The Birds: Hitchcock’s Living Leading Ladies

When Joan Fontaine died at the ripe old age of 96, I was thinking she must surely have been the earliest of Alfred Hitchcock's leading ladies still living. Nope! She had been the oldest, but there was — at the time — one leading lady working with Hitchcock a decade before Joan, and she was still alive when Joan checked out. (It was Nova Pilbeam, who died in 2015 at age 95.)

Cray-cray of light: Tippi Hedren in "Marnie" (GIF via Universal)

This inspired my list of all the still-living leading ladies of Hitchcock. For this list's purposes, I tried to make sure I kept out any women who were the most prominent females in their respective films, but who were not, in fact, leads.

Kim Novak, one of the last to Vertigo (Images via Paramount/Universal)

As you can see, by any standard, the list is paltry ... down to just eight women who functioned as leading ladies for Hitch.

Before peeking, I dare you to try to guess them all.

Barbara Harris in a still from Family Plot (Image via Universal)

UPDATE: Barbara Harris (July 25, 1935—August 21, 2018), Family Plot (1976)

Hitchcock's last film was minor, but was not without its pleasures. Barbara Harris was never bad in any movie, even if she hardly typifies the classic Hitchcock leading lady. We've now lost both Harris and the film's other major female, Karen Black, who died of cancer in 2013.

Scary Poppins! (Image via Universal)

Julie Andrews (b. October 1, 1935), Torn Curtain (1966)

Yes, Julie Andrews made a Hitchcock movie. A pretty freakin' bad one, but not as bad as Topaz (1969), which didn't really have a proper female lead. (Though the still-living Karin Dor's death scene is exquisite.)

"Back off, you creep!" (Image via Universal)

Tippi Hedren (b. January 19, 1930), The Birds (1963) & Marnie (1964)

One of the greatest Hitchcock leading ladies, Hedren has maintained that her career was destroyed by his possessive feelings toward her. He did manage to make excellent use of her limited range; her performances in these two at-first-panned films are iconic, IMHO.

"Mrs. Graaaaant!" (Image via MGM)

Eva Marie Saint (b. July 4, 1924), North by Northwest (1959)

This Hitchcock blonde doesn't get enough credit for her pre-Tippi, cool-as-a-cuke (yet snappy) performance opposite handsome daddy Cary Grant.

Spinning around (Image via Paramount/Universal)

Kim Novak (b. February 13, 1933), Vertigo (1958)

Nice to know that the female lead from what is arguably (but not very arguably) Hitchcock's finest film is alive and well and, as recently as a couple of years ago, still grabbing headlines from retirement. Hitch was great with actors who could sometimes, in other films, come off as workmanlike. Novak is sensational in Vertigo, and oozes glamour.

He could see for Miles and Miles ...

Vera Miles (b. August 23, 1929), The Wrong Man (1956)

Miles more famously anchors Psycho (1960) once Janet Leigh gets offed, but she was the lead in this lesser Hitchcock. She apparently didn't get along with him, but was smart enough to put that aside when asked to appear in Psycho a few years later.

Que pasa? Day on set with Hitch (Image via Paramount/Universal)

UPDATE: Doris Day (April 3, 1922—May 13, 2019), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)

As with Julie Andrews above, it's hard to think of Doris Day as a Hitchcock lead; even actresses with broader careers (like the late Ingrid Bergman) come more quickly to mind for their work with the master. But Day is a delight in this caper, and her signature song "Que Sera Sera" figured prominently into the action. This isn't one of those play-it-over-the-credits kinda song usages.

Wild about Harry? (Image via Paramount/Universal)

Shirley MacLaine (b. April 24, 1934), The Trouble with Harry (1955)

A Kennedy Center honoree and one of America's greatest living actresses, MacLaine debuted in this pitch-black comedy, the Weekend at Bernie's (1989) of its time.

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