Oscar’s Crimes – Hitchcock
All Points Bulletin:
Be on the lookout for a small, bald, gold man. He is 13 and 1/2 inches tall, weighs 8.5 lbs, sexual organs seem to be absent, tends to stand very still, constantly wielding a crusader’s sword, and is made of gold plated britannium on a black metal base. He is wanted for a list of crimes against the art of film that spans over 83 years. Consider him to be armed and dangerous.
Here we present one of the biggest crimes of Oscar’s career. It’s simple, unquestionable, and clear.
Alfred Hitchcock never won an Academy Award for Best Director.
Let that sink in a second. Alfred friggin’ Hitchcock…never…won…an Oscar…for directing. Now, there was one year that he was given the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial award, which is an Oscar. I’m still not sure why they give that award out, but obviously the Academy was trying to make up for their overlooking his career. But it seemed too little too late.
Ask anyone on the street, or anyone anywhere in the country, to name five movie directors off the top of their head, and Hitchcock’s name will come up. People who don’t know the first thing about film history know Hitchcock. The name of this very website wouldn’t exist without him. In the history of Hollywood film ,John Ford may be the only name that equals his as far as fame and longevity, and even Ford won a couple of times. In fact, John Ford won the award in 1940, beating out Hitchcock.
That year of 1940 was the closest Hitch came to winning. He actually directed two of the Best Picture nominated films that year, so he was competing against himself. Foreign Correspondent was nominated for Best Picture. Rebecca was nominated for Directing as well, but it won the Best Picture Oscar that year, which was Hitch’s only film to do so. It’s ironic. Rebecca is a very good movie, but nowhere near his best. Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine starred in it, and it is a haunting tale of love and guilt. Judith Anderson had the most memorable role as Mrs. Danvers, the creepy caretaker of Olivier’s character’s estate. While engaging and worth watching, the film actually seems to lose a bit of steam at the midway point, when the crucial secret of what happened to the first Mrs. de Winter to live in the house is revealed. It is often thought that turn happens too early in the story, so the suspense of the conclusion loses some of its impact. Still, a well-acted and entertaining film, so its winning Best Picture isn’t hard to understand. But while Sir Alfred had the first of hisfive nominations that year, he was never to win.
Let’s go over a quick list of the greatest highlights from his career:
The Lodger (1927)
The Farmer’s Wife (1928)
The Man Who Knew Too Much (original 1934 and remade 1956)
The 39 Steps (1935)
Secret Agent (1936)
The Lady Vanishes (1938)
Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941)
Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
Strangers On A Train (1951)
Dial M for Murder (1954)
Rear Window (1954)
To Catch a Thief (1955)
The Trouble With Harry (1955)
The Birds (1963)
And that is just a list of some of his classics. Even some of his lesser-known films like Frenzy or The Wrong Man or Marnie or Stage Fright are fun and interesting. He helped pioneer the anthology series on TV as well, with his Alfred Hitchcock Presents… His career started in the silent era. When talkies came along he made innovative use of that technology (watch Blackmail and see how in only his first sound film he is toying with use and absence of sounds in scenes). He made memorable use of camerawork throughout his career (examples: the P.O.V. shot in Spellbound when Gregory Peck is drinking milk and the liquid covers the lower half of the screen; Rope is designed as one continuous tracking shot throughout the film with takes that lasted as long as a roll of film; Lifeboat, shot entirely in one small boat; most of the shots in Rear Window; the famous shower scene in Psycho). When color came along he used it as a tool to enhance his films (see Marnie, Rope, and Topaz for examples). While I have never seen it in 3D, I have read that his use of it in Dial M for Murder was kind of revelatory. The famous shot when Grace Kelly is reaching for those scissors while being attacked is supposed to be that much more exciting in 3D. I’m convinced that had he been around for our current set of digital tools, he would have found a way to be innovative with them as well.
He directed Carey Grant and Jimmy Stewart, two of the biggest Hollywood actors of all time, in some of their best roles. For my money, Grant was never better than he was in Notorious. And who else could have gotten George Bailey to star in such a twisted tale of obsession like Vertigo, other than Hitch?
So far there have been 82 Best Directing Oscars given out over the years. Hitchcock directed 67 movies that spanned a 60-year career. In all that time, Oscar couldn’t squeeze out one for Hitch? We live in a world where Cher has a Best Actress award, where Matt Damon & Ben Affleck have an Oscar for writing, where the train wreck that is Mel Gibson has a Best Directing Oscar, and yet Sir Alfie was overlooked. That is a crime.