Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Catholicism of Alfred Hitchcock

Thanks to Haskovec for finding this article in the TimesOnline. I for one have always enjoyed Hitchcock's work. I readily admit, though, that, even knowing he was Catholic, I only pegged a couple of his movies as having big Catholic themes to them. I Confess is, of course, the easy one. I've never understood why this movie isn't more popular or at least semi-well-known. The other one, strangely enough, was The Birds. Basically, evil comes looking for you in even the most innocuous of forms, and there isn't squat you can do on your own to extricate yourself from it. You need the assistance of the Divine to be saved. In other words, what happens at the end of the film.

Anyways, the whole article is quite interesting. Here's a bit to whet your appetite:

Born into a devoutly Roman Catholic family in the East End of London in 1899, Alfred Hitchcock was the nephew of a priest, and according to McGilligan, continued to go to Mass for most of his adult life. He would invite priest friends onto film sets, gave money to Catholic causes and even donated a vineyard to a community of Californian priests.

"For Hitchcock Catholicism was something he was born with, as others might be born with red hair. It did not phase him" claims John Russell Taylor, Hitchcock's first and only authorised biographer (Hitch: the Life and Times of Alfred Hitchcock, 1978). "He was certainly esctatic when his daughter Pat married a nephew of the Catholic archbishop of Boston. I don't know how devout he was, but he certainly remained a Catholic."

Interviewed in 1973 for the magazine of his Jesuit alma mater St Ignatius College, Hitchcock shied from defining his faith explaining: "A claim to be religious rests entirely on your own conscience, whether you believe or not. A Catholic attitude was indoctrinated into me. After all I was born a Catholic. I went to a Catholic School and I now have a conscience with lots of trials over belief," he said. Claiming his Jesuit schooling had developed his "reasoning powers" but also "a sense of fear", Hitchcock would relate a celebrated incident where he had to choose the exact time for a beating, according to the Jesuit system where the master who ordered a punishment was not allowed to personally inflict it. This incident, Hitchcock alleged was "in a minor way" like going through a form of execution.

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