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Otis L. Guernsey, Jr.

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Otis L. Guernsey Jr. (1918-2001) was an American editor and theatre writer. He was a former arts editor of the New York Herald Tribune.

In the early 1950s, Guernsey had mentioned an idea for a screenplay to Alfred Hitchcock about an innocent man who is mistaken for a spy...

A few years ago I suggested to you an idea for a movie, vaguely based on something which actually happened in the Middle East during World War II. At that time, a couple of secretaries in a British embassy invented — for the fun of it and to relieve the boredom of an inactive post — a fake masterspy. They gave him a name, and a record and planted information around to lure the Nazis onto his trail.

To their delight and astonishment, the enemy gobbled the bait and spent some valuable time and energy trying to hunt down the non-existent operative.

Guernsey, letter to Hitchcock dated 14/Oct/1957

When the development of a screenplay for The Wreck of the Mary Deare for MGM stalled, Hitchcock and writer Ernest Lehman instead began to develop an original "wrong man" story based on the premise Guernsey had suggested — this eventually became North by Northwest.

In order for Hitchcock to secure the rights to the story, Guernsey was given a payment of $10,000.