August is the birth month of the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. Directing over 50 feature films during the Golden Age of the Automobile, Hitchcock made a number of movies featuring cameo appearances by some truly memorable cars. Check out some of our favorite clips on YouTube.
What old car buff could forget the 1950 Aston Martin DB2/4 drophead coupé featured in this 1963 Hitchcock classic? The car, driven by socialite Melanie Daniels (played by Tippi Hedren), is definitely the flashiest prop in this classic horror film about birds gone bad. But for American car lovers, the backdrop for The Birds also provides a great snapshot of automobiles typical to California roads 50 years ago. If the sign for 36-cents-per-gallon gasoline doesn’t distract you, see if you can spot the 1951 Plymouth Cranbrook and the 1947 Studebaker ½-ton pickup in this classic scene.
Because Austins appear to line every city street in this 1940 spy thriller — Hitchcock’s second Hollywood production after leaving the United Kingdom in 1939 — the 1936 Bentley 4¼-litre really stands out. This clip of the original movie trailer shows a brief image of the car (0:40) being commandeered by reporter Johnny Jones (played by Joel McCrea) to pursue an assassin.
Hitchcock supposedly had a life-long fear of police that ran so deep he refused to get a driver’s license on account of the possibility that he might someday be pulled over and ticketed. Instead of the driver’s seat, Hitchcock preferred the director’s chair where he often used fast cars and cliff-top roads to build suspense. Enter Suspicion. This 1941 romantic psychological thriller (starring Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine) features a cliff-top climax with a 1936 Lagonda LG45 4½-litre drophead coupé.
To Catch a Thief
Filmed along the French Riviera, this 1955 film starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly offers a glimpse of many great European and American cars now considered classics. Peugeots, Mercedes, Fords and Buicks are featured prominently in the film, but the car that really stands out — a car perfect for cruising beside the Mediterranean — is the1953 Sunbeam Talbot Alpine Mk.1 driven by Grace Kelly in this memorable scene.
Hitchcock’s 1976 foray into the realm of the dark comedy/thriller, Family Plot, starred Barbara Harris and Bruce Dern. Outdoor scenes in the movie feature a variety of Fords, Plymouths, Buicks and other American cars popular around San Francisco in the mid-’70s. But the standout car in the movie is the 1966 Mustang driven by Dern in a comic scene involving a steep mountain road, hairpin turns and a car gone out of control.