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Film: Men, Women and Hitchcock   

Mary Scott This course will examine gender in the films of Sir Alfred Hitchcock. Acclaim from female actors who worked with him bely charges by early feminists pointing to Hitchcock’s films as pointed examples of misogynism for their portrayals of icy blonde women inevitably placed on a pedestal. Hitchcock was not taken seriously as a director until the French writer/directors of Cahiers du Cinema began to champion him as an auteur in the 1960’s. More recent critics have analyzed everything from his penchant for dirty jokes to his oddly non-sexual marriage to Alma to his supposed “torture” of Tippi Hedron on the set of The Birds. Using such texts as Robin Wood’s Films of Hitchcock, Donald Spoto’s Dark Side of Genius and Tania Modleski’s The Women Who Knew Too Much, we will explore the master’s depictions of both men and women in his films. Some films will be watched in full; but some of our sessions will mix clips with discussion. Week 1- The Timelessness of Alfred Hitchcock: Why do his films still reverberate with audiences decades after his death? Did Hitchcock have an incredible understanding of human psychology? Or a stunted, juvenile attitude toward women and especially toward sex? Week 2:- The Personal Life of Hitchcock: Did his personal life affect his films? What is the role of his wife, Alma? Week 3 - Portrayals of men and women : Homo-erotic themes often seen in films such as Strangers on a Train. Is Norman Bates “coded” as gay? Did Hitchcock hate women? Put them on a pedestal? Both? His exploration of multi-faceted male characters also brought out career performances from Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant, Robert Walker, Anthony Perkins, Joseph Cotten Week 4 - Portrayals of Women: Did his personal obsessions with women such as Grace Kelly, Kim Novak and Tippi Hedron change the way he directed them? If he indeed did have problems seeing women as fully dimensional, how is it that he got the greatest performances of their careers out of so many actresses? Tippi Hedron but also Janet Leigh, Teresa Wright, Kim Novak, Eva Marie-Saint, Joan Fontaine. Week 5 - The Big Picture: Are his characters constrained by his sometimes strange ideas about men and women? Are his women seen as objects or do they display a sense of adventure/agency? His knowledge of and sense of fashion are legendary. How does that affect his views of the psychology of his characters? Mary Scott has enjoyed teaching Film History and Studies for over twenty years at both San Francisco State University and College of San Mateo (as well as in Florence, Italy and London.) She has also taught Film and Video Production for twenty years at SFSU. Her passion for film is said to be contagious so beware. For a syllabus and supplemental material, email after you’ve registered.


  • Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at San Francisco State University
    835 Market Street, Sixth Floor, San Francisco, CA 94103
    Phone: (415) 817-4243 Website: