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Favorite Hitchcock Leading Man


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I know, this may sound like a stupid subject for a topic, based on the fact that almost all of Alfred Hitchcock's leading men were top notch (Paul Newman and Gregory Peck, being great actors in their own right, were the exceptions in my opinion), but I think it would be fun to see where everyone stands. I mean, seriously, I'd really like to hear why one person likes Joseph Cotten in Shadow of A Doubt, as opposed to Robert Walker in Strangers on a Train, and all that. I'll go first...

 

Anthony Perkins - Psycho - He was just entirely creepy, and absolutely perfect for the role. One of THE best performances EVER!

 

Jimmy Stewart - Rope, Rear Window, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and Vertigo - Ole' Jimmy would have most-likely been my top favorite, had it not been for his mis-casting in Rope. He does what he can with the part, but to me, it's not one of his best performances.

 

Cary Grant - Suspicion, Notorious, To Catch A Thief, and North By Northwest - What's NOT to love!? Cary Grant is great in anything, but teamed with Hitchcock, he is pure CINEMATIC royalty.

 

Henry Fonda - The Wrong Man - I had to watch the movie a few times before it grew on me. It's just fun to see an atypical Hitchcockian leading man still hold his own in one of the Master's films. And Fonda does an outstanding job.

 

Joseph Cotten - Shadow of a Doubt - A precursor to Norman Bates, Cotten's Uncle Charlie is equally menacing as he is charming. It's a shame that Cotten didn't receive more acclaim in his day. An unjustly, underrated actor, was he.

 

Claude Rains - Notorious - I know, it's not a leading man part, but Rains is bar none one of the greatest actors ever, and, if it weren't for Tony Perkins, I'd say his potrayal of Sebastian in Notorious was Hitchcock's greatest villian of all. Anyway, Claude Rains is one of the few actors, I think, that was consistently great in anything he did.

 

This one is pretty tough, to be sure!

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For me it is Cary Grant. I love Jimmy Stewart in "Rear Window," but I've never been as taken with "Vertigo" as a lot of other people, and I can't warm up to Stewart's other Hitchcock films. Stewart is a great actor, but the heart of his appeal to me was made with other directors.

 

However, to me Cary Grant's films for Hitchcock stand at the center of my appreciation of Cary Grant. Grant is James Bond before there was a James Bond in "To Catch a Thief." He is spot on as the man living by his wits in a treacherous situation in "North By Northwest." He shows the dangerous underside of his screwball comedy personna in "Suspicion," a film that I like even though 99% of the world doesn't.

 

But best of all is his Devlin in "Notorious," a movie that seems to have gotten underrated in recent years. He is attractive, yet there is a cruel side to the man, but not enough that we write him off as a jerk. When he comes through for Ingrid Bergman at the end, it is a wonderful moment, but tempered by darkness as he leaves Claude Rains to be killed. Grant does a splendid job of balancing the light and darkness of this character.

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I like Suspicion as well. The only thing I don't like about it is that the ending is a major cop-out. I think that's why 99% of the world doesn't like the film. Which is a bit unfair because otherwise, it is a brilliant film.

 

I think Vertigo takes time to warm up to. I know it took me repeated viewings to realize that that it was Hitchcock flexing his muscles as an artist above all else. It's a slow film, but I think that is because every single shot is given the utmost attention. Hitchcock was a true architect of film in that sense. And Stewart's performance, as well as that of Kim Novak, is intensely introspective. Any other actor would have gone over-the-top with it, in my opinion.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Alfred Hitchcock, chose all the right men to lead in all his film. But when you look at "Rear Window", Vertigo, Jimmy Stewart just light the screen. Now I really am a big fan of Cary Grant his best work was for Hitchcock, Suspicion, North by Northwest, To Catch A Thief, is film making at it best. But I think we forgotten about "The Bird" and the male star I think was Rod I can't think of his last name, but he was from Australia. Hitchcock always chose leading men that had character. James Mason, was very good also in North by Northwest. Did Hitch to Charade because that truly one of my favors. Awesome Director that Hitchcock.

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Although Robert Walker only worked in one Hitchcock film "Strangers on a Train", as did Joseph Cotten in "Shadow of a Doubt", it is those two actors that are memorable to me, and my favorites.

That doesn't mean that I don't like the other actors mentioned here in his films. I enjoy most of his movies, and also thought that "Torn Curtain" had some good moments.

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How about Bruce Dern?

I think that he's wonderful in Family Plot, with the equally wonderful Barbara Harris.

(He also has a very small part, by the way, in Marnie.)

I don't know that I'd call him my favorite Hitchcock leading man, but he certainly deserves mention.

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There were lots of great actors who worked with Hitchcock.

 

I think Grant and Cotton did some interesting work with him because they were cast against type in films like "Notorious" (1946) and "Shadow of a Doubt" (1943). Unfortunately once an artist becomes typecast most directors, producers, and fans can't see them in different roles. Cotton and Grant proved that they could play darker, harder edged roles.

 

My favorite leading men in a Hitch film though are John Dall and Farley Granger in "Rope" (1948). Both actors worked well off each other and when you consider the fact they were doing this live (in 8 minute takes) it's even more remarkable. they manage to create multi-demensional characters that we abhor and yet still retain feeling for. A great performance.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I'd have to throw my hat in the ring for Joseph Cotten in Shadow of a Doubt. I wanted to like "Uncle Charlie" just as young "Charlie" did before getting wise. I think Cotten did a magnificent job.

 

Cotten was also in three episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, with only one having been directed by Hitchcock (according to the info at imdb). (Robert Altman directed another and I'm not sure who on the third one.) Ah, I wish AHP was running!

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I'd like to make special mention of Paul Newman in Torn Curtain. I think, along with Julie Andrews, it was one of those situations where the director and his actors didn't quite see eye-to-eye, but their own respective talents made the film work. While by no means one of Hitchcock's best films, Torn Curtain is still a damn fine one.

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As far as uncomplicated heroes are concerned, my pick is Robert Donat is The 39 Steps. Dashingly romantic and very heroic in a terribly British way And absolutely charming, and funny as well.

 

Then there are Hitchcock's flawed heroes. The daddy of thm all is James Stewart's creepy performance as Scotty in Vertigo, but I also like Cary Grant as the rather ambiguous, somewhat nasty Devlin in Notorious.

 

I"m also quite fond of John Gielgud's performance in Secret Agent, as the tortured hero who discovers that being a hero can actually be very unpleasant. And Gielgud and Peter Lorre work surprisingly well together. When you add Madeleine Carroll to the mix you have an almost perfect cast!

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