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Irish America (1999) - Hitchcock's Irish Roots




  • The article incorrectly claims that Hitchcock's mother, Emma Jane Whelan, was born in Ireland.


Though Hitchcock made few movies with Irish themes, the three he did make are uniquely Irish Catholic and represent a significant segment of the Irish Catholicism on film. In Hitchcock's era, few movies identified a specific religious orientation because movies were designed to appeal to a mass audience and divisions were erased. Juno and the Paycock (1929) was filmed with the original Irish Players cast of the Sean O'Casey play. Though crudely made in that early sound film era, it is far superior and truer to the John Ford version of another O'Casey play The Plough and the Stars (1936). Hitchcock loved the play with its morally marginal message which pussy-foots around the Irish Uprising and oppressed Catholic theme. Under Capricorn (1949) explores the life of the transported Irish in 19th century Australia; the storyline is flawed and the film is further marred by the inauthentic casting of Ingrid Bergman as a dipsomaniac emigrant Anglo-Irish aristocrat married to her transported Irish stable hand (Joseph Cotten) but it is one of the few films on the theme of the Irish Diaspora. I Confess (1953) is one of the few movies ever made on the sanctity of the confessional. Father Michael Logan (Montgomery Clift) is the prime suspect in a murder and he cannot tell the police who the real murderer is because the murderer confessed the crime to Father Logan in confession.


Hitchcock's Irish Roots

Getting the jump on the Alfred Hitchcock centennial, the Museum of Modern Art in New York mounted a most comprehensive retrospective, which ran April through June. The exhibition included posters, letters and production material and all of his extant movies.

The name Alfred Hitchcock summons up images of the impassive, corpulent, bald‑headed man in a black suit who depicted and discussed murder in the most deadpan manner. His movies, most notably Rebecca (1940), Spellbound (1945), Notorious (1946), North by Northwest (1959), Psycho (1960), and The Birds (1963) transformed the suspense movie, and he mocked our fear of murder with his deadpan introductions on his Alfred Hitchcock Presents television series.

Though Hitchcock was not reticent about revealing the motivations behind his artistic decisions or his frustrations with the steamrollering Hollywood studio system, he steered journalists away from his private life. In reality, he had a conventional family life. His wife Alma Reville, who collaborated on his early British movies as a scriptwriter, was an emotional support throughout his life. His only child, Patricia, fondly remembered by moviegoers as the perceptive sister of the heroine in Strangers on a Train (1951), has always maintained that Hitch was a loving, good father, devoid of the sardonic nature attributed to him by casual biographers and the media.

The only child of the director, who died in 1980, was on hand...

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