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Prior to Hitchcock's move to America, it was widely reported that his first film for David O. Selznick would be a drama about the sinking of the RMS Titanic. According to several sources, Selznick even planned to purchase the the SS Leviathan and then sink it for real.[1]

The 16th July 1938 issue of Independent Exhibitors Film Bulletin reported that, "Alfred Hitchcock signed to direct Titanic for Selznick."[2]

In March 1939, the New York Times reported that Michael Foster and Winston Miller had been approached to write the screen play and, in May, that Paulette Goddard would play the female lead in the film.[3]

In November 1938, Variety reported that British author Richard Blaker had been approached to write the story and that the Cunard-White Star Line, concerned about the negative impact the film would have, had registered a formal complaint with the State Department in Washington.[4]

The Los Angeles Times (02/Oct/1939) reported that Hitchcock was hoping to secure J.B. Priestley to work on the script.

Ultimately, the logistics of filming meant that Rebecca became Hitchcock's first American film.

Hitchcock later joked that his film would start with an extreme close-up of a rivet, then he would slowly pull the camera backwards. After 2 hours, the entire ship would finally be revealed, followed immediately by "THE END" caption.


Professor Charles Barr discusses "one of the most interesting 'might have beens' of cinema history", a Titanic film which was to have been Hitchcock's first Hollywood project. (11/Apr/2012)


The Times (08/Jul/1938)



Mr. Alfred Hitchcock, who is one of the few English film directors whose work is as well known in America as it is in this country, has now undertaken to make a film at Hollywood. He will work in association with Mr. David O. Selznick, and the subject of his first film will be the sinking of the Titanic.

The reconstruction of disasters to ships at sea has in the past been vividly done in the film, and the sinking of the Titanic will be photographed as realistically as possible. The first scenes will be photographed early next year.

Variety (21/Sep/1938) - Pictures: Hitchcock Draws 'Becky' as Second for Selznick

Alfred Hitchcock signed to direct "Rebecca," Daphne du Maurier's British best-seller, for which David O. Selznick paid $50,000.

Hitchcock is due from England to start preparations for Selznick's "Titanic," slated to start early in January. "Rebecca" gets a May start.

The Manchester Guardian (11/Nov/1938)

Hitchcock goes to Hollywood soon to make "Rebecca," from Daphne du Maurier's novel. His other proposed Hollywood film, "Titanic," is being opposed by the shipping companies, who think that a successful film of the disaster would affect, cruising business.

The Manchester Guardian (02/Apr/1939)

Hollywood is looking forward to seeing London's Alfred Hitchcock at work.

Mr. Hitchcock, director of "The Thirty-nine Steps," "The Lady Vanishes," and other films which Americans thought were so good they must have been made in Hollywood, is about to begin work on his first picture under his new long-term contract with David Selznick.

This means that, for the time being at least, Mr. Hitchcock's bulky form and ironic wit will not be available to cajole or intimidate England's stars.

He has been on holiday in Florida, and now begins work on Daphne Du Maurier's "Rebecca," the first of three stories waiting for him. The second will be an adaptation of "The Flashing Stream," by Charles Morgan, while the third is "Titanic".

Independent Exhibitors Film Bulletin (20/May/1939)

DIRECTOR ASSIGNMENTS: Alfred Hitchcock to "Titanic" (Selznick)

Notes & References

  1. Wikipedia: SS Leviathan
  2. Independent Exhibitors Film Bulletin (16/Jul/1938), page 12.
  3. New York Times (22/Mar/1939) & (04/May/1939)
  4. Variety (1938) - Hollywood's 'Touchy' Pix. Also reported in the New York Times (19/Oct/1938).