1 Hitchcock: Food, Alcohol; Eating, Drinking

July 5, 2022–627 w

A remarkably large portion of turning points in H’s films take place around the nexus of food.

Psycho: the first scene, first sentence, you never finished your sandwich; Marion never finishes (even later)

Hitchcock: Food, Alcohol; Eating, Drinking

Multiplicity and differences in food.

Sameness means fewer possibilities

Uniformity imposed by mechanization

Fast food as an emblem of democratic comfort (MacDonald, everybody gets the same list of choices, regardless of class)

Margaret Visser, Much Depends on Dinner: The Extraordinary History and Mythology, Allure and Obsessions, Perlis and Taboos of Ordinary Meal (NY: Grove Press, 1988).

Food is never just something to eat. It has to be produced, procured, distributed and prepared. And the manner in which a society creates itself and acts out its aims and fantasies..

“Food shapes us and expresses us even more definitively than our furniture.”

My interest in these films will be largely confined to these aspects that illuminate alcohol and food, drinking and eating as narrative and metaphoric activities.

Sharing of meals is a symbol of great importance.


In Topaz, it reflects the fragility of both personal and political loyalties.

In romantic films, eating together brings people together


The film begins and ends with the same image, a subjective shot of a champagne glass being drained.

The detective, who guards the daughter, empties the glass; he looks lecherous and sinister.

There are meal sequences.

Foreign Correspondent:

Stebbins (Robert Benchley) is a sharp-witted man and incipient alcoholic.


Limited supplies of food and water.

On the boat, whiskey is offered as the only available anesthetics before the amputation of Gus leg

Gus discovery that the Nazi Willy has both a compass and extra drinking water.


Ceremonial meals on and off screen. Visit during which supper will be served .  Dinner has been laid out on the chest, in which lies the body of the murdered boy.

Buffet dinner: H interrelates the theme of play, sex, food, murder and ritual

Food and Social Class

Rebecca: F. Bates sticks out a cigarette in her night cream

To Catch: Nouveau riche Mrs. Stevens stubs out a cigarette in an egg yolk.


You never finished your lunch…

Inadequacy of human communication is expressed¬† by the barrenness of one of H’s favorite symbols of social affection and coherence: the act of eating together.

Inability of characters to make contact is source of deep pessimism; the poverty of human life.


H is aware of the affirmative  rituals implicit in eating.

H is aware of the irony of psychologically sterile meal, or meals shared with enemies.

H takes this tendency to extreme in Frenzy: the motif of food and eating (apple) is so insistent that it approaches the comic (Alec MacGown and wife). (Brill)

Dial M for Murder:

Opening sequence, a kiss and silent breakfast between husband and wife, Tony and Margot.

A wicked final scene: When Tony is caught at the end, he suggests with unruffled calm that they all need a drink, which he pours in a last civilized gesture as the perfect host.

Food and Fragility


The scene in the restaurant between the hero and Brenda, he breaks a glass out of anger

The Birds

Lydia breaks tea glass


Alice White and her beau have a lovers quarrel at a restaurant. They argue over plans and he arrived late for dinner.

Breakfast: Alice and her parents (after the murder).

Pub in London

Easy Virtue,

H’s 4th film, based on Noel Coward melodrama

Larita Filton (Isabel Jeans) rich but socially disreputable, Tragic affir with man who paints her portrait

Divorce from alcoholic husband; marriage to aristocrat whose family forces divorce when her notorious past is discovered.

The Paradine Case:

Final seq between Judge and Lady Hornfield

Dinner, elegant and formal. She sits opposite her gluttonous and nasty husband. Suddenly she knocks over a glass, shatters it into several pieces. The judge then gathers up the pieces, tosses them into the fireplace and the scne ends.