Film News: ‘Hitchcock For the Holidays’ to Screen Double Features at Music Box

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CHICAGO – The unmistakable silhouette of the Master of Suspense will be cast over the Music Box Theatre during the final days of the holiday season. Ten of Alfred Hitchcock’s most beloved masterworks will be presented on the big screen in inspired double bills that illustrate the startling range and enduring brilliance of the legendary filmmaker.
Even if moviegoers have seen these titles eight dozen times on DVD, they will be amazed at how fresh the films play when screened in a packed theater. No filmmaker knew how to delight and frighten an audience better than Hitchcock. When Robert Osborne held a free screening of “North by Northwest” at the Music Box last year, it felt as if the picture had been made yesterday.

Every punchline scored a belly laugh, every moment of delicious tension caused viewers to lean forward in anticipation, and when the film ended, the packed house broke out into extended, impassioned applause. If that doesn’t warm the heart of a film buff, nothing will.

Cary Grant stars in Alfred Hitchcock's 1959 masterpiece North by Northwest
Cary Grant stars in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1959 masterpiece North by Northwest.
Photo credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Here is the Music Box’s splendid line-up of Hitchcockian double features, in order of appearance…
“Rear Window” (1954)
Sunday, Dec. 25 and Monday, Dec. 26
The marathon kicks off with one of Hitch’s most iconic and ingenious classics. James Stewart stars as a wheelchair bound photographer convinced that he’s stumbled upon a murder unfolding out his window. Hitch’s elegantly staged, meticulously detailed set-pieces are meant to be experienced on the big screen, as is the incomparable radiance of leading lady Grace Kelly. John Michael Hayes’s magnificent script is reason enough to make cinephiles put this title on their must-see list.
“Rebecca” (1940)
Sunday, Dec. 25 and Monday, Dec. 26
Based on Daphne Du Maurier’s novel, this Gothic melodrama was the only Hitchcock film to claim the Best Picture Oscar. Though it’s not quite up to par with Hitch’s best work, it’s still a marvelously atmospheric treat. Newlywed Joan Fontaine frets and shivers through her husband’s unwelcoming mansion, where everyone remains haunted by the memory of his first wife. Judith Anderson steals the show as the malevolent housekeeper.
“Rope” (1948)
Tuesday, Dec. 27 and Wednesday, Dec. 28
Here’s one of the Master’s most underrated treasures. It’s designed to resemble a single, continuous take as it snakes through the claustrophobic apartment where a murder has just taken place. The murderers celebrate by hosting a dinner party and inviting the victim’s friends and family. Hopefully no one will open the large, coffin-like chest. James Stewart, Farley Granger and John Dall deliver excellent performances.
“Strangers on a Train” (1951)
Tuesday, Dec. 27 and Wednesday, Dec. 28
When Farley Granger visited the Music Box for a Hitchcockian double feature a few years ago, he was able to witness the audience’s rapturous response to this transcendently entertaining masterpiece. Granger plays a tennis star entangled in a murder plot hatched by a cheerful psychotic, played by the great Robert Walker. The epic finale stretching from a tense tennis game to a crazed merry-go-round ride is worthy of a standing ovation.

Robert Walker stars in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1951 masterpiece Strangers on a Train
Robert Walker stars in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1951 masterpiece Strangers on a Train.
Photo credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

“To Catch a Thief” (1955)
Thursday, Dec. 29 and Friday, Dec. 30
Cary Grant is at the height of his seductive powers as a former jewel thief defending his innocence when a new string of crimes occurs. The real object of his inner-most desires is Grace Kelly, who utters some immortal double entendres. When munching on chicken during a picturesque picnic in the French Riviera, Kelly asks Grant whether he prefers a “leg or breast.” Her delivery of the line is nearly worth the price of admission.
“Vertigo” (1958)
Thursday, Dec. 29 and Friday, Dec. 30
Completing this romantic double bill is what many consider to be Hitch’s finest work of his career. It’s certainly one of his most hypnotic and achingly personal efforts, delving into the auteur’s own obsessions and fears. James Stewart sheds his “aw shucks” persona entirely as a detective who becomes utterly entranced by the icy blonde he’s been assigned to follow. Bernard Herrmann’s score was memorably used this year in Michel Hazanavicius’s Oscar contender “The Artist.”
“North by Northwest” (1959)
Saturday, Dec. 31 and Sunday, Jan. 1
The universal appeal of this ageless crowd-pleaser hasn’t lessened in the slightest over the last 52 years. Cary Grant still earns big laughs as the impossibly suave advertising executive whose suit refuses to ruffle even after a chase with a crop duster. This was Hitchcock’s farewell to the classical, carefree escapism he had mastered throughout his career, and he went out with a beautiful bang. It’s one of the greatest films ever made.
“The Lady Vanishes” (1938)
Saturday, Dec. 31 and Sunday, Jan. 1
The playful exuberance of Hitchcock’s inventive visuals has rarely been more apparent than in this rollicking suspense yarn about the mysterious disappearance of an elderly passenger on a train. After a rather bumpy first act, this film chugs along at a fast and furious pace. Naughton Wayne and Basil Radford add an abundance of droll humor in their first appearance as the comic duo, Charters and Caldicott.
“The Birds” (1963)
Monday, Jan. 2, Tuesday, Jan. 3, Wednesday, Jan. 4
Why would a producer like Michael Bay even attempt to make Hitchcock’s classic thriller? Of course the effects are dated, but they are still far more effective and unsettling than any computerized image. Tippi Hedren embarks on an ill-fated trip to Bodega Bay where she intends on hooking up with Rod Taylor. Instead, she gets a jungle gym full of bloodthirsty birds. Bernard Herrmann’s sound design unhindered by a distracting score is profoundly chilling.
“Marnie” (1964)
Monday, Jan. 2, Tuesday, Jan. 3, Wednesday, Jan. 4
The deterioration of Tippi Hedren’s professional and personal relationship with the increasingly unhinged Hitch has sadly upstaged this groundbreaking and often riveting psychological drama. Hedren plays a thief with a troubled past and an extreme sensitivity to color. Once she falls under the radar of widower Sean Connery, he becomes determined to solve the mystery of her madness once and for all.

For tickets and additional information, visit here. staff writer Matt Fagerholm

Staff Writer

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