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The Times (15/Jul/1982) - Obituary: Mrs Alma Hitchcock

(c) The Times (15/Jul/1982)


Mrs Alma Hitchcock, who died in Los Angeles on July 6 was mainly known in latter days as the wife and widow of Alfred Hitchcock, but was in her own right a figure of the British silent cinema.

Born Alma Reville on August 14, 1899, one day after Alfred Hitchcock, she was brought up in Twickenham, just around the corner from the old Twickenham Film Studies, where her father worked. It seemed natural that she should also take a job there, and at the age of 15 she began, humbly, as a rewind girl in the cutting rooms. From this she progressed very rapidly to the status of editor-cum-continuity girl (in those days the two jobs were frequently combined) on several major British pictures, including the first version of The Prisoner of Zenda (1915).

She first met Hitchcock when they were both working at Islington Studios -- he always liked to point out that then she was much grander in the business than he was, and he bided his time in approaching her until, as assistant director on Woman to Woman (1923), he could talk to her on an equal footing.

From then on she edited most of the films he worked on, and when he became a fully fledged director with The Pleasure Garden (1926) she became his assistant. They were engaged in 1925 and married in December 1936.

Their careers were closely but not exclusively linked -- in 1928, for example, she worked during her pregnancy on the script of Adrian Brunel's version of The Constant Nymph, giving birth to their only child, Patricia, in July.

She remained always for Hitchcock the ultimate authority: if Alma did not approve of something, then without question it had to be changed. Personally, too, they were always together, Hitchcock monumentally immobile, Alma quick and vibrant and unpredictable.

Since his death in 1980 she had been an invalid. A tiny, birdlike woman, she was somehow never overshadowed by her husband; theirs was an equal partnership, sometimes more bracing than restful, out of which came an unrivalled number of extraordinary films.