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Top 5 Acting Performances in Hitchcock Films

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Which 5 acting performances do you think were most effective in conveying the "touch" or recurring themes Hitchcock exercised? They do not have to receive top billing or be in a leading role.

 

My top 5 would be:

 

1. Anthony Perkins (Psycho)

2. Teresa Wright (Shadow of a Doubt)

3. James Stewart (Rear Window)

4. Ingrid Bergman (Notorious)

5. Robert Walker (Strangers on a Train)

 

Add a brief explanation to each if you like.

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My tope of five. I feel that each of the characters had very strong character development and growth from beginning to end. Well, except for Robert Walker. He just gave a great performance as the charming psychopathic murderer.

 

1.Teresa Wright (Shadow of a Doubt)

2. Robert Walker (Strangers on a Train)

3. Robert Cummings (Saboteur)

4. Eva Marie Saint (North by Northwest)

5. Grace Kelly (Rear Window)

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1) Cary Grant-- North by Northwest

2) Judith Anderson-- Rebecca

3) James Stewart - - Vertigo

4) Anthony Perkins -- Psycho

5) Ingrid Bergman--Notorious

 

Honorable Mention:

Robert Donat-- 39 Steps

Wylie Watson-- " ( Mr. Memory )

Nova Pilbeam-- The Man Who Knew Too Much

Robert Young-- Secret Agent

Joan Fontaine - - Rebecca

 

 

I was looking for several things in recounting these performances--

 

1) The Depth of the performance

 

2) How the performer made the characterization a necessity to the plot or to the audience's better understanding of the plot.

 

3) How the actor/ actress would exceed their usual range or typecasting.

 

*4) When the film was over, which performer stood out as representing your opinion or memory of the entire film.

 

 

* This was most important point for me and it's not always the movie's star.

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I love this question: Top 5 (or 10) performances.

Here is my two cents:

  • Joseph Cotton: Shadow of a Doubt
  • George Sanders: Rebecca (just for being George Sanders)
  • Jimmy Stewart: Vertigo
  • Robert Walker: Strangers on a Train
  • Tippi Hedren: Marnie
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<p>I love this question: Top 5 (or 10) performances.Here is my two cents:

  • Joseph Cotton: Shadow of a Doubt
  • George Sanders: Rebecca (just for being George Sanders)
  • Jimmy Stewart: Vertigo
  • Robert Walker: Strangers on a Train
  • Tippi Hedren: Marnie

I think the best work that George Sanders ever did was with Hitchcock, but you could say that about a number of actors. Sanders was also in top form in Foreign Correspondent.

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I think there are many fine performances, and I like the lists here.  To me, the all times standouts are Anthony Perkins and Robert Walker.  It's a real shame that the latter died so young--was it right before or right after the release of Strangers on a Train?  It's interesting to think of what other performances he had in him. 

 

 

    

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Any fans of Joan Fontaine, the only performer to pick up an Oscar in a Hitchcock film?  I do like her in Suspicion.  It's been quite a while since I've seen Rebecca.  It seems like the roles/performances were pretty similar. 

 

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Any fans of Joan Fontaine, the only performer to pick up an Oscar in a Hitchcock film?  I do like her in Suspicion.  It's been quite a while since I've seen Rebecca.  It seems like the roles/performances were pretty similar. 

 

I'm a fan of Joan Fontaine;   Yea,  most of her screen persona was the shy naïve gal that finds herself in an uncomfortable situation,  but she was very convincing in those roles.  Jane Eyre is another example.   For romantics, I highly recommend Letter from an Unknown Women.    

 

For another side of Joan,  check out Born to be Bad with Robert Ryan.   Not a noir but there is a good amount of tension with Joan playing the title character.

 

Joan is the sister of Olivia DeHaviland, who just turned 101 a few days ago.    To me these two have the most robust film legacy of any pair of siblings.  

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Any fans of Joan Fontaine, the only performer to pick up an Oscar in a Hitchcock film?  I do like her in Suspicion.  It's been quite a while since I've seen Rebecca.  It seems like the roles/performances were pretty similar. 

Joan Fontaine is great in both Hitchcock films. I think her acting style is considered too stylized by today's standards, but she was a terrific actress in my opinion.

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My Top 5 Hitchcock performances, in no particular order:

 

1) Anthony Perkins, Psycho.  

 

To me, Perkins is one of the scariest villains in film history.  He is the creepiest type of villain, because on the surface, he seems like a polite, slightly shy, and a bit awkward man.  Underneath the surface however, he's a nut.  He harbors a lot of mommy issues--to the point where he basically is his own long-deceased mother.  His emotional issues are too intense for him to work through on his own.  His face at the end of the film where "Mother" discusses how he wouldn't hurt a fly is one of the creepiest images in cinema.  I don't know about anyone else, I know he's bonkers, but I also feel a bit sorry for him as he seems like he would have been a genuinely nice guy and showed signs of that, but he had so many deep-seated issues that it's overwhelming, thus Mrs. Bates comes out--it's easier. 

 

2) Claude Rains, Notorious.  

 

I love Rains and I especially love his performance in this film.  He is hopelessly in love with Ingrid Bergman's character and a Nazi, you as the audience, cannot decide to hate him or feel sorry for him.  He is presented as the villain and is awful in every sense of the word, except for his love of Bergman.  He is torn between his heart and sense of duty and even as he's slowly poisoning Bergman, albeit reluctantly, you can't help but feel like he's being forced to do so.  Rains is able to present such a complicated and conflicted villain that he's one of the more interesting characters in all of Hitchcock's films.

 

3) Thelma Ritter, Rear Window.

 

Not a big part, but Ritter is somewhat the comic relief, but she's also the person who keeps the film grounded.  She also serves a bit as a distraction for Stewart and as a confidant.  At first, it seems like James Stewart's suspicion about his neighbor is just something he made up to keep himself entertained while he's home bound.  He is consumed by this mystery he's concocted and in the beginning of the film, he seems like a bit of a kook--especially when girlfriend Grace Kelly is throwing herself at him and he's ignoring her and looking out the window.  It is Ritter's character who has some of the funniest lines.  Like when Stewart, Kelly and Ritter are watching suspected murderer neighbor Raymond Burr clean up some stains.  "Must've splattered a lot" Ritter says.  Stewart and Kelly look at her with a look of disgust and she says: "Come on, that's what we're all thinkin'.  He killed her in there, and now he has to clean up those stains before he leaves." 

 

4) Kim Novak, Vertigo.

 

I'll admit that sometimes I find Novak a bit wooden, but there's something about her that I like and find intriguing.  In this film, she's especially interesting.  She essentially plays two roles--the cool blonde Madeline, who is a replica of James Stewart's romantic obsession and then the brunette Judy who has been impersonating Madeline.  This is a complicated movie and complicated performance from Novak who not only plays a romantic love interest to James Stewart but at the same time she also has contempt for him into trying to make her something that she's not.  Novak really demonstrated that she had acting chops in this film--it's a shame that her career wasn't bigger than it was (though she's in a lot of great films) and she isn't better remembered today.  

 

5) Janet Leigh, Psycho

 

For being big name in the film, Janet Leigh has a very small role in Psycho.  She is killed off within the first 30-45 mins.  However, the remaining action of the film revolves around her disappearance.  She is a thief, she steals $40,000 from her employer.  She shouldn't be the sympathetic character, but she is.  She's desperately in love with boyfriend John Gavin, but he doesn't want to marry her (or she doesn't want to marry him, I can't remember) because his financial situation is poor.  Surely $40,000 would help things out some? Leigh doesn't appear to make much of a living in her secretarial job, so when she's entrusted with her employer's deposit, how easy would it be for her to run away and make a new life for herself? Sure, she shouldn't do it--but at the same time, as the audience, you kind of want her to get away with it.  Even if you want her to get caught, she doesn't deserve to be stabbed to death in a shower by the nut job hotel proprietor.  And the fact that her death in the shower was so gruesome and shocking makes her an even more sympathetic character.  This time, karma went a little overboard.  

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Robert Donat 39 Steps

Ingrid Bergman Notorious

Claude Rains Notorious

Teresa Wright Shadow of a Doubt

Joseph Cotton Shadow of a Doubt

Peter Lorre Man who Knew too Much Original version

Robert Walker Strangers on a Train

Jimmy Stewart Vertigo

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I'd go.

 

In no order:

 

Ingrid Bergman (Notorious)

Anthony Perkins (Psycho)

Robert Walker (Strangers on a Train)

Jimmy Stewart (Vertigo)

Cary Grant ( either Suspicion or North by Northwest I can see merits for either; I'm leaning Suspicion at the moment because it's more clever with his persona)

 

Many of the others mentioned in this topic are fantastic.

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I'll just go on record saying my least favorite performance in a Hitchcock film would be Anne Baxter in I Confess. Her appeal eludes me and her range seems to be from emotionally hollow overacting to hammy overacting. Can you tell I really don't like her?

 

I wonder if Hitchcock was pleased with her work.

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I don't like Joan Fontaine in Suspicion at all. There's not much variation in the role and at one point she put the back of her hand to her forehead in despair and totally lost me! On the other hand I think Cary Grant is brilliant in this movie. He's great in NbN too, but his narcissistic portrayal in Suspicion is chillingly convincing.

 

Any fans of Joan Fontaine, the only performer to pick up an Oscar in a Hitchcock film? I do like her in Suspicion. It's been quite a while since I've seen Rebecca. It seems like the roles/performances were pretty similar.

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I'm such a huge Hitchcock fan so to narrow it down to my five favorite performances is difficult but here it goes:

 

1.  ANTHONY PERKINS (PSYCHO)

 

Anthony Perkins was the perfect person to play the role, he brings all the complexity of this character out completely. Gentleness vs. violence, the sexual ambiguity (gay in real life), the passive/violence.  He is mesmerizing. 

 

2. JUDITH ANDERSON (REBECCA)

 

She is creepy, cold and obsessive as Mrs. Danvers.  Truly one of the most iconic performances.  Love her. 

 

3. ROBERT WALKER (STRANGERS ON A TRAIN)

 

Another mesmerizing performance, creepy, bizarre. 

 

4. KIM NOVAK (VERTIGO)

 

She is haunting and beautiful and her subtlety between the two women are mesmerizing.  I also share a birthday with her so I'm a huge fan. 

 

5. CARY GRANT (NORTH BY NORTH WEST)  He is so iconic, handsome, and it is great to see him in a movie with danger. 

 

My thoughts:

 

I know so many people love Ingrid Bergman in NOTORIOUS but I really never cared for her much.  She has a melancholy air to her performance and lacks the sensuality and beauty of the other more iconic Hitchcock blondes like Kim, Eva, Grace, Tippi or Janet.  Her character seems so frickin' bird brain that she would become such a victim for her love.  

 

Though Grace Kelly is of course stunning I'm not impressed by her performance in Rear Window.  The character doesn't have the depth of other iconic Hitchcock heroines.  She is gorgeous to look at but personally it is so odd to see her as the love interest of Jimmy Stewart.  (In fact I'm not the biggest Jimmy Stewart fan either).  He is just to common man and lack the charisma of Cary Grant and other leading men. I personally don't buy Jimmy Stewart in ROPE..  The character of the professor Rupert was supposed to be homosexual.  Jimmy played it to straight.  It would have been much more interesting to have seen Cary play the role who was closeted gay in real life.  He would have brought more sexual tension to the role.  Esp since in the original store Rupert has an affair with Phillip.   

 

Though I love Doris Day.  I find her slightly annoying in The Man That Knew Too Much.  She is just too sugary for me  The Que Sera songs gets on my nerves as well.  I prefer the black and white version. 

 

I found Julie Andrews surprising good in Torn Curtain with Paul Newman..  it is interesting to see her brings some sex to the role when she had just finished The Sound of Music.  I love that Torn Curtain is such a great travel logue seeing parts of Norway and Copenhagen.  I wish Herrmann would have done the score though.  It would be so much more interesting then what Hitch went with. 

 

I love Tippi in The Birds and there is sort of cool iciness to her character that works well. 

 

I love Janet in Psycho:  The shower scene is so iconic.  The open eye shot is amazing. 

 

Robert Cummings in Saboteur is another actor I really like.  He is handsome, and so sweet and innocent.  You get pulled into his plight.  He has a fresh innocence that works well, yet he is still a rugged and handsome leading man. 

 

Farley Grainger in ROPE..  He is great and brings a lot of the subtle gay mannerisms and nervous tension to the role. He is much more believable than Jimmy Stewart (who I never really cared for much in Hitchcock films)

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jamesrspencer--Herrmann did compose a score for "Torn Curtain" (1966).  It has been posted on YouTube.  Search "Herrmann "Torn Curtain" score".  There are annoying ads to click away, but score is worth a listen.

 

Back to topic.

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(1) Cary Grant - Suspicion (but I really think it is comparing the four roles he played in ​Suspicion, Notorious, To Catch a Thief, and North by Northwest that you see how he brought four very different characters to life so brilliantly)

 

(2) Jessie Royce Landis -  North by Northwest and To Catch a Thief​(she stole every scene she was in!) 

 

​(3) Thelma Ritter - Rear Window ​(she also stole every scene she was in!)

 

​(4) Robert Walker - Strangers on a Train ​(such a departure for him -- he was always such a good guy)

 

(5) Anthony Perkins - Psycho ​(I'm still not really a fan of Psycho, but I appreciate it's qualities now, especially Perkins' performance.  But it makes me sad that this role typecast him for the rest of his life.  Previously, he had quite a variety of different roles, but I don't think anyone could ever look at him again without thinking of Norman Bates.)

 

​Honorable Mentions:

Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotton in ​Shadow of a Doubt 

Ingrid Bergman in both ​Notorious and Spellbound ​(again, two very different characters)

Judith Anderson in Rebecca 

 

My least favorite performance is Joan Fontaine in both Rebecca and Suspicion.​  I've never been a fan of Fontaine.  She was the lead in these two films and I didn't feel any "connection" or emotion with her (or from her).  The only film I ever thought she really did well was Born to be Bad.  ​She played the villain in that movie and was excellent!  Ironically, her sister Olivia de Haviliand is one of my favorite actresses.  I would have loved to see her playing these two roles for Hitchcock!  She was always believable in her roles.

 

Tied for least favorite performance would be Paul Newman and Julie Andrews together in Torn Curtain. ​ I'm a big fan of both of them, but they had no romantic chemistry together!  I like the story, but I think it would be a much better movie if one or the other (or both) had been replaced.  Also, I think Hitchcock should have used Bernard Herrmann's score, especially in the murder scene.  What a difference that would have made!

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Anthony Perkins. One of the best American actors of all time. And one the most underrated. He gives Psycho that extra lift. Not that it needed it. He should have been nominated for an Oscar for his amazing performance

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I don't like Joan Fontaine in Suspicion at all. There's not much variation in the role and at one point she put the back of her hand to her forehead in despair and totally lost me! On the other hand I think Cary Grant is brilliant in this movie. He's great in NbN too, but his narcissistic portrayal in Suspicion is chillingly convincing.

 

 

Hitchcock cast Fontaine in Suspicion after directing her in Rebecca.   Fontaine had used a similar screen persona in other films prior to Suspicion.    Therefor he made a choice and believed Fontaine was right or the role.    

 

Initially other actors were considered for the two leading parts, but eventually, it was decided to cast Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine; Fontaine had to be borrowed from David O. Selznick for an expensive fee, because she had been dropped by RKO's contract list a number of years before.

 

I feel Hitchcock made the right choice,  but those that don't are really criticizing Hitchcock's casting decision (as well as paying a fee to use someone NOT under contract with RKO) more so than Fontaine's performance.  

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