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American Film Institute Salute to Alfred Hitchcock (1979) - transcript

The following is the transcript for the American Film Institute Salute to Alfred Hitchcock (1979) as broadcast on US TV.


Henry Fonda
This is the highest honour one can receive for a career in motion pictures – the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award. I'm Henry Fonda and last year I was honoured to receive it. Tonight it will be presented to Alfred Hitchcock, in recognition of his 55 years as a remarkable director and producer. On behalf of the American Film Institute and it's 90,000 members, I invite you to join us in the celebration of the career of Alfred Hitchcock.

(title sequence)

From California, the American Film Institute Salute to Alfred Hitchcock.

(sequence from Alfred Hitchcock Presents)

Ladies and gentlemen, our guest of honour, Alfred Hitchcock.

(Hitchcock enters to the sound of Gounod's "Funeral March of a Marionette" and a standing ovation, he walks unaided to the table where Alma is already seated)

Without further suspense, here is an old friend of our guest of honour, the Academy Award winning actor, John Houseman.


John Houseman
Tonight we consider the case of Alfred Hitchcock, the world's most admired and beloved master of filmmaking. The American Film Institute, our host tonight, brings together filmmakers from all over the world to study, discuss, encourage, and preserve this vital art. Towards that end, the trustees assemble each year to elect one man, or woman, whose career has, in a fundamental way, advanced the filmmaking arts and whose work has stood the test of time. Now, these criteria most certainly define the career of Alfred Hitchcock.

If he had chosen to remain in his native Britain, his work would long ago have earned him the title of Sir Alfred, or perhaps even Lord Hitchcock of Leytonstone – the London suburb where he was born. (laughter) Having removed himself many years ago to this continent, he's settled for the less resonant but no less honourable title of "American Tax Payer".


Alfred Hitchcock began his prodigious career as a student of engineering. But, by 1921, he was designing titles for silent pictures. As scriptwriter, set designer, and associate director, he learned every aspect of his craft. He also, at that time, met, wooed and won a small lively red-haired lady – one of England's leading experts in film editing and continuity – Alma Reville.


With her by his side, he went on to direct 9 silent films – first in Germany, then in England – adding dimensions to the screen that no-one had achieved before. His cinematic audacity is apparent in his 1926 silent picture "The Lodger", a film that clearly established his genius -- we shall see a bit of that in a moment. To be followed by Britain's first true talking film, Alfred Hitchcock's "Blackmail". Using the new dimension of sound, Hitch was again the adventurer, as his use of the word "knife" in the scene we about to see will attest. But first, Ivor Novello as "The Lodger"...

(sequences from The Lodger and Blackmail, followed by applause)

That was 50 years ago, but tonight we have with us the most famous of all Mr Hitchcock's heroines. The co-star of 3 movies under Mr Hitchcock's direction – "Spellbound", "Under Capricorn", and "Notorious"... or as Hitch has always insisted on calling it "No, Torious". (laughter) I can think of no more agreeable and thrilling way to spend an evening than in the company of hostess, Miss Ingird Bergman.


Ingrid Bergman
Thank you! Congratulations to the American Film Institute who tonight acknowledge what our audiences have known for 50 years – that Alfred Hitchcock is an adorable genius.

(laughter and applause)

Dear Hitch, I've come all the way from London – from your home town – to give you my love and affection. One might say that Hitchcock is a gentleman farmer(?) who raises gooseflesh!


For all of us fans, and we're a legion, we are here tonight to thank you for all the fun and all the fear that you have given us through the years. And, I want to thank you personally for a little thing that has helped me all through my career... and it's been quite a long career!

You see, Hitchcock is very careful when he prepares a film – he writes everything down on paper, every little detail is on paper. "It's in the script", he'll say if anybody asks about wardrobe or props, or anything that belongs to them... to the movie – "It's in the script".

But then, the actors come along and we don't always behave as we do on paper. (laughter) Some of us have ideas! (laughter) And then Hitch gets a little truculent – oh yes, he can get that! (laughter) I remember our first argument must have been in "Spellbound" in 1945, something I said... "Oh, I don't feel like that... I don't think I can give you that kind of emotion"... and, you sat there and you said (clasps her hands in front of her stomach and twiddles her thumbs like Hitchcock) "Ingrid... fake it!"

(laughter and applause)

Well, Hitch, that was the best advice I've had in my whole life, because, in all the years to come, there were many directors whom I'm thought gave me quite impossible instructions and many difficult things to do, and – just as I was on the verge of starting to argue with them – I could hear you voice come through the air saying "Ingrid... fake it!" It saved a lot of unpleasant situation and waste of time.


To have that rare gift of being able, in detailed clarity, to show us on film, so that we can all share it with you. And that is what makes Alfred Hitchcock an artist...

(sequences from The 39 Steps, The Lady Vanishes, Notorious, To Catch a Thief, Suspicion, Strangers on a Train, North by Northwest, The Birds, Foreign Correspondent, and The Man Who Knew Too Much (both versions), followed by applause)

(after the sequences, we see Hitchcock smiling broadly for the first time so far)

Here from "Psycho", his supreme exercise in terror, here is Anthony Perkins.


Anthony Perkins
You know, it's easy to make a horror film – and a generation of "Psycho" imitators have tried often enough. You put some one-dimensional characters into a widely improbable plot that leaves plenty of room for wall-to-wall violence. You drench the whole mess in blood and guts. You release it in 7,000 drive-in's, and then you wonder why the movie going public just plain doesn't "enjoy it".

"Enjoy it"... well, there's the key phrase right there, because fear and terror are negative emotions, and it took that guy over there (meaning Hitchcock) to get us to feel those emotions and to enjoy it at the same time.

In the "shower scene", for instance, we see how Hitch's imagination, combined with cinematography and film editing, to produce a sequence that students and other directors have been studying ever since.

(sequence from Psycho, followed by applause)

As Hitch was so fond of saying, on the set of that picture, "Don't worry Tony, it's only a movie"! The knife never actually touches her body, but this guy can make an audience believe anything. I've been taking the rap for that sequence for 20 years now, but that's not me behind the curtain – I was in New York that day, rehearsing a Broadway show! And, that scene... the credit for that act belongs to my stand-in Burt and, from now on, he can take the rap for it!


More good news – that cool blonde is still warm, and furthermore, she's with us tonight. Ladies and gentlemen, Janet Leigh.


Janet Leigh
You know, it took Hitch seven working days to shoot that sequence. Seven days and seventy camera setups, to produce just 45 seconds of film. But, it's "pure film" and done by "The Master".


I've made a lot of pictures, but only that one for Mr Hitchcock. But, ever since, interviewers have asked me more about Hitch than any other director with whom I've worked. Part of the fun of watching any Hitchcock movie is looking for that quick cameo, in which he always pokes a little fun at himself. It began in 1929 in "Blackmail"...

(cameo sequence from Blackmail, followed by a selection of other cameo appearances, followed by applause)

Ingrid Bergman
Film classics, "Rope", "Rear Window", "The Man Who Knew Too Much" and "Vertigo", had one thing in common. They all starred this splendid actor, Jimmy Stewart.


James Stewart
Thank you, that's very kind of you ladies and gentlemen, especially since my friend, Alfred Hitchcock, is supposed to have said once that "actors are cattle". Now, Hitch denies that – what he says he said is that "actors should be treated like cattle".


An amazing man... he's thoughtful, he's amusing, he's immaculate, he's articulate... his mission is to entertain. You sorta get a feeling that Hitch's life is as well planned as his movies... everything's sorta laid out in advance... right down to the last detail. And, like most people who began in silent films, it's the actions that count more than the words.

I remember in the picture "The Man Who Knew Too Much", we were doing a scene in London's Albert Hall and I was to chase Doris Day up the stairs while the London Symphony was playing. I had to say a lot of words during that chase up the stairs and I... it was a long speech, and it cleared up a lot of the story too... and I'd worked hard on those words ... and on "action" I chased after Doris, just talking my head off... and, at the end of the scene, Hitch said "cut" and he said "let's do that again... you were talking to loud, I couldn't hear the London Symphony"! (laughter) He said, "as a matter of fact, let's just cut the whole speech... you just follow Doris and look tense". (laughter) Well, I argued about that... I considered the speech important, but he insisted that the words interfered with music, which was more important. Now, when you work with Hitch, you don't try doing a scene two ways... you do it one way... his!

Well Hitch, I'd like you to know that every time I've seen that movie, I've tried to remember that speech on the stairs... and I never can. You were right, we didn't need it. All we need is you.


Ingrid Bergman
Hitch has discovered so many different ways of making our hearts beat a little faster. Like "Strangers on a Train", the carousel...

(sequence from the finale of Strangers on a Train, followed by applause)

One of the most successful programmes of the American Film Institute is the Center for Advanced Film Studies, here in Beverley Hills, where accomplished young filmmakers learn their craft from the masters. Three exceptional students have been selected to receive Alfred Hitchcock's Fellowships. To present these talented people, we call upon the Director of American Film Institute West – a tasteful producer himself – Robert Blumofe.


Robert Blumofe
And, to you Hitch, as well as to their future audiences, may I present from New York City, director Renee Cho(?). Also, from New York City, director Robert Mandel. And, from Chester(?), Montana, cinematographer Gary Tilgis(?).


Ingrid Bergman
Congratulations... Mr Hitchcock will have a word for you later.

(Hitchcock turns towards either Alma or James Stewart and raises his eyebrows in apparent surprise)

The idea of a serious regard for film as an art was nobly advanced by a young French film critic – François Truffaut. He later wrote a definitive book about Hitchcock and today... today he is one of the world's greatest directors... and we are very happy that he is here tonight... but, I won't introduce him with words but with film. We'll see a scene from his picture "Day for Night". It is a celebration of the work we all do.

(sequence from Day for Night, followed by applause)

Ingrid Bergman
Ladies and gentlemen, Francois Truffaut...

(more applause and Hitchcock is shown applauding)

(note: Truffaut regularly uses the French version of a word if it is the same as the English, so I've usually transcribed the latter)

Francois Truffaut
Bonsoir medames et messieurs, I beg your pardon in advance because my English is terrible. You've just saw the dubbed version, not the French version.

In American, you call this man (points at Hitchcock) "Hitch". In France, we call him "Monsieur Hitchcock". You respect him because he shoots scenes of love as if they were scenes of murder. We respect him because he shoots scenes of murder like scenes of love!

(laughter and applause)

Anyway, it is the same man we are talking about... the same man, and the same artist.

When I began to direct films, I thought Monsieur Hitchcock was fantastic maybe be he weighed more than 200 pounds. (ripple of laughter and a quick shot of an emotionless Hitchcock) Therefore, I tried to eat more and more... (laughter) I gained 20 pounds, but it obviously didn't work. I knew I had to find another way to understand the proportions of his genius. So, I asked Monsieur Hitchcock to give me an interview of 50 hours and to reveal all his secrets. The result was a book... actually, it was like a cook book, full of recipes for making films.

But, the great secret of Monsieur Hitchcock is the secret of cinema itself. People used to say a film is good when it gives fear or pleasure to the audience watching it, but I don't believe that. A film is really good when you can read between the images the director's fear when he made this film, or his pleasure making this film. I think it must be pleasure that Monsieur Hitchcock felt when he put his camera on the summit of Mount Rushmore.

(sequence from the finale of North by Northwest)

Ingrid Bergman
(indistinct) ...some more Hitchcock film to see and, to introduce it, I'm pleased to introduce John Forsythe.

John Forsythe
I had the good fortune to work in two films for Hitch – one was "Topaz" and the other was "The Trouble with Harry". As you may recall, the "trouble" with Harry was that Harry was dead. Of course, Hitch's genius is that he can put such life into death.

A critic once asked him, "What's the deepest logic of your films, sir?", and he answered, "To put the audience through it." And, invariably, he does.

It's been pointed out that his is the art of the unexpected – putting his audience through such emotions as... for example, the jarring moment when you walk down a staircase you've walked down many times before and, in the dark, you suddenly hit bottom one step too soon.

But Hitch has other moments that jar sweeter emotions than that. Those scenes would celebrate the eternal satisfactions to which we all aspire – the kindling of sparks in the fires of passion.

(romantic sequences from Spellbound, Rebecca, Vertigo, and To Catch a Thief, followed by applause)

Ingrid Bergman
I'm delighted to present Great Britain's Ambassador to the United States, the Honourable Peter Jay.


Peter Jay
Mr Hitchcock, nothing could be a greater pleasure or privilege for me, as her Majesty's Ambassador to the United States, than to have come from London today, to the United States, to salute one whom we still proudly think of as a "son of Britain".

Like so many others who have borne our genes and, I hope I may say, a dash of our genius, across the Atlantic to blossom in the rich and hospitable soil of the United States and so, to inspire and to delight all of mankind.

Mr Hitchcock, I bring you the greetings, the congratulations, the heartfelt thanks, and the warm affection of the British people, from Land's End to John O'Groats. We sir, the British, hail you on this great occasion and we urge you, in the idiom of your adopted and our favourite country, "right on, Mr Hitchcock, right on!"

(applause, and Hitchcock manages a crooked smile)

Ingrid Bergman
A film Hitch cherishes is that little miracle "Shadow of a Doubt", and a lady we all cherish is the star of it... and here is my dear friend, Teresa Wright.


Teresa Wright
If a film is compared to a ship, it's passengers would be the audience and it's crew, the people who combine their talents to sail it. With us tonight are some who have served on many ships under Alfred Hitchcock. Here is a lady from three of them – "Strangers on a Train", "Stage Fright", and "Psycho". She also made the Hitchcock's grandparents... Pat Hitchcock O'Connell.


Patricia Hitchcock O'Connell
The actor who fell from the Statue of Liberty in "Saboteur" has landed on his feet to become a director himself – Norman Lloyd...


Norman Lloyd
At Hitch's table, his lifelong friend - the producer of "Rope" and "Under Capricorn" - here from England, Lord Bernstein...


Sidney Bernstein
An old and valuable friend of Hitch's who worked with him in the studios in London at the time he was making his original "Lodger", Victor Saville...


Victor Saville
(indistinct) ...the Academy Award winning actress who played in "Stage Fright", Miss Jane Wyman...


Jane Wyman
Hitchy, I have to tell you that I did one picture with you and I learned more in that one picture — technically, and every other way, it sustained me for 30 years and I'm grateful. I love you, and I'm gonna to give you you're favourite designer – and mine – Edith Head...


Edith Head
And now, the famous unfeathered star of "The Birds", Roy Taylor...


Rod Taylor
(indistinct) ...in two films, "Psycho" and as Hank Fonda's wife in "The Wrong Man", Hitch cast a lovely lady – Miss Vera Miles...


Vera Miles
The screenwriter of "North by Northwest", "Family Plot" and Hitch's currently work in film, Mr Ernest Lehman...


Ernest Lehman
In both "Marnie" and "The Birds", the Hitchcock image of beautiful women continued with Tippi Hedren...


Tippi Hedren
One of the great pleasures of doing "Marnie" was working with a very gifted film actor – Sean Connery...

(applause, Hitchcock is seen leaning over to Cary Grant and asking something)

Sean Connery
"Who's that?" he says! It's me, Hitch! (laughter as Hitchcock raises his hand in acknowledgement) Wonderful to see you. I'd like to introduce the gifted actress who played Mrs Danvers in your "Rebecca" – Dame Judith Anderson...

(applause, Anderson blows a kiss towards Hitchcock)

Judith Anderson
The star of four Hitchcock films, lucky man! – "Notorious", "Suspicious" (sic), "To Catch a Thief", and "North by Northwest" – Mr Cary Grant...


Cary Grant
Thank you... the best is yet to come! (indicates Hitchcock) Hitch!


Ingrid Bergman
The director of the American Film Institute is a second generation filmmaker, who has provided an energetic and imaginative leadership from the very beginning. Ladies and gentlemen, George Stevens Jnr.


George Stevens Jnr.
Mr Hitchcock once described his migration from England to the United States as a kind of cultural exchange. "But nobody knows what was sent to England in return", he said, "...they're afraid to open it." (laughter) What America received in that migration, and what the world shares, is one of the most original talents of our age.

How rare it is for any artist, playwright, composer, painter or poet, to produce major works with regularity for over five decades. Like D.W. Griffith and Sergei Eisenstein – those pioneers who first gave form to film language – Alfred Hitchcock has made an historic contribution to the aesthetic of filmmaking. And this contribution came not in one or two films in a flashy show of innovation, but steadily, continuously, meticulously, in a body of work which displays an immaculate articulation of both image and sound.

He shared his knowledge in a lecture at the Film Institute. He said it simply... he said it directly – "I have no interest in pictures that I call photographs of people talking. I have that white rectangle to fill with a succession of images, one following the other. That is what makes a film."

There is no better way to present Alfred Hitchcock than with evidence of his capacity for creating suspense by his use of his imagination... and ours. I referrer you to the empty white rectangle and to a succession of images so distinctive, they could have been created by no-one other than Alfred Hitchcock.

(sequences from Psycho, Vertigo, Notorious, Dial M for Murder, and Spellbound, followed by applause)

(Stevens Jnr. presents Hitchcock with his award)

Ladies and gentlemen, there is only one "Master of Suspense". From the American Film Institute, Hitch, with our great respect.

(applause and a standing ovation, Hitchcock initially struggles to stand and is aided by Cary Grant)

(with a impish grin, Hitchcock slips the award into his jacket, as if to try and steal it)

(close up of Alma, wiping away a tear)

(Hitchcock's speech has been obviously pre-recorded, as we cut between Hitchcock standing up whilst delivering the speech and wide shots of him still seated)

Alfred Hitchcock
May it please Ambassador Jay, Queen Ingrid, Director Stevens, and my co-conspirators in this bizarre trade of making films. It has been my observation that man does not live by murder alone... (laughter) ...he needs affection, approval, encouragement and, occasionally, a hearty meal.


Tonight you have provided me with three... out of four! (laughter) Anxiety strangled my appetite! This demonstration of your approval and affection has encouraged me... (dramatic pause) ...I will go on.


It makes me very proud indeed to be the recipient of the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award. It is especially meaningful because it comes from my fellow dealers in celluloid. After all, when a man is found guilty of murder and condemned to death, it always makes him feel much better to know it was done by a jury of his friends and neighbours... with the help of inadequate attorney(?).


It would tax your endurance, and mine, to recite the names of those thousands of actors, writers, editors, cameramen, musicians, technicians, (more slowly and with much emphasis) bankers, exhibitors... and a variety of other criminals who have contributed to my life.

(this last line is delivered live on the night by the seated Hitchcock, then back to the pre-recorded speech...)

I beg to mention by name only four people who have given me the most affection, appreciation and encouragement... and constant collaboration. The first of the four is a film editor, the second is a scriptwriter, the third is the mother of my daughter Pat, and the fourth is as fine a cook as ever performed miracles in a domestic kitchen... and their names are Alma Reville.

(applause, with close up of Alma)

Had the beautiful Miss Reville not accepted a lifetime contract, without options, as "Mrs Alfred Hitchcock" some 53 years ago, Mr Alfred Hitchcock might be in this room tonight... (cut back to the seated Hitchcock) ...not at this table, but as one of the slower waiters on the floor.


I share my award, as I have my life, with her. Now let me share something with those promising young people who have earned their Alfred Hitchcock Fellowships... (back to the pre-recorded speech) ...When I was no more than six years of age, I did something that my father considered worthy of reprimand. I don't recall what transgression it was – at the age of six, it could have hardly involve... (back to the seated Hitchcock) ...a serving girl!

(laughter, Cary Grant clearly whoops loudly with delight)

(pre-recorded speech) Whatever, father sent me to the local police station with a note. The officer on-duty read it and locked me in a jail cell for five minutes, saying "This is what we do to naughty boys."


(seated Hitchcock) I have, ever since, gone to any lengths to avoid arrest and confinement.

(pre-recorded speech) To you, young people, my message is "stay out of jail"!


(seated Hitchcock) Some day, one of you may be standing here... (pre-recorded) ...with this American Film Institute Award – that's what they do to good little boys!


(seated Hitchcock) Good evening!!!

(applause and a standing ovation)

(Hitchcock stands, without aid, and waves to the audience)

Ingrid Bergman
Thank you. We must leave you now but, thanks to film, Hitch's work never will.

Now, there just one little thing I want to add before we finish this evening. You remember that agonising shot when you had built some kind of elevator – it was a basket or something – with you and the cameraman, and you were shooting this vast party in "Notorious". And you came zooming down, with your elevator, and your pull focus man... all the way down, into my hand, where you saw the key in a close-up... so that was an extreme long shot to close-up, just the key that we saw now.

Well, you know what? Cary stole that key after the scene! Yes, and he kept it. He kept it for about 10 years and one day he put it in my hand and he said "I've kept this long enough, now it's for you for good luck." I have kept it for 20 years and, in this very same hand, there is the key!

(Bergman holds up the key to applause, she blows a kiss to either Hitchcock or Cary Grant... or perhaps both?)

I'm coming over... it has given me a lot of good luck, and quite a few good movies too, and now I'm going to give it to you with a prayer that it will open some very good doors for you too. God bless you, dear Hitch, I'm coming to give you the key.

(applause as Bergman comes down from the stage to Hitchcock's table)

(in an emotional finale, Bergman and Hitchcock embrace and kiss, and Hitchcock accepts the final standing ovation)