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The Blind Man

After the success of Psycho, Hitchcock re-teamed with Ernest Lehman for an original screenplay idea:

A blind pianist, Jimmy Shearing (a role for James Stewart), regains his sight after receiving the eyes of a dead man. Watching a Wild West show at Disneyland with his family, Shearing would have visions of being shot and would come to realize that the dead man was in fact murdered and the image of the murderer is still imprinted on the retina of his new eyes.

The story would end with a chase around the ocean liner RMS Queen Mary.

Walt Disney purportedly barred Hitchcock from shooting at Disneyland after seeing Psycho. Stewart left the project, Lehman argued with Hitchcock and the script was never shot.

The film may have incorporated Hitchcock's Covent Garden Opera idea.

John Russell Taylor included the following in his biography of Hitchcock:[1]

More interesting seemed to be an idea which came to Ernest Lehman at this time. Disneyland had been open for four or five years, and was receiving an enormous amount of publicity. One day Lehman visited it, and the bank hold-up they were staging then had somehow fused with another idea he had, that of a man blind from birth who is given sight by some sort of eye transplant only to discover that the donor, supposedly killed in an accident, was really murdered and has transmitted to him through his eyes a visual memory of the murderer. Perhaps while visiting Disneyland the hero (call him Jimmy Stewart for the sake of argument) finds himself ‘recognizing’ someone he could never have seen, then have a recollection set off by the fake gun fight. Perhaps the whole movie could be made in Disneyland. Hitchcock in Disneyland! Hitch was at this time in Copenhagen with Alma on their post-Psycho holiday, but Lehman told Peggy Robertson, she was excited enough to tell Hitch about it on the phone, and Hitch was sufficiently excited to talk to Lehman himself. When Hitch got back he and Lehman began working on the idea as they had worked on North by Northwest, and for a while everything went swimmingly. Then something appeared in the trade papers about the project, Walt Disney read it, and promptly made a statement that in no circumstances would Hitchcock, maker of that disgusting movie Psycho, be allowed to shoot a foot of film in Disneyland. Hitch and Lehman began to change things around again, this time placing the action on a round-the-world cruise (Hitch had a sudden, disconnected vision of a chase in Carcassonne), but turn it as they might, they never seemed able to lick the problem of too many coincidences, or find a natural-seeming way of getting all the characters in the right place at the right time.

In his biography, Patrick McGilligan stated:[2]

With several film projects competing for his attention, Hitchcock spread the assortment out on his desk like travel brochures, trying to decide where he wanted to go. In midsummer he talked with Ernest Lehman about an original story called "Blind Man," which would have starred Jimmy Stewart as a blind jazz pianist (referred to in script notes as "Jimmy Shearing," a combination of Stewart and pianist George Shearing, on whom the character was loosely based). The pianist regains his sight after an operation in which he obtains the eyes of a murdered man, and then develops strange memories and "disturbing feelings towards a man he meets who proves to be the murderer of his doctor," according to film historian Greg Garrett. "The musician and the murderer play a game of cat and mouse that leads them both aboard an ocean liner. Disneyland was also to be an important setting," as Garrett pointed out, "a vastly expanded carnival in the tradition of Strangers on a Train."

Among Hitchcock's "crazy ideas" for "Blind Man," according to Lehman, were a scene where "the heavy throws acid in Jimmy's face and dies, blinding him for life, and he winds up just where he started"; and an opera with Maria Callas witnessing a murder while onstage singing — the note she is singing would then become "a scream which the audience applauds," in Lehman's words.

Lehman signed a contract for the project in December 1960, but it didn't help when the overcommitted Stewart backed out, leaving the blind pianist to become "a David Niven type." Or when Walt Disney publicly declared that he wouldn't let his children watch Psycho, "nor would he allow Hitchcock to make a movie about Disneyland," according to Garrett. The death blow, however, came the day Lehman appeared at Hitchcock's office and announced he wished to quit, finding himself unable to solve the plot problems. Canceling "Blind Man," Hitchcock vowed furiously never to work with the capricious Lehman again.


Notes & References

  1. Hitch: The Life and Times of Alfred Hitchcock (1978) by John Russell Taylor, chapter 14
  2. Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light (2003) by Patrick McGilligan, chapter 16