That Blackmail should be Hitch’s first talkie is tacit in the film’s very title: a blackmailer’s irony would be difficult to capture solely through facial expressions and intertitles. The opening scene, however, initially seems a preamble to a silent film. It commences with typical Hitchcockian energy, a hustle-and-bustle approach that presages Rich and Strange or North by Northwest.
Like the film Capote about the iconic American writer, Hitchcock achieves a mild success largely because of the masterful impersonation of Anthony Hopkins in the eponymous role. All the more impressive since, unlike the lisping, snickering-over-cocktails Truman, Hitch didn’t exactly have the spiciest personality—at least on the surface. But Hopkins admirably captures the deadpan wit, the jaundiced critical eye, the automaton-like walk. Which makes for an entertaining watch, especially for those who remember the corpulent film master from his introductions to the famed Alfred Hitchcock Presents television series.
“She’s the greatest piece of ass on earth. With tits like that, you make allowances.” This crude logic proffered by Marilyn Monroe’s (Michele Williams) publicist Arthur Jacobs (Toby Jones) just about sums up how much actual talent it takes to forge an acting career in Hollywood provided that you’ve got the right package of bodily goods to ware. Let’s admit it: Marilyn probably didn’t get her famous role in Some Like It Hot because of her ability to faithfully re-create a character; rather, it was one more fulfillment of the persona Hollywood had created for her: that of a coquette who could get leering men hot in the pants by making kissing gestures at them with her forefinger and doing a little bunny-hop dance number. Sure, it’s shallow, but as the old saying goes, sex sells. Sadly, such shallowness also sums up Simon Curtis’s My Week With Marilyn, a film that I’d expected much more from.