Luke McLaughlin’s review published on Letterboxd:
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Screenwriters: Cornell Woolrich & John Michael Hayes
Cinematographer: Robert Burks
Editor: George Tomasini
Main Cast: James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey, Thelma Ritter, & Raymond Burr
Rear Window is a masterpiece. Now, I could write a lengthy review about the beautiful cinematography, the exquisite acting performances, and the seamless sound/video editing, but at this point thousands of critics, both professional and amateur, have written the same exact review. I am not writing a review over Rear Window to waste your time. In fact, if it has been several years since your last viewing of this special piece of cinema, stop reading this right now and watch it again. This is a truly ingenious film that speaks for itself. No, I am writing this review to spread a few facts that I feel go under recognized about Alfred Hitchcock.
With the Academy Awards always on the horizon, no matter the year, here is a must know fact that every Academy follower needs to know. Alfred Hitchcock was nominated five times for Best Director. Hitchcock was nominated for Rebecca (1940), Lifeboat (1944), Spellbound (1945), Rear Window (1954), and Psycho (1960). However, in five nominations Hitchcock never won the coveted directing award. How, I ask you how, did Hitchcock never win Best Director? A man that filmmakers have been attempting to emulate for decades NEVER WON the Best Director category at the Academy Awards. Granted, he received the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1968, but that does not make up for the fact that he came away empty-handed five times. Hitchcock was a brilliant producer, similar to Thalberg, but he will forever go down as a legendary director first. Labeled by the Academy or not, Hitchcock is one of the greatest film directors to every walk the earth.
So… whom did he lose too? In 1940 he lost to John Ford for The Grapes of Wrath. In 1944 he lost to Leo McCarey for Going My Way. In 1945 he lost to Billy Wilder for The Lost Weekend. In 1954 he lost to Elia Kazan for On the Waterfront. Lastly, in 1960 he once again lost to Billy Wilder for The Apartment. There are some extraordinary films, as well as filmmakers, on this short list.
How successful were these rival directors you may ask? John Ford was nominated five times, winning on four occasions. The Grapes of Wrath was his second time receiving the honor. Leo McCarey was nominated three times, winning on two occasions. Going My Way was his second nomination and second win. McCarey also won for best screenplay for Going My Way. Elia Kazan was nominated five times, winning on two occasions. On the Waterfront was his third nomination, and his second win. Billy Wilder was nominated eight times, winning on two occasions. The Lost Weekend was his first nomination, and first win. The Apartment was his final nomination, and second win.
Hitchcock lost to some truly talented individuals, but like I will frequently say around award season. Why does the academy NOT award new blood? All of Hitchcock’s losses came to repeat victors. I would love to believe that the Academy does not have favorites, that they award the most deserving director the award. However, with Hitchcock never receiving the award for directing, I find that extremely hard to believe.
Also, notice that Vertigo (1958) and North by Northwest (1959) were not even nominated for the Best Director award. What won those years? Gigi directed by Vincente Minnelli won in 1958, and Ben-Hur directed by William Wyler won in 1959. Hitchcock getting beat by Gigi is bad, but him not even getting nominated is even worse. Vertigo, which would have been his contender in 1958, is currently number one on Sight & Sounds list of greatest films ever made. Vertigo comes in as nine on AFI’s list of 100 greatest films. Where was the love for Hitchcock in the late 1950’s?
I put these facts on a Rear Window review because, in my opinion, it was Hitchcock’s best shot at winning the award. It is the most stylized, most creative piece he ever accomplished. His use of perspective was groundbreaking, and his mastery of suspense really comes to the forefront. Had Rear Window been released the year before or the year after I do not think I am writing this review. On the Waterfront was a Academy golden boy both literally and metaphorically. Rear Window was just unlucky in timing.
I write this review not to scathe the Academy. I religiously follow the Academy Awards. In fact, I believe a lot of the time they get it right. However, sometimes they can get it blatantly wrong. Sometimes for years and years. Unfortunately, Alfred Hitchcock plays a victim in this tale. Which maybe is the best irony in itself, because who was better at creating thriller victims than the master himself?
So I ask you…
Why didn’t Hitchcock ever win an Academy Award for Best Director?
Was he unlucky?
Was he cheated?
Were all of his losses justified?
Did the voting body suffer from Hitchcock fatigue in the late 1950’s?
Who knows? No matter the reason, it is truly unfortunate that a legend never got his just desserts.
Also, while I am at it. Stanley Kubrick never received the Best Director award either. This is also a disgusting oversight.