The Telegraph (10/Jun/2012) - Hitchcock's struggles with Hollywood divas and his waistline revealed in new exhibition
(c) Roya Nikkhah in The Telegraph (10/Jun/2012)
- keywords: Academy Awards, Alfred Hitchcock, Blackmail (1929), British Film Institute, Carmelita Geraghty, Daphne du Maurier, Foreign Correspondent (1940), Joan Fontaine, Laurence Olivier, Nathalie Morris, Psycho (1960), Rebecca (1940), The Birds (1963), The Genius of Hitchcock (BFI), The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927), The Pleasure Garden (1925), Vertigo (1958), Virginia Valli
Hitchcock’s struggles with Hollywood divas and his waistline revealed in new exhibition
Known as the “giant” of film, Alfred Hitchcock lived up to his reputation as a Hollywood heavyweight with both his skill as a director and a legendary girth.
But a new exhibition will reveal his little-known struggles managing stars of the silver screen and his waistline during a prolific career as a filmmaker.
A previously unseen letter written by Hitchcock while directing his first ever film, The Pleasure Garden in 1925, hints at his exasperation with the behaviour of Hollywood stars.
A silent film set in London, filmed in Italy and Germany, it starred the Hollywood actresses, Carmelita Geraghty and Virginia Valli, then both at the height of their careers, playing the chorus girls Patsy Brand and Jill Cheyne.
Both wore blonde wigs in the film, becoming the original “Hitchcock blondes”.
In the letter written to the film director Adrian Brunel, a friend and one of his earliest champions, Hitchcock hinted at the actresses demanding behaviour, disclosing that they were a “handful” to deal with.
From his Munich hotel room, he wrote: “My dear Adrian, I expect that you have given up all hope of ever hearing from me, that is to say if you ever did want to.
"However, when I tell you that I haven’t written to my own mother but twice since I have been away, you will see how I am entirely concentrated on The Pleasure Garden. Of course you have heard that I have two stars under my banner - quite a handful as a matter of fact.”
The actresses, according to cinema myth, insisted on being put up in The Ritz in Paris for their costume fittings before filming, a hotel for which the young director did not have the budget, and are rumoured to have constantly challenged his authority on set.
Having previously worked as a production designer and assistant director, Hitchcock also expressed his surprise at the all-consuming nature of directing a film in the letter and his anxiety at missing new works back in London: “I have seen very little of Munich since I have been out here - only the studio and my hotel room are the “sights” of this beautiful city that I have been permitted to see.
"Have you seen any new good films at the Tivoli? [a cinema on the Strand, London] I shall be interested to hear from you of any developments in screen art because I am fairly isolated here.”
The letter is signed “Hitch” and is the earliest known document recording the nickname that became his trademark.
Normally stored in the British Film Institute’s (BFI) National Archive in Berkhamsted, it will go on display for the first time later this month at the BFI’s London headquarters on the Southbank, as part of Hitchcock’s Britain, a new exhibition exploring the director’s relationship with his homeland.
Hitchcock made 10 British silent films between 1925 and 1929, nine of which survive He later moved to America in 1939 where he made some of his best-known work, including The Birds, Vertigo and Psycho.
The exhibition will also feature a publicity book compiled by the Hollywood Samuel Goldwyn Studio for Hitchcock’s 1940 Oscar-nominated spy thriller, Foreign Correspondent.
Although well-known for his love of a hearty lunch, it details his attempts to embrace a strict “Hollywood diet” while filming: “Alfred Hitchcock...goes on a diet while directing a picture. While directing... “Foreign Correspondent”...Hitchcock lost 20 pounds.
"Usually a heavy eater, Hitchcock had but two cups of coffee for breakfast, one bowl of consomme for luncheon and one cup of tea, at four each day, during production.
"Dinner, at seven each night, was quite another story, but during working hours, the celebrated director ate no solid food whatever.”
The exhibition will also include rare material from the Hitchcock archive, including scripts from his first major hit in 1927, The Lodger, a programme from a screening of Blackmail, the first British talking film directed by Hitchcock in 1929, and an original poster for his first Hollywood film, Rebecca, an adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s novel starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine.
Nathalie Morris, the senior curator of special collections at the BFI National Archive, said: “The exhibition provides insight into Hitchcock’s development as a director in his early formative period.
“People assume Hitchcock was always a film legend to whom all Hollywood bowed, but like all film-makers, he too was subject to pressures from producers and actors.”
The exhibition is part of the BFI’s “The Genius of Hitchcock” project celebrating his work, which has seen all nine of his surviving British films painstakingly restored over the past three years.
As part of the initiative, a restored version of The Pleasure Garden will be premiered at the Wilton’s Music Hall in London later this month, accompanied by a live band playing a newly commissioned score.
From August to October, the BFI will also screen all 58 of Hitchcock’s surviving films.