On Alfred Hitchcock's ups and downs at the Oscars
With HBO's "The Girl" hitting the small screen recently and Sacha Gervasi's "Hitchcock" due in theaters this week, and with Universal's big boxed set of most of Alfred Hitchcock's great works on shelves, it seems that most identifiable of rotund maestros of the cinema is en vogue. But what has always been fascinating about "Hitch" for Oscar watchers is that, despite his legendary status -- "the premiere image-maker of the 20th century," as author Mark Cousins called him -- the man never won a competitive Oscar.
It really does seem like Oscar's big miss. Stanley Kubrick is a big deal -- my favorite filmmaker -- but there's something really strange about a guy like Hitchcock, who certainly never dallied in inaccessible realms, having never received his due. Sure, a mid-career work won Best Picture, and he received the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award from the Academy in 1968, but Best Director eluded him throughout. As did the DGA prize, in fact (though the guild saw fit to bestow lifetime achievement recognition the very same year he received the Thalberg).
"The lack of respect from the Academy pained him," Hitchcock biographer Stephen Rebello, whose book "Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho" was the basis for Gervasi's film, told The Hollywood Reporter last month. "He felt they resented him for being an entertainer and working in genres that weren’t perceived as worthy."
And perhaps that was true. But looking at the director's overall luck (or lack thereof) in the awards season, it's striking just how many organizations often passed him over. He never won a prize from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. The New York Film Critics Circle awarded him only once, for 1938's "The Lady Vanishes" rather than anything from his generally agreed-upon top-tier canon. At the Golden Globes, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association crowned his show, "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," on the TV side of things, but only nominated him once for directing features (in 1972 for "Frenzy," of all things). And that group, too, dealt him a career recognition prize, via a Cecil B. DeMille Award the year prior.
In his time, it was just never meant to be. He would wait to be truly heralded as an artist. Film critics may have collectively chosen "Vertigo" as the greatest film of all time in the recent installment of Sight & Sound's decennial poll, for instance, but it was a critical and commercial flop upon release in 1958.
On the Oscar side of things, 16 of Hitchcock's films were nominated for this or that, tallying 52 nominations over the years. But they only won six trophies total. It's a staggering statistic, and one that sparked an interest in digging through the films again and spotlighting what it was the Academy deemed worthy of recognition.
So click through the gallery below to relive Hitchcock's history with Oscar, the ups and, mostly, the downs: 23 years of Oscar heartache. Feel free to rate the titles as you go along.
"Hitchcock" opens in limited release tomorrow.