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Hitchcock approached Italian comedy-thriller writers Age and Scarpelli (writers of Big Deal on Madonna Street) to write a screenplay around an original idea he had carried in his head since the late 30s: A New York hotel run by an Italian immigrant and his family who, unbeknownst to him, are using the hotel as cover for crimes, including the theft of a valuable coin from a guest of the hotel (R.R.R.R. is the highest value of coin).

The Italians struggled with the story, not helped by the language barrier. Universal were not keen on the idea and persuaded Hitchcock to move on to something else.