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?