A short blurb on Alfred Hitchcock’s delightful final film, screening on the occasion of a retrospective devoted to the actress Karen Black. The L Magazine, May 14.
Black is perhaps otherwise best known for providing a welcome dose of human vulnerability to offset Jack Nicholson’s cold fish in Five Easy Pieces. She was just one of many wonderful actresses to shine with Hitchcock, a filmmaker too often unfairly labeled as a technician. Watch Hitch’s lead women from throughout his career find room to convey a tremendous range of emotions, often within the same scene. In this piece I spotlight Carole Lombard (Mr. and Mrs. Smith) and Shirley MacLaine (The Trouble with Harry), but there are loads of others, including Anna Ondry (Blackmail), Madeleine Carroll (The 39 Steps), Sylvia Sidney (Sabotage), Margaret Lockwood (The Lady Vanishes), Joan Fontaine (Rebecca and Suspicion), Laraine Day (Foreign Correspondent), Teresa Wright (Shadow of a Doubt), Ingrid Bergman (whose performance in Under Capricorn is every bit as excellent as her more celebrated turns in Spellbound and Notorious), Grace Kelly (Rear Window), Vera Miles (The Wrong Man), Kim Novak (whose work in Vertigo becomes more overpowering the more one sees the film from Madeleine’s point of view), Eva Marie Saint (North by Northwest), Janet Leigh (Psycho), and Tippi Hedren (The Birds and Marnie). This is not to mention the frequently vivid supporting actresses. Just one example: If you’ve seen Rebecca, do you remember Judith Anderson as Mrs. Danvers?