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Stars and Stripes Newspaper (20/Dec/1955) - Hitchcock ... on Hams



Hitchcock ... on Hams

HITCHCOCK THE HAM — Director Alfred Hitchcock calls himself Hollywood's biggest ham. Here he does a "hammy-mammy."

Hams never had it so good — so says the biggest ham of them all.

Opportunities for the stage-struck are greater than ever before, Alfred Hitchcock — one of the few directors whose name is a bigger drawing card than his stars — told Pacific Stars A Stripes.

"And I'm happy to see it. I'm all for the ham," said Hitchcock, who calls himself a bigger ham than any would-be actor. This description comes partly from his size — he is just slightly less broad than he is tall — and partly because of his insistence for playing a part is all his movies." The desire to be a movie star Is the 20th Century's counterpart of Cinderella, and according to Hitchcock, TV is the fairy godmother that is doing more than anything else to make this dream come true for newcomers.

Television with its lower production costs and tighter budgets often cannot afford high priced casts. This economic factor is working to the benefit of the new actor. Also, feature for feature, televisions eats up more Individual productions In a week than an average movie theatre does in a year.

This naturally is creating a demand for actors, and while everybody isn't getting rich actors are all smiles these days. This makes Hitchcock very happy. For he, above all other directors can understand the feeling of the movie and stage struck youth. He, it seems, was once in the same position and he has never outgrown it. This is behind his insistence on playing a bit in every picture he makes.

This bit part acting has become a trademark of his pictures. This idea originally got started back in 1925 when he was working on a very narrow budget and by taking a walk on part as an extra he saved the company $5.

When times got better and they could afford to hire extras, Hitchcock was reluctant to give up his moment of glory before the cameras and has continued it ever since.

As both producer and director of his films, getting himself a part would seem to be easy. But It is not always so. Ordinarily it is, and he shows up as a fat man reading a newspaper, or getting on a bus as in To Catch a Thief, or as part of photo of a class reunion as in Dial M For Murder.

But once it looked as if he was really stumped. This was when he made Lifeboat in 1943. All the action took place in a 12-foot lifeboat in the middle of the ocean. There seemed no way he could introduce himself for a brief moment into such an isolated situation. For the first time in 18 years it looked as if there'd be a Hitchcock film without Hitchcock.

But there is no ingenuity like that of a frustrated ham. Hitchcock fooled them all by getting in anyway. And he did it in a perfectly natural manner that did not disturb the continuity of the film. One of the actors picked up a crumpled newspaper from the bottom of the boat and started to read It. The side turned toward the camera had an ad for a reducing pill. The "before and after" shots to illustrate were Hitchcock before and after he went through a strenuous reducing diet of his own.

He claims he was going to reduce anyway, but the story went around Hollywood that he did it just because he couldn't think of any other natural way to get into the film. The three-second part was worth more than the 60 pounds it cost him.

Hitchcock got into movie work in England where he started as a junior technician with Famous Players-Lasky's British branch. Then later he held a variety of jobs including art director with the Gainsborough Studios, before he made his first picture in 1925. This foundation in all aspects of movie work shows in his pictures.

His first job of directing — and bit part acting — was is a 1925 movie called The Lodger, based on the story of Jack the Ripper. The picture was made in England and Hitchcock could not recall if it was released in America. "I shouldn't think so." he said.

But his later pictures were and he has established himself as the master of mystery with such pictures as 39 Steps, To Catch a Thief, and his latest which will be released in the Far East soon, The Trouble With Harry.

Today he is just as enthusiastic about his work as when he first started and keeps looking toward the next picture as his "best." He recently extended out into television with a program called Alfred Hitchcock Presents and copped the Look Magazine award for the best TV director of the year.

Unlike his movies, Hitchcock does not sneak in a scene himself.

"I do a one-minute introduction before the picture and this satisfies the ham in me," he said. "I'm willing to let the new crop of hams take over the acting job. And believe me, in TV they have splendid opportunity. Hams, I can safely say, never had it so good."