Last Night's Viewing: The Girl, BBC2
Miranda, BBC1

Toby Jones’s performance as Hitchcock was pitch-perfect in the clotted vocal delivery

When was Hitchcock joking and when wasn’t he? Take the epigraph that opened The Girl, Gwyneth Hughes’s drama about the relationship between Hitch and Tippi Hedren.

“Blondes make the best victims,”  it read. “They’re like virgin snow that shows up the bloody footprints.” How exactly would you weigh that remark up? Hard evidence of a private pathology? Or just an example of the macabre teasing with which Hitchcock promoted his films? Hitch liked joking a lot, and a lot of his jokes trod the narrow  line between what you could say and what you couldn’t. Which adds another complication. How often have abusive men shrugged off their abuse as “just a bit of fun”?

The Girl takes the view that he wasn’t joking at all. Hitchcock defenders (and they include another of his  ice blondes, Kim Novak) have already objected to Julian Jarrold’s film of Hughes’s script, on the grounds that Hitchcock isn’t around to answer the charges it levels, which is that his obsessive relationship with Hedren turned very nasty indeed. In response, she pointed out that her drama  is based on interviews with Hitchcock’s cameraman and Hedren herself, presumably the source of the sour moment when an embittered Hitchcock tells her, “From now on, I want you to make yourself sexually available to me at all times, whatever I want you to do, whenever I want you to do it.”

By Hitch’s account (in the drama at least), this crude coercion is all that she’s left to him. Because The Girl is both about the courtship and creation of a love object. Hitchcock takes an ingénue actress (she’d never done a major film before) and shapes her to his requirements both on screen and off. “I’ll be putty  in your hands,” a grateful Hedren tells Hitch when she learns that she’s got the lead in The Birds. But Hedren isn’t nearly as malleable as Hitch would like. After she’s repelled a lunge from her increasingly infatuated director, the filming turns punitive, culminating in an exhausting five-day shoot in which Hedren has live birds thrown at her face by stagehands. Hitch looks on  malevolently as his actress becomes increasingly distressed. 

As Hedren, Sienna Miller was cannily cast – an actress whose screen presence has as much to do with static beauty as with emotional animation. And ironically her role required an almost identical submission to a director’s whim, as Jarrold reconstructed Hedren’s performance in the films almost frame for frame. But that helpfully underlined the central thesis – that this was a Pygmalion in reverse. Hitchcock’s fascination with a certain kind of beauty made him take a real woman and turn her into a statue. And he then used film to act out what she wouldn’t let him do in life. The drama concludes with the filming of a famous scene from Marnie, as if its shooting was a kind of proxy rape.

Jarrold’s matches for Hitchcock’s scenes were sometimes uncanny. But someone had carefully excised the tenderness out of this scene, a softness that makes it a far more ambiguous moment in the original film. And while Toby Jones’s performance as Hitch, pitch-perfect in the clotted vocal delivery, acknowledged the sorrow of a frog who knows he’ll never turn into a prince, it also presented him as knowingly cruel. I don’t know whether Hitchcock simply took his jokes too far, or whether they were the kind of jokes that aren’t funny at all. But I can’t help feeling that it was all a bit more nuanced than The Girl allowed.

I don’t get Miranda, the sitcom. I’ve tried, and I can sort of see why other people do when it’s at its giddy best. On the other hand, I do absolutely get Miranda Hart, who is a great comedian. When the sitcom humiliates her character, I can’t laugh. But when Hart plays a line that is about attitude alone, I can’t not. Odd, but true. 

twitter.com/tds153

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week