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 cool, 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.
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