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Hollywood Magazine (1940) - Hollywood Newsreel (June)




By inadvertence, Robert Benchley is now creating, in Personal History, quite the most elegant drunken newspaperman the screen has ever known.

Mr. Benchley was one of the six writers assigned by Walter Wanger to turn out the screen play of the latest Alfred Hitchcock thriller. His chief contribution was the character of an American newspaperman who has been in London twenty-five years and never written anything but an expense account.

Hitchcock and Wanger agreed that the part was a little gem. But they also decided nobody could play it except Mr. Benchley. With some reluctance the humorist-critic-boulevardier accepted the job, with the proviso that he could dress as he pleased.

All very well—but when the wardrobe department found it was the eminent world-traveler and bon-vivant Robert Benchley, they were costuming, they turned him out somewhat like Anthony Eden.

Result: In his very first scene Mr. Benchley was so awed by his resplendent garments, and the excruciating wit of the lines he had written for himself that he made seven straight fluffs.

Although they don't register them with the Patent Office in Washington, every Hollywood director has his own special hall-mark that appears on every film he makes.

Alfred Hitchcock, director of The 39 Steps and The Lady Vanishes, always plays the least conspicuous bit in his own pictures. In Rebecca he is a bobby who tells the villain he must jolly well move along, in one of the closing sequences.