmsets, a theme that is more present than ever before, also regarding the current #metoo movement.
Another Hitchcock actress that impressed me very much is Kim Novak, especially her mystic appearance in Vertigo. Her conscience-proof, self-confident and cool manner create an incredibly fascinating two-sided character, that made me absorb every second of this thrilling movie.
The following pictures were inspired by a scene in Vertigo.
The strong looks of the Hitchcock Heroines
The Hitchcock heroines mostly wore strict costumes, without much jewellery or feminine decoration.
Tight pencil skirts, pinned-up hair, high heels. They look linear, strong – yet feminine. Hitchcock preferred subtle looks. Kim Novak or Tippi Hedren always appear some sort of formal.
Not matter how much fear or horror the women are confronted with – they always battle these with chic couture outfits and perfectly flawless beehives.
But behind this neat, correct façade lurks a trauma, a collapse, deception.
„I already hated that grey suit. And then having to go through putting on that wig with a false front – again made me feel so trapped inside this person who was desperately wanting to break out of it. But she was so caught up in the web of deception that she couldn’t.“ Kim Novak
Hitchcock was obsessed by the perfect look for his actresses, as he was alarmingly obsessed with the actress herself. Tippi Hedren’s movie outfits supposedly cost as much as her annual salary!
The Gracy Q Tippi Dress and the Notorious Dress. We were very lucky with the amazing, strong sunlight on this winter’s day. Katrin took all those strong, rich in contrast pictures with pure, natural lighting.
The contrast of black and white fashion, such as in terms of turtlenecks, blazers and coats also played an important role in the Hitchcock movies. In Vertigo, Kim Novak wore an amazing, completely black outfit, paired with a scarf and beautiful white, wide coat.
When in colour, the women mostly wore tone – on – tone looks. Tippi Hedren in The Birds, with her perfect wave of golden hair and porcelaine skin, in her light blue two-piece set, still looks beautiful – even with a giant swarm of murderous birds behind her.
The high-necked outfits of the Hitchcock heroines emphasized their feminine hour glass figures, focussing on a small waists. Just as Hitchcock mentioned, he was never „very keen on women who hang their sex round their neck like baubles“.
To Hitchcock, women like Marilyn Monroe were rather vulgar and he appreciated the more conservatively dressed heroine in his movies.
We see – no Hitchcock movie without a beautiful, perfectly styled and preferably blonde heroine. Shame to him who thinks evil of it…
Cathy: Mitch, why are they doing this, the birds?
Mitch: We don’t know, honey.
Cathy: Why are they trying to kill people?
Mitch: I wish I could say.
Always Alone – A Hitchcock Inspired Shortfilm
Did she…or did she not?
Hitchcock underlined his stories with impressive lighting, effects of brightness and darkness – bringing out sharp contrasts.
This specific kind of filming is something that filmmaker Jens Esch alias Pictureboss inspired to create a two minute – video during our photoshoot! I am absolutely amazed by the result – the atmosphere, the story he created behind the pictures. Even the music is special, he used fragments from the original Vertigo sound.
The result is absolutely thrilling! So what do you think…did she?
Video by Jens Esch / Pictureboss. You also find it in full length on my Youtube channel.
I always love the story of a strong woman. And to me, the women are the secret heroes of Hitchcock’s movies!
Further movie-fashion related posts:
The making of Harry Potter – Warner Brothers Studio Tour London
1940s fashion and how to wear it today – Allied Movie Style Guide
New 1940s Movie: A Book Society in War Times – Including 1940s Hair Tutorial
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