For the month of July, I shall be turning my site over to a Mr. Alfred Hitchcock. Let me explain. In 1939, Hitchcock was asked to list his ten favorite films. You will be delighted to know that this list contained only one talkie; the rest were silent. Further, all but two of these films not only survive, they are available on home media! The opportunity is too good to resist. This month, I will be reviewing Hitch’s picks and seeing how they measure up.
But how reliable is this list?
It has been suggested that Hitchcock chose predominantly American films in order to ingratiate himself with his new employers. If that was the case, why didn’t he choose newer films? It seems odd to select a predominantly silent movie list at a time when the art was seen as creaky and corny. Brown-nosing: Mr. Hitchcock, you’re doing it wrong.
Other critics suggest that Hitchcock picked these films completely at random. With all due respect (and that’s not very much) people who talk that way have clearly not seen these films. Hitchcock’s taste is exquisite, he just threw everyone a curveball by liking films that didn’t always involve murder and plot twists. Because, you know, horror directors can only like horror, comedy directors can only like comedy.
And why on earth would Hitchcock would choose two very obscure (even in 1939) DeMille marital comedies over his more famous titles. One would think that a man choosing films at random would pick, say, Cleopatra or The Sign of the Cross.
So, I am going to take this list at face value and assume that these were indeed films that Hitchcock admired circa 1939. Personal top ten lists are fluid and I am sure he would have given a completely different list in 1929 or 1949 but I think we are safe in trusting his sincerity.
Scaramouche (1923): Hitch likes swashbucklers, exquisitely shot. Also, murder.
Forbidden Fruit (1921): Hitch likes DeMille pictures, especially modern Cinderellas. Also, crime.
Missing and presumed lost:
Sentimental Tommy (1921): Hitch likes rags-to-riches stories, director John S. Robertson and leading lady May MacAvoy. (No copies are known to exist. Check your attics!)
The Isle of Lost Ships (1923): Hitch likes stories of falsely accused men on the run. This is shocking. It stars Milton Sills and Anna Q. Nilsson, who were so good together in Adam’s Rib. Want! (No copies are known to exist. Check your attics!)
I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932): Warner Bros. went even grittier than usual in this torn from the headlines tale of injustice and reformation. Highly controversial when released, it asked questions that we still haven’t managed to answer.
The Gold Rush (1925): Hitch likes Chaplin, hardly surprising. The Gold Rush is also one of Chaplin’s darker silents. It includes theft, murder and cannibalism. Tee hee!
Saturday Night (1922): Hitch really loves DeMille pictures, especially this forgotten fractured fairy tale about what happens after Happily Ever After.
Variety (1925): Hitch likes Emil Jannings, tales of jealousy and murder, as well as the unchained camera.
The Enchanted Cottage (1924): Hitch could be sentimental, as is shown by this extremely sensitive romance about an injured veteran and a homely village woman.
The Last Command (1928): Hitch likes Emil Jannings… again. He also likes beautiful cinematography and one of the best finales of the silent era.
I was going to review the lone talkie (listed above) but the month ran out on me. Hope you enjoyed Hitch’s picks! I know I did.
Fascinating! I can’t wait to see what the rest of the list is. I suspect that, like most of us in that situation, Hitchcock said the first ten movies that came to his mind. Later he may have kicked himself for forgetting a good one, or have revisited a movie and realized it wasn’t what he remembered of it, but it would actually be a lot harder to “lie” and come up with “ten random” movies than to tell the truth as it seemed at the moment. In that sense, you couldn’t find a better list!
My thoughts exactly! The list was not ordered so I think he likely listed off movies he really liked until he had enough. Plus, if Hitchcock were playing a joke on the reporters, it would be the most obscure joke in the history of ever.
Personal lists are truly fluid. Do you plan on reviewing the other five silents on the list or just a few?
I will be reviewing everything, including the talkie 🙂
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