1950s Hitchcock – vote for the best

Hitch-profileThis was the decade when Hitchcock truly became a superstar – along with a string of critically acclaimed and commercially successful films he became the host of his own TV shows Alfred Hitchcock Presents (and later, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour), leading to a slew of merchandising deals that saw the creation of the Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and a series of books for young adults, The Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Detectives series in which he appeared as himself.

But on top of that were the films themselves – Strangers on a Train, Rear Window, Vertigo and North By Northwest are all rightly regarded as classics today, while the box office hits included the small-scale drama Dial M for Murder in 3D as well as the  remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much starring James Stewart and Doris Day, who in it warbled her signature song, Que Sera, Sera. The quality of these releases was ensured by Hitchcock established a solid team behind the scenes including Composer Bernard Herrmann, production associate Herbert Coleman, screenwriter John Michael Hayes, cinematographer Robert Burks and editor George Tomasini, all of whom made enormous contributions.


Ho here you go – your chance to vote for your top TWO Hitchcock movies – and don’t forget, you can still votes for the polls covering his work in Britain during the 1920s, 1930s and his first decade in Hollywood during the 1940s.

And tomorrow we will close the first round of this Hitchcock Poll by considering the seven films he released in the 1960s and 70s, including his biggest ever hit, Psycho.

This entry was posted in 'In praise of ...', Alfred Hitchcock, Boileau-Narcejac, California, Canada, Cornell Woolrich, Edmund Crispin, Espionage, Film Noir, Film Poll, France, London, Los Angeles, New England, New York, Noir, Patricia Highsmith, Ray Milland, San Francisco, Screwball, Spy movies. Bookmark the permalink.

65 Responses to 1950s Hitchcock – vote for the best

  1. Santosh Iyer says:

    A difficult choice !
    However, I voted for RW and V.

  2. Rosemary says:

    North by North West (Cary Grant at his most delicious) and Rear Window (claustrophobia and Grace Kelly’s dresses – also the only one I saw for the first time in the cinema, on its re-release) for me. Hate Vertigo

    • Thanks Rosemary – I love Vertigo but I know what you mean as it can be seen as a decidedly misanthropic text though I like the tragic romance of it.

      • Rosemary says:

        It is a long time since I watched it but I don’t think I saw any romance in it, just an unhinged man (somehow with the face and voice of the lovely Jimmy Stewart) trying to control a rather pathetic woman. Have been rather shocked to see it top recent polls of film critics. Have to say, I much prefer the ones with a bit of humour and romantic romance (and I’m in love with Cary Grant), hence my top two.

        • Fair enough Rosemary – I think you are being a bit harsh (Stewart is not really unhinged, but is being manipulated into it for most of the time, which makes the creepiness of the premise easier to handle). But yes Rear Window is tonally incredibly different, though at its centre is another husband knocking off his wife!

    • richmonde says:

      DMFM quite claustrophic too.

      • Isn;t that interesting? One of the things about that films, one of the wonders of it for me, is that it never seems to actually feel confining compared with REAR WINDOW and LIFEBOAT

        • Rosemary says:

          Do you think it depends on where you watched the film? RW is the only one I’ve seen in the cinema, when it was re-released after years of not being seen. In a smallish dark screening room, you felt really there looking over the courtyard. Whereas, I’ve only seen the others at home, on TV. Saw Dial M recently in a hotel room. The really impressive thing to me, Ray Milland apart, was something to do with the sound – not the music but rustling of material, etc, that increased tension.

          As I get older and more feminist I see darkness where I didn’t when watching on the sofa in the seventies. Hence not liking Vertigo and seeing that Grace Kelly is not all good in DM. Also, having recently re-read Rebecca and Mrs de Winter (Susan Hill) may have put me off the film, where once I saw Maxim as a true romantic hero. So I may not have put it in my forties top two, when, before, it might have been. Haven’t seen enough of the twenties to vote.

          Sorry – long post!

          • Thanks for all this Rosemary and I know what you mean – I’ve been lucky enough to see most of Hitchcock’s films at the cinema over the decades though of course I have watched them far more often on TV! You could argue that none of the central trio of characters in DIAL M FOR MURDER are all that nice – by comparison, I think Kim Novak in VERTIGO comes across as much more sympathetic. I like the toughness of the relationship between Kelly and Stewart in REAR WINDOW as the two are clearly never going to be totally suited to one another. Good call on the sound design of DIAL M as that does make a difference, I agree for a talkie film there is just so much to enjoy there.

    • Rosemary says:

      Sort of I guess 😉 ! Of course, in praising RW, we’ve forgotten the lovely Thelma Ritter. Think NBNW the most romantic, though – CG. And EMS well matched – as are JS and GK in RW.

  3. Jose Ignacio says:

    Just to introduce another one I’ll go for DMM and NNW, but it was really hard to pick just too. Loved also RW.

    • Thanks Jose Ignacio – this is is a ridiculous poll really, if it weren’t that I were trying to come up with a top 10 at the end of it I would have just posted all his films in a single poll. The 1950s are brutal – I’ve had to let two films go that I think are genuine classics! I think I have seen DIAL M FOR MURDER probably about 10 or 12 times in my life, usually with the whole family – and it is surprisingly good in 3D actually!

  4. Colin says:

    That was very difficult, a lot of strong material here. My choices would be pretty orthodox in the end but even that wasn’t exactly easy.

    • Well, I must admit, I have a strong sense of what the top titles for each decade will be already and will share this at the end of the processs – but this has been just brutal – I had to let go of one black and white classic that I thought I couldn’t live without!

      • Colin says:

        Yes, I know what you mean there. As for knowing the top titles in each decade – I’d imagine the 50s will end up as a race between three at most. I have a hunch the 40s, and maybe the upcoming 60’s/70s picks may be a bit more widely spread – or perhaps not. 🙂

  5. Mike says:

    Hi Sergio. I’ve been voting all week but sorry, haven’t commented yet. Great idea this, even if it’s a bit painful to be restricted to two each time… Made worse when I don’t read the instructions properly and only voted for one in some decades! The 1950s is the toughest decade, really – so many classics and almost unfair to favour some at the expense of others. Still I’ve gone for the obvious in the end – VERTIGO because I think it’s about the best thing I’ve ever seen, and NORTH BY NORTHWEST for just about the most fun I’ve ever had watching a movie. Again though, some incredibly great works I haven’t chosen, and these are films that in any other poll would stroll through.

    • Thanks very much Mike – if you want to let me know which were the titles you missed off from the earlier polls, I can make sure they get added for you? Vertigo is probably a bit of a shoo in though very divisive still, unlike Read Window, North By Northwest and Strangers of a Train – this is the quandary that I am facing personally at least … 🙂

      • Mike says:

        All those you mentioned are obviously top drawer (since reading STRANGERS ON A TRAIN it’s possibly the Hitch film I’ve watched the most; quite different from the novel of course, but so well constructed and all those memorable scenes of Guy being tracked by Bruno) and there’s a lot to be said for DIAL M also. What a terrific film, what a performance from Mr Milland! Very difficult to choose and I suppose personal preference is as good a guide as anything here.

        As for earlier decade selections, thanks I appreciate it. I think I got it right for the 1930s, but for my extra 20s choice please can I have THE RING? For the 40s REBECCA please.

  6. Bobbi Johnson says:

    My first vote went to “North by Northwest” my second was a lot harded because all of the listed movies are great, I was torn between :Rear Window” and “Dial M for Murder” but I went with Rear Window. Many years ago when the TV show ALF was popular they did a cartoon version of ALF and one ALF cartoon episode was a tribute to Alfred Hitchcock in that just about every Hitchcock was in some way included in it including a bad guy who sounded like James Mason. It shows the influence Alfred Hitchcock had.

    • Thanks for that Bobbi – I did see the live action ALF sitcom from the 80s – was the Hitchcock tribute the ALF version of Jack and the Beanstalk?

      • Santosh Iyer says:

        Yes, on going through the cartoon, it seems to be the Hitchcock tribute.
        In fact, not only the giant sounds like James Mason (North by Northwest), his name is J.Mason in the cartoon !

        • Sounds like fun – I’ll have to watch it when I get home!

        • Bobbi Johnson says:

          Also if you notice when J. Mason in the cartoon offers ALF a bunch of stuff the boat has S.S. Minnow on the bow.
          There are so many Hitchcock movies mentioned in the cartoon it is hard to keep track of them, there is “The 39 Steps”, “Psyco”, “Rear Window” “The Birds” “North by Northwest” and maybe others that I missed. Hitchcock’s influence on movies can be seen even to this day. He happened to direct movies in what I feel was Hollywoods golden age when you had so many great directors such as Hitchcock, Howard Hawks, John Houston, John Ford and so many many more.
          Hitchcock made so many great movies it is really impossible to choose which ones to pick as favorites…………………..Just one crazy cat ladies opinion.

          • I know how you feel – always satisfying to see a newbie get the Hitchcock bug of course, but it doesn’t get easier even if you’re a veteran, does it? Hell, I got hooked about 40 years ago and I still keep changing my mind. Along with Welles, he is the director whose work from that era means the most to me and which I keep rediscovering.

          • Bobbi Johnson says:

            I did forget about Orson Welles who was only a great directorn but a pretty darn good actor as well.
            The list of Great directors from the 1930’s through the 1950’s is so very very long it is hard to imagine. It seems today most movies revolve around special effects and not great writing and story lines. It would if not impossible to make a movie like “Gone With the Wind” because I (off the top of my head) can not think of a directior who could pull it off or the actors who could fill Clark Gables and Vivien Leigh’s shoes.
            I did enjoy Mel Brooks version (played for laughs) of Vertigo “High Anxiety” but in reality I just see any directors of today who are able to work that Hitchcock magic,

          • I take your point completely Bobbi, and am a huge fan of Huston too. Mind you, Gone with the Wind, like Wizard of Oz, is of course such an oddity, where in both cases the credited director (Victor Fleming) was only responsible for about 50%, in the case of GWTW the rest divvied up between Sam Wood (who handled about 30%), George Cukor, Selznick and action director B. Reeves Eason – in the case of oZ Fleming did a bit more, but King Vidor did all the stuff in Kansas and Richard Thorpe also did a fair amount when Fleming got sick.

          • Bobbi Johnson says:

            As far as claustrophobic what about “Lifeboat” being in that tiny lifeboat out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean with little or no hope of rescue. That to me is claustrophic.
            Even though being on a lifeboat with John Hodiak …………..could be worse

          • I would agree that this is certainly very restricted, REAR WINDOW by comparison seems incredibly airy!

          • Rosemary says:

            At least they are out in the fresh air in Lifeboat! Sorry if this appears at wrong end of thread.

            And you’ve reminded me that, as well as CG, NBNW has the added attraction of James Mason’s voice – love an attractive villain!

          • Huge fan of James Mason here at Fedora!

  7. Margot Kinberg says:

    Oh, this was the most difficult decade, Sergio! So many find films at this time! Looking forward to learning the results!

  8. Santosh Iyer says:

    For the final list, are you going to take 2 from each decade or only 1 ?

    • I am going to publish a top 10 in chronological release date, taking 2 from each list, and then I will ask everyone to vote for their favourite from that so that it is in order of preference – I do realise I have made this a bit more elaborate. The Puzzle Doctor would have been much more efficient!

  9. Bev Hankins says:

    And again, the number one spot was easy. I kind of want to go back and change my number two…but then again maybe not. Oh, yes I do. (That was me making my decision and I’m still not sure I like what I decided on….)

  10. Sergio, I know Hitchcock better in this decade, having seen five of the 11 films on the poll panel. I’m inclined to go with REAR WINDOW. Loved the suspense and the look on Stewart’s face through most of the film. I thought of NORTH BY NORTHWEST but I’m tired of the plane-chasing-Cary Grant scene.

  11. Patti Abbott says:

    The hardest by far. I could vote for most of them. But will go with VERTIGO and REAR WINDOW>

  12. Now that was a difficult choice – what a list of films!

  13. neer says:

    The first was easy: STRANGERS but the second movie….. Thanks for the poll Sergio. Off to see the earlier ones.

  14. Brad says:

    Since five of my half dozen favorite Hitchcocks are from the 50’s, this decade was going to be a bloodbath anyway. If someone asks me what my favorite movie is – not Hitchcock, but of all time – (and what an unfair question THAT is!), I tell them REAR WINDOW. RW was always going to get my vote. The second vote was impossible with so much brilliance to choose from, so I had to go with the one that all acknowledge as his masterpiece! If I could vote more than once, the second vote would change every time. But not REAR WINDOW!

    I don’t want Sergio’s comment that Jeff and Lisa aren’t particularly well-suited in RW to get lost in all the hoopla about what a romantic film it is. Despite that glorious kiss (!), it’s very anti-romantic! I could sit in a room with all of you and talk about RW for a week! Can’t we have a symposium on it? Hitchcock,the director who advocated marriage as the perfect state of being, had clearly had some second thoughts by RW because the murder plot (oh, that wonderful murder plot) is really the MacGuffin on which to hang a discourse on the sour taste of romance. This would reach its apotheosis in VERTIGO and go through some interesting variations in the 60’s with Psycho (the girlfriend gets sliced) and The Birds (finding love just as the world comes to an end). But nowhere is it more brilliantly rendered for me than in Rear Window. Anyone who can look at Grace Kelly pick up that Vogue in the end and imagine that these two are destined for an easy marriage needs to have the glorious Thelma Ritter slap their backsides with some alcohol and rub some sense into them!

    • Spot on Brad, thanks so much for putting it so well. In the same way that the greatest screwball films of the 30s and 40s have been so rightly termed by Cavell as the comedy of remarriage, so many of Hitch’s greatest can be seen as the antithesis, certainly from Blackmail all the way through to The Birds, in which we move to hard-won relationships that are probably doomed to last dor decades in various states of unease!

  15. tracybham says:

    This one was harder. Top vote was easy but had to think hard about #2.

  16. Pingback: Hitchock in the 60s and 70s – time to vote | Tipping My Fedora

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