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Alma Reville - quotes

Quotations relating to Alma Reville...

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.

Film Pre-Production

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.

Joseph Stefano (1997)
keywords: Alfred Hitchcock, Alma Reville, Psycho (1960), pre-production, and screenplay

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."

[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.

Joseph Stefano (1997)
keywords: Alfred Hitchcock, Alma Reville, Psycho (1960), and pre-production


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.

Tippi Hedren (2000)
Coleman talking about discovering Shirley MacLaine...

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)