Alfred Hitchcock is no doubt one of the greatest directors to ever make his mark on the silver screen. When one thinks of him, several films likely come to mind: Psycho, Rear Window, The Birds, To Catch a Thief, Vertigo. While all of those films have suspense that leaves us on the edge of our seats just waiting for that all-important climactic moment, those films also have one key element in common. Every one of them features a romance, no matter how minor it might seem to the plot.
Hitchcock’s films always fascinate me because many of them feature not only moments that scare the hell out of you but also because the romances in them are hot and memorable. It is no more obvious than in two classic Hitchcock films I’ve already mentioned: Rear Window and To Catch a Thief. Ironically, both feature “Hitchcock’s blonde” Grace Kelly in two of her most iconic roles, and she is the object of the heroes’ desires in each film. While Rear Window is primarily a suspense film with a dash of romance thrown in, To Catch a Thief is purely a romantic thriller, as the chemistry between Grace Kelly and Cary Grant sears the screen with double entendres that make women shiver in delight. Personally, I think the romances in these films are two of the best in cinema history. Yes, right up there with Casablanca.
Even though Hitchcock’s films are not marketed as such, the romances in his films usually do play a key role in whatever mystery the characters are trying to solve. Take Rear Window for example. While it might seem that Jeff’s (James Stewart) main goal is to find out what’s going on in the rear apartment, his relationship with Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly) is also a parallel within the story. Jeff constantly alludes to marriage as an unhappy institution, as represented by the neighbors across the way who constantly quarrel. Still, as the disappearance of Mrs. Thorwald, the neighbor’s wife, starts looking more like murder, the relationship with Jeff and Lisa seems to grow stronger as they bond over trying to solve the case. I’m not going to give away the resolution of the film, but one can assume it is favorable to the couple.
Hitchcock’s inclusion of romance is a relief in a way for the mounting tension coming from the mystery within, or in the case of such films as Psycho, is the reason for the mystery of the story. In the film, Marion Crane, played by Janet Leigh, steals $40,000 so that she and her lover can get married. The tension at the beginning of the film is the cause of this, although after the infamous shower scene there is a definite shift. Still, romance is a distinct element to the film because it allows it to happen in the first place.
If many of Hitchcock’s films were books (which many of them were prior to him buying the rights), most would say they were straight-up thrillers. However, because of the romantic elements, they would likely veer toward more of a romantic suspense novel. The heat between the two leads often burns as hot as their desire to find the answer to the mystery in their particular film, making it a delight for any film fanatic. One of Hitchcock’s heroines once crooned, “Ever had a better offer in your whole life? One with everything?” It could easily describe Hitchcock films. They have everything, even something for the hopeful romantic in everyone.