Spellbound by Blondes, Birds and Hawksian Women

Howards Hawks and Alfred Hitchcock are two of my favourite filmmakers. Famous for their taste in women, they bequeathed us, respectively, the Hawksian woman and the Hitchcock blonde.Many women have earned the distinction of being labelled a Hitchcock blonde, Tippi Hedren, Grace Kelly and Kim Novak being my own personal favourites. Whenever I watch The Birds, To Catch a Thief, Rear Window or Vertigo I revel in their inspiring incarnations of the Hitchcock blonde.Michelle Pfeiffer had a Hitchcockian pedigree. Ditto Meg Ryan. Meg was more Hawksian woman than Michelle, a good contrast to the beauty of La Pfeiffer who moved the coolness up a notch, epitomising the icy, enigmatic blonde.They couldn’t have been more different. Pfeiffer’s reserve more than matched by Ryan’s joie de vivre. At times, I envision these luminous blondes opposite Cary Grant and James Stewart in a cinematic collage of Hitchcockian high anxiety.If Alfred Hitchcock were a contemporary filmmaker, he might have directed Addicted to Love. Part classic screwball comedy, part nightmare along the lines of After Hours, this dark and strangely endearing film combined Hitch’s favourite elements of obsessive love and neurotic blondes with a classic voyeuristic device that would have made Rear Window‘s L.B. Jefferies drool.In one of film’s more iconic blonde moments, Meg Ryan’s Maggie removes a motorcycle helmet to reveal the blondeness of her unkempt hair and haloed face. Describing this act requires only two words: blonde genius.But then there was Pfeiffer, suitably blonde in What Lies Beneath. As retired cellist Claire Spencer, she is basically the Hitchcock blonde that never was. Aside from the platinum hair and the porcelain beauty, it’s all in the eyes. Those all-seeing, expressive eyes. There is simply no actress with eyes as bewitching as Michelle and she could have used them to devastating effect in Vertigo.Always more than just a beautiful stereotype, Pfeiffer could be an icy femme fatale or a traumatised hysteric. It took Meg Ryan most of the 90s to catch up with her, but in I.Q. she was a feast for the eyes, costumed as the kind of cool, self-confident, bottle blonde who would have driven Alfred Hitchcock wild.Ryan also did a breathtaking job in French Kiss. 40 years on from To Catch a Thief she turned from Kate McKay into Grace Kelly by ditching her jeans and jumper for the “sexual gift wrapping” of a French designer dress.For all her appeal as an actress, Meg may not have been a perfect fit for Hitch; like Cary Grant she was born to meet cute. Perhaps cinema’s smartest blonde, she was good at being an exquisite object even though she was capable of more. Who knows what wonders Howard Hawks could have done with her.



Filed under Retrospective

15 responses to “Spellbound by Blondes, Birds and Hawksian Women

  1. Michelle could easily have been a Hitchcock blonde. I would have loved to have seen her work with him.

  2. Hitchcock would have easily been smitten by her smooth, regal looks. Meg, I’m not so sure.

  3. I could imagine either of the Ladies in a remake of Hawks’ “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”!

    • Oh that’s a good one. I can just imagine Meg singing Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend, one of the greatest blonde musical numbers in cinema history!

  4. I could see Pfeiffer as a blonde for Hitchcock, she’d rock it. As for Howard Hawks, what I’ve seen of his work is fantastic in presentation of assertive, wise cracking women.

  5. Great post ☺ I agree with everybody else here that Michelle Pfeiffer would have made a perfect Hitchcock blonde and Meg Ryan would have been a perfect Howard Hawks blonde. Your blog post was excellent. Another film I would have added in the mix here when talking about Hitchcock and Pfeiffer would have been Into the Night because it feels fitting when describing their styles. Anyway, keep up the great work as always ☺

    • I’ve just found out that Into the Night is one of the classics featuring in this year’s Venice Film Festival. Having watched it recently on DVD I really enjoyed the plethora of cameo appearances, especially Bruce McGill as Pfeiffer’s brother, the angry Elvis impersonator.
      I’ve also just been reading Roger Ebert’s review and he really didn’t like Into the Night, giving it 1 star. Mind you he also slated Addicted to Love which would fit in perfectly in a double feature with John Landis’ underrated classic.

  6. Fantastic post, Paul. I’m not nearly as well versed in Hawks or Hitchcock but I certainly do agree with your opinions here, based on my knowledge of each filmmaker. Michelle would indeed have been a perfect Hitchcock blonde.

  7. Fascinating possibilities brought up by this post. I do like the Swan moment of Meg in French Kiss. When I saw I.Q. on video as a teenager I also thought it was really good. Pfeiffer is the more natural successor to Grace Kelly and Meg Ryan to Doris Day but that seems cruelly reductive. Meg could play tough and Pfeiffer could play funny and they’re gorgeous. You know though if cast together Meg would have been the best friend or the ugly duckling turned swan. What might have been interesting is to see them play nuances. Jaimie Lee Curtis played a cop in a Kathryn Bigelow film. Imagine Ryan and Pfeiffer doing something similar as partners.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts Lloyd. Although the possibility of a pairing of the two was often mentioned, I don’t think it ever came remotely close to happening. I imagine Michelle would have been on board, but I don’t think Meg would ever have considered it. She didn’t like having another female star in her films on equal footing (same star power and lead part) and once she was established, she no longer did. She wanted to be the center of attention.
      A movie featuring the two of them would have been something. A thriller in the vein of Black Widow/Blue Steel, or maybe Pfeiffer cropping up in one of Ryan’s trademark rom-coms. Imagine taking the romantic formula, turning it inside out, and adding a wild card in the form of Michelle, all cool, intellectual and haughty, opposite a sweet and feisty Meg Ryan.

  8. By the way how perfectly beautiful was Grace Kelly, there is and will only ever be one Grace Kelly.

  9. I can visualise both Michelle and Meg as the Hawksian women they can come across as. Being blonde changes a look so dramatically and they are both beauties who pull it off in any era. I also admire and have many of Hitchcock’s movies and to see them in such a movie would have been delightful. I loved reading this article Paul.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s