Hitchcock’s Jimmy Stewart and Audience Complicity, by Tyler Smith

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2 Responses

  1. David says:

    Thank you for taking Rope seriously. It is too often dismissed as medium or lesser Hitchcock by some unable to keep the gimmick out of their minds, evaluating it rather than watching the movie. Some of those reactions are honest ones, but it’s the kind of distraction that would depart on a second viewing.

    Also, with Rope at least, you’ve earned the ‘complicit’ charge. It’s far too common a concept, in academia especially, and is rarely defended, let alone explained, but just asserted, like a challenge we dare not deny. I usually do, finding it lazily applied, but you make a fair case with Rope.

  2. Dayne says:

    This is phenomenal, really astute. I’ve suspected similar things with Stewart, and Hitchcock always seems hyper-aware of audience preconditioning with his actors, often using it against them, like with Laurence Olivier in Rebecca. Though, it could be argued, especially with Janet Leigh and Cary Grant, that viewers today, looking back on Hitchcock’s films, see a utilization of the actor’s personas, as opposed to realizing Hitchcock simply created those personalities as we understand them.

    I wonder, beyond audience complicity, if there’s a little post-war criticism of American society here, given that Hitchcock is British and so smartly dials in on the American ideal of Jimmy Stewart, working against Capra’s vision. Is this audience criticism or more social criticism? In this way, it feels reminiscent of The Third Man, whose British characters can be callous and dismissive to be sure, but whose Americans are by turns stupid and murderous. Does Hitchcock seem to be channeling a little of this criticism – exposing the underbelly of the victorious American?

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