Alfred Hitchcock - quotes
Quotations relating to Alfred Hitchcock...
No, it was all process. You see, there was never enough light in the British Museum, so we used what is known as the Schüfftan process. You have a mirror at an angle of 45 degrees and in it you reflect a full picture of the British Museum. I had some pictures taken with half-hour exposures. I had nine photographs taken in various rooms in the museum and we made then into transparencies so that we could back-light them. That is more luminous than a flat photograph. It was like a big lantern slide, about 12 by 14. And then I scraped the silvering away in the mirror only in the portions where I wanted the man to be seen running, and those portions we built on the stage. For example, one room was the Egyptian room, there were glass cases in there. All we built were the door frames from one room to another. We even had a man looking into a case, and he wasn't looking into anything on the stage. I did nine shots like this, but there was barely any set that could be seen on the stage. The front office was worrying about when the picture was going to be finished. So I did it all secretly because the studio heads knew nothing about the Schufftan process. I had another camera set up on the side photographing an insert of a letter, and a look-out stationed at the door. When the big-shot from the front office would walk through, we would just be shooting the insert of the letter. They'd go on through and I'd say, "All right, bring back the Schufftan." I did the whole nine shots that way. The chase on the roof was a miniature. We just built a skeleton ramp for him to run on.
— Alfred Hitchcock (1963)
Hitchcock responding to Peter Bogdanovich's question "Was the chase through the British Museum [in Blackmail] shot there?"
I think that "The Birds" was one of the hardest pictures for [my father] to make because it was so technical and he had to be so prepared for it that literally, as we know, when he decided a movie, he would draw the whole movie. Well, it took him a long time to draw all of this.
We had just finished working on "North by Northwest", and I saw Hitchcock on one of the soundstages. He stopped me and said, "I have a friend, Daphne Du Maurier, who has written a short novella." He said, "Would you read it and see if, physically, it creates too many problems." And I read it that night, and I was bowled over by its strength. But I saw it a little differently — I saw it as a mood piece. And I didn't see it as a narrative story. I spent the rest of the night — worked all night on it — and the image that came to me was [Edvard] Munch's Scream. I saw that as a kind of icon for the whole thing.
It was a sort of apocalyptic short story. It's about these birds inexplicably attacking this isolated little farmhouse in Cornwall. I read it, and I would've given my right arm to work with Alfred Hitchcock. I then spoke to him on the phone and he said, "Come on out with some ideas. We're throwing away everything but the title and the notion of birds attacking human beings. So come on out with some ideas." I remember Hitch showing me a lot of newspaper articles about unexplained bird attacks as a reminder that these things do happen, so we weren't dealing entirely with fantasy.We searched for the turning point where it would get ominous. We recognized immediately that the audience wasn't gonna sit there for two hours waiting for a bird attack. So we very carefully measured out the lengths between the bird attacks so that the audience would sit there, we'd throw them a crumb, so to speak. So the first one was when the gull hits Melanie in the rowboat.One of the ideas I brought to Hitch was a school teacher coming to a town and bird attacks start when she comes to the town to teach there. And the provincials think she must have something to do with it. There's an echo of that in the scene in the Tides Restaurant, from the mother — "You're responsible for this. They tell me this didn't happen before you got here", and the school teacher survived as Annie Hayworth.
The blue screen process, while it had been essentially perfected in 1958, was still not quite to the level that Hitchcock wanted. And the best examples of travelling matte work in general that Hitchcock had seen was the sodium travelling matte shot process that was used primarily at the Disney studio. The sodium process was a method of combining foregrounds and backgrounds that were photographed at different times in an optical printer in post production. At some point, you have to create a matte, or a silhouette, that enables you to distinguish photographically between the foreground, which is usually an actor against a screen, and the background. In the sodium process, the background was illuminated by yellow sodium light. Of course, the actors in the foreground were illuminated by white light. There were two films in a special camera, an old Technicolor camera. One film was sensitive only to the sodium light on the backing. The second film in the camera was sensitive only to the white light falling on the actors. As a result, there was absolutely no contamination of the foreground actors by the lighting from the background. Typical of blue screen shots of the period was a sort of blue fire in hair and on the edges of objects. And the sodium light, because there literally was no light from the backing on the actors at any time, the sodium system could produce a higher-quality composite that didn't exhibit the sort of blue flare and blue halos that were sometimes seen on blue screen composites of the day. Disney had brought the sodium process to a high level of perfection, and Ub Iwerks, who was the head of the Disney special processes department, was hired as a consultant, and the Disney sodium equipment was used to create the travelling matte shots on "The Birds".
— Bill Taylor (2000)
He wouldn't have cast Anny Ondra, because Anny was Czechoslovakian, and she was playing the part of a London girl. She had a strong accent, and there was no such thing as dubbing. I don't think he would have landed himself in that problem had he known he was going to do sound.
Neame discussing his belief that Hitchcock wouldn't have cast Anny Ondra in the role lead role if he'd known that "Blackmail" would eventually become a sound film
source: "Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light" - by Patrick McGilligan (pg. 117)
[Donald Calthrop] could be compared to a Wurlitzer organ, which can give you everything from tremendous volume to the sofest notes.
Hitchcock expressing his admiration for actor Donald Calthrop
source: "Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light" - by Patrick McGilligan (pg. 117)
Since I suspected the producers might change their minds, and might eventually want an all-sound picture, I worked it out that way.
Hitchcock describes to François Truffaut how he had planned for the possibility "Blackmail" might become a sound movie
source: "Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light" - by Patrick McGilligan (pg. 120)
keywords: Blackmail (1929), François Truffaut, and production
[Hitchcock] talked to me from behind the camera and would in the ordinary way have been asking me about my experience and for details of my career, but this time the coversation took a very Rabelaisian turn, and he kept me in fits of laughter so that I could hardly do more than stand in front of the camera and shake.
Kendall recalls his screen test for "Rich and Strange"
source: "Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light" - by Patrick McGilligan (pg. 121)
Because of the difficult technical problems, we knew we were going to have to have continuity sketches. Well, Hitchcock loved to work that way anyway. His main thrust in all of his work was preparation. Matter of fact, he sometimes facetiously said he was bored with shooting the picture. The excitement came with the ideas that were generated in the preparatory portion of the film making process. He liked to have it all clear in his mind so that before he started to shoot, he saw the whole movie in his mind. There are very few people, directors or otherwise, that can hold this kind of a concept. Harold Michelson was the main production illustrator on "The Birds". He did, I think, almost all of the illustrations.
I had been modelling in New York for a long time. It was about 11 years. And my career was sort of waning in that fashion business. I had done a number of commercials, and at one point I had about 12 of them going, and one of them ran on the "Today" show every morning for about a month. And apparently, a producer/director was watching the show and decided to find out who the girl was, where she was, and all of that. So I received a call on Friday, the 13th of October of 1961. It was, "Are you the girl in the Sego commercial?" — it was a diet product. And I said, "Yes." And they said, "Would you come over to Universal Studios?" I did, and I met with an executive there. I asked, who is the director, and he wouldn't tell me. And then he asked if I would leave my photographs and commercial film over the weekend. So I said, "Yes, but I will have to pick them up on Monday." So Monday I was introduced to a number of other executives. Nobody would tell me who it was — who the producer/director was. They just said, "Would you go over to MCA tomorrow morning and meet with Herman Citron," who was an agent there. I went over and met with Mr. Citron, and I sat down and he said, "I suppose you're a little bit curious as to who this director is." I said, "Yes." He said, "Alfred Hitchcock wants to sign you to a contract if you will agree with the terms." And I was stunned. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry or run up and down the halls or what to do. And he said, "If you are in agreeance to this, we will go over to Paramount Studios and meet with him." So Herman Citron and I went over to meet with Hitch, and we didn't talk about anything other than — Oh, we talked about food, we talked about travel, we talked about wines. We didn't mention movies at all. Not at all. I heard that they were doing "The Birds", that Evan Hunter was working on the script and Hitch was working with him on it, and I thought, that's very interesting, this is very exciting and all that, but it never occurred to me that I would be involved in this movie at all. I thought I would do the television shows which he did every week. They talked about doing a screen test, and they chose three different roles for me to play in this screen test — one from "Rebecca", one from "Notorious" and one from "To Catch a Thief". Now, the se are three entirely different women. And Hitch was my drama coach, and I would go over to the Hitchcock home where Alma and Hitch would both go over the scenes with me, which was fantastic. Alma had a great deal to do with a lot of his work. So we eventually did the screen test. It took three days. And Robert Burks was the D.P. on it and Edith Head did all of the designs of the clothes and she did a personal wardrobe for me. It was an extraordinary time.In order to do the screen test, we needed a leading man and Hitch flew Martin Balsam out from New York to be my leading man. He had just come out of Psycho. The screen test was put together, and I guess everybody saw it, and Mr. and Mrs. Hitchcock invited me to dinner at Chasens. Lew Wasserman was sitting to my left and Alma and Hitch were to my right, and — he placed — Hitch placed a very, very beautifully wrapped package from Gumps in San Francisco. It was one of his favorite shops. And I opened the box and there was this beautiful pin of three birds in flight, with the seed pearls and gold, and I looked over at Hitch, and he said, "We want you to play Melanie in The Birds." Well, I started to cry. These big tears welled up, because I didn't expect that. I really didn't expect that. And I looked at Hitch, and he was a little watery, and Alma and even Lew Wasserman, this big movie mogul, he had one little tear coming down here. It was a very exciting evening. It was just incredible. And then the whole — all of the work really began.We didn't actually do any pre-rehearsals. I didn't meet Rod Taylor till we were — you know, till we were really ready to film.
I got this call out of the blue from Mr. Hitchcock and was totally amazed. And I came out, and being a brash young brat, I guess I didn't show any kind of respect that I was supposed to, and I think he kind of liked it. And we got on extremely well. And I did the wrong thing — I called him Alfred! I didn't say all the right things. I remember that. I said, "I hope the birds and things don't kind of totally out shadow the people." Of course, that's the story... they're supposed to. So that was number one. Wrong. But then we really talked about "making movies" and how I loved it, and how I was interested in his work. I brought that up and said the right thing. And we just got on extremely well. That was it. We didn't get into any deep discussions about the movie itself at all. No "What do you think of the character?" — none of that. It was taken for granted that I loved it and wanted to work with him and I was absolutely flattered and astonished that he wouldn't mind working with the kid... then. Immediately, we became the best of friends — Tippi Hedren and I — and still are the best of friends. And so it was very easy. We'd rehearse together on our own, and it was extremely easy because we had a lovely chemistry without trying for it.
— Rod Taylor (2000)
Hitch was not only my director, he was my drama coach, which was fantastic. I couldn't have had a better teacher. He not only helped me with developing the character of Melanie Daniels, he had me sit in on meetings with Evan Hunter; with Robert Burks, the D.P.; with Bobby Boyle, the set director; with, of course, Edith Head, who I worked very closely with on designing not only the clothes for "The Birds" and "Marnie" but my own private wardrobe. But in every phase of making that motion picture, he was sure that I was educated in it. And it was stunning. It was an amazing education that I received.
He hated location. Just hated it. He says, you don't get the right lights. You've got the noise. And you have to then come in and redub. If ever he could get away without location, he would.
Mr. Hitchcock saw Tippi in a commercial where ... someone whistled at her and she looked back and there was something about that moment when she did that that caught his attention. And he loved to put in little subtle jokes. There's a scene where she's whistled at and she does turn a lot like that commercial.
— Hilton A. Green (2000)
Those dogs that were in his cameo in "The Birds" ... those dogs ate better than most people in the world. I mean, he would go to the store and get the finest cut of meat and have them ground it up for these dogs. They were wonderful! He would bring them to work. They would be in his office, and he loved them dearly.
— Hilton A. Green (2000)
We were just trying to find a hook — a way to get into the movie. And on the lunch hour, while I was walking around, I came up with the notion of a screwball comedy — doing a couple who meet cute and go from there into comedy until it turns to terror. And I told him this after lunch that day, and he said, "Yeah, that sounds interesting." So then we tried to find characters who would be mismatched, who would strike sparks and, we hoped, comic sparks. And it seemed to me that a society woman, first of all, in the old screwball comedies of the '40s was your mainstay, that she always was a madcap society woman. And a lawyer is the very notion of solidity and stolidity. So it seemed that a lawyer would be a good type also.
I think northern California always reminded Hitch of England. There was something about the weather, which was very unpredictable. It was fog and rain and then sunshine and then fog and rain again. It was a moody, strange area — both forbidding and foreboding. I believe that's what intrigued him. It had a kind of mystical quality. We had to get all of these various pieces and put them together to make one small community out of it. We built a schoolteacher's house in Bodega, which was a few miles from Bodega Bay. But Bodega Bay just was perfect. It was an almost completely enclosed bay, and there was what is called Bodega Head, which is where the house was. There was an old house that had gone to wrack and ruin. So we could only use sort of almost the foundation. We rebuilt the house and we added a barn, and that could be reached by road and by boat, which suited the purpose of the film perfectly.
One of the stories that Al [Whitlock] related to me was when he showed a test one of his background paintings of Bodega Bay to Hitchcock. It was a beautiful scene of Bodega Bay in the background. Hitch thought it looked very beautiful. Without Al being there, he showed it to Peggy Robertson, his assistant. And he said, "What do you think?" And she said, "Oh, that looks like a painting." And Hitch stiffened and thought, "Oh." Then he said, "You know, of course, it's real." And she said, "Oh, I know it's real, but it's so beautiful it could be a painting." And so it was a compliment to Al's extraordinary painting skills that it fooled everybody but was still bigger than life.
— Syd Dutton (2000)
Hitch always felt that it was very important for close-ups to be done under controlled lighting. And he wanted almost all of the close-ups to be done at the studio, which was Universal. So they had this elaborate setup. Up in the rafters they had a wire that went from the rafters down to — almost over my head. And then they had a fake seagull, which was on top of the rafters. Now. Okay. So then we have a prop man, and he has a tube and a plunger. And attached to that was the fake blood. So they put the tube up through my hair, and then Virginia Darcy, my hair dresser, did the French roll and the whole thing and she hairsprayed my hair — it was almost like a wig, I mean, a real solid helmet, except for one little lock of hair that was loose. They let the bird go down the wire, and Bobby Boone, who was the prop man, had the plunger ready, and he watched the bird coming down, and when it got to the right place, he did the plunger, and the bird went over and the hair goes forward with the blast of air. It was incredible. Absolutely incredible.
It's a movie about the dangers of complacency, I think is what he said. We all take things for granted, and we take birds for granted. What if they suddenly turned, you know? This is what would happen. That's a theme that runs through a lot of Hitchcock's pictures — that people take things for granted, people go through their life unthinkingly. And then something happens and they have to think. I think the scene where Lydia discovers the [farmer's] body is typical Hitchcock in the sense that he shows you from a distance what's happening, and then when it gets to the key moment he cuts in, and he does it in an unusual way, with kind of a triple cut — bop, bop, bop, where it gets closer and closer each time, like somebody doing a triple take. I asked him about it, he said, "Well, that's the way you might see it — Look, look, look." Kind of unusual, subjective use of the camera. It also basically says that, you know, it's all gonna go back to mother Earth. She will prevail.
The birds represent the eruption of chaos, of unpredictability, and which can be taken to be everything that we don't understand and can't control about our world — not only the physical world but also the world inside us. Underneath all the protective coverings that we use to get through life and which, at the same time, seal us off from other people. What would have happened if the seagull had not attacked Melanie at that moment? It seems very unlikely at that point that her relationship with Mitch would've developed beyond what it is — Sort of mutual hostility, mutual provocation, all the time. Each of them wants to provoke the other. It's the bird that destroys all that — the gull attack. And that happens progressively all the way through the film.
— Robin Wood (2000)
Hitch would say, "Do you think we should explain it?" And we decided that it would be science fiction if we explained why the birds were attacking, and that it would have a greater meaning if we never knew, if it were kind of this unsettling thing that these creatures we see in the park every minute can suddenly come at our heads, you know? If it was feeding, it can suddenly come at us with no reason. I got a call from Hitch saying, "I think we need a scene where we don't explain what's happening but where the people involved are trying to understand what's happening so that we can proffer different things here." And this was the spur for the scene in the Tides Restaurant, which I thought was one of the better scenes in the movie.
A lot of those birds were cardboard cut outs and sort of stuffed birds that were put on the wires, and they just kept adding to them and adding to them. And I asked him... ever the curious child. I asked him. I said, "Well, isn't it going to look fake on camera?" And he says, "No." Because he interspersed real birds with them. And he says, "Your eye — it's the illusion. You see movement from one, you assume they're all moving." And it's absolutely true. You sit there and you watch that movie, and you could swear that they're all moving just by interspersing live ones here and there. I mean, he had so many things. I just kept asking questions, and he never seemed to mind answering them either.
— Veronica Cartwright (2000)
When you're doing a movie, you know you're doing a movie. "It's a movie," as Hitchcock would always say. And people so often say, "Were you frightened when you were doing that movie?" Well, you know what's going on. However, there are times when you're making films that, um, it can become dangerous, it can become exhausting, unexpected. And the scene where I go up into the bedroom upstairs is one of those scenes. They told me — Hitch always told me for the entire filming — that we were going to use mechanical birds for that scene. I said, "Fine. Don't have anything to worry about." It was on a Monday morning that we were going to start the scene, and Jim Brown, the assistant director, came into my dressing room on the set. And we'd known each other for a long time. And he couldn't look at me. He looked at the floor, he looked at the walls, he looked at the ceiling. I said, "What's the matter with you?" And he said, "We can't use the mechanical birds. They don't work." And out the door he went. And I just blanched white because I had seen the bird trainers with their leather gauntlets up to their shoulders, and scratches that they had from the birds. And I walked out onto the set, and there was never an intention of using mechanical birds. They had a cage built around the set so the birds wouldn't be up in the rafters for the remainder of the shoot. And there were three boxes, great big cartons, of ravens and seagulls. And prop men, with their leather gauntlets, hurled birds at me for five days. Maybe I put myself in sort of a Zen state because it was so — it was really grisly. 'Cause I literally had to fight them off. And, uh, they didn't attack. Birds... don't do that. It was just, you know, them coming at me that I would have to, you know, get away from. That Wednesday, Cary Grant came onto the set to see Hitch, and he walked over to me and he said, "I think you're the bravest lady I've ever met." And I said, "Well, I don't know if that's the word for it." But it was pretty horrific. By Friday they had me on the floor. You know, 'cause I'd just crumpled from sheer exhaustion as the character is being hurt. And Rita Riggs, who was my dresser — who became a wonderful designer — she had put cloth bands around my body with little elastics — two little elastics — sticking out everywhere. Then we put the dress on, and with the holes in the dress, she would pull the elastics through, and then they would tie the foot of the bird to me, and ... I was that way all day, and one of the birds decided to move from my shoulder up on to my — it just jumped, and scratched me very close to my eye, and I said, "That's enough!" And I got them all off of me. And I just sat in the middle of the stage and cried. I mean, I was just totally exhausted. And everybody left. Sort of left me there! I don't remember the weekend, and, um, I don't remember driving to the studio the following Monday. I got into my dressing room — beautiful dressing room — and laid down on the couch, and my makeup man, Howard Smit, came, uh, to get me, you know, for makeup, and, uh, he couldn't wake me. I was just out. I mean, just out. Just totally exhausted. And I was under doctor's care for a week, which made it very, very difficult, because there were no other scenes to film. It was sort of at the ending of the shoot. After that scene, you know, I was... I was really a bloody mess. And of course they're — the makeup people — are so good at that. And Howard Smit had put scars all over me. But it was so much fun to do ... Everything is scary, and, you know, it's fun. It's great fun to do it.
That was a surprise for me, when I saw the end of the film at the Museum of Modern Art, at this special, uh, invitational opening. Uh, I was really enormously surprised. I was surprised when some scenes were not in the film, but when I saw the ending, I was shocked because the way I had the film end, uh, they come out of the house and they get in the car and they start driving away from the house. And we see them coming through town, now, and we the see the havoc that has been wreaked in the town so it becomes not just a personal thing that's directed against Melanie, that wherever she is, the birds are attacking. We now see that this is a universal thing, where we see disaster all through the town, as we see an overturned school bus. We see a farmer with a shotgun, lying across a front porch. We see windows shattered all over town. Dead birds on the road. Police patrol cars, uh, in flames. It's almost as if a war has been waged against the town by the birds. And they come to a roadblock in the road covered with birds and they manage to get through that, they creep along through that, and they start gradually accelerating the car and moving away, and the birds all go up in the air and come at the car. And now they're going out of town on that same winding road, and the birds, now, are coming on a straight line for the car. And the birds descend on the car. And the convertible was also set up at the very beginning of the film, it's a convertible with a canvas top. And now the birds land on the top of the car, and they're in the car, and we see the top starting to shred, and it goes back suddenly, and all the birds are hovering over the car. And we go back and we see that the road, now, is... it curves around, and he hits the gas, and the cargoes ahead and the birds fallback. We see the birds falling back. And they're in the clear. And that was the end of the movie. And certainly the car chase survived to whatever draft was in the production script. And it was gone, and ... I don't know what happened. I know that — I know for sure that that sequence would have taken them a month to shoot. Overhead shots, special effects with the birds over ... Cutting away from the winding road to helicopter shots — all this stuff would have been just impossible to shoot. Just impossible. And I think maybe he figured he had the same effect by showing the birds having taken over the screen, and by association, the world.
[Hitchcock and I] had a long discussion about music and a score. Using a score, you know? And I felt that it would really make the movie almost unbearable if we had music in it and, you know, underscoring the terror and adding to the screaming of the birds. I think the audience would have jumped out of their seats. And he said no, he felt it would be more effective the other way.
It would appear that Hitchcock first became interested in using electronic sounds in place of a score for the Birds in, uh, April of 1962, when he received a letter from a man in Germany named Remi Gassmann. Gassmann was the co-designer of something called the studio tratonium. This was a device created by another man — I believe his name was Dr. Frederick Trautwein. And it basically was the forerunner of many modern keyboard instruments, in that it was able to take sounds — commonplace, ordinary sounds — and by playing the keyboard, or playing the instrument, you could manipulate the sounds. Gassmann contacted Hitchcock and alerted him to the fact that there was this creation, it had been used by the New York City Ballet, and it would allow Hitchcock to manipulate sounds in a way that could be very musical in effect. This was intriguing to Hitchcock, and he brought it to Bernard Herrmann's attention. One might think that Bernard Herrmann would be angry that he would not be writing music for the film, but Herrmann was intrigued by this invention and its application on the Birds. So Hitchcock and Herrmann travelled together in 1962 to West Berlin to meet Remi Gassmann and to explore the possibility of using the studio tratonium in the film. It was a very happy trip, and later Herrmann regarded it as one of the most pleasant times that he ever spent with Alfred Hitchcock. They got along very well, and they were both very impressed by the results of this machine. So from that point on, Herrmann became basically an advisor on the film — a consultant — to work with both Hitchcock and Remi Gassmann and decide where they wanted to use this effect in the place of where they would have used a conventional score. Throughout the Birds, during the various attack sequences, sound plays a very important part. The sequence, however, that probably employed the most subjective use of sound is the attack on the Brenner house. First, of course, the characters are inside, just waiting. And very gradually, you begin to hear the sounds — the various sounds — from the fluttering to the chirping and then the cawing, until, of course, it turned into a full-blown attack. Hitchcock, wherever possible, eliminated dialogue from his films, and the attack on the Brenner house is a sequence that could virtually be a silent movie with the exception of the fact that he uses the bird sounds so brilliantly and dramatically, so that you have these bursts of sound with visual shocks, like the darkness that they're engulfed in. Throughout "The Birds", Alfred Hitchcock experiments very interestingly with silence. There is the sequence in which Tippi Hedren is attacked in the attic. Hitchcock said that he wanted to create a silent murder. In the shower sequence in "Psycho", he originally wanted to just have the sound of the water running and Janet Leigh's screams and the sounds of the knife. They ultimately decided music would be more effective. But in "The Birds", Hitchcock creates a very sinister sound of flapping bird wings and creates one of the most intense sequences of violence but without any music. Hitchcock wanted to communicate the sense that the birds were thinking at the end of the movie when, uh, when everybody is leaving the Brenner house. They created this tremendously unsettling effect that is very quiet but does give these creatures much more of a personality... of a far more sinister quality. Secondly, he creates a, uh, a kind of almost final note by increasing the sound of those birds under the final shot, and it's very ambiguous as to whether they're on the verge of another major attack, or if this is just a sort of, you know, almost psychological effect. So this very experimental technique that they used did, in fact, turn out to be very successful, and Herrmann and Hitchcock were both apparently very pleased with the result.
— Steven C. Smith (2000)
Film music and cutting have a great deal in common. The purpose of both is to create the tempo and mood of the scene. And, just as the ideal cutting is the kind you don't notice as cutting, so with music I think cutting has definite limitations. Its best use is in violent subjects. That is why the Russians made such effective use of it, because they were dealing with violence, and they could pile shock on shock by means of cutting... But if I am sitting here with you discussing the Five Year Plan, no amount of cutting can make a film of us dramatic because the scene is not dramatic. You cannot achieve quiet, restrained effects that way. But you might express the mood and tone of our conversation with music that would illuminate or even subtly comment on it.
— Alfred Hitchcock (1933)
I went up, in fact, for the part of the secretary. I didn't go up for Babs. And we went into this huge, vast room in Piccadilly where [Hitchcock] was doing the auditions. And he sat behind this desk. I sat down. And he started talking about deep refrigeration and how to make batter. There was this huge room he said he had in his house which was his fridge, and he told me how he made batter for batter pudding, and he kept it in this vast fridge. So I was completely mesmerized by this. Then he started talking about this barmaid. I was totally confused by this time, 'cause he hadn't asked me to read for the secretary or anything. Anyway, this barmaid had to be quite short, and I found myself taking my shoes off. I don't know why, because I wasn't up for the barmaid. I was up for the secretary. Anyway, when I got up to go — I'd forgotten I'd taken my shoes off, so I had to put my shoes on — and he didn't say whether he wanted me or not. Nothing, and no script was given. And the next day, my agent rang, and he said, "He wants you for the Cockney barmaid, Babs." I said, "This is amazing." So I said yes to work with Hitchcock, of course. Count me in.
— Anna Massey (2001)
I think why Hitchcock asked me to play it was, at that moment, I hadn't had a big film released, but I'd just finished Macbeth for Roman Polanski, which was big news at the time. Hadn't opened. And, of course, I was gonna be cheap, you see. Now, it was a very cheap film, "Frenzy". They didn't spend a lot of money. They didn't, for example, provide cars for anybody to go to the set or go to the studio. You just got your own taxi or you came on a bike or whatever you did. So, anyway, they asked me... just asked me to do it, see? They go through a book. You know, you got a casting director. Casting directors don't do a lot. I mean, there's not much they can do. But they say, "Well, this so-and-so. How about him?" And Hitchcock presumably said, "Yeah, I think he looks all right. What's he doing at the moment?" So suddenly my agent went, "Oh, yeah. Would you like, I'll get Roman Polanski?" Roman's doing everything down in Shepperton. He's saying, "I'll do anything. You wanna see the film? I'll show you rough cuts. I'll do this and do that." Hitchcock didn't want to see a frame. Nothing. But he said, "I've got to see whether he can act and what he looks like on film." And my agent got a television movie that I'd done — simple thing shot in black and white in '69, I think it was — and showed it to him. So he said, "Yeah, he'll do." So I came to see him around the corner from the Dorchester, which is where we are now, and he said, "Jon, nice to see you." Ba-ba-ba-bom. I was, you know, like half in shock seeing the man anyway. "Do you like the script?" I said, "Yes, of course." You know, as you do. And, uh, so he said, "I've seen the film that your agent showed me. You can act. That's good. Would you like to do it?" "Yes, I would." "Okay. Let's go and have lunch." And that was it. So it was done. And, I, you know... Of course I couldn't believe it. I was stunned. Absolutely stunned.
— Jon Finch (2001)
I'd had a couple of successes in the West End onstage, and I was doing a play by David Mercer at the Criterion called "After Haggerty", with Billie Whitelaw. Someone said, "Oh, Alfred Hitchcock's in tonight." "Oh, really. Mm-hmm." Next morning, my agent said, "Mr. Hitchcock would like to meet you at 100 Piccadilly." So, along I went. He said, "I'm making this picture about a murderer. I'd like you to take the script away and tell me if you'd like to play it." So, well, the short story is that he sent for a couple of books about a pretty well-known murderer we had over here called Neville Clevely Heath, who masqueraded as a squadron leader. And I went off on a short holiday to read and came back and made the picture, and I always thought, when people asked, "How on earth did you get the part?" I said, "Well, he came to see the play." It was halfway through shooting the picture. I was talking with his personal assistant, Peggy Robertson, and she said, "Oh, no, no, no. That isn't how you got the part." Um, what happened was that I'd made a film a few years earlier called "Twisted Nerve" — again with Billie Whitelaw. And this picture, in almost all the notices, they referred to it as sort of having a Hitchcock flavor to it, and, apparently, seeing me in the part I played in that, that decided him I would be okay for Bob Rusk in "Frenzy". So, that's how wrong you can be about, where you got where you did.
— Barry Foster (2001)
I think, was it Truffaut who said after he saw it, said to Hitchcock, "It's a young man's picture." By that he meant it's a film with a lot of experimentation, a lot of risks. There's that moment when Anna Massey's walking into the street and all the sound goes away. That's unusual to do that. You have to have nerve to pull something off like that.
— Peter Bogdanovich (2001)
He was a revered character. He's one of the greatest names in 20th-century history, let alone the film industry. I thought it was right up there in terms of his later work in as much as it had chasing the wrong man, the amusing villain, and the discussion of married life and its ups and downs.
— Jon Finch (2001)
It's a very brutal film, but its full of things [Hitchcock] loves, like food and London. It's a very loving portrayal of the Covent Garden Market, because now thats moved over to Nine Elms and Battersea, and we knew at the time that Covent Garden wasn't going to be there forever, and Barry and I remember saying to one another this will be a very exclusive piece of film.
— Anna Massey (2001)
By putting [Hitchcock] in London with Frenzy, in touch with his roots, and by telling the story — when I say an old-fashioned way, I mean a very carefully constructed way — and I think the public responded to that very strongly. I know they did, and he got a big smash hit out of it, which cheered him up a lot and put him back on his pedestal again, where he remains to this day.
— Anthony Shaffer (2001)
Hitchcock was also getting on in years when he directed "Frenzy", but he was still an interesting man to work with. He knew what the camera was seeing all the time. He would say, "What lens have you got on Paul?" I would say, for example, "A 35mm," and he would know what it was covering. He said, "You have to keep them on the edge of their seats." It was great working with people who knew what they were doing. With some directors you would stand on the set and realise that if you didn't say something and say where to put the camera, the director wouldn't know. In England, not so much now, you had the operator working in close co-ordination with the director. In America the DP would do everything and tell the operator what to do. Here we worked very closely with the director, getting the setups and choosing the angles while the DP got on with the lighting.
Wilson talking about his experiences of working with Hitchcock on "Frenzy"
Hitchcock was a gentleman. He treated you like someone special, looked after you, and paid you well. When I first worked with him, I was called "Gillpots". He was a great man to work for.
Taylor talking about his experiences of working with Hitchcock
keywords: Alfred Hitchcock and cinematography
This was my father's favourite movie, because he loved the thought of bringing menace into a small town. I remember my father and Thornton Wilder and my mother working together on the movie. The original idea was brought to him by Gordon McDonell, who was married to Margaret McDonell, who worked at Selznick. After Thornton Wilder left to join the army, my father brought in Sally Benson, who had just written a play in New York called "Junior Miss", which was a big hit. Then he and Sally Benson and my mother worked on the screenplay. It's one of my favourites because I loved all the people in it. I thought it was very well cast, right down to the last person.
I'd come out to California to do "The Little Foxes". and I went back to New York to do a play. Then I came back to do "Mrs Miniver" because Billy Wilder had asked me, and by then, Mr Goldwyn had signed me. I did that and then "Pride of the Yankees", almost in a row. I mean, each one lasted almost four months. Then I was married and very caught up in, you know, having my first home and all of that. Then this script came, and, of course, everybody wants to do a Hitchcock film. I did not read the script. They said, "He wants to tell you the script." So I went and I sat down opposite him at a desk and he proceeded to tell the story. And he told the story like no one else has ever told a story. He used anything on his desk as a prop, whether it was a glass or a pencil or a book, to make a sound, do sound effects. He'd do steps. He'd do anything he could as a storyteller to lure you into his story. And he told that story so beautifully that I was just absolutely mesmerised. And when I finally saw the film, I said, "I've seen this film. I saw it in his office." And I really meant it.
I went out to California and I was shown into a big waiting room at Universal. I was sitting there waiting, and then the producer of that film, Jack Skirball, came walking through this crowded room, spotted me, came over and said, "Is your name Cronyn?" I said, "Yes," and he said, "Oh, dear. I'm so sorry. I think we've brought you here under false illusions. You are much too young. However, you're here, so you'd better meet Mr Hitchcock." And eventually I was shown into the presence, and there sat Hitch, all 300 pounds of him. He was at his very heaviest then. He had his hands tucked under his armpits like that with his thumbs straight up, I remember that. He started right in by saying, "Have you been in Sonoma County?" And I said, "No, sir." He said, "Well, it's in Northern California. It's the heart of the wine-growing district. At the end of the shooting each day, we will walk out into the vineyards, we will seize the bunches of grapes, and we will squeeze the juice down our throats." Then he went on to say, "We'll mess around with make-up, put grey in your hair. Maybe you should wear glasses." Then he said, "What are you going to do? Are you going to stay in California, or are you going back to New York?" "What?" There was no talk about my being too young, no talk about yes or no, no maybes or "We'll let you know". It seemed that I had this part. Sure enough, I did.
— Hume Cronyn (2000)
And they found this wonderful, old house, that was just a little run-down, which is exactly what they wanted because the family was not wealthy or anything. So they made the deal, and when they went up there they found that the people were so excited that they'd used their house they'd painted the whole house. So they had to dirty it down again. But then they did fix it up for them.In this case, he enjoyed the location, which he never did, partly because of the cast he had. He got along so well with everybody. So the location work on this was really a very happy time. I remember they had a gin rummy tournament on the picture and they wanted my father to play. He says, "I've never played gin rummy," so they taught him how to play and he won the whole tournament!
Hitchcock was very interested in good food and wine. He had been up in that area, there in the Napa Valley, checking out the wine lists of the country. So I think Santa Rosa was an area that he knew. Today it's a large city, really. It's big now. But in those days it was a sleepy little village with a courthouse, a library. The library doesn't exist any more. I think the courthouse is now a modern building. But this was an old-fashioned town. It was the kind of a town that didn't say where it was. It was American. It could have been in the middle West. It could even have been in the East. In those days it spelled America more than any town, and I think that appealed to Hitch, who hadn't been in America very long. He was now interested in exploring it and trying to get the essence of American life, small-town, innocent life. The innocent America. Santa Rosa seemed to be a big contrast to the New Jersey rooming house.
This was the first film that I went on location on. It was not done a lot then, and it made a tremendous difference. There's no doubt that coming in real doorways and opening real windows is better than being on a set.The idea was to do the entire film up there [in Santa Rosa], and we did the entire film up there. Then, unfortunately, some things had to be re-done on a set. So then, after having done it economically, I'm sure, up there, they then had to spend the money to build a like set in Hollywood.
It was a family picture, about a family, and we were with the Hitchcocks, who were a family. Alma was right there all the time and Hitchcock would constantly defer to her about certain scenes, the script. And it was so wonderful to have Patty, who was very bright, playing cards, gin rummy.
I remember the crowds who came to watch the shooting and how very well behaved they were. Uh, I mean, when the assistant director shouted, "Quiet", it was quiet. I remember, one incident, we were shooting out on the street somewhere or other, and this was all absolutely new to me. A girl of about 12 or 14, something like that, came running up to me with an autograph book and said, "Sign this, please." So I signed my very first autograph as a film actor. And she looked at it and [said]... "Now hurry up and get famous!" I never forgot that.
Joseph Cotten, who played Uncle Charlie in the movie, was a very close friend of my parents. I had an enormous crush on him. I just adored him. I was 17. I still adored him. He and his wife were very close friends of my mother and father, so they found it very easy working together. Patricia Collinge's name in the movie was "Emma", which was my father's mother's name. She passed away, actually, in the middle of the movie. I would say her portrayal is the opposite of my father's mother. He never brought personal things into movies. This is what everybody doesn't realise. Everything came from his imagination. It was not, "Oh, I'll make her like so-and-so." He didn't do that. It was his imagination.
The interesting thing about "Shadow of a Doubt" is the twins theme, like when she says, "We really are twins. We think things the same." One piece of direction I absolutely do remember, I was just lying on a bed some way or other, having a rest. [Hitchcock] said, "No, I want you to lie there with your hands behind your head." He told me exactly how it was, but he explained why. "Because," he said, "we are going to come from a shot of Uncle Charlie lying on the bed. I want this duplicated." Those kinds of things make it harder for young Charlie and the audience to accept him as anything except this charming uncle of hers.
Well, Hitchcock, right from the beginning, his earliest work to the end, seemed to be very concerned about making the villain not a cliché, giving the villain a great deal of character and uniqueness as opposed to, you know, the guy that flicks the moustache. In "Shadow of a Doubt", Hitchcock goes out of his way to give him as much depth as possible. The idea of smoke, or the idea of him taking over. He does seem to take over the home, the family. His speech at the dinner table, when he talks about women and how life is a sty, Hitchcock definitely gives Cotten his position. He lets the character say what he means and give his position paper, so to speak. "This is how I feel." That speech is very shocking. Even today, you look at it and you say, "Wow, that's pretty strong stuff."That's one of the things you can characterise about Hitchcock is this kind of empathy for the devil.
This was my father's favourite movie, and it was because he loved bringing the menace into a small town, into a family that had never known any bad things happen to them. They adored this uncle. They just adored him. Yet they had no idea what he is like. The whole suspense of the movie is, "When are they going to find out?"
I think it's one of the most perfect of the Hitchcock pictures. It doesn't depend on star power. It doesn't depend on glamour. Hitch was right. It's a kind of extraordinary and ambiguous character study that is very troubling, because you get into these characters, including the killer.
I knew then that we were embarked on a film that had real content and maybe more importance than some of his others, which were kind of fairy tales, you know. I believe that's one of the reasons why Hitchcock himself considered it probably his best.
[Hitchcock] told a story very, very well, and he told it almost always in visual images. Hitch pretty much had a film made... up here [in his head] before he ever got on the set. In fact, he used to say work on the set, the actual filming was so boring. It was the creative elements and solving challenges that absolutely fascinated him.
— Hume Cronyn (2000)
Hitchcock wanted some bloodshot eyeballs moving through the scene. I went down to Skid Row [in Los Angeles] on Christmas Eve to photograph these bleary-eyed fellows who'd been drinking heavily all their lives. We got more varieties of eyes than you can imagine, from bloodshot to weepy and then expressionless eyes. They looked frightening, just staring. It was very creepy. Then [on the optical printer] we'd reduce them down or enlarge them, we'd put one man's eyes into the pupil of another man's eyes, and then composite them together with [Salvador Dalí's] matte paintings. In the final, the eyes just look at the audience as we fly through them.
Slifer describes how the effect of floating eyeballs was achieved in the dream sequence
source: "The Invisible Art: The Legends of Movie Matte Painting" - by Mark Cotta Vaz and Craig Barron
Anyway, a writer called Hammond Innes had written a novel, "The Wreck of the Mary Deare", about a cargo boat that is sailing along the English Channel with only one man aboard who's stoking coal into the furnace. Two sailors from a salvage vessel that's passing by manage to board the ship. Anyway, you have a beautiful setup in that mystery ship with a single man on board. But as soon as you go into the explanations, the whole thing becomes very trite, and the public is apt to wonder why you didn't show the events that led up to this point. It's really like picking out the climax of a story and putting it at the beginning. Since I was committed to Metro to do that picture, I told them that the story wouldn't work out and suggested we do something else. So that's how, starting at zero, we went on to do "North by Northwest". When you're involved in a project and you see it isn't going to work out, the wisest thing is to simply throw the whole thing away.
We had an exact copy made up of the United Nations lobby. You see, someone had used that setting for a film called "The Glass Wall", and after that Dag Hammarskjold prohibited any shooting of fiction films on the premises. Just the same, while the guards were looking for our equipment, we shot one scene of Cary Grant coming into the building by using a concealed camera. We'd been told we couldn't even do any photography, so we concealed the camera in the back of a truck and in that way we got enough footage for the background. Then we got a still photographer to get permission to take some colored stills inside, and I walked around with him, as if I was a visitor, whispering, "Take that shot from there. And now, another one from the roof down." We used those color photographs to reconstitute the settings in our studios. The place where the man is stabbed in the back is in the delegates' lounge, but to maintain the prestige of the United Nations, we called it the "public lounge" in the picture, and this also explains how the man with the knife could get in there. Anyway, the locale was very accurately reconstructed. I'm very concerned about the authenticity of settings and furnishings. When we can't shoot in the actual settings, I'm for taking research photographs of everything.
The house that's used at the end of "North by Northwest" is the miniature of a house by Frank Lloyd Wright that's shown from a distance. We built part of it for the scene in which Cary Grant circles around it.
I thought up a scene for "North by Northwest", but we never actually made it. It occurred to me that we were moving in a northwesterly direction from New York, and one of the stops on the way was Detroit, where they make Ford automohiles. Have you ever seen an assembly line? They're absolutely fantastic. Anyway, I wanted to have a long dialogue scene between Cary Grant and one of the factory workers as they walk along the assembly line. They might, for instance, be talking about one of the foremen. Behind them a car is being assembled, piece by piece. Finally, the car they've seen being put together from a simple nut and bolt is complete, with gas and oil, and all ready to drive off the line. The two men look at it and say, "Isn't it wonderful!" Then they open the door to the car and out drops a corpse!Where has the body come from? Not from the car, obviously, since they've seen it start at zero! The corpse falls out of nowhere, you see! And the body might be that of the foreman the two fellows had been discussing ... The real problem was that we couldn't integrate the idea into the story. Even a gratuitous scene must have some justification for being there, you know!
Planting the camera in the countryside to shoot a passing train would merely give us the viewpoint of a cow watching a train go by. I tried to keep the public inside the train, with the train. Whenever it went into a curve, we took a longshot from one of the train windows. The way we did that was to put three cameras on the rear platform of the Twentieth Century Limited, and we went over the exact journey of the film at the same time of the day. One of our cameras was used for the long shots of the train in the curves, while the two others were used for background footage.
Well, I went to [Hitchcock's] house every day for about three weeks, and I realized that every time I brought up the subject of Mary Deare, he would change the subject. So, I began to suspect that he didn't know any more about how to do the picture than I did. Finally, I went to his house one morning and said, "I've got bad news for you, Hitch. You'll have to get another writer. I don't know how to write this picture." And he said, "Don't be silly, Ernie. We'll do something else." And I said, "But what'll we tell MGM?" And he said, "We won't tell them a thing." And that's how it evolved.
For some reason, Hitch wanted to do the longest dolly shot in cinema history. The idea was that the shot would begin with an assembly line, and then you'd gradually see the parts of the car added and assembled, and, all the while, the camera's dollying for miles along with the assembly line, and then eventually there's a completed car, all built, and it's driven off the assembly line, and there's a dead body in the backseat ... It was intriguing, but it had no place in the picture.
Then Hitch told me another [idea for the screenplay]: there's a speech being made at the General Assembly of the United Nations, and the speaker suddenly stops. He's irritated, and he says he's not going to continue until the delegate from Brazil wakes up. So a UN page goes over to the man, taps him on the shoulder, and the delegate falls over dead. But he'd been doodling and that's the only clue to the murder and his doodling is a sketch of the antlers of moose. So I said, "Well, that's intriguing now we've got the United Nations, and Detroit, and what might seem like a reference to northern Canada." And Hitch said that he'd always wanted to do a scene at Lake Louise where a family is having a reunion a get-together and a twelve-year-old girl takes a gun out of a baby carriage and shoots someone. I realize that all these ideas sound very peculiar and unrelated, but I took them all down and thought about them.
Lehman describes some of the ideas Hitchcock came up with for the "North by Northwest"
Just like he'd said, "I always wanted to do a dolly shot in an auto factory," [Hitchcock] said, "I always wanted to do a chase across the faces of Mount Rushmore." And I thought, "Hey, I really like that idea." And that was the seed of the flower that took eleven months to grow. But I had to ask myself, "Who's chasing whom over the faces of Mount Rushmore?" and "How do they get there?" and "Why?" And that took quite a bit of doing on my part. I remember that I used to squeeze out a tiny bit of the screenplay every day, fully convinced that it would never actually become a movie. There were many nights when I would be driving home from the studio thinking that we were just kidding ourselves and wondering how long the charade would go on. The truth is, even with all my experience, I really didn't know how to write the script. I'd never written a movie like that before, but gradually I eked it out or, at least, the first sixty-five pages and then Hitch went off to make "Vertigo". So I'd sit there in my lonely office, and many times I'd go home at night having written less than half a page, completely discouraged. And several times I tried to quit while he was away, but my agent wouldn't let me, saying, "You've already quit 'The Wreck of the Mary Deare', you can't quit this one too." So I was kind of trapped into doing it.
So I kept pressing forward, and Hitch, confident that I now knew what the hell I was doing, moved over to MGM from his home base at Universal, and started storyboarding the script with his art director, and casting the roles. And all the time, I'm sitting there in my office sweating the fact that I have no idea whatsoever why the hell they're all going to Mount Rushmore! Why were these people heading to South Dakota? I had no idea! So, the last act of the script was blank. Actual blank pages! Then Cary Grant came on the picture with some astronomical salary, and I was still sitting there in my office with nothing but a partially-completed script. So I called up Hitch, and I told him we were in big trouble. He came rushing over to my office, sat across from me, and the two of us stared at each other. Finally, he suggested that we call in some mystery novelist to help us kick around ideas, but I didn't like the idea. After all, I was getting paid by MGM to write the thing, and I felt that it would make me look pretty foolish. I kept saying, "God, what'll they say about me upstairs?" and Hitch would say, "Don't worry, I'll tell them it's all my fault. I'll tell them I should've been able to help you, but I couldn't or something like that." Then we went to his office it was about six o'clock in the evening and we kept talking about his idea, even discussing which mystery writer we should get, and, all the time, the right side of my brain was working, and suddenly, as I was listening to him not really ignoring him I said, "She takes a gun out of her purse and shoots him." So where the hell did that come from? It just popped into my head. That's the way it works sometimes: you've got a problem and, no matter what else is going on around you, the right side of your brain keeps working on it and then, suddenly, it pops out of nowhere. And Hitch took it right in stride. Even though I'd completely changed the subject and suddenly blurted out, "She takes a gun out of her purse and shoots him," he didn't miss a beat and responded, "Yes, the Polish Underground sometimes killed their own members, just to prove they weren't in the Underground." And I said, "Yes, but these are fake bullets. That'll convince Vandamm that he has to take her away with him. Now that she's a fugitive, he'll decide to take her on the plane." And, instantly, I had the whole last act.
Lehman describes how he overcame his writer's block to finish the script
One day, Hitch said to me, "I've always wanted to do a scene in the middle of nowhere where there's absolutely nothing. You're out in the open, and there's nothing all around you. The camera can turn around 360 degrees, and there's nothing there but this one man standing all alone because the villains, who are out to kill him, have lured him out to this lonely spot." Then Hitch continued, "Suddenly, a tornado comes along and..." "But Hitch," I interrupted, "how do the villains create a tornado?" and he had no idea. So I wondered, "What if a plane comes out of the sky?" And he liked it immediately, and he said, "Yes, it's a crop duster. We can plant some crops nearby." So we planted a fake cornfield in Bakersfield and did the scene that way. And, like you said, it became a very famous sequence. As a matter of fact, that's how I knew that Cary Grant had died. Every channel on TV was showing that shot of Cary running away from the plane. It's strange, isn't it, that such a distinguished career should be remembered mostly for that one shot?
I went up to Santa Cruz for his birthday when we were making Vertigo, for instance. His daughter Pat was there, and we were on the veranda as the phone was ringing with well-wishers. Hitch was quite a guy. I couldn't keep up with him. You know, he would even carry your bags up to your room. He had terrific energy. I couldn't drink as much as he could, either. I would have to go to bed by midnight, and even then I would be dead the next morning. But not Hitch.
Bumstead recalls spending a weekend in 1957 at Hitchcock's second home in Scotts Valley, California.
Due to the objection of the government, we weren't allowed to have any of the figures on the faces, even in the interior studio shots ... We were told very definitely that we could only have the figures slide down between the heads of the presidents. They said that after all, this is the shrine to democracy.
Hitchcock talking about the Mount Rushmore sequence in "North by Northwest".
My mother and father first met she had been in the motion picture business since she was 16 and she was working as an editor, a cutter. But in the days when you put one reel here it went through a little sort of viewer, and another reel over there and it ruined her eyes I might say. And this young man came in, and what he was there for was drawing the pictures for the subtitles. On the sunsets he'd draw the sun setting, and that's where they met. He never spoke to her because she had a much better job than he did. Then, you didn't do that. And then eventually, she became an editor on a picture he was going to be assistant director on so then that was all right. He could talk to her. Actually, it was very soon after he met her that he became a director. Then she worked with him on all of his pictures.
I walked in one day and said: "I give up. You've got to get yourself a new writer. I don't know how to do this picture." He said, "Don't be silly. We get along so well together. We'll just do something else." I said, "Well, what do we tell MGM?" He said, "We won't tell them." One day Hitch said to me: "I always wanted to do a chase across the faces of Mt. Rushmore." I said, "I like that", and I made some little notes on that. And then one day Hitch said: "I always wanted to do a scene where somebody is addressing the United Nations and says: 'I refuse to continue until the delegate from Peru wakes up.'" So an usher goes over and taps the delegate from Peru and he falls over. He's dead. And I sat in my office trying to construct a story which began at the United Nations and that was the genesis. I said, "I want to make the Hitchcock picture to end all Hitchcock pictures. Something that has wit sophistication glamour action and lots of changes of locale." That's when I started writing.I created the first 65 pages of the screenplay sent them off to Hitch and I have a beautiful four-page handwritten letter from Hitchcock which is in my scrapbook telling me how much he liked the first 65 pages. That's priceless. So he went to the powers that be at MGM and spun about 20 percent of a movie, because that's about all we had. He looked at his watch and said: "Well, gentlemen, I have a meeting now, and I'll see you at the preview." They were thrilled. They felt they were gonna get two Hitchcock pictures instead of one. It was typical of him.
MGM suggested their contract player Cyd Charisse to play Eve Kendall but Hitchcock didn't think she was right for the part and suggested me. I had just starred in "Raintree County" for MGM who thought I was wrong for the role of the sexy double agent. Regardless, Hitchcock insisted, and I was hired.
Hitchcock saw me in a play "Middle of the Night", which I'd done on Broadway with Edward G. Robinson. Then I got a call from him, for a picture called "North by Northwest".
When I got the role, I had just given birth to my daughter Laurette Hayden. So, after I lost a few pounds, Hitch began the process of transforming me into Eve Kendall. He personally oversaw all of the details of Bill Tuttle's glamorous makeup designs and the sophisticated hairstyles of Sydney Guilaroff. But he wasn't so crazy about MGM's costumes for me. The studio designed a wardrobe for my character but Hitchcock didn't like it and threw out almost everything. Then he took me to Bergdorf Goodman in New York and we selected the rest of my wardrobe right off the models. I often joke that he was my one and only sugar daddy!
I had absolutely nothing for the final act of the picture. I found myself in the second week of not having written a single page. I said, "Hitch, we're in trouble". He said, "I'll be right down". I didn't know why we were in Mt. Rushmore, and I told him my dilemma. I suddenly heard myself saying: "She takes a gun out of her purse and shoots him." Where did that come from? The right brain. The right brain keeps working all the time.
I'd be standing on Madison Avenue watching Hitch shoot the opening scene of the picture and a movie critic named Hollis Alpert came along. He said, "Ernie, what are you doing here watching Alfred Hitchcock shoot his picture?" I said, "He isn't shooting his picture. He's shooting my picture."
Which started way, way back in England when they were making silent movies, when they didn't have crowds. And then he just kept doing it, and then it kept being more amusing. It got to be so that people would see him and say, "There he is!" Well, that ruins any mood that you're trying to get in the movie. So, he always had to do it, and you'll notice in all the later movies he always had to do it very early on.
Patricia talking about her father's cameo appearances
keywords: Alfred Hitchcock, production, and the Hitchcock cameo
Hitch took me to dinner and he suddenly got very serious. He said, "Ernie, you know, we're not making a movie. We're constructing an organ the kind of organ that you see in a theater. And we press this chord and now the audience laughs. And we press that chord, and they gasp. And we press these notes, and they chuckle." He said, "Someday we won't have to make the movie. We'll just attach them to electrodes and play the various emotions for them to experience in the theater."
keywords: Alfred Hitchcock and production
I loved playing Eve because it was so different from "On the Waterfront" or anything else I'd ever done before. Hitch said, "You don't have to cry in this one, Eva Marie. No more sink parts for you." Meaning the dowdy wife at the kitchen sink. Cary thought I should play nothing but glamorous leading ladies for the rest of my career. But, I wanted to do it all, the real and the unreal and I pretty much have.
As a director, Hitch was mostly concerned with the technical aspects of getting his vision on-screen. "Your hand goes here. You're looking up there." He wasn't like Kazan who would whisper wonderful intimate direction in your ear. Hitch gave me three basic pieces of direction: First, lower your voice. Second, don't use your hands, and third always look directly into Cary's eyes. One of his greatest gifts was that he made you feel you were the only perfect person for the role and this gave you incredible confidence in playing the part. And then, he'd leave you to your own devices. It was really a wonderful set to work on.
Hitch shut down the picture for a whole day because he couldn't figure out something I had written for which there was no explanation. There's a raking shot in the LaSalle Street Station of phone booths. In one of them is Leonard and the camera slowly dollies over to another phone booth and there's Eve on the other phone and he's obviously giving her instructions. It suddenly dawned on him "how did he know the telephone number?" "Where's Ernie?" "In Europe." And he shut down until somehow he came up with an answer that satisfied him and he continued shooting.
He loved the limelight in being able to publicize his pictures and being able to talk about his work. But then when it came to his personal life he shunned it completely.
Even though it was early October, the climate was like a sweltering desert. This was one of the only times Hitch wore short sleeves on the set. For three days, poor Cary ran with a stunt plane swooping down at him or so it would seem. As nobody would think of putting Cary Grant in the position of getting decapitated by a plane some trick photography was used. I feel like a traitor telling you this but first the crew shot a swooping plane from a ditch and then, later, Cary was shot on a sound stage jumping into a fake ditch with the plane footage on a process screen behind him.
Saint describing the crop duster scene
Cary Grant rushes into the cornfield and ducks down on the ground and the plane loosens this poisonous crop-dusting powder all over him and he's gasping for breath and he rushes towards a car which is coming from afar and the camera follows him as he goes toward the car and he waves and the car refuses to stop. The next day, Hitch discovered that Peggy Robertson his script supervisor had forgotten to make sure that Cary was covered with crop dust in the shot where he runs across the field toward the car. And she burst into tears. She was hysterical. Hitch had to shoot the whole scene over again.
When we were doing the auction scene, he whispered something to Cary, he whispered something to James, he whispered something to Eva Marie and he passed me by. And I walked up to him. I said: "Is there anything you want to tell me?" I was a young actor, eager, you know. They were getting direction. He said, "Martin, I'll only tell you if I don't like what you're doing. You're projecting very well." I said, "Well, okay. That's nice." But I did feel left out. Hitchcock said, "Actors are cattle". He never said that. He said, "You must treat actors like cattle."
We were on "North By Northwest", and we weren't looking for the next one, particularly. And it wasn't until we finished shooting, and we were preparing for post-production... Hitchy would read the New York Times book section over the weekend or bring it into the office on Monday. We saw this very good review by Boucher on this book, "Psycho". So Hitch said, "Call Paramount and get coverage on it." Paramount hadn't covered it, and Hitch went over to England. As he was at the airport, he saw shelves of this book, "Psycho". He called me and said, "Haven't you got coverage from Paramount yet?" I said, "Paramount didn't cover it." He said, "All right." He got the book and read it going over. He called back from London to say, "I've got our next subject: 'Psycho.'"
We were looking for a writer and someone suggested James Cavanagh, who wrote some of the "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" television shows. I don't remember the meetings they had, but when we got the treatment, we read it, and it was very dull. If you can imagine a dull script written from the book "Psycho". It just didn't have anything. So then it was decided, we need another writer. "Who are we going to get?" And then names were suggested. And Hitch thought a lot of Ned Brown, and Ned suggested Joseph Stefano.
Benny Hermann's score for "Psycho" was brilliant. In fact, so much so that Hitch and I were sitting in the theater when we were scoring the picture, and we came to the end, when Tony Perkins comes down the steps into the basement, and sees the skeleton mother right at the end of the picture, and that was silent. After we finished that reel, Benny came up to Hitch and said, "How'd you like it? What did you think of it?" And Hitch said, "It was fine, Benny, except surely, "as Tony comes down those steps into the basement, "you should repeat that wonderful theme... that you had in the shower sequence, with all the fiddles going down like that." Benny said, "Wonderful idea, Hitch." He was thrilled with the idea and said Hitch was absolutely right. So we did that reel with the score.
It was time for the film to go to the censors, to the Hayes Office. So Hitch said, "Let's get Luigi Luraschi..." who was the intermediary for the studio and the censorship, a very nice man... "to look at the film and see if there are any problems with it." So immediately after we got the first cut, we had the screening for Hitch, Luigi, George Tomasini, the editor, his assistant and me, in the theater at Universal.So we start running it and Luigi laughs at Hitch's appearance in the film, which took place in the beginning of the film. And then... we're watching everything. Then comes the shower sequence. We're all sort of looking on placidly. Luigi: "Stop! Stop! My God!" So Hitch said, "Yes, Luigi, what is it?" Luigi: "I saw her breast." "No, you didn't, Luigi. It's just in your dirty mind. You didn't see a breast at all. Yes, we'll run it again."So we ran it again. "Well, Luigi, did you see a breast?" "No, but we're going to be in a lot of trouble with it." We talked him out... Oh, we didn't. Um, we made him realize that he was wrong, that he hadn't seen a breast, that it was a perfectly charming little Sunday afternoon shower sequence, and we sent it off with Luigi to the censor. We did have a few problems with the censor. They said they didn't like Janet in her slip in the beginning and a few odd things like that, but tidied them all up.
My script ended where he says, "Why, I wouldn't harm a fly." Where the mother, through him, says, "I wouldn't harm a fly." And that was it. That was the end of the movie for me. Hitchcock and George Tomasini, his editor, did this marvellous thing with the skull of his mother, almost subliminal, some people didn't even see it, and the car being pulled out. I think that was kind of a way to give you a return to the person that you lost, who is buried in that. And also to open up the thought that maybe there are some other cars in there.
My involvement with "Psycho" began through my agent, Ned Brown, who was determined that I should work with Hitchcock. Hitchcock had seen the two things I had done prior to that, and wasn't terribly impressed with them, and also didn't care too much to work with young, new writers. So Ned persisted and Mr. Hitchcock gave in.When I met Mr. Hitchcock at my first meeting, I had to convince him that I could write this movie. I felt the best way to do it would be to simultaneously interest him in how I saw it being done and solve the main problem of the material, which was a boy with a dead mother, and we weren't supposed to know she was dead.So I conceived of the story being about Marion, a lovely young lady, who's having a disastrous affair with a man who can't marry her. She's a rather moral girl. She wants to get married. She says, "We can't meet in hotel rooms anymore. We're not gonna do this." He kind of laughs it off, doesn't really believe her. This only heightens her frustration. When she gets back to the office, she suddenly has a large sum of cash in her hand, and, in a moment of madness, decides to steal it.So she steals it and is going to go to her boyfriend and give it to him, which in itself is a preposterous notion: that he would accept it. She drives and gets lost in a rainstorm... and then finds the motel and goes into the motel... and talks to the young man who runs the motel... and begins to realize that he's in a trap... and she has just put herself in a trap... and that she's got to get out of it.She decides to return the money, and she feels good about this. She takes a very cleansing shower, and someone comes in and murders her. At that moment, Hitch said we could get a star to play that part, and I knew I had the job. He liked that whole introduction to the movie. He liked the fact that it was going to be about her. Then we were suddenly going to do this awful thing to you, say, "No, no, no. It's not about her. It's about him."
My first meeting with Hitchcock took place at his offices at Paramount Studios. Psycho was a Paramount picture. He was, as always — as I would soon be learning — immaculately dressed: dark suit, white shirt, beautiful tie. Sat behind his desk, rarely moved away from his desk, and very... warm. I found coming from him a kind of warmth... that was not that common amongst directors in those days, nor is it today. But it was a wonderful, wonderful kind of rapport. And his interests were charming. He asked me things about myself. I told him that I was in analysis, and that, as a matter of fact, I had just come from a session. He was very curious about that, but always in a very polite way. But he truly wanted to know what was going on. I thought he probably felt there was more to writing a movie than simply talking about the movie, and I was right.The next day, after the first meeting, we began talking about this movie that we were going to make called Psycho. We never mentioned the book again, and we never referred to the book again. There was never any talk about dialogue or motivation. The thing that was a little bit scary at that point in my life about the way Hitchcock worked, was that he would not discuss motivations and characters and why people were doing it. He felt that was my job. If I asked him any question like that, he would say, "That's up to you, Joseph." I realized early on that he had faith in the writer or he did not have faith. And if he didn't, I don't think you'd be working with him.
He did an interesting thing, though, which kind of amused me and touched me. After we had been talking daily for about a week and a half, he said that he and his wife were taking a cruise. He said, "While I'm gone, why don't you write that first scene in the hotel room?" I said, "Fine. I'll do that." I wrote it, and when he came back we resumed our meetings and I gave him the scene. The next morning he said to me, "Alma loved it." I was very touched. Obviously, he liked it too, but it was lovely of him to tell me how his wife felt about it. That was a little easier for him to do. He was not a sentimental man. Or he was, but would not show it. Let's put it that way.
My mother was the one who really was in on everything from the very beginning. When he would find a story that he was anxious to do, he would have her read it. If she didn't think it would make a picture, he didn't touch it. Then she would be the first one to read the treatment and the screenplay, and she was even in on a lot of the casting too. When she died, Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times said, "The Hitchcock touch had four hands, and two of them were Alma's."
— Patricia Hitchcock (1997)
[Alma Reville] used to come to the office quite often when we were working on it. One day, it was a very, very terrifying experience... when we were working on Psycho. We were talking about Norman wrapping the body in the shower curtain... and ways to do it without showing the dead body. Hitch got up and came around his desk, and I was sitting on the sofa. And he began to act out. He said, "The camera line is here. Norman is doing this, and he drags her out. Now he very neatly folds the curtain over her." As he was doing this, the door opened... and Alma came in. But it was such a shock. Nobody but Alma would ever open that door and come in, without a phone call or something. At the moment, we were so involved in this scene, to have the door burst open and somebody come in was quite shocking.
In my very first meeting with Hitchcock, he said, "This is going to be a black-and-white movie, and it's going to cost under a million dollars." I was flabbergasted because I had never conceived of Hitchcock, at that point in his life, making a movie for less than a million dollars.He mentioned another company that was making very low-budget movies, which were not terribly good, and were doing very well at the box office. His feeling was: "How would it be... if somebody good did one of these low-budget movies?"
In the book, Norman Bates is actually a middle-aged man, a reprobate, drinks, overweight, wears big, thick glasses, peeps through holes. I thought he was incredibly unsympathetic. I didn't like him. So when Marion gets killed, I am then expected to switch my empathy toward this man. I couldn't do it with the character as he was written. I perceived a young man, vulnerable, good looking, kind of sad, makes you feel sorry for him. Hitchcock said, "What would you think of Tony Perkins?" Of course, that was practically what I had described.Once I had written the first draft — which, incidentally, is the one that he shot — he told me that Anthony Perkins was available to play Norman Bates. I told him that was sensational, and that was what was going to happen. He mentioned Janet Leigh for the star part... because he felt, among other things, that no one would be able to accept that we had killed her this early in the movie.
We played a game and kept score of how many people asked him the same dumb question about the project. He enjoyed that, but it also bored him.
Steinberg recalls how Hitchcock was often asked the same questions by different journalists during promotional tours for his films
When I met him in '63, when we were doing ''Marnie'', I was the flashback sequence in ''Marnie''. So, we shot on another stage from the stage that Tippi and Sean Connery and everybody was working on, which was the main stage, and he would come over to the stage I was on. And he shot the flashback sequence with a huge lens. It was a German lens that looked like a lightbulb, and what it did was it distorted everything in the foreground, but made everything in the background sharp focus. And so, it was neat because I had Mr. Hitchcock to myself. He had no other distractions except me. So, he really took time to get to know me a little bit. And every year, then, he made sure I did a guest-starring appearance on ''Alfred Hitchcock Presents''.And 12 years went by, and he was casting ''Family Plot''. I wasn't the first choice. I think Al Pacino was the first choice. And Mr. Hitchcock didn't like to pay actors. And he was very upset that he had to pay Julie Andrews and Paul Newman $750,000 apiece to do ''Torn Curtain'', and he never got over that.So, when he got to ''Family Plot'', to get even over a $100,000 was, like, amazing. And he didn't want to pay Al Pacino whatever his price was then. And he'd just done ''Serpico'' and ''The Godfather'', and all that, so he was, like, big stuff. And so, then they were going to go to the next on the list. And I certainly wasn't the next on the list. I was about 15th on the list. But he jumped right away. He jumped over everybody. And he called my agent, and he said, you know, "I liked Bruce. I think Bruce would be good for the film."And so I went, and I saw him. I said, "Why would you want me to play this part?" He said, "Bruce, I-I never know what you're gonna do next. "I know that the frame is perfect. I know the shot works perfectly. All I want is to be entertained. I make entertaining movies."
After the success of ''Frenzy'', my father decided to do an adaptation of ''The Rainbird Pattern'', a book by British novelist Victor Canning. The story of the book was very different from the film. It was set in the English countryside, not on the West Coast. And Madame Blanche had real psychic powers. But most importantly, the overall tone of the book was very dark. The film was carefully designed and prepared, and Ernest Lehman, who had worked on ''North by Northwest'', was brought in. Everything was important in a Hitchcock picture. He paid attention to all the details. That's why he liked to work with the same people on his films.
— Patricia Hitchcock (2001)
While I was in Vienna, I was shooting a movie called ''Crime and Passion'' for Ivan Passer with Omar Sharif. And I was offered two pictures. One was the W.C. Fields biographical film and Hitchcock's film. And, of course, there was no choice. You know, working with Hitchcock was going to be the thrill of a lifetime. But I wanted the other part. I wanted the Barbara Harris part. I wanted to be, you know, the kind of clairvoyant who really wasn't all so clairvoyant. And I imagined her, and I thought she could have a Southern accent and kind of a low blouse. I had this whole idea of what she should be like, and I thought it would be very funny. So I passed that along, and Mr. Hitchcock wouldn't hear of it. So I was very thrilled. I came back to town to do ''Family Plot''.
One of the things he did at the very last minute, which was quite unusual for Hitchcock, was to really take away the set that it was originally designed in, or the period and location. Hitchcock had been famous for traveling the world and really opening up locations in filmmaking. And he said to me, "I want to take away anything "that said Northern California. I don't want any names on police cars. I don't want names on badges. I want you to investigate every person's name in the screenplay and make sure that that person really doesn't exist. And if he does, change it. I want it no city." And he never gave me an explanation for that. But it was a challenge to change it so that it became a nondescript city. We shot in San Francisco, we shot a great deal on the stages, but it was nondescript.
There's some shots with Roy in the picture. Some of the longer shots in San Francisco, actually, after that church sequence, when they're dragging the body out to the car. That's all Roy. I think I worked about six weeks on it, out of a ten-week shoot. It was quite an experience because, basically, you went to work at 9:00 in the morning and you went home at 5:00, like you were working at a bank.Hitch loved Barbara Harris. He just loved her and would tell all these wonderful stories with her, you know. I would sit around and hear all these wonderful stories. Never heard him tell the same story twice. The nice thing was that he understood the parent-child relationship, director to actor. I also, again, was a novice. I had very little film experience.
— William Devane (2001)
Hitchcock wanted Bill Devane, but Bill Devane was not available. So, his second choice was Roy Thinnes, and we cast Roy Thinnes and began shooting the picture with Roy. I believe it was five days or six days after we were shooting with Roy Thinnes that Mr. Hitchcock found out that William Devane was available, and so he made the switch during production. Now, that meant we had to go back and reshoot some of the material.I think it's always horrible when any actor is dismissed or fired. I think it's worse when you're not fired for any particular reason other than you were the second choice and the first choice is now available. I believe it was that very same evening when Hitchcock was having dinner at Jack's restaurant in San Francisco... that Roy Thinnes walked up to his table and said something to the fact, "You've dismissed me," or "Why did you dismiss me?" or "You did wrong." And he just stared him down, and Hitchcock was speechless, and in a very difficult situation and didn't like being there. And they just looked at each other for a long while, and then eventually Roy Thinnes left.After Roy Thinnes left, we had to go back to Grace Cathedral and shoot the one scene where the bishop is kidnapped as well as other scenes had to be retaken. Now, if there were any shots in the sequence that didn't have Roy Thinnes in, then we only picked up those shots to replace the actor. We didn't shoot-necessarily shoot the entire scene over.
The first day, I was supposed to meet Mr. Hitchcock up in his office... and show him the costumes for the film. Except that I wasn't wearing the costume. I was carrying the costume. And, of course, in the '70s, you had layers. So, I sort of had a big black hat on and I had a little suit. And then under the suit was something and then something with something else. So I met him and I said, "This isn't the costume for the movie. This is just what I was wearing." He said, "Oh, thank God. I thought this was going to be a movie about a nightmare."
Hitchcock tried to use the same crew over and over again, at least the ones he liked, as do all of us. Edith Head did the costumes, and Henry Bumstead, who had won two Oscars at that time and a number of nominations, was the production designer. Lenny South, the cameraman, was actually recommended by the studio but had worked as only Hitch's operator in the past, not as a cameraman. Some of the other key positions were new. But he liked to be comfortable. But even though he worked with these people, there were very few who ever talked to him.
Hitch had wanted to shoot in San Francisco. I had looked for two days for this location, for this spooky house on a corner with a garage situation, and the set was all lit. So, up drives Hitch with his driver, Ole, and the window went down just a little bit. And Hitch says, "What are we doing here?" So, I says, this is exterior so on, so on, this and that, And he says, "Why are we doing it here?" I said, "Hitch, you wanted to do it here." And he says, "Well, how do you expect me to get a performance out of my actors in this cold weather?" And he said, "That's the trouble with you young art directors." He says, "You have no imagination. I think we'd better do it back at the studio." With that, the window went up, and the car drove off. So, the whole schedule changed.But anyway, we built the set, and it was very nice. Now, comes to the time to shoot the set... Hitch always drove right on the stage with his car, took six or seven steps to his chair and now he says, "This is more like it. This is nice." "Well, do you like it?" He says, "It's beautiful." So I said, "Well, then, everything's okay?" And he says, "Fine." Well, I never stay with the company, and once Hitch says it's okay — or any director — I'm off, 'cause I'm working ahead of the company. And I'd taken about ten steps, and Hitch says, "Bummy, my friends in San Francisco tell me that of all the corners in San Francisco, "you picked the coldest. How did you manage?" So, what could I say? I just said, "It wasn't easy, Hitch."Hitch always had two or three things he was very adamant about. In ''Family Plot'', he was very adamant about that high shot in the cemetery. You really followed what he had in mind on those, and gave him what he wanted, you know.
— Henry Bumstead (2001)
One of the major scenes of the picture was the cemetery scene which we shot in Sierra Madre, California. And, of course, all of the tombstones that you read on screen you have to supply. In those days, and probably today, you're not to reveal somebody's name, because somebody could call up and say, "You've shown my wife's tombstone with her name on it, and I'm upset about it."Actually, that did happen. Later on, somebody called up, and I was brought in. I had to look at the film, and I said, "That may be somebody's name, but we provided that tombstone. It's not their tombstone." So, by coincidence, there was somebody else buried in a California cemetery with that name. But in providing those cemeteries, Hitchcock had an idea. And when he had a press junket arrive at the cemetery, many of the tombstones had those people's names on it.
I had never heard that Mr. Hitchcock drew everything and then shot it. And you have to remember that I was from the '70s, where at that particular point in the history of film people were throwing up a lot in films, and they were sweating and drooling and improvising and walking off camera, and if things were blurry, that was okay, and they were using at lot of zooms. So, his style was very different from what I was used to.
Hitchcock had long been known to be one of the early directors to storyboard and do conceptual designs. And, of course, with the conceptual designs that came from the production designer, Henry Bumstead. But Hitchcock, personally, would do some of the storyboards, and then he'd commission Tommy Wright to do a number of the storyboards for him. And he would meet with Tommy and tell him exactly how he saw it. He'd look at those drawings and make adjustments.
To pre-edit a scene, and then shoot it the way you want to edit it... and then edit it is... insane, because it's not possible. You'll never get a good scene that way. But Hitchcock got a great scene every time. What's exceptional, really, isn't that he was so adamant and such a perfectionist. What's amazing is that it worked!Usually, you have in your mind a notion of how this scene is going to look, how it's going to run, how it's going to feel. And then you put it there like you imagine it... it doesn't work!! So, you have to re-edit, and then you have to re-edit that. Then you have to reedit that. But what he did was almost supernatural when you think about it. He pre-thought it so thoroughly and with such an accurate imagination that when you cut it, it worked just the way he thought it would... every time, every scene, every movie!
He said, "Bruce,you know what would make this scene work?" And I didn't know. So, he had to explain it to me. He said, "Well, what I do is I do close-ups of you and Barbara, "and I do the car's point of view of the road. And I never show you the car. I show you the car when the oil's coming out of the brake thing, and then I let the car go. And I just cut to you and the car's point of view of the road. That way, the audience thinks they're you and are going through the trip." He does that on all his movies. I mean, that's the way to keep suspense. I didn't know that. I didn't know that's why it worked in a movie.Then at the end, we have the car crash. And the first thing you see is the car is upside down, and here's Barbara's head peeking out of the top. And then she's going to try to get out of the car. She starts climbing out, and her foot is on my face, 'cause the car is upside down like that. Well, that's just, you know... Hitchcock said, "Women always walk on men. They walk all over 'em." So, why not, you know?Then I come underneath the car with my head out that way, and he said, "You be a worm, and she'll be a bird." Well, that's inventive.
I have a scene where I say something like "Merry Christmas." And I said, "Merry Chris..." Cut. I said, "Hitch, wh... what are you doing? I have to say 'Merry Christmas'." "No. No, Bruce. Because when you say the 'mas,' I'm going to be over here. So, we don't need to shoot it now." So, when I tell directors that on ''Family Plot'' we only shot 110,000 feet of film, period, and printed 55,000. That's a two-to-one ratio on a two-hour-and-20-minute movie.
The scene in the kitchen was very difficult to do for an actor because it was a scene in which you started the scene and 30 or 40 seconds into the scene, you wept. That's hard to do because usually you're prepared, and then they start shooting. Then you can cry rather easily. So this was very difficult.They shot it twice, and the second time, it was very good. I cried just when I should have, and I thought it was wonderful. But he printed only the first one, and I went to find him. And he was sitting sort of near the kitchen turned away from the camera. And I said, "Mr. Hitchcock, please, I was so much better in the second take. I really wept when I should, and I..." And he said, "All right. Print the second one as well. Yeah, that's fine." And then when I saw the movie, of course, you never see the scene. You only hear the scene. It's Bruce Dern listening to the people in the kitchen. You never see it. So, that explained it.
He loved the risqué, and that's why he liked me in ''Family Plot'', because I threw caution to the wind, so to speak, and was unpredictable. He did never know what I was going to do next, but he knew it was going to be in his frame. If I'm sitting here and talk to you, and I want to talk to you like this. You're out of the shot... half out of the shot... because his frame ends here. So, if you put your hand here, it's going off-screen. And he let's you know that right at the beginning. He says, "You have no room for movement. But within the room you have, change dialogue, do whatever you want to do, just make it interesting."He laughed out loud in the hamburger-eating scene, where she and I are talking on the phone talking to the bad guy. Two times I made him laugh out loud, so we had to do it over. That was one scene, and the other scene was I threw in a line when we're going down the mountain in the car... The car is going off the road, we have no brakes. The guy's tried to kill us by screwing our brakes up, and she's climbing all over me, and I threw in that line, "God, I gotta get off this road." And he just laughed out loud.
I walk in, I see this shadow on the glass talking to another shadow. Well, it's him!! And you don't see him. You just see his profile and the shadow. Well, come on. Is that not hip, you know, genius? I mean, that's just terrific. I said, "Congratulations." He said, "Did you see me, Bruce?" I said, "No. But I saw your image." He said, "Well, I told you I wasn't going to appear." So, he just got such a kick out of that.B
I thought it was fantastic when I saw it. It was just so great. And Barbara did it great, you know. She was cute in the movie. She was a very talented girl. I leaned to Hitch after that. I said, "You know what, Hitch? You should go up at the top of the stairs. Barbara should look at the diamond. You should pan over on the stairway, and you should start down the stairway. Not Barbara. You. And you should wink in the lights." He thought about it for a long time, maybe 15 minutes. And then he said, "No." Had the world known that was going to be his last piece of film, it would've been so fantastic.
Hitchcock had used Bernard Herrmann in many of his films to write great music. And I think if you look back on Hitchcock films, music is certainly a very key ingredient. It is really almost his signature pattern. I do know before John Williams was selected, he had had a falling out with Bernard Herrmann. I remember in the scoring session how exciting it was to watch Williams conduct. And, of course, Hitchcock was there a little bit of the time.
Mr. Hitchcock had his office here at Universal Studios. And so he apparently needed a composer for this ''Family Plot'', and the executive those years in charge of music was a gentleman called Harry Garfield. So, it was Harry Garfield who recommended me as a newcomer, just having done Jaws, a very successful film, to Mr. Hitchcock. And I went to see him at his office, and we had lunch and had a chat and I left not knowing if he would engage me to do this or not. Then I got a call from Mr. Garfield the next day. It said, Hitchcock, yes, he would like you to do the score.The business of working with Alfred Hitchcock was really very professional and very strong. We had a few meetings as I was writing the music. He didn't ask to hear any of it. I would tell him what I was doing — this or that scene — and we would talk about that, and then the conversation might change to Edward Elgar, or some other musical interest of his, you know? We chatted about that. So, on the one hand, it was very professional and very specific. On the other hand, very easy and congenial and so on.He told me a story having nothing to do with Bernard Herrmann. Some other composer, I don't know, on a film that he made about a murder. And he instructed the composer to make the music light. So, he said he went to London to record the music, and this composer had every double bass and bassoon and timpani, and every instrument in the city of London capable of making an ominous, lugubrious sound. Just the opposite of what he wanted, so I said to him, "Mr. Hitchcock, seems like for a murder that's very appropriate." I always quote him. I remember his words exactly. He said, "Mr. Williams, murder can be fun." So, he had this idea... of irony and many sides to the prism of what one sees.The specific details of the music in that movie was with the use of the voices having to do with this psychic. And he did have an idea of having voices. He said, "It should be like impressionistic with the women's voices." And also his ideas about music were very closely linked to a very methodical editorial process. The precision of the editing reflected the precision of the shooting.I could tell you one little anecdote, also, about a scene in the film where we didn't have a disagreement about where the music should play but a discussion. There was a room where the criminal had been, and the camera pans to the window, which is open. And the curtains blow in the breeze, and this reveal of the camera tells us the criminal has escaped.But the orchestra was playing to drive the energy to people to go to discover where the criminal is. Driving, driving, driving... through the point where the camera goes through the door. And I continued the music when the camera panned to the window, playing it more. And he said, "You know, if you stop the music when the camera pans to the window, "the silence will tell us that it's empty — he's gone — more emphatically, more powerfully than any musical phrase." And, of course, just the absence of music at that point... It was a wonderful lesson, really, in where to arrange the parts of the music in any film, which we call "spotting," incidentally. That is to say, the spots are where the music is.So, he was a wily professional who knew his business and could be of great assistance to a youngster such as I was at that time.I do think it's true that Hitchcock, his own sensibility and his own belief in music and trust in it, made a great impact on audiences. Some of my earliest influences and earliest strong impressions were from the Hitchcock-Herrmann collaboration. Obviously, Bernard Herrmann's music was very striking and very strong, but Hitchcock was a director who placed his faith in that. Many directors would be afraid to have that music that loud or that emphatic. They might think it's too operatic.It has to be said that directors before Hitchcock did wonderful things with music, and he was not alone. But there is something at the core of his faith and trust and belief in music as a character in the film metier was uniquely strong and high. And I think that every composer that worked for him benefited from that. I should say, in the contemporary scene, Steven Spielberg is similar in that his films need a lot of music. And Mr. Spielberg is very happy about relying on music, and is not disturbed by the disruption of the sense of reality that the presence of music might cause.I remember one day very distinctly Hitchcock said to me at one of our several lunches, he said, "You know, what I'm serious about is the film industry. And film industry means to me," he said, "I come in at 6:00 in the morning, and I see the workers coming in with their lunch pails and their this and their that and their umbrellas, lining up, going into the studios." And he said, "That's my responsibility. To keep that going. My responsibility that I feel," said he, was to these people who work in the studios." And he was obviously quite serious about that aspect of his position. That he, as a creative artist, created opportunities which gave people their means of livelihood. So, yes, he was funny, but he was also serious in surprising ways.
— John Williams (composer) (2001)
After ''Family Plot'', there was a discussion on his next project. He'd always have one in the wings, and there was a book that he liked called ''The Short Night''. And I got involved in that much more than I had in the last few pictures of his. He was all set to go on the project, and it was going to be a great project. But I was very disappointed that he couldn't go on.I remember the day very vividly in my mind. I was up in my office and got a call from Sue, his secretary, saying that Mr. Hitchcock wanted to see me right away and it was very important. Well, of course, I dropped everything and went down to his office and went into his office, and it was just the two of us. And he was behind his desk, and he almost had tears in his eyes. And he said, "I can't go on." I said, "What are you talking about?" He said, "I can't make this picture, and I would like for you to do a favor for me." And I said, "Well, of course, I'll do a favor, but why..." He says, "I'm just not up to it, and I'm not strong enough to go on location." I said, "But we'll do it for you. You're there. You tell us what to do, and we'll do it." And he said, "No. I'm never going to make a movie again." He said, "I want you to call Mr. Wasserman and let him know. I can't face him."And I'll never forget that. I called Mr. Wasserman and went up and told him that Mr. Hitchcock was retiring. And it was a... It was a horrible, horrible moment for me. And it was really tough on Mr. Wasserman too.I think with most of his pictures toward the end of his career, I believe your first reaction, "Gee, is he slipping?" Or "Is this not as good as his previous pictures?" You go back to the '50s of his classic ''To Catch a Thief'' and ''Vertigo'' and ''Rear Window'' and ''North by Northwest''. Those were something when you walked out and said, "Gee, great." And with the exception of ''Psycho'' and ''The Birds'', they weren't that well-received immediately. I think they grew on you.And I think ''Family Plot'' was one of those pictures where you come out and, "Yeah, it's okay." And then you start thinking about it, saying, "Gee, it did have this." And then you go back and see it a second time, and you start getting the Hitchcock elements that didn't jump out at you the first time you saw it.
— Hilton A. Green (2001)
It was a nice piece of work. It was very clean and very funny and unlike the usual things that Hitchcock is associated with — for example, there were no great sexy scenes. Shirley MacLaine and I had a thing about getting married and getting a double bed. Other than that, there was nothing really sexy about the movie, unlike a lot of Hitchcock's movies which were very, very sexy.
— John Forsythe (2001)
We went back to New York to complete the casting on the picture because nobody had been able to find anyone for the part of Jennifer. When I got to New York, my daughter had been telling me about a play in New York called "The Pajama Game" and kept insisting that I go and see it. And Shirley MacLaine was the understudy for Carol Haney the afternoon that we went to see it, but I thought it was Carol Haney. When the show was over, I said to Doc Erickson, the production manager, "Carol Haney is ideal for Jennifer, " and Doc said, "But that wasn't Carol Haney. It was a girl called Shirley MacLaine."And I'd made arrangements for the Paramount office to pick her up and bring her to the St. Regis Hotel to meet Hitch and I on a certain morning, and that day we were in Hitch's suite working on the screenplay. The doorbell rang, and I opened the door, and there stood the most bedraggled figure I'd ever seen. It was Shirley MacLaine. She had no hat on her head, and rain was pouring off of her hair, down her face. She had a trench coat on, and the collar was covered with makeup. And it was open in front, and she had a brown, worn sweater and a skirt, also worn. I looked down on her feet, and she had on sandals with no socks, and she was really a bedraggled figure.I said, "For goodness sakes, come in here." I said, "What happened to you? How'd you get so wet?" She said, "Well, I had to walk from the bus." I said, "But didn't the car pick you up?" She says, "No."So I called to Alma. I said, "Alma, come and take this girl in there and give her something she could wear." So Alma came and took her to her bedroom and took those wet clothes off and gave her a robe to wear and called the people to come up and take her clothes down and dry them out for her, and that's the way we had the first interview for Shirley MacLaine.
— Herbert Coleman (2001)
Hitch insisted on having a real body to play the part of the dead body, and he chose an actor by the name of Philip Truex. When Philip Truex was ordered to come up to the location, he and my wife Mary Belle were on the same plane, and they were seated together, and there he discovered that Mary Belle was my wife, and Mary Belle discovered that he was going to play the part of the dead body. He played the part of the dead body very well, by the way.
— Herbert Coleman (2001)
There are a couple of different accounts as to how Bernard Herrmann and Alfred Hitchcock began working together. One that was told to me was from the composer Lyn Murray, who had scored the Hitchcock film "To Catch a Thief". For some reason Lyn Murray was not able to do "The Trouble with Harry", and Murray told me that he recommended his friend, Bernard Herrmann. And that's probably a credible story, although I think that Hitchcock and Herrmann certainly knew of each other's work at that time.The score turned out to be a tremendously happy collaboration between the two. In fact, Hitchcock later said that it was his favorite of all of the scores that Bernard Herrmann wrote for him — even more than "Psycho" or "North by Northwest". He thought that Herrmann had done a superb job at capturing the macabre humor in the subject. I think that's one reason why he wanted to be very careful about the composer. I think he realized how important the music was going to be in helping carry the very delicate tone of this unusual film.The main title of "The Trouble with Harry" contains several musical fragments that we'll hear throughout the score. And, in fact, I have to tell you, it's music that Bernard Herrmann did not originally write for this film. Some of it was new to the film, but much of it was taken from a radio series he had recently created called "Crime Classics" for CBS. When he saw "The Trouble with Harry", Bernard Herrmann immediately thought back to much of the music he had written for "Crime Classics", and, indeed, got permission to reuse some of that music in the score.The main title with "The Trouble with Harry" establishes, really, the tone of the movie, the tone of the score, and it even is something of a musical portrait of its director. In fact, Bernard Herrmann so identified this particular film score with Hitchcock, that he later arranged the various themes into a suite, a concert suite that he called "A Portrait of Hitch," and he dedicated it to Alfred Hitchcock.Bernard Herrmann recorded the music for "The Trouble with Harry" at Paramount, and apparently this was the first time he had worked at Paramount. His friend, Lyn Murray, had worked there on many occasions, and he tried to prepare everyone for a good session and told the orchestra how much they'd like Bernard Herrmann. He told Herrmann that these are a bunch of great guys. "You'll have a great time working together."Well, that's not what happened. Herrmann was temperamental, he was explosive, and he was particularly explosive if he felt that musicianship was not up to what he expected. And he had been spoiled by working at 20th Century-Fox for many years where the musicianship was really the best of anywhere in Hollywood. He came to Paramount and immediately started berating the orchestra. He was, evidently, very hard on the oboist who had a lot of important solos in the score. And pretty soon everybody despised him. He had a miserable time with them, and the work got done, but it was not a happy experience."The Trouble with Harry" marked the beginning of the most important creative association in his career, that with Alfred Hitchcock. Herrmann knew exactly what Hitchcock was trying to achieve, not just on a basic plot level. He didn't just decorate the film with his music the way I think some composers did, and I think that's why Hitchcock immediately realized that he had found the collaborator that he wanted to continue working with.
— Steven C. Smith (2001)
Ever since I started producing my own films, I've been limited by short budgets. Now I think I'm ready to move into the Hitchcock field. If I can evidence half the artistry that he has, I'll be happy ... my aim is not to put on a tuxedo and go up to collect a gold statuette at the Academy. I want to keep theatres open and doing business.
— William Castle (1960)
We are not making enough pictures now to generate young talent. The new talent is there. The problem is selling it to the public.
— Alfred Hitchcock (1959)
Hitchcock quoted in the ''Film Bulletin'' journal (22/Jun/1959).
Hamlet will be shown as a modern man with problems. I won't attempt to portray the role in the traditional Shakespearean manner. I approach the assignment with considerable trepidation, but my faith in Mr. Hitchcock is my reassurance in the matter, which I am eager to undertake.Shakespeare is the best theater in the world and if we are successful in devising an acceptable film formula through Hamlet, other things may follow.
— Cary Grant (1945)
The transcription will be closely watched, so as to be as faithful as possible to Shakespeare's text, yet modern enough to appeal to the widest possible audience. The plot, situations, psychology and characters will be retained, but the action and sets will be modern.
— Alfred Hitchcock (1945)
Hitchcock talking about the modern Hamlet project, reported by the Associated Press in August 1945
I am fighting against a hard enemy, the film of chromium plating, dress shirts, cocktails and Oxford accents, which is being continually made with the idea that it shows English life.
— Alfred Hitchcock (1937)
Hitchcock quoted in the ''Portsmouth Evening News'' (23/Jan/1937)