Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Films of Cary Grant and Alfred Hitchcock

Cary Grant made four films- Suspicion, Notorious, To Catch a Thief and North by Northwest- with my favorite director, Alfred Hitchcock. Grant also referred to Hitch as his favorite director, and Hitch called Grant "the only actor I ever loved in my whole life". I've seen all four of their films together, and enjoy them all, so I decided to say a bit about each of them.

 Grant's first film with Hitch was Suspicion (1941), co-starring Joan Fontaine, who won an Oscar for her role. The film is about an English woman (Fontaine) who marries charming playboy (Grant), then suspects he is planning to murder her.

I would say Suspicion is probably the weakest of the four Grant/Hitch collaborations. Not that it's a bad film- it isn't- but I find the other three films they made together to be much better, one reason being because of the changes made to Grant's character in the film versus the original novel Before the Fact written by Anthony Berkeley. **SPOILER ALERT**. In the book, Grant's character kills Fontaine. However, the studios objected to this as Grant was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood at the time and they feared playing a murderer would ruin his image. Thus, the ending was altered, much to Hitch's objection. I would have liked to see the ending as it was in the novel, since Grant rarely played the villain in any of his films.

The second of their films together is my favorite Hitchcock film, Notorious. Released in 1946, Notorious tells the story of a Nazi spy's daughter (Ingrid Bergman) who is trained by a government agent (Grant) to spy on her father's former colleagues who transfer to Brazil after WWII.

Notorious is one of Hitchcock's most acclaimed films, as it contains two of the most remembered scenes in film history. The first begins at the top of a staircase as Hitch slowly zooms in on Bergman showing a key hidden in her hand. The second is a two-and-a-half minute on-again/off-again kiss between Grant and Bergman that went against the Production Code, which stated that a kiss could be no longer than three seconds.

This is my favorite Hitchcock film for many reasons, one being the wonderful chemistry that the two stars had together.

To Catch a Thief (1955) pairs Cary Grant with Grace Kelly, whom he referred to as his favorite of the many actresses he worked with during his career. It was the third film that both Grant and Kelly made with Hitch (Kelly had starred in Dial M for Murder and Rear Window prior to this). This film is about retired jewel thief John Robie (Grant) who the police believe has returned to his robberies. Kelly plays an heiress who is convinced he is guilty, while her mother (Jessie Royce Landis) believes he's innocent.

Each of the four Grant/Hitchcock films features a car chase scene, the one in To Catch a Thief taking place in Monaco- reportedly on the same road where Kelly's fatal car accident occurred on September 14, 1982, after she supposedly had a stroke while driving.

  Last but not least is the film that would probably be Hitchcock's most famous if not for Psycho: North by Northwest. NxNW stars Grant as Roger Thornhill, a man mistaken by foreign officials for being a government advocate, and is tracked across the United States while trying to prove his real identity. This film co-stars Eva Marie Saint and James Mason.

North by Northwest is most remembered for the iconic crop-dusting sequence. While Grant waits at an isolated bus stop, a biplane is, in another character's words, "dusting crops where there ain't no crops". The plane flies toward Grant, barely missing him. You can watch the scene here if you're interested.

To sum it up, the four films Cary Grant made with Alfred Hitchcock are all worth watching. I'd recommend them to any classic film fan.


  1. Awesome post Meredith as Cary is my fave actor and Hitch is my fave director. Glad they made these four films together. I agree that Suspicion is the weakest, still a good film though. But my fave of the bunch is North By Northwest. One heck of a movie.

  2. They are all my favorites for many reasons, but Cary is always the main attraction. Actually, the one I am watching at the time becomes my favorite!

  3. Great post! Notorious is one of my favorite Hitch films too.