(Sir) Alfred Hitchcock Andrew Sarris - Essay

Andrew Sarris

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Both To Catch a Thief and The Trouble With Harry] drag along from scene to scene without much inner motivation.

Of the two films, To Catch a Thief is much more successful because of its superior cast and brighter sense of fun…. The Trouble With Harry is the more ambitious film of the two, and consequently, the nobler failure. It doesn't come off because even the little touches are done badly.

The chief interest of both productions is their conscious ridicule of chases and corpses, two of the staples of melodrama. Hitchcock has always had a sense of comic counterpoint in his melodramas, but, never before, has he attempted to invert his melodramas into parodies of themselves. It is in this inversion, this gateway to high comedy, that Hitchcock reveals his major flaws.

Part of the trouble with Hitchcock is that he has seldom demonstrated a sense of milieu as opposed to an instinct for locale. He has been everywhere and nowhere….

A director of bits and parts can never become a fist-rate comedy director. Comedy, or for that matter, serious drama, requires a continuity and development of character and idea. The longer Hitchcock remains with the tricks, twists, gimmicks, and charged props of melodrama, the less likely he is to ever graduate from a minor genre to a major theme. And that is not to say that Hitchcock does not deserve a great deal of credit for his restless spirit and his endless experiments with the tools of his art.

Andrew Sarris, "The Trouble with Hitchcock," in Film Culture (copyright 1955 by Film Culture), Vol. 1, Nos. 5 & 6, Winter, 1955, p. 31.