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New York Times (17/Jul/1938) - 'Hitch' in His Plans



'Hitch' in His Plans

Alfred Hitchcock, who carries more weight than any other living British director — and probably will until his diet shows results-said he thought Hollywood was wonderful. Of course, he admitted he hadn't seen much of it — the pavement between his hotel and Myron Selznick's office, a series of steaks, one or two studio sets and a dotted line on a contract binding him to return next January to direct "Titanic" for Selznick-International (with options for three other pictures).

A diplomat — he already has convinced the Cunard people that a film of the Titanic disaster would be excellent propaganda — be not only said Hollywood was wonderful, but insisted he be quoted to that effect. That duty discharged, he dared confess that his eyes did not bug out with amazement at the film city's technical resources. "One set-up is pretty much like another." And he was puzzled and pained to discover that studios still were shooting pictures from uncompleted scripts. He never would think of it.

It was, by the way, the first time "Hitch" ever had seen another director at work. He didn't enjoy it at all, said it made him as nervous as motorist with his wife at the wheel. He wanted to sit beneath the camera himself, change a line or two in the script, break a tea-cup. He couldn't estimate how many teacups he breaks per picture, but suspected he set the record when he was shooting "The Thirty-Nine Steps."

"Good for the nerves," he says. "Relieves the tension. Much better than scolding the players."

Had "Titanic" reached the script stage? He shook his head.

"Quite obvious what the last two reels will be. Beyond that nothing."

He intends to work the story out himself, leaving the dialogue to a script-writer. It will be melodrama, naturally. The question was raised whether the title would not be a giveaway, militate against that principal ingredient of every Hitch-cock picture — suspense.

"The contrary," he beamed. "Every one in the world knows what is going to happen to the Titanic. The question is 'when?' There's your suspense. 'When?' It's better that way. Look at 'Mutiny on the Bounty.' If it had been called 'The Jolly Old Bounty' or 'Rovers on the Bounty,' audiences would have become restless during the early reels. They'd have been wondering why all this repetition of scenes showing the brutality of the captain, the resentment of officers and crew. But 'Mutiny' on the Bounty — they knew what was coming, but they didn't know how or when. There was your suspense."

His conquest of the Cunard people bears retelling. The line, for obvious reasons, was aghast at his planned rattling of the bones in Davy Jones's locker. A veritable canard, they felt. Hitch met them with a broadside. Out of the Titanic disaster, he told them, had developed the iceberg patrol system, the requirement that every ship carry wireless equipment, a dozen other safety measures. Gradually he reached his peroration, which we copied word for word.

"Over the grave of the Titanic," he said, "rides, in safety, the Queen Mary." That got them.

There was one other anecdotal souvenir of his Hollywood jaunt, the story of his bringing tea-time to the Selznick office. It came, beautifully served, each afternoon from the Brown Derby: frail cups and saucers, pristine linens, individual pots, assorted scones and crumpets — all laid out elegantly on a Selznick desk for the refreshment of the upper-bracketed classes. There was only this flaw: the Brown Derby twice forgot to include the tea; there was only hot water in the silver pots. Tea, those afternoons, ended on a note of utter confusion.

He sailed for England on Wednesday, there to prepare "Jamaica Inn" for production by, and with, Charles Laughton. That will wind up his British commitments, leave him free to return by Jan. 5 for "Titanic" and those optional others.