Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Best Hitchcock Impression By Someone Who Knew Hitchcock?

Here's a weird question, but one that should make sense if you've seen a lot of DVDs of Alfred Hitchcock movies: which person who worked with or knew Hitchcock does the best impression of him?

Because Hitchcock had such a distinctive (not to mention famous) voice and manner of speaking, it's almost impossible to quote Hitchcock without slipping into the Hitchcock voice and inflections. And so actors, when they quote something Hitchcock told them, almost inevitably do their best approximation of the Hitchcock voice. Even Tippi Hedren does it sometimes. But who does it best?

My nomination is Martin Landau, who worked for Hitchcock in North By Northwest, playing the evil henchman. Elwy Yost interviewed him on TV Ontario's Saturday Night at the Movies some years ago,and when he told the story of how he got the part, he slipped into a really fine Hitchcock: he had the Cockney accent, the mush-mouthed delivery, the rising inflections ("Mah-tiin"). Elwy complimented him on the impression, though admittedly Elwy always complimented all his guests on everything.

And for the worst Hitchcock... well, I want to say Peter Bogdanovich, but his Hitchcock isn't really that bad, it's just that he has an annoying habit of imitating everyone he ever worked with or knew. And the only thing worse than Bogdanovich's name-dropping is name-dropping with funny voices.

11 comments:

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

I had "Martin Landau" at the ready until I read further down the post.

Bogdanovich...feh! He's the Dick Cavett of film directors.

Slowjack said...

I hope you're happy, Jaime. This blog has attuned me to the irritations produced by Peter Bogdanovich. Now he's like nuts in my dessert--he ruins whatever he appears in. I saw him on TCM the other day in some kind of Cary Grant retrospective, and he indeed trotted out his Hitchcock voice.

Anonymous said...

Do you recall the one strange night Bogdanovich guest hosted Carson's Tonight Show in the early seventies? It was during production of "At Long Last Love" and featured many of the stars in its fawning cast. Long clips of the film were shown and Dom DeLuise gushed to Bogdanovich that he was "a genius" at least once. This episode was never rerun and bootleg tapes of it were said to go for several hundred bucks on the street for many years.

Edward Hegstrom said...

Okay, let me jump in and defend Bogdanovich. Yes, he's every bit as irritating in interviews as suggested--watching him, you want to strangle him with that damned ascot--but in some ways, he was the most talented of the New Hollywood directors. And certainly the most versatile: TARGETS, THE LAST PICTURE SHOW and SAINT JACK are all very different in form and attitude, and would stand up to the best work anyone was doing in the late sixties and seventies. Though I can't make great claims for TEXASVILLE or THE THING CALLED LOVE, they were at least well-intentioned, and infinitely more interesting than anything cranked out by Coppola or Scorsese in the same period.

But yeah, his Hitchcock impression continues to grate.

VP81955 said...

I agree with Edward Hegstrom. At least Bogdanovich has a genuine fondness, and feel, for classic Hollywood history rare among directors of the past 40 years, and he makes a fine conduit to that period, both in his films ("The Cat's Meow" isn't a perfect movie by any means, but it's lovingly done and worth a re-evaluation) and his writing.

Stephen Rowley said...

I second the reference to "The Cat's Meow;" just a small film but really nicely done. And though it's uncool to say so, I like Bogdanovich's "What's Up, Doc?" as well. Although of course his merits as filmmaker and critic are completely unrelated issues, really.

I'm not an expert on his career, but isn't the theory that Polly Platt was crucial to his early films, and once they divorced and stopped working together that was a big factor in his decline?

Anonymous said...

Polly Platt was production designer but probably contributed much more to Bogdanovich's early films. Can't blame his decline on her exit, except maybe for the fact that he dumped her for Cybill Shephard in the years before she found her sense of humor and wound up starred in too many Bogdanovich vehicles. "Daisy Miller", "At Long Last Love" and "Nickelodeon" were three big nails in the first act of his career. Had Polly Platt stayed with him those films may or may not have been better. Had they not featured Shepherd so heavily, who knows?

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

I didn't want to leave the impression that I dislike Bogdanovich's work; I agree with Edward on the merits of Targets (which is one of my very favorite films), The Last Picture Show and Saint Jack...and I'm even one of the few fans of Nickelodeon. But he does have a tendency to come across in interviews as fingernails on a blackboard.

Anonymous said...

The thing I like about Bogdanavich's interviews is that he basically just takes the piss out of himself in 'Infamous', where he plays a slightly smugger (if such a thing is possible) version of himself.

burlivespipe said...

Anthony Hopkins is a fantastic mimic and just happens to be playing Hitchcock in some currently in-production movie on the director. I know he didn't star in a Hitchcock film, but he was certainly around during the days when Hitchcock made his 'triumphant' latter day return to merry ol' England (and he would have made a terrific protaganist in either Frenzy or Topaz). Well, anyway to get this off the good, bad and ugly of Bogdanovich...

Michael Jones said...

My favourite impression would be Mel Blanc's in "The Last Hungry Cat." Don't know if they ever met though.
To change the subject, I think Elwy Yost is a true gentleman in every sense of the word. He did speak positively about everyone he'd met but did so without fawning all over them. (I met him once and we talked about his restored version of King Kong for about 20 minutes.)
Do you have any tidbits about Elwy?