Quarterly Review of Film and Video (2009) - Reclaiming Alfred Hitchcock Presents
- article: Reclaiming Alfred Hitchcock Presents
- author(s): Andrew A. Erish
- journal: Quarterly Review of Film and Video (01/Oct/2009)
- issue: volume 26, issue 5, pages 385-392
- DOI: 10.1080/10509200802165218
- journal ISSN: 1050-9208
- publisher: Routledge
- keywords: Alfred Hitchcock Presents (TV), Alfred Hitchcock Presents - Back for Christmas, Alfred Hitchcock Presents - Breakdown, Alfred Hitchcock Presents - The Case of Mr. Pelham, Alfred Hitchcock Presents - The Perfect Crime, Alfred Hitchcock Presents - The Three Dreams of Mr. Findlater, Alfred Hitchcock, Anthony Perkins, Barbara Bel Geddes, Blackmail (1929), Claude Chabrol, Frenzy (1972), Isobel Elsom, James Allardice, James Mason, James Stewart, Janet Leigh, Joan Harrison, John A. Bertolini, John Williams, Joseph Cotten, Lifeboat (1944), Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941), Neill Potts, Norman Lloyd, Peter Bogdanovich, Production Code Administration, Psycho (1960), Rear Window (1954), Rich and Strange (1931), Robert Montgomery, Rope (1948), Strangers on a Train (1951), Suspicion (1941), Tania Modleski, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (TV), The Alfred Hitchcock Hour - See the Monkey Dance, The Trouble with Harry (1955), The Wrong Man (1956), Thomas M. Leitch, Universal Studios, Vincent Price, Éric Rohmer
Reclaiming Alfred Hitchcock Presents
ANDREW A. ERISH
Few would deny that Alfred Hitchcock was the most recognizably famous motion picture director of the twentieth century. This was largely due to the popularity of his films, the cameo appearances he made in each of his "talkies," but perhaps most of all, the result of his ubiquitous presence as the host of 361 episodes of an internationally successful television show bearing his name: the half-hour Alfred Hitchcock Presents 1955–1962) and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (1962–1965). Ironically, it appears that Hitchcock's television work is the least-documented component of his career. This essay examines five episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents to examine key aspects of the director's television career: how episodes directed by Hitchcock both compliment and depart from his motion picture work; the importance of Hitchcock's wraparound comments on the individual narratives; and how the program contributed to his status as an auteur.
1955 was the year that most of the major film studios finally took the plunge into television production. The 20th Century Fox Hour, Warner Brothers Presents, and MGM Parade were three of the eponymous studio-produced shows that premiered that season (Brooks and Marsh 646, 668, 368). A fourth was Universal's initial entry into television, Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Hitchcock agreed to host the weekly anthology of suspense shows on condition that his responsibilities wouldn't interfere with his motion picture work, and that his production company would be solely responsible for the personnel and narrative content of the program.
The fact that he received six-figure remuneration per episode and a considerable quantity of MCA stock were obvious inducements, though perhaps not as important as the opportunity hosting a television show provided in elevating Hitchcock's celebrity status and authorial clout in his motion picture endeavors (Grams and Wikstrom 19). As will be shown, Hitchcock was additionally attracted to the venture as a platform to explore creative opportunities afforded by television.
Hitchcock selected his former secretary, Joan Harrison, as the show's producer. Having mentored her as a screenwriter and motion picture producer, Hitchcock could rely on Harrison to choose high-quality, previously published suspense stories in fidelity with her boss's aesthetic sensibilities. Harrison would later be assisted and ultimately succeeded by Norman Lloyd. They would submit synopses of published stories for Hitchcock to approve, reject or table (Grams and Wikstrom 20, 27–28). According to Norman Lloyd, in my conversation with him on August 19, 2007, Hitchcock then ch...
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