POSTER: NEMO / BRISTOL
FORUM: BEST OF JACKIE ON THE WEB
DATE: August 17, 2012
CONTEXT: Jackie Evancho’s first foray into the professional music industry, her EP album / DVD O Holy Night, released when she was 10-years-old, was “certified platinum in the U.S. and Canada” and made Jackie “the top-selling debut artist for 2010, the youngest solo artist ever to debut in the top 10, the youngest person [ever to] have a US Top 3 album and the youngest solo artist ever to go platinum”. Her first television special, Dream With Me In Concert, reportedly was an effective fund-raising instrument for public broadcasting. Jackie’s first full-length album, Dream With Me, has been certified gold.
We would like to say that for these accomplishments, remarkable for any singer, amazing for a pre-teen, Jackie was reviewed and lauded in all the major trade magazines and national newspapers and she won multiple Grammy awards. We cannot say so, because she received essentially no recognition from the professional music community and, except for daytime network television programs, from major media. Why? We think the answer may the Hitchcock Syndrome.
JACKIE EVANCHO AND THE HITCHCOCK SYNDROME
There are worrying signs that Jackie Evancho is in danger of falling victim to what I call the Hitchcock syndrome. When in 1940 Hitchcock was invited to come to Hollywood from his native England by the independent movie producer David O. Selznick, he was hailed in LIFE magazine, as he was hailed everywhere, as “the best director in England” and “the greatest master of suspense in the movie business”. Audiences and movie moguls and Hitchcock himself expected him to carry off all the major Academy awards.
True to expectations, his first American picture, Rebecca, was nominated for eleven awards, including the four big ones, Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, and Best Actor. Hitchcock must have thought his chances of walking away with his arms full of Oscars were good, especially considering that a second Hitchcock film of 1940, Foreign Correspondent, was nominated for six Academy awards, including Best Picture.
When the great day came and that year’s Academy Awards host, Bob Hope, opened the envelopes for the first eight of Rebecca’s eleven nominations, not once did he read the words, “for Rebecca”. Then came the time for Hope to announce the Best Director. Would Hitchcock leverage his 250 pound frame onto the Academy’s stage? No, it was John Ford who won, for The Grapes of Wrath.
Hitchcock directed Mr and Mrs Smith and Suspicion in 1941, and in 1942, Saboteur. Of these film, Suspicion alone received an Academy Award nomination, for Best Actress, which Joan Fontaine won. Her’s would be the only Academy-winning performance under Hitchcock’s direction, despite superlative actors, Cary Grant, James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Doris Day, Henry Fonda, and others doing their greatest work in his movies.
Then, in 1943, Hitchcock again attracted the Academy’s attention, for his films Lifeboat and Shadow of a Doubt. The Academy nominated Lifeboat for three major awards, Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Black and White Cinematography. Shadow of a Doubt received a single nomination, for Best Screenplay (then called Best Story). Again the great day came. Again the day ended with not a single golden statuette falling into Hitchcock’s or his collaborators’ hands.
Many other wonderful Hitchcock films followed, Notorious, Strangers on a Train, Rear Window, Vertigo, North by North West, Psycho, The Birds. Some were nominated for major awards, including Rear Window and Psycho for Best Director, but none of these films generated an Oscar.
Since Hitchcock’s death, in 1980, the Master of Suspense has come to be recognized as one of the greatest directors in the history of film. Now his work is being lavished with awards. The Congressional National Film Registry named six Hitchcock films worthy of permanent preservation for their artistic value and as icons of American popular culture: Shadow of a Doubt, Notorious, Rear Window, Vertigo, North by Northwest, and Psycho.
The American Film Institute, which tends to reflect popular taste, placed four of his films in its Top 100 list: Rear Window, Vertigo, North by Northwest, and Psycho.
The most prestigious scholarly polling of great films, the British Film Institute’s Sight and Sound poll, which has appeared once a decade since 1952, in its 2012 poll included two Hitchcock films among the Top 50 Greatest Films of All Time, Vertigo and Psycho. Judging Vertigo as the number one greatest film was major news. Since 1962, Citizen Kane had sat atop the BFI poll and seemed forever immovable.
The director of the greatest film in the history of cinema never won the Academy Award for Best Director. The Academy, indeed, shut him and his films out of the winners’ circle from 1943 on. Why, and why is this of concern to the admirers of Jackie Evancho?
Jackie is sui generis, just as Hitchcock was sui generis. She, like Hitchcock, will be judged against a higher standard than others. This is a great compliment to her, but it can lead to the problems Hitchcock faced: her work will be measured against her own higher standard and within those boundaries will sometimes, unfairly, be found wanting.
What to any other singer would be life-defining work might be neglected or even poorly rated. Thus for Hitchcock, a number of his movies that are now regarded as great works were in their time, and for years afterwards, judged failures, such as Stage Fright, Rope, Marnie, and Torn Curtain. Even Vertigo was poorly received by professional critics. It was nominated by the Academy for two technical awards; neither award came Hitchcock’s way.
Because he was a highly popular director, accessible to all, and possibly because he confined himself to a minor genre, the suspense film, professional critics tended to be blind to his artistic genius and called him instead a master technician. Jackie, being associated with a minor genre of popular music, classical crossover, also is apt to be placed by the music industry in the not-to-be-taken-seriously category. There is a chance the professional music community will, at best, acknowledge her technical prowess.
Prejudgment meant that while Hitchcock had a financially successful career and while he won the admiration of millions of movie goers, post-1943 neither he nor his collaborators won a single major award.
There is this danger, then, for Jackie. She is so much in her own class that professional critics and music professionals, not knowing how to judge her, will either ignore her or find reasons to denigrate her. Her admirers will judge great work (Music of the Movies) against other work (Dream with Me in Concert) and, instead of celebrating her marvellous accomplishment, find fault with it.
Financial success for Jackie and popular admiration are all but assured. Acceptance and recognition by the professional music and critical community is not guaranteed. But Jackie has an advantage over Hitchcock. The Master projected an air of inaccessibility and indifference to the opinion of his industry peers. Jackie has given evidence of savoir faire that will endear her to those upon whose judgement her success in part depends.
Charm and talent; will these win for Jackie the recognition she deserves?