Skipping Down the Slippery Side of the Slope: Alfred
I admit it. We stream NPR, for the music.
The other morning, backing out of the driveway on our daily trip to school, I turned on the radio just in time to hear the start of a short and familiar piece of classical music. As I jerked the car into drive, I leaned over to my daughter and in my most eloquent Hitchcock said, “Good Evening.”
“What?” she said. “It’s morning.”
“No, silly. This music was the theme to a popular TV show, Alfred Hitchcock Presents.”
“Alfred Hitchcock. He was a film director. He also had a tv show. I used to watch it with my grandfather when I was little.”
“What films?” my child asked.
“Oh, you know ‘Psycho’, ‘North by Northwest’, and of course ‘The Birds’.”
She didn’t know. My daughter didn’t know there was a movie called ‘The Birds’. Nor did she know Hitchcock. That’s when it hit me, like the famous camera shoot from ‘Vertigo’, my daughter had no idea what I was talking about. She should! I know for a fact that she should have come into this world already having a favorite Lewis and Martin film. Simply through pure osmosis and paired with my DNA, she would know the following--
- That her mother had a little thing for Rod Taylor.
- That her mother does not watch cowboy movies. ‘Bite the Bullet’ and ‘Cat Ballou’ do not count.
- If Steve McQueen and Paul Newman got in a fight, Newman would win because he’d know that McQueen cheats. And if she really wants to see a fight, then invite James Coburn and Lee Marvin to the party. Now that’s a party to fight for. My money would still be on Newman. What she wouldn’t need to know is that her mother would leave with Coburn for drinks with Gene Hackman.
- Also her mother does not watch war films, prison movies or anything with Burt Lancaster, which is kind of odd, because he was an incredibly handsome man.
- She’d also understand that Audi Murphy is reason why her mother does not watch cowboy and war movies.
- She would, however, know that movies are not all about good looking actors.
- Yes, Liz Taylor was played a little woman, and yet was bigger than life.
- Meryl Streep is simply good.
- Rosalind Russell was exceptional.
- If Betty Davis and Joan Crawford were in a fight, I would hunt for the corner where Joan Blondell and Jean Harlow are sharing drinks and color commentary.
- Directors are the force behind the camera, along with the camera man. David Lean was responsible for sweep. George Lucas for ‘Star Wars’, Steven Spielberg brought space to earth. Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese gave us Pacino and DeNiro. Griffith gave us, well, film. And then there are all the other boys: Kazan Wilder, Peckinpah, Wyler, Cassavetes, Lumet, DeMile, Burton, Capra, Cukor. However, she’ll have to wait for few years for Tarantino.
- That is just a list of a few American directors; this is a big world. Bergman, Fellini, Cocteau, Godard, Truffaut, Zeffirelli, Jackson, Zhang, Forman, Del Toro.
- Girls direct, too. Coppola, Marshall, Wertmuller, Bigelow, Heckerling, Rees, and of course Nora Ephron.
- Films are moving images between gray and white. She would appreciate the art of films before 1921. She would understand how they grew to epics as they marched closer to sound. Then they got small.
- 39 steps is not 39 clues.
- She would know Hollywood linage. That Dakota Johnson is to Melanie Griffith as she is to Tippi Hedren, as Mia Ferro is to Maureen O’Sullivan, just as Jamie Lee Curtis is to Janet Leigh – without the Curtis.
- That few men can stand next to Cary Grant but every man can shake Jimmy Stewart’s hand.
- When you think of Jimmy Stewart and Alfred Hitchcock you have include Kim Novak, though I preferred them in ‘Bell Book and Candle’.
- There is only one way that Atticus Finch could look, and that could never resemble Captain Ahab, Tom Rath, or Penny Baxter.
- Ida Lupino was a hell of a director and beautiful actress, Zasu Pitts was a serious actress as well as funny, and Woody Allen was a master at showing a story.
As we drove up to her school, the music ended as we made it to the front of the line. Before my daughter opened the car door she looked at me and said, “Isn’t Psycho the film where…” and in her best choir voice made the unmistakable screech and mimicked Norman Bates stabling Janet Leigh.
“How do you know that?” I asked.
“It’s in a movie app.”