Saturday, August 13, 2011


It began long ago, the succession of beautiful blonde actresses who combined feminine refinement and sex appeal in a way that director Alfred Hitchcock could not resist depicting onscreen many times. Over the course of his career, Hitchcock honed this character type to a fine point and his final blonde stars were scrupulously stylized to evoke a very specific image.

Some of the most memorable:

Joan Barry (Emily Hill in Rich and Strange, 1931) London-born Barry first worked with Hitchcock when she dubbed Anny Ondra's voice for the sound version of Blackmail. She later starred in another of the director's early sound films, Rich and Strange. In addition to being a blonde, Barry possessed a delicate beauty that Hitchcock would seek again and again. (Note: This British actress shouldn't be confused with the brunette American actress who was legally entangled with Charlie Chaplin)

Madeleine Carroll (Pamela in The 39 Steps, 1935, and Elsa Carrington in Secret Agent, 1936) Often referred to as the first of Hitchcock's "ice cool" blondes, Carroll bore a physical resemblance to Joan Barry, but possessed an aloof quality with which Hitchcock was particularly taken.  Her career skyrocketed with the success of The 39 Steps; following Secret Agent she signed with Paramount and made several films in the U.S.
Carole Lombard (Ann Smith in Mr. & Mrs. Smith, 1941) Hitchcock's only screwball comedy, Mr. & Mrs. Smith starred one of Hollywood's great comediennes, the lovely Lombard. She sparkled as the beautiful,  well-heeled Mrs. Smith who, though more stubborn than aloof, was certainly intelligent and fashionable. Hitchcock said he directed at Lombard's request; it was the last of her films released during her lifetime.

Grace Kelly (Margot Wendice in Dial M for Murder, 1954, Lisa Fremont in Rear Window, 1954, Frances Stevens in To Catch a Thief, 1955) The quintessential "snow covered volcano" that all others are measured against, Kelly was one of the definitive beauties of the 1950s. An icon of elegance and refinement, she effortlessly portrayed the haughty allure that so appealed to Hitchcock. Miss Kelly, at the height of her icy heat, appears in the photo at the top of the page as well as the video below...

Kim Novak ("Madeleine Elster"/Judy Barton in Vertigo, 1958) Novak was a top movie star in the '50s and a departure from the type Hitchcock had previously cast as his blonde love objects. Among other things, Novak was more voluptuous than those before her. In Vertigo, her sultry appeal was toned down with a chic and often subdued wardrobe as well as quiet but very precise makeup. In a new "twist," Novak wore her hair in an up-do through most of the film - the memorable "French Twist" Hitchcock explored with his camera.
Eva Marie Saint (Eve Kendall in North by Northwest, 1959) Though not a sex symbol like Novak, Saint was also different from the women Hitchcock had cast before her. A method actress, she was known for starring in films like On the Waterfront and A Hatful of Rain as well as live TV dramas - what Hitchcock called "kitchen sink" roles. However, she got the full treatment once chosen to play Eve and was coiffed, gowned and made up to seductive, slightly brittle perfection.

Tippi Hedren (Melanie Daniels in The Birds, 1963, and Marnie Edgar in Marnie, 1964) Hitchcock's final pale-haired icon, Hedren's was the most controlled expression of the archetype. More model than actress, Hedren's mannequin-like qualities seem emphasized by heavily sprayed bouffant hairstyles, a sophisticated and strictly coordinated wardrobe and fastidious makeup. Hitchcock coached Hedren closely and constantly, intensely involved in her every move. Her career faltered when she bought out her contract with Hitchcock following Marnie.

Francois Truffaut and Alfred Hitchcock discuss "the Hitchcock Blonde"

Hitchcock:You know why I favor sophisticated blondes in my films? We're after the drawing-room type, the real ladies, who become whores once they're in the bedroom.
Truffaut: What intrigues you is the paradox between the inner fire and the cool surface.
Hitchcock: Definitely...Do you know why? Because sex should not be advertised...because without the element of surprise the scenes become meaningless. There's no possibility to discover sex. 

For more Hitchcock leading ladies, Click here...


  1. Great post Lady Eve. Though Hitchcock's blondes all share some qualities, they are all very different from each other. The Truffaut interview is interesting. Truffaut was very much influenced by Hitchcock, and his own icy-hot blonde was Catherine Deneuve in the films Mississippi Mermaid and The Last Metro.

  2. Christian - Catherine Deneuve strikes me as being a fine example of what could be called the "Hitchcock Blonde" type.

    This post was written more in fun than seriousness...but...

    It seems to me that Hitchcock was zeroing in on a "cool blonde" type during the '30s in some of his British films. I don't really see Lombard as one of that type, though she, Carroll and Barry look similar enough to have been sisters or cousins. But, during the '40s in the U.S., Hitchcock worked with a variety of actresses, most not especially blonde. He did work with Ingrid Bergman in three films that decade which would indicate he liked what she brought to the screen - often a certain idealism combined with a passionate nature. It was in the '50s, with Grace Kelly, that the director seems to have fixated on the type. But Kelly was a natural as the "cool blonde" and did not seem rigidly styled in the way those who followed her (Novak, Saint, Hedren) were.

  3. Love this! :) Hitchcock had an almost fetish for beautiful women. Great post for the birthday boy! I think Grace Kelly was the perfect Hitchcock girl for Hitchcock himself. When she left him, he ended up trying his best to replace here with Novak, Miles, Saint, Hedren. I think he himself felt disappointed. In the Hitchcock/Truffaut tapes he discussed his female actors and what he expects out of them. I think my favorite, personally, is Eva Marie Saint. She is just so incredibly beautiful. And when I saw her in that red dress in NBNW, I knew I had just fallen in love. I posted the complete Hitchcock/Truffaut tapes on the CFU if you are interested in listening to them. Its 12 hours long lol. Thanks for sharing. It was a pleasure to read. Happy Birthday Hitch! :)

  4. BeatleB - I think Hitchcock did fetishize the "frosty blonde" persona. And I agree that when Grace Kelly left acting he tried desperately to replicate her with Novak, Saint and Hedren...I think he gave up on Miles. I've read that director Sidney Pollack's wife, one-time actress Claire Griswold, was under personal contract to Hitchcock at the same time Hedren was, but when Hitchcock insisted she do a test in a gown that was a replica of something Grace Kelly wore in "To Catch a Thief," she began to have second thoughts.

    I will check out the Hitchcock /Truffaut tapes you posted at CFU - but not all 12 hours at once!

  5. Hitchcock's films are all about his fetishes and obsessions (like that darn gray suit). I know that Grace Kelly is the signature Hitchcock blonde, but I think Eva Marie Saint, if she wanted it, was the sexiest ever. Her performance in "North by Northwest" is so sexy it seems almost wrong (but soooooooo right)! Great topic, great post.

  6. I got chills just looking at the photos. If I had to select my favorite AH blondes the top three would go to Kelly, Saint and Novak.
    And I agree with with about Deneuve, she would have made a great Hitchcock blonde. Wonderful tribute!

  7. Excellent! Hitchcock loved throwing his characters into horrifying situations...and he wanted them to be beautiful, sexy, and incredibly well dressed while in peril. Eva Marie Saint looked amazing hanging off Rushmore. A thousand times better than I look on my best day.

  8. Hitchcock, did favor sophisticated blondes in many of his films. My favorite Hitchcock, blondes are: Carole Lombard, Grace Kelly and Kim Novak. Wonderful post.

  9. My favorite Hitchcock Blonde is Grace Kelly, my favorite blonde in a Hitchcock movie is Marlene Dietrich...

  10. agree with brandon...
    can't say why!!
    HITCH & TRUFFAUT is kinda funny actually!!

  11. AH HA, HITCH! So you are implying that brunettes (like me!) are advertising sex?! Well! I never! (That's not true, as proven by my two sons -- LOLOL!!)

    I know what he means, really I do. But brunettes can be cold as ice when they want to -- look at Hedy Lamarr, for an example. But, everyone has their favorite types, and Hitch certainly knew how to pick the perfect women for the perfect parts. By the way, Eve, I know nothing really about the first lady you talked about (I can't see the article from here and can't remember her name), but she as a real beauty!

  12. If, as Hitchcock says, " should not be advertised..." then why is an icy blond so sexy? What is it in our male psyche that intrigues us so? It can't be "... [the] possibility to discover sex" because all women foster that possibility in man. And yet, I have had a life long passion for blonds. Fostered by my favorite director. My wife knows of my passion and often wonders how we ever ended up together (she's a brunette). Still she refuses to wear the blond wig I purchased. Even for an hour!

  13. Doc - I'm not that impressed with Truffaut's Hitchcock book...seemed to me he could've done a much better job pursuing statements Hitch made...but it is interesting.

    Becky - Your comment reminded me that I originally started thinking of blogging on this subject after I saw "Rich and Strange" and noticed Joan Barry's resemblance to Madeleine Carroll.

    PD - Ha! So...the "Hitchcock Blonde" is your type...hopefully you've never tried to coerce your wife into a hair salon for a blonde makeover...something along the lines of 'the Madeleine Elster look'...

  14. I really enjoyed this post. Of course, Kelly is the ultimate Hitchcock blonde. Hitch really did have a certain type he was seeking. It seems to me that he was a very cultured, in control, kind of gentleman with a very strong subversive nature. The Hitchcock blonde is not, to me, so much icey as refined and very civilized and I think Hitch wanted that civilized exterior so that he could undermine it's carefully coiffed and manicured nature and expose it to the darker, animal side (which I assume Hitch kept on a tight leash inside his own psyche). There is also his tendency to subvert the family and morality and every other closely clung to ideal and commandment as one of his favorite themes. I can understand why Pollack's wife might have felt uneasy being fitted by Hitch into one of Grace Kelly's dresses - sounds a little like Jimmy Stewart dressing Kim Novak in "Vertigo".

  15. A thank you to Flick Chick for the sweet blog award and kind words...

    Motorcycle Boy - I think that civilized, refined women can seem reserved, aloof - which is where the "cool" descriptor comes in. After reading much about Hitchcock's work with his later leading ladies, I have to think that Scottie Ferguson's obsession in "Vertigo" was not something entirely alien to Hitchcock himself...

  16. Eve, as a longtime Hitchcock fan, I loved your overview of the Hitchcock Blondes! I agree with Christian that while all the blonde stars mentioned in your post have that cool-but-secretly-smoldering blonde look, each one has a personality all their own. Eva Marie Saint became my favorite Hitchcock Blonde of all time after I saw her in NORTH BY NORTHWEST, because there was more than sexual fire beneath her character Eve Kendall's cool, soignee demeanor; there was also a vulnerability about her that had me sympathizing with her. Perhaps it's because of her man trouble that she alluded to: "men like you...don't believe in marriage." Well, it WAS the 1950s! :-) Anyway, great post, Eve!

  17. Dorian - Excellent argument for your Hitchcock favorite! The interpretation of the type by each actress who portrayed Hitchcock's elusive blonde is fascinating...

  18. Eva Marie Saint is the greatest actress of the Hitchcock Blondes. Her voice, her delivery, and her shimmering beauty all contribute to her being the most captivating and alluring. Grace Kelly's features may be a tad more perfect, but Eva Marie's face holds your interest and her vulnerability makes us care about her.

  19. Anon - Eva Marie Saint seems to me to have been the most experienced - and perhaps accomplished - of the Hitchcock Blondes. Her fascinating turn as the beautiful and imperiled Eve Kendall must have surprised audiences and critics alike who were accustomed to her in less glamorous roles and films.