Hitchfacts

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As we enter the tenth month of Hitchcock Year, what have we learned? Here are ten little-known facts about Sir Alfred Hitchcock.

1) The giant prop telephone in DIAL M FOR MURDER, the giant revolver in SPELLBOUND, and the giant spyglass in EASY VIRTUE, were all donated to Hitch by his friend August Pettyjohn, who was sixteen feet tall. Ironically, the giant was deaf, fingerless and blind, and kept the outsized items just for show.

2) When it was decided to dub Anny Ondra’s voice in her first talkie, BLACKMAIL, Hitch placated the star by allowing her to voice several sound effects in the film, which is why the doors all squeak with a Czech accent.

3) Gus Van Sant’s shot-for-shot remake of PSYCHO remains controversial, but what is less commonly known is that Hitchcock’s 1960 PSYCHO was itself a shot-for-shot remake of another PSYCHO, also directed by Hitchcock earlier the same year, which is now thought to be lost.

4) Another lost film is Hitch’s second feature, THE MOUNTAIN EAGLE, but attempts are being made to restore it. Since all that survives is a few stills, conventional film restoration techniques are ineffective, but scientists working for the Murnau-Stiftung Institute are hoping to clone the movie from a single frame, if they can find one. If only a partial frame is available, they hope to make up the deficit with frog DNA.

5) Among Hitchcock’s crime movies, BLACKMAIL, MURDER! and SABOTAGE are well-known, but the Master of Suspense also planned several movies that did not see the light of day, including CAUSING A DISTURBANCE, JAYWALK! and ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S BUGGERY.

6) After the success of NORTH BY NORTHWEST, Hitchcock was invited to make a sequel, tentatively titled SOUTH BY SOUTHEAST, but Hitchcock and screenwriter Ernest Lehman dismayed studio executives by proposing to focus the series upon a minor character from the original film, motorcycle cop Emile Klinger. Years later, Hitchcock would successfully sue the makers of CHIPS.

7) A sequel to THE BIRDS, to be entitled REVENGE OF THE BIRDS, was briefly entertained by Hitch. Years later, this project, having undergone many rewrites, saw production and was released as REVENGE OF THE NERDS. Other proposed Hitchcock sequels which were later made by other hands include WEEKEND AT MARNIE’S, LODGER AND ME and SPELLBOUND II: THIS TIME IT’S ACTUALLY ABOUT SPELLING.

8) Hitchcock once remarked that he envied Walt Disney, who could tear his actors up. But this shouldn’t be taken too seriously, for two reasons. Firstly, Hitchcock had warm friendships and fruitful collaborations with many of his actors. Secondly, Hitchcock did actually tear up Ray Milland while shooting DIAL M FOR MURDER. Milland slowly recovered, and shooting was completed using a close-up shots of Milland’s various pieces. For years after, Milland still had to be replaced with a stand-in for rear views, as he had no back to him at all. Hitchcock kept Milland’s back as a souvenir, and would often get it out at parties. Despite the incident, Hitchcock and Milland remained close.

9) Although known as a man plagued by anxieties, and not the most physically active person, Hitchcock was remarkably graceful underwater, and found a release from his fears below the surface of the waves. On more than one occasion he was called in by MGM to subdue Esther Williams when she ran amok.

10) The inscription on Hitchcock’s grave was designed by Saul Bass. It reads, simply, “Boo!”

What are YOUR favourite Hitch facts?

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19 Responses to “Hitchfacts”

  1. Here’s one little known Hitchfact…

    The cameos are all played by Alfred Hitchcock himself!!!!

  2. International cooperation on the MacGuffin began in 1935. Nevertheless at the last count there were just six lions still in existence in the Scottish Highlands. Oh, and happy birthday!

  3. Kim Novak used to travel everywhere by stapling her hair to wrens. This of course ceased following her traumatic experiences on “The Birds”.

  4. Also, filming “Psycho” left Janet Leigh with a lifelong phobia of psychos.

  5. Heh! Heh! And heh!
    And thanks for the birthday wishes.

  6. Arthur S. Says:

    Bernard Herrmann made a pact with the devil in order for him to write the divine score for VERTIGO but open learning the film was set in San Francisco rather than New Orleans as he would have preferred, kicked the Walter Huston impersonator out of his house. Consequently he annotated his own vision of VERTIGO as OBSESSION for which Brian DePalma provided visual accompaniment.

    On David Cairns birthday, Hitchcock sought to gift the Scottish cinephile/critic/film-maker with a life size Scottish Mountain Lion which he could sic on any of his enemies. He conveyed said wish through a mysterious third party with a fascination for Arthurian legends.

  7. Most film historians firmly believe that Hitchock and Charles laughton couldn’t stand each other during the making of “jamaica Inn”

    Nothing farther from the truth, the story of their clashes was in fact a clever ruse devised by both: knowing well how human nature is, they realized that headlines about “Trouble in the shooting from hell!” would attract the public’s attention better than “Peaceful tea-breaks at Elstree.”

    As a matter of fact, when journos weren’t present, Laughton and Hitchcock would relax around a couple of whiskeys and swap anecdotes about their schoolboys’ days in the Jesuit schools they attended. They’d be at their more riotuous when they were discussing their respective adventures as altar boys.

  8. Hitch was offered a sequel to The Thirty-Nine Steps in 1955. It was proposed by two young writers named Merwin Gerard and John Newland and it went by the name of The Forty Steps. Hitch was confused and asked why forty steps. Gerard said that it was one step beyond thirty-nine. The two writers were ushered out of the studio. Five years later Gerard created the TV series One Step Beyond. Coincidence?

    Hitch had no comment on the series.

  9. Hitch altered the title of a project called “Dial 6 for Murder”.

  10. Hitch had a TV series planned in the late ’50s. It was a talk show, but it was too sensitive. It was to have Robert Taylor, Ayn Rand, Elia Kazan and Marc Lawrence as guests. The project was to be called Snitch Talk with Hitchcock.

  11. Happy Birthday, David. In lieu of a bottle of champagne, you might enjoy this film. You may have seen it. Anyway:

  12. I do indeed, and I’m flattered to be associated with it in any way — really beautiful imagery.

  13. Hitch used Jackie Coogan for several of his cameo appearances.

  14. Since David didn’t appreciate my Dieterle joke, any Hitchcock joke I had falls into my curmudgeonly Wienie King saying “It’s my secret and I ain’t tellin’ no one”.

  15. Christopher Says:

    ..can’t shake the image of Hitch swimming naturally and gracefully into an underwater scene to rescue Esther Williams,the 3 chord Creature from the Black Lagoon theme breaking into tranquill aquatic ballet music to announce his entrance..

  16. Little known fact: DIAL M… was actually shot under the title DIAL M-U-R-D-E-R FOR MURDER.

  17. I think I failed to get back to you on that Dieterle joke, but I DID like it, Mark! So much so that I want to use it!

    Great work, everyone!

  18. David,
    I figured if anyone could improve on it, it would be you, so you’re welcome to do what you like to it. I thought it might have been a little too far out to be funny. Even Dieterle’s numerology could be worked into it. You’ve seen much more of his work, so you could handle the detail better than me.

  19. I’ll get back to you on it. I’d forgotten about the numerology, that should certainly go in!

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