Alfred Hitchcock (1899–1980)Director | Producer | Actor
Date of Birth 13 August 1899, Leytonstone, London, England, UK
Date of Death 29 April 1980, Bel Air, Los Angeles, California, USA (renal failure)
Birth Name Alfred Joseph Hitchcock
The Master of Suspense
Height 5' 7" (1.7 m)
Alfred Joseph Hitchcock was born in Leytonstone, Essex, England. He was the son of Emma Jane (Whelan; 1863 - 1942) and East End greengrocer William Hitchcock (1862 - 1914). His parents were both of half English and half Irish ancestry. He had two older siblings, William Hitchcock (born 1890) and Eileen Hitchcock (born 1892). Raised as a strict Catholic and attending Saint Ignatius College, a school run by Jesuits, Hitch had very much of a regular upbringing. His first job outside of the family business was in 1915 as an estimator for the Henley Telegraph and Cable Company. His interest in movies began at around this time, frequently visiting the cinema and reading US trade journals.
It was around 1920 when Hitchcock joined the film industry. He started off drawing the sets (he was a very skilled artist). It was there that he met Alma Reville, though they never really spoke to each other. It was only after the director for Always Tell Your Wife (1923) fell ill and Hitchcock was named director to complete the film that he and Reville began to collaborate. Hitchcock had his first real crack at directing a film, start to finish, in 1923 when he was hired to direct the film Number 13 (1922), though the production wasn't completed due to the studio's closure (he later remade it as a sound film). Hitchcock didn't give up then. He directed The Pleasure Garden (1925), a British/German production, which was very popular. Hitchcock made his first trademark film in 1927, The Lodger (1927) . In the same year, on the 2nd of December, Hitchcock married Alma Reville. They had one child, _Patricia Hitchcock_ who was born on July 7th, 1928. His success followed when he made a number of films in Britain such as The Lady Vanishes (1938) and Jamaica Inn (1939), some of which also gained him fame in the USA.
In 1940, the Hitchcock family moved to Hollywood, where the producer _David O. Selznick_had hired him to direct an adaptation of 'Daphne du Maurier''s Rebecca (1940). After Saboteur (1942), as his fame as a director grew, film companies began to refer to his films as 'Alfred Hitchcock's', for example Alfred Hitcock's Psycho (1960), Alfred Hitchcock's Family Plot (1976), Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy (1972).
Hitchcock was a master of pure cinema who almost never failed to reconcile aesthetics with the demands of the box-office.
During the making of Frenzy (1972), Hitchcock's wife Alma suffered a paralyzing stroke which made her unable to walk very well. On March 7, 1979, Hitchcock was awarded the AFI Life Achievement Award, where he said: "I beg permission to mention by name only four people who have given me the most affection, appreciation, and encouragement, and constant collaboration. The first of the four is a film editor, the second is a scriptwriter, the third is the mother of my daughter Pat, and the fourth is as fine a cook as ever performed miracles in a domestic kitchen and their names are Alma Reville." By this time, he was ill with angina and his kidneys had already started to fail. He had started to write a screenplay with _Ernest Lehman_ called The Short Night but he fired Lehman and hired young writer David Freeman to rewrite the script. Due to Hitchcock's failing health the film was never made, but Freeman published the script after Hitchcock's death. In late 1979, Hitchcock was knighted, making him Sir Alfred Hitchcock. On the 29th April 1980, 9:17AM, he died peacefully in his sleep due to renal failure. His funeral was held in the Church of Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills. Father Thomas Sullivan led the service with over 600 people attended the service, among them were Mel Brooks (director of High Anxiety (1977), a comedy tribute to Hitchcock and his films), Louis Jourdan, Karl Malden, Tippi Hedren, Janet Leigh and François Truffaut.
Alma Reville (2 December 1926 - 29 April 1980) (his death) (1 child)
[Cameo] Often has a quick cameo in his films. He eventually began making his appearances in the beginning of his films, because he knew viewers were watching for him and he didn't want to divert their attention away from the story's plot. He made a live cameo appearance in all of his movies beginning with The Lady Vanishes (1938) (Man in London Railway Station walking on the station train platform), The Girl Was Young (1937) (Photographer Outside Courthouse) ... aka The Girl Was Young (USA), The 39 Steps (1935) (Passerby Near the Bus), Murder! (1930) (Man on Street), Blackmail (1929) (Man on subway), Easy Virtue (1928) (Man with stick near tennis court), The Lodger (1927) (Extra in newspaper office) ... aka The Case of Jonathan Drew., excluding Lifeboat (1944), in which he appeared in a newspaper advertisement; Dial M for Murder (1954), in which he appeared in a class reunion photo; Rope (1948) in which his "appearance" is as a neon version of his famous caricature on a billboard outside the window in a night scene and Family Plot (1976) in which his "appearance" is as a silhouette of someone standing on the other side of a frosted glass door.
[Hair] Likes to insert shots of a woman's hairstyle, frequently in close-ups.
[Bathrooms] Often a plot device, a hiding place or a place where lovemaking is prepared for. Hitchcock also frequently used the letters "BM", which stand for "Bowel Movement".
Often used the "wrong man" or "mistaken identity" theme in his movies (Saboteur (1942), I Confess (1953), The Wrong Man (1956), North by Northwest (1959), Frenzy (1972)).
[Blondes] The most famous actresses in his filmography (mostly in leading roles) were Anny Ondra, Madeleine Carroll, Joan Fontaine, Ingrid Bergman, Grace Kelly, Eva Marie Saint, Kim Novak, Vera Miles, Janet Leigh and Tippi Hedren.
There is a recurrent motif of lost or assumed identity. While mistaken identity applies to a film like North by Northwest (1959), assumed identity applies to films such as The 39 Steps (1935), Vertigo (1958), Psycho (1960), and Marnie (1964) among others.
Always formally dressed, wearing a suit on film sets
In order to create suspense in his films, he would alternate between different shots to extend cinematic time (e.g., the climax of Saboteur (1942), the cropduster sequence in North by Northwest (1959), the shower scene in Psycho (1960), etc.) His driving sequences were also shot in this particular way. They would typically alternate between the character's point of view while driving and a close-up shot of those inside car from opposite direction. This technique kept the viewer 'inside' the car and made any danger encountered more richly felt.
[Profile] The famous profile sketch, most often associated with Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955) and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (1962). It was actually from a Christmas card Hitchcock designed himself while still living in England.
In a lot of his films (more noticeably in the early black and white American films), he used to create more shadows on the walls to create suspense and tension (e.g., the "Glowing Milk" scene in Suspicion (1941) or the ominous shadow during the opening credits of Saboteur (1942)).
Inspired the adjective "Hitchcockian" for suspense thrillers
His "MacGuffins" were objects or devices which drove the plot and were of great interest to the film's characters, but which to the audience were otherwise inconsequential and could be forgotten once they had served their purpose. The most notable examples include bottled uranium in Notorious (1946), the wedding ring in Rear Window (1954), the microfilm in North by Northwest (1959) and the $40,000 in the envelope in Psycho (1960).
He hated to shoot on location. He preferred to shoot at the studio where he could have full control of lighting and other factors. This is why even his later films contain special effects composite and rear screen shots.
Distinctively slow way of speaking, dark humor and dry wit, especially regarding murder
Frequent collaborators: actors 'James Stewart' and 'Cary Grant', editor George Tomasini, composer Bernard Herrmann, costume designer Edith Head and director of photography Robert Burks.
[Attribution] Name often appears before the film titles, as in "Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho".
Liked to use major stars in his films that the audience was familiar with, so he could dispense with character development and focus more on the plot.
Often makes the audience empathizes with the villain's plight, usually in a sequence where the villain is in danger of being caught.
Unusual subjective point of view shots
According to many people who knew Hitchcock, he could not stand to even look at his wife, Alma Reville, while she was pregnant.
He once dressed up in drag for a party he threw. Footage of this was kept in his office, but after his death, his office was cleaned out and the footage not found. It is not known if the footage still exists.
According to Hitchcock himself, he was required to stand at the foot of his mother's bed, and tell her what happened to him each day.
Was close friends with Albert R. Broccoli, well known as the producer of the James Bond - 007 franchise. Hitchcock's North by Northwest (1959) was the influence for the helicopter scene in From Russia with Love (1963). Actors Sean Connery, Karin Dor, Louis Jourdan and Anthony Dawson have appeared in both a Hitchcock film and a Bond film.
He appears on a 32-cent U.S. postage stamp, in the "Legends of Hollywood" series, that was released 8/3/98 in Los Angeles, California.
As a child, Hitchcock was sent to the local police station with a letter from his father. The desk sergeant read the letter and immediately locked the boy up for ten minutes. After that, the sergeant let young Alfred go, explaining, "This is what happens to people who do bad things." Hitchcock had a morbid fear of police from that day on. He also cited this phobia as the reason he never learned to drive (as a person who doesn't drive can never be pulled over and given a ticket). It was also cited as the reason for the recurring "wrong man" themes in his films.
On April 29, 1974, the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York sponsored a gala homage to Alfred Hitchcock and his contributions to the cinema. Three hours of film excerpts were shown that night. François Truffaut who had published a book of interviews with Hitchcock a few years earlier, was there that night to present "two brilliant sequences: the clash of the cymbals in the second version of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) , and the plane attack on Cary Grant in North by Northwest (1959)." After the gala, Truffaut reflected again on what made Hitchcock unique and concluded: "It was impossible not to see that the love scenes were filmed like murder scenes, and the murder scenes like love scenes...It occurred to me that in Hitchcock's cinema...to make love and to die are one and the same.".
He never won a best director Academy Award in competition, although he was awarded the Irving Thalberg Memorial Award at the 1967 Academy Awards.
Alma Reville and Hitchcock had one daughter, Patricia Hitchcock, who appeared in three of his movies: Stage Fright (1950), Strangers on a Train (1951) and Psycho (1960).
In the 1980 Queen's New Year's Honours list (only a few months before his death), he was named an Honorary (as he was a United States citizen) Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
From 1977 until his death, he worked with a succession of writers on a film to be known as "The Short Night". The majority of the writing was done by David Freeman, who published the final screenplay after Hitchcock's death.
His bridling under the heavy hand of producer David O. Selznick was exemplified by the final scene of Rebecca (1940). Selznick wanted his director to show smoke coming out of the burning house's chimney forming the letter 'R'. Hitchcock thought the touch lacked any subtlety; instead, he showed flames licking at a pillow embroidered with the letter 'R'.
First visited Hollywood in the late 1930s, but was turned down by virtually all major motion picture studios because they thought he could not make a Hollywood-style picture. He was finally offered a seven-year directing contract by producer David O. Selznick. His first project was supposed to be a film about the Titanic, but Selznick scrapped the project because he "couldn't find a boat to sink." Selznick assigned Hitch to direct Rebecca (1940) instead, which later won the best picture Oscar.
When finishing a cup of tea while on the set, he would often non-discriminatingly toss the cup and saucer over his shoulder, letting it fall (or break) wherever it may.
He was director William Girdler's idol. Girdler made Day of the Animals (1977) borrowing elements from Hitchcock's The Birds (1963).
Asked writers Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac to write a novel for him after Henri-Georges Clouzot had been faster in buying the rights for "Celle qui n'était plus" which became Diabolique (1955). The novel they wrote, "From Among the Dead", was shot as Vertigo (1958).
He delivered the shortest acceptance speech in Academy Award history: while accepting the Irving Thalberg Memorial Award at the 1967 Academy Awards, he simply said "Thank you".
Destiny (1921) by Fritz Lang was his declared favorite movie.
In a recent USC class on Hitchcock (fall 2000), guest speaker Patricia Hitchcock revealed that two guilty pleasures of Hitch's were Smokey and the Bandit (1977) and Benji (1974).
Lent his name and character to a series of adolescent books entitled "Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators" (circa late 1960s - early 1970s). The premise was that main character and crime-solver Jupiter Jones won the use of Mr. Hitchcock's limousine in a contest. Hitch also wrote forewords to this series of books. After his death, his famous silhouette was taken off the spine of the books, and the forewords (obviously) stopped appearing as well.
He was listed as the editor of a series of anthologies containing mysteries and thillers. However, he had little to do with them. Even the introductions, credited to him, were, like the introductions on his television series, written by others.
One of the most successful Hitchcock tie-ins is a pulp publication titled "Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine". The publication is highly respected and has become one of the longest running mystery anthologies. It continues to be published almost a quarter century after Hitchock's death.
He allegedly refused the British honour of CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in 1962.
When he won his Lifetime Achievement award in 1979, he joked with friends that he must be about to die soon. He died a year later.
Was voted the Greatest Director of all time by Entertainment Weekly. The same magazine's list of the 100 Greatest Films of all time includes more films directed by Hitchcock than by any other director, with four. On the list were his masterworks Psycho (1960) (#11), Vertigo (1958) (#19), North by Northwest (1959) (#44) and Notorious (1946) (#66).
Was at his heaviest in the late 1930s, when he weighed over 300 pounds. Although always overweight, he dieted and lost a considerable amount of weight in the early 1950s, with pictures from sets like To Catch a Thief (1955) showing a surprisingly thin Hitchcock. His weight continued to fluctuate throughout his life.
Had a hard time devising one of his signature walk-ons for Lifeboat (1944), a film about a small group of people trying to survive on a small boat. What he eventually came up with was to have his picture in a newspaper advertisement for weight loss that floated among some debris around the boat. He had happened to have lost a considerable amount of weight from dieting around that time, so he was seen in both the "Before" and the "After" pictures.
Often said that Shadow of a Doubt (1943) was his favorite film among those he had directed.
Was a supporter of West Ham United Football Club. He told colleagues in Hollywood that he subscribed to English newspapers in order to keep track of their results.
Steven Spielberg, Brian De Palma, John Carpenter, Sam Raimi, M. Night Shyamalan, Martin Scorsese, George A. Romero, Peter Bogdanovich, Dario Argento, William Friedkin, David Cronenberg and Quentin Tarantino have named him as an influence.
He was infamous with cast and crews for his practical jokes. While some inspired laughs, such as suddenly showing up in a dress, most were said to have been a bit more scar than funny. Usually, he found out about somebody's phobias, such as mice or spiders, and in turn sent them a box full of them.
He almost never socialized when not shooting films, and spent most of his evenings quietly at home with his wife Alma Reville and daughter Patricia Hitchcock.
Directed the pilot episode of the radio series "Suspense" (1942-1962), and made a brief appearance at the end. It was an adaptation of his film The Lodger (1927) and starred Herbert Marshall and Edmund Gwenn, who reprised his brother Arthur Chesney 's role as Mr. Bunting.
He would work closely with screenwriters, giving them a series of scenes that he wanted in the films, thus closely controlling what he considered the most important aspect of the filmmaking process. Although the screenwriter would write the actual dialogue and blocking, many of the scripts for his films were rigidly based on his ideas.
Directed eight different actors in Oscar-nominated performances: Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, Judith Anderson, Albert Bassermann, Michael Chekhov, Claude Rains, Ethel Barrymore and Janet Leigh. Fontaine won an Oscar for Suspicion (1941).
Praised Luis Buñuel as the best director ever.
As with W.C. Fields and Arthur Godfrey before him, he was legendary for gently tweaking his sponsors during the run of his television show. One typical example runs, "We now interrupt our story for an important announcement. I needn't tell you to whom it will be most important of all.".
Ranked #2 in Empire (UK) magazine's "The Greatest Directors Ever!" in 2005.
Education: St. Ignatius College, London, School of Engineering and Navigation (Studied mechanics, electricity, acoustics and navigation); University of London (Studied art).
Told François Truffaut that although he had made two films prior to The Lodger (1927), he considered that to be his first real film.
Due to his death in 1980, he never got to see Psycho II (1983). It remains unsure as to whether or not he was approached regarding the second movie, or any other "Psycho (1960) - Expansion" motion picture.
Grandfather of Mary Stone, Tere Carrubba and Katie Fiala.
He was reportedly furious when Brian De Palma decided to make Obsession (1976), because he thought it was a virtual remake of Vertigo (1958). Ironically, De Palma stopped making mystery/adventure films after Hitchcock's death in 1980, with the possible exception of Body Double (1984).
Although some of the movie going public knew him, his fame really took off after 1955. That was when Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955) started. When the show was broadcast in homes week after week, it gave him a much bigger exposure in the public eye. He also became quite rich from the show when it was syndicated in the United States and overseas.
For Psycho (1960), he deferred his standard $250,000 salary in lieu of 60% of the film's net profits. His personal earnings from the film exceeded $15 million. Adjusted for inflation, that amount would now top $150 million in 2006 terms.
Is the "voice" of the "Jaws" ride at Universal Studios.
On August 2, 1968, he visited Finland to look filming locations for his next film "The Short Night". Of course, the film was never made. In the airport, he was interviewed by Finnish reporters. He was asked why his films were so popular. His answer was: "Everybody likes to be scared".
He was awarded 2 Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Motion Pictures at 6506 Hollywood Boulevard; and for Television at 7013 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.
A statistical survey he did among audiences revealed that according to moviegoers the most frightening noise in films was the siren of a police patrol-car, followed by the crash of a road accident, cracklings of a burning forest, far galloping horses, howling dogs, the scream of a stabbed woman and the steps of a lame person in the dark.
Though he was Oscar-nominated five times as best director, DGA-nominated six times as best director, and received three nominations from Cannes, he never won in any of these competitive categories, a fact that surprises fans and film critics to this day.
He suggested some improvements to a scene in Gone with the Wind (1939) but the shots integrating his improvements were not used.
He was naturalized as a United States citizen in 1956.
Walt Disney refused to allow him to film at Disneyland in the early 1960s because Hitchcock had made "that disgusting movie Psycho (1960)".
In addition to his fear of the police, Hitchcock possessed one other phobia: eggs.
As of the 5th edition of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die (edited by Steven Jay Schneider), Hitchcock is the most represented director, with 18 films. Included are his films Blackmail (1929), The 39 Steps (1935), Sabotage (1936), Rebecca (1940), Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Spellbound (1945), Notorious (1946), Rope (1948), Strangers on a Train (1951), Rear Window (1954), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), The Wrong Man (1956), Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959), Psycho (1960), The Birds (1963), Marnie (1964) and Frenzy (1972).
As a long-time friend of Sidney Bernstein (the pair had formed production company Transatlantic Pictures together in the 1940s), Hitch was the first celebrity visitor to the set of long-running British soap opera Coronation Street (1960), during a June 1964 visit to the Manchester studios of Granada Television which Bernstein co-founded with his brother Cecil.
At five, he received more Academy Award nominations for Best Director without a win than anyone other than Clarence Brown. He was nominated for Rebecca (1940), Lifeboat (1944), Spellbound (1945), Rear Window (1954) and Psycho (1960).
During production of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955) he was said to have hid from producer Joan Harrison every time there was a problem with production. His favorite hiding place was behind the couch in his office.
Appears on a 44¢ USA commemorative postage stamp, issued 11 August 2009, in the Early TV Memories issue honoring Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955).
He directed nine of the American Film Institute's 100 Most Heart-Pounding Movies: Psycho (1960) at #1, North by Northwest (1959) at #4, The Birds (1963) at #7, Rear Window (1954) at #14, Vertigo (1958) at #18, Strangers on a Train (1951) at #32, Notorious (1946) at #38, Dial M for Murder (1954) at #48 and Rebecca (1940) at #80.
He appears momentarily in a trademark/cameo role in all of his movies. In addition the neon silhouette in Rope (1948), he is seen walking down the street during the opening credits. During the movie, the characters of Mrs. Atwater and Janet are discussing a movie whose one-word title they can not remember. It was a plug for one of Hitchcock's other movies, Notorious (1946).
Hitchcock's wife, Alma Reville, was one day younger than him. They were born on August 13 and August 14, 1899.
Blackmail (1929), Rebecca (1940), Suspicion (1941), Saboteur (1942), Lifeboat (1944), Spellbound (1945), Notorious (1946), Rope (1948), Vertigo (1958), Psycho (1960), Marnie (1964), Topaz (1969) and Frenzy (1972). He favored one-word titles because he felt that it was uncluttered, clean and easily remembered by the audience.
Donald Spoto wrote that Hitchcock hid behind the door when Bernard Herrmann went to see him after Torn Curtain (1966) break up. Herrmann's third wife Norma denied this in an interview with Gunther Kogebehn in June 2006. In June 2006 interview with Kogebehn, Norma Herrmann states that she and Bernard Herrmann "together" visited Alfred Hitchcock.
He was portrayed by Anthony Hopkins in Hitchcock (2012).
In the Press Conference for Family Plot (1976), Alfred Hitchcock revealed that his least favorite film out of all the films he directed was Champagne (1928).
From 1942 until his death, the Hitchcocks lived at 10957 Bellagio Road, Bel Air, California. They had been living at 609 St. Cloud Road in Bel Air in a home leased from friends Carole Lombard and Clark Gable.
(April 27, 2014) Most successful director in IMDB Top 250 movies ever made with 9 entries - Rear Window (1954) (no 31.), Psycho (1960) (no. 32), North by Northwest (1959) (no. 61), Vertigo (1958) (no. 66), Rebecca (1940) (no. 138), Dial M for Murder (1954) (no. 163), Strangers on a Train (1951) (no. 194), Notorious (1946) (no. 198) and Rope (1948) (no. 242).
His Dial M for Murder (1954) was re-released in 3D in 1980.
Deliberately shot much of the setups in Rear Window (1954) so they would appear voyeuristic.
Director Alexander Payne could not imagine Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) in color because it's more chilling in black and white, but it was later remade in color as Psycho (1998), to universal disapproval.
British author Anthony Horowitz is a huge fan of Hitchcock and will often pay homage to his work.
If you watch his films closely noting the endings or portrayal of cops, you will see that if a cop is required to die, the death will be slow, gruesome or uncompromisingly grisly. If cops survive they are nearly always portrayed as baddies, though in reality they are the good guys. This is because Hitchcock had a life-long phobia of policemen.
In 1964, he visited the set of Coronation Street (1960) and had a drink at the Rovers Return.
In the early 1950s, he planned an adaption of David Duncan's novel The Bramble Bush about a disaffected Communist agitator who, on the run from the police, is forced to adopt the identity of a murder suspect. The story would be adapted to take place in Mexico and San Francisco. The project, originally to come after I Confess (1953) as a Transatlantic Pictures production to be released by Warner Brothers, had a high budget which made it a difficult project. Hitchcock did not feel that any of the scripts lifted the movie beyond an ordinary chase story, and Warner Brothers allowed him to kill the project and move on to Dial M for Murder (1954).
The Hammond Innes novel The Wreck of the Mary Deare was optioned by MGM with the intention of having Hitchcock direct and Gary Cooper star. Hitchcock had long wanted to work with Cooper, but after developing the script with Ernest Lehman for several weeks, they concluded that it couldn't be done without turning the movie into "a boring courtroom drama".
Hitchcock and Lehman made an appearance before MGM executives telling the story of North by Northwest (1959), and said that MGM would get two films out of Hitchcock under his contract with MGM. However, eventually Hitchcock abandoned the idea of Mary Deare and went ahead with that film instead.
British thriller writer Dennis Wheatley had been a guest on the set of many of the early Hitchcock movies, and when The Forbidden Territory was published in January 1933, he presented the director with a copy. Hitchcock so enjoyed the book that he wanted to make a film of it, but he was just in the process of moving to Gaumont-British studios to work for Michael Balcon; he asked Wheatley to hold onto the rights until he could persuade his new employer to purchase them. When the time came, however, Balcon wasn't interested and instead insisted that Hitchcock direct the musical Waltzes from Vienna. Hitchcock then approached Richard Wainwright, a distinguished producer who had been head of UFA films in Germany, and had recently relocated to Britain. Wainwright was keen to pick up a promising subject for his first British film, and immediately bought the rights. Although there was a verbal understanding that Hitchcock was to direct, Balcon refused to release him, and instead began production of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934). Wainwright, committed to studio space, technicians and actors, had no alternative but to proceed without him, and placed the film into the hands of American director Phil Rosen. In 1936, at Hitchcock's instigation, Wheatley wrote a screenplay The Bombing of London, but the controversial project could find no backer and was shelved.
Hitchcock remarked in a British film journal interview just before leaving for Hollywood that he hoped to make a film about the tragic loss of RMS Titanic, as the inherent drama of the ocean liner's sinking appealed to him. He went on to make Rebecca (1940) instead.
Following Psycho (1960), Hitchcock re-united 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 eyes. The story would end with a chase around the ocean liner RMS Queen Mary. Walt Disney reputedly barred Hitchcock from shooting at Disneyland after seeing Psycho (1960). Stewart left the project, Lehman argued with Hitchcock, and the script was never shot.
In 1956, he planned a big-budget adaptation of Laurens van der Post's novel Flamingo Feather, a story of political intrigue in Southern Africa. James Stewart was expected to take the lead role of an adventurer who discovers a concentration camp for Communist agents; Hitchcock wanted Grace Kelly to play the love interest.
After a disappointing research trip to South Africa where he concluded that he would have difficulty filming, especially on a budget - and with confusion of the story's politics and the seeming impossibility of casting Kelly, Hitchcock deferred the project and instead cast Stewart in The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956). Hitchcock travelled to Livingstone at The Victoria Falls and was a guest of Harry Sossen one of the prominent inhabitants of this pioneer town. Hitchcock and Sossen were photographed together at the newly opened Livingstone Airport and the event was recorded in the local papers. Sossen was also in communication with Laurens van der Post who gave him a signed copy of the book Flamingo Feather during a visit to the Falls (staying at the Victoria Falls Hotel). Sossen's daughter Marion is in possession of the book today and a number of letters between her father and van der Post.
Hitchcock's last, unfinished project was The Short Night, an adaptation of the spy thriller of the same name by Ronald Kirkbride. A British double agent (loosely based on George Blake) escapes from prison and flees to Moscow via Finland, where his wife and children are waiting. An American agent - whose brother was one of the traitor's victims - heads to Finland to intercept him but ends up falling for the wife. It was Hitchcock's third attempt - after Torn Curtain (1966) and Topaz (1969) - to produce a "realistic Bond film". Clint Eastwood, and Sean Connery were possible male leads. Liv Ullman was asked to play the double agent's wife. Catherine Deneuve was also asked to star. Walter Matthau was considered for the villain role. Ed Lauter was also discussed for a role as one of Matthau's prison mates.
The first writer assigned to the picture, James Costigan, quarreled with the director, who asked for him to be paid off. Then Ernest Lehman agreed to work on the script. Lehman felt the story should focus on the American spy, and left out the double agent's jailbreak. Lehman left the film too, and Hitchcock asked old friend Norman Lloyd to help him write a long treatment. Lloyd, like Universal, was concerned that Hitchcock's failing health meant that the movie might not get made. When Hitchcock suggested moving straight on to the screenplay, Lloyd objected saying they were unprepared. Hitchcock reacted angrily, fired Lloyd, and worked on the treatment himself.
After a while, Hitchcock accepted that he needed another writer to work with him, and Universal suggested Dave Freeman, helped Hitchcock complete the treatment and wrote the screenplay. He wrote about his experiences in the 1999 book The Last Days of Alfred Hitchcock, which includes his completed screenplay. The circumstances surrounding Hitchcock's retirement were given by producer Hilton A. Green during the documentary Plotting "Family Plot". According to Green, during pre-production for The Short Night Hitchcock met Green to tell him that his poor health would prevent him from making the film that was to be the follow-up to Family Plot. After trying to talk Hitchcock out of his decision, Green agreed to Hitchcock's request to bring the news of his decision to retire to studio head Lew Wasserman, a long-time friend of Hitchcock.
Hitchcock very much wanted to direct a follow-up to The 39 Steps (1935), and he felt that Greenmantle by John Buchan was a superior book. He proposed that the film would star Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman, but the rights from the Buchan estate proved too expensive.
In the late 1950s, he planned an adaptation of Henry Cecil's novel No Bail for the Judge, about a London barrister who, with the assistance of a gentleman thief, has to defend her father, a High Court judge, when he is accused of murdering a prostitute. In a change of pace from his usual blonde actresses, Audrey Hepburn would have played the barrister, with Laurence Harvey as the thief, and John Williams as the Hepburn character's father. Some sources, including Writing with Hitchcock author Steven DeRosa say that Hitchcock's interest in the novel started in the summer of 1954 while filming To Catch a Thief (1955), and that Hitchcock hoped to have John Michael Hayes write the screenplay. Hepburn was an admirer of Hitchcock's work and had long wanted to appear in one of his films.
Samuel A. Taylor, scenarist for Vertigo (1958) and Topaz (1969), wrote the screenplay after Ernest Lehman rejected it. The Taylor screenplay included a scene, not in the original novel, where the heroine disguises herself as a prostitute and has to fend off a rapist. Hepburn left the film, partly because of the near-rape scene, but primarily due to a pregnancy. (Hepburn suffered a miscarriage during the filming of The Unforgiven (1960) then gave birth to son Sean Ferrer in July 1960.) Harvey still ended up working with Hitchcock in 1959, however, on an episode that Hitchcock directed of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955).
Without Hepburn, the project didn't have the same appeal for Hitchcock. Changes in British law concerning prostitution and entrapment - changes which took place after the novel was published - made some aspects of the screenplay implausible. Hitchcock told Paramount Pictures it was better to write off $200,000 already spent on the film's development than to spend another $3 million for a film he no longer cared for. In the fall of 1959, a Paramount publicity brochure titled "Success in the Sixties!" had touted No Bail for the Judge as an upcoming feature film starring Hepburn, to be filmed in Technicolor and VistaVision.
Although Hitchcock made Frenzy (1972), that film's title and some plot points came from an idea Hitchcock had a few years earlier for a prequel to Shadow of a Doubt (1943). Hitchcock approached many writers including Samuel A. Taylor and Alec Coppel, but in the end engaged an old friend, Benn W. Levy to flesh out his sketchy idea.
The story would have revolved around a young, handsome bodybuilder (inspired by Neville Heath) who lures young women to their deaths, a version of the character known as 'Merry Widow Murderer' in Shadow of a Doubt (1943). The New York police set a trap for him, with a policewoman posing as a potential victim. The script was based around three crescendos dictated by Hitchcock: the first was a murder by a waterfall; the second murder would take place on a mothballed warship; and the finale, which would take place at an oil refinery with brightly coloured drums.
Hitchcock showed his script to his friend François Truffaut. Though Truffaut admired the script, he felt uneasy about its relentless sex and violence. Unlike Psycho (1960), these elements would not be hidden behind the respectable veneer of murder mystery and psychological suspense, and the killer would be the main character, the hero, the eyes of the audience.
Universal vetoed the film, despite Hitchcock's assurances that he would make the film for under $1 million with a cast of unknowns, although David Hemmings, Robert Redford, and Michael Caine had all been suggested as leads. The film - alternatively known as Frenzy or the more "sixties"-esque Kaleidoscope - was not made.
In 1963, he was scheduled to direct Trap for a Solitary Man in widescreen by Twentieth Century-Fox. The story, based on the French play Piege Pour un Homme Seul by M. Robert Thomas, follows a young married couple on holiday in the Alps. The wife disappears, and after a prolonged search the police bring back someone they claim to be her; she even says she is the man's wife, but the man has never seen her before.
In 1964, Hitchcock re-read another Richard Hannay novel by John Buchan, The Three Hostages, with a mind to adapting it. As with Greenmantle a quarter of a century earlier, the rights were elusive. But also the story was dated, very much rooted in the 1930s, and the plot involved a villain whose blind mother hypnotizes the hero. Hitchcock, in interviews, said that he felt that the portrayal of hypnosis did not work on film, and that films that attempted this portrayal, in Hitchcock's opinion, turned out poorly.
In the late 1940s, Hitchcock had plans to make a modernized version of Hamlet. Hitchcock's Shakespearean vision was of a "psychological melodrama" (set in contemporary England, and starring Cary Grant in the title role). The project was scrapped when Hitchcock's studio caught wind of a potential lawsuit from a professor who had already written a modern-day version of Hamlet.
Hitchcock approached Italian comedy-thriller writers Agenore Incrocci and Furio Scarpelli (Age & Scarpelli), writers of Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958), to write a screenplay around an original idea Hitchcock had carried in his head since the late 1930s. A New York City hotel run by an Italian immigrant and his family who, unknown to him, are using the hotel as cover for crimes, including the theft of a valuable coin from a guest of the hotel. (R.R.R.R. is the highest value of coin.)
The Italian screenwriters struggled with the story, and were not helped by the language barrier. Universal Studios were not keen on the idea and persuaded Hitchcock to move on to something else.
Hitchcock had long desired to turn J.M. Barrie's 1920 play Mary Rose into a film. In 1964, after working together on Marnie (1964), Hitchcock asked Jay Presson Allen to adapt the play into a screenplay. Hitchcock would later tell interviewers that his contract with Universal allowed him to make any film, so long as the budget was under $3 million, and so long as it was not Mary Rose. Whether or not this was actually true, Lew Wasserman was not keen on the project, though Hitchcock never gave up hope of one day filming it.
Hitchcock desperately wanted to direct Norma Shearer, Robert Taylor, and Conrad Veidt in one of the first World War II dramas, Escape (1940). Hitchcock, a long-time admirer of Shearer's acting, had sought for years to find a suitable project for her. However, Hitchcock was shut out of the project when the novel Escape by Ethel Vance (pen name of Grace Zaring Stone) was purchased by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Hitchcock knew he could never work for the notorious MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer, who selected Mervyn LeRoy to produce the film. Years later, Hitchcock made the statement about the lack of true Hollywood leading ladies with the quote, "Where are the Norma Shearers?".
In 1945, Hitchcock was brought in as a supervising director for a documentary film about Nazi crimes and Nazi concentration camps. The film was originally to include segments produced by military film units from the UK, US, France, and the USSR. Cold War developments meant that the USSR segment was withdrawn, and the film remained uncompleted, with some footage kept in the collection of the Imperial War Museum.
However, a reconstruction of the film was aired as Memory of the Camps in 1984-85 in the UK and the US. The US version was shown on the PBS series Frontline (1983) on May 7, 1985. In October 2014, a new documentary about the unfinished film, Night Will Fall (2014), premiered at the BFI London Film Festival.
Hitchcock bought the rights to the 1960 novel Village of Stars by David Beaty (written under the pen name Paul Stanton) after The Blind Man project was cancelled. The book follows a RAF V bomber crew given an order to drop a nuclear bomb, only to have the order aborted. Unfortunately, the bomb is resisting attempts to defuse it and the plane can only stay in flight for a limited time.
He directed Cary Grant in four films: Suspicion (1941), Notorious (1946), To Catch a Thief (1955) and North by Northwest (1959).
He directed Leo G. Carroll in six films: Rebecca (1940), Suspicion (1941), Spellbound (1945), The Paradine Case (1947), Strangers on a Train (1951) and North by Northwest (1959).
He directed Clare Greet in seven films: the unfinished Number 13 (1922), The Ring (1927/I)_, The Manxman (1929), Murder! (1930), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), Sabotage (1936) and Jamaica Inn (1939). Greet appeared in more Hitchcock films than anyone other than Hitchcock himself.
He directed James Stewart in four films: Rope (1948), Rear Window (1954), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) and Vertigo (1958).
He appeared in all but 18 of the 56 films that he directed: the unfinished Number 13 (1922), The Pleasure Garden (1925), The Mountain Eagle (1926), When Boys Leave Home (1927), The Farmer's Wife (1928), Champagne (1928), The Manxman (1929), The Shame of Mary Boyle (1929), Elstree Calling (1930), The Skin Game (1931), Mary (1931), East of Shanghai (1931), Number 17 (1932), Strauss' Great Waltz (1934), Secret Agent (1936), Jamaica Inn (1939), Lifeboat (1944) and Dial M for Murder (1954). However, in both Lifeboat (1944) and Dial M for Murder (1954), he can be seen in photographs.
Along with Ernst Lubitsch, Jack Conway, Michael Curtiz, Victor Fleming, John Ford, Sam Wood, Francis Ford Coppola, Herbert Ross and Steven Soderbergh, he is one of ten directors to have more than one film nominated for Best Picture in the same year. Rebecca (1940) and Foreign Correspondent (1940) were both so nominated at the 13th Academy Award in 1941 while the former won the award.
He directed Leonard Carey in four films: Rebecca (1940), Suspicion (1941), The Paradine Case (1947) and Strangers on a Train (1951).
He directed Edmund Gwenn in four films: The Skin Game (1931), Strauss' Great Waltz (1934), Foreign Correspondent (1940) and The Trouble with Harry (1955).
He directed John Longden in six films: Blackmail (1929), The Shame of Mary Boyle (1929), Elstree Calling (1930), The Skin Game (1931), The Girl Was Young (1937) and Jamaica Inn (1939).