Sunday, July 10, 2011

Preview: Thrillers and Blondes, Hitchcock & Grace Kelly

"Blondes make the best victims. They're like virgin snow that shows up the bloody footprints."
-Alfred Hitchcock

If you're familiar with the cinema of Alfred Hitchcock, there are a few staples of his films that you are likely familiar with. His most famous is the director's cameo, so well known that it's almost a game for viewers to find Alfred somewhere in his films. Also known to cinephiles is Hitchcock's penchant for using blonde actresses. Just off the top of my head, I can think of: Tippi Hedren, Janet Leigh, Eva Marie Saint, Kim Novak and Ingrid Bergman.

Although many foolishly attribute Alfred's use of flaxen stars as a bizarre fetish of his, but the truth is Hitchcock often said his preference for blondes was from a belief that they were "a symbol of the heroine." He believed that audiences would be more apt to be suspicious of brunettes, and since his career began in the black and white era, blondes merely show up better on film. Of course, Hitch always had a way of making them look great in color, as well. Perhaps of all the actresses, it is Grace Kelly who stands as the most iconic blonde actress from his decades of film. Her natural elegance captivated audiences and elevated her above suspicion. And it looks like Big Al was on to something too. Beginning with Dial M for Murder, the three films they made are among the highest caliber in Hitchcock's filmography.

Rear Window was the second collaboration between Hitchcock and Grace Kelly, and it remains one of the greatest thrillers of all time. James Stewart stars as a wheelchair-bound photographer who starts peeping on his neighbors as a way to pass the time. He shares his perceived stories of the people living around him with his girlfriend (played by Kelly), and first it's an amusing pastime. But as he starts to notice some oddities, his mind wonders what nefarious activities his neighbors might be up to. Is it possible that murder can take place next door? The film is vintage Hitchcock, with suspense and thrills ratcheted up to eleven.

Originally released in 1954, the film was re-released a few times and even spawned a television remake starring Christopher Reeve in 1998. A modern take was made in 2007 as Disturbia, a thriller starring Shia LaBeouf as the housebound snooper. And it has clearly influenced scores more, including most of Brian DePalma's career and even The 'burbs, a silly 1989 comedy starring Tom Hanks before he was Tom Hanks.

Kelly's final film with Hitchcock was 1955's To Catch A Thief, where she appeared alongside Cary Grant in a cat-and-mouse thriller. Grant plays a retired jewel thief nicknamed "The Cat," who is enjoying life on the French Riviera when a new series of burglaries occur that have his style. Convinced that The Cat is up to his old tricks, the police come for him. Now on the run, he has to evade capture and trap the copycat thief to clear his name. He acquires a list of probable targets, which include a rich American and his daughter (Kelly). What follows is a fun and sexy ride. Think of Oceans Twelve minus ten people and the messy plot. George Clooney can sometimes come close to emulating Cary Grant, but Julia Roberts could never steal one's heart like Grace Kelly could.

Grant was no stranger to working with Hitchcock, as they had also worked together on four films over two decades. In addition to this one, they also made Suspicion, Notorious and North by Northwest. If Grace Kelly was Hitchcock's ideal leading lady, then Grant was his favorite leading man. Of working with Cary, Hitchcock has stated that "he's the only actor I ever loved." So in many ways, To Catch A Thief stars the royal court of Alfred's films.

Thrills, chills and golden-haired heroines. Now that's an icy cocktail one can enjoy in the heat of the summer. Who better to capture our hearts than the ethereal Grace Kelly? And who better to craft a thriller than the master of suspense himself? It's can't miss entertainment this week from Alfred Hitchcock, the British gentleman who preferred blondes.

Showtimes for the films:

Rear Window
Thursday, Jul 14th
Friday, Jul 15th

To Catch A Thief
Thursday, Jul 14th
Friday, Jul 15th

Final Notes about the screening

Candy jewelry for the first 100 attendees + champagne specials!

Double Features:
"When two movies are grouped together under the same thematic heading, one ticket is good for both features when viewed back-to-back on the same day." (cha-ching!)

"Hassle-free downtown parking available for $6 at the One American Center for all summer films! Since you’re also supporting the theatre when you buy parking, they're giving you a free small soda each time you park there for a film. Buy online with your film tix and print out your confirmation e-mail or buy directly from the garage attendant (cash only). Attendant will have your soda ticket as well."

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