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
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

    Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell