Joan Fontaine (1917-2013), the leading lady of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca and Suspicion, has sadly passed away. She was Oscar nominated for both of her performances and won for Best Actress for Suspicion. “It was a Romantic Victorian Novel in modern dress and it stands up very well,” says Hitchcock of Rebecca. “(Laurence) Olivier was very good in that picture. He did come up to me once and say this girl (Fontaine) is terrible, you’ll have to change her. I said, no, she’ll be alright really Larry. And she won the Oscar for the second picture! When they miss the first picture, they’re bound to get the second.”
The Hitchcock Family have kept a dignified silence during the recent year, throughout the intense media speculation fuelled by the biopics “Hitchcock” and “The Girl”. Now in a rare interview for Talking History – News Talk Radio, Mary Stone, Hitchcock’s eldest grand daughter speaks out on 14th October 2013:
“To be honest with you, we completely ignore those kinds of things because they are not true and can be very hurtful to the family. And we just decided a long time ago, you can’t stop someone from publishing something or shooting a movie about something, because we just take no opinion of the individuals or works because we know the true story.”
You can listen to the whole interview here:
For those readers who are avid fans of Alfred Hitchcock, they will be already aware of Jeffrey Michael Bay’s awesome website How To Turn Your Boring Movie into a Hitchcock Thriller. Well, the good news is that it’s now a very readable e-book. Jeffrey, writing as The Master himself, takes the reader through the stages of putting together a Hitchcock thriller, from characters, to dialogue to the MacGuffin, all written in the voice of Alfred Hitchcock, with his lugubrious tones and deadpan humour. Wonderfully comic illustrations accompany each chapter, evoking the spirit of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Hitch’s best delivery and comic timing that framed the beginning and ending of each story. Jeffrey has really captured the voice and spirit of Hitchcock so that exposition is never a dull moment.
Order your copy today:
And check out Jeffrey’s amazing website on which the book is based:
Outspoken Hitchcock blonde Kim Novak has publicly slammed Tippi Hedren’s claims in this week’s Daily Mail.
“I never had a problem with him,” she says. “He wasn’t that way with me. I found him to be quite proper. I mean, his wife was usually there on set. When she wasn’t he didn’t act any differently, but was just a decent man and a strong director.” In previous interviews she has said, “I feel bad when someone attacks a man who is no longer alive to defend himself. When someone is living is the time to confront them.”
You can read the whole story here:
Controversial Hitchcock drama The Girl failed to win at The Emmy Awards, repeating its run of bad luck at the Golden Globes and the Baftas, where it also failed to win in major categories. Toby Jones was predictably beaten by Michael Douglas in the Best Actor category, Imelda Staunton lost Best Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Single Drama, and Julian Jarrold scored nought for his directing efforts. So ends this year’s television awards season which has seen The Girl being mired in controversy. Maybe Hitchcock’s spirit of ill luck winning an Oscar – he was nominated five times for Best Director – overshadows this unfortunate production.
The Girl is up for 6 Emmys broadcast on Sunday 22nd September. Here are 10 good reasons why we think it shouldn’t win.
- Crew members from The Birds and Marnie who were interviewed for the TV drama, Rita Riggs and Jim Brown all deny the sensationalist portrayal of Hitchcock. Other crew members who were not interviewed – Virginia Darcy, Jerry Adler, Lois Thurman, Hilton Green and actress Louise Latham – have also spoken out against the drama.
- The initial meeting between Tippi Hedren and Alfred Hitchcock is inaccurate and took place in the presence of agent Jerry Adler (see his post) who denies any suggestive dialogue on Hitchcock’s part.
- Scenes suggest that Hitchcock put his leading lady in physical jeopardy, while the production records show that all due care was taken on the set, for both cast members and the trained birds. The American Humane Association was on set all the time when birds were used. Virginia Darcy was supervising the leading lady’s hair and denies that any physical harm was intentional on Hitchcock’s part.
- The depiction of the telephone booth and attic filming is contradicted by the production archives at the Margaret Herrick Library and also on-set witnesses Virginia Darcy, Rita Riggs and Lois Thurman.
- Production was not shut down after the infamous filming of the bird attack in the attic. Co-star Veronica Cartwright confirms that they carried on filming while the leading lady recovered. Production records also show that the movie’s secretary Suzanne Gauthier reported she wasn’t harmed but needed three work days of rest, returning on Thursday 7th June 1962 to film the sand dune scene.
- Hitchcock producer Norman Lloyd called the TV movie ‘basically bullshit’ to Variety magazine – here speaks the wisdom of a 98 year old.
- The script is one-sided masquerading as objective truth. There is no mention of Noel Marshall, who the leading lady was engaged to at the time, which was a major reason for Hitchcock being upset, leading to the famous falling out.
- Star Kim Novak has publicly defended Hitchcock: “I never saw him make a pass at anybody or act strange to anybody. And wouldn’t you think if he was that way, I would’ve seen it or at least seen him with somebody? I think it’s unfortunate when someone’s no longer around and can’t defend themselves.”
- Hitchcock never raped or intentionally injured anyone. He lived his life in fantasy which is reflected in his movies. Vertigo has been named the Number 1 film of all time.
- John Russell Taylor, Hitchcock’s official biographer, calls the TV drama ‘errant nonsense’ and a tissue of ‘melodramatic invention’.
The late Jim Brown (1930-2011), Hitchcock’s Assistant Director (left of Hitch in the picture, holding the child actor) on The Birds and Marnie, was interviewed on tape in his home in Angels Camp, Northern California, about working with Hitch. Now for the first time, a portion of the unedited interview is published which contradicts his portrayal (played by Carl Beukes) in the Emmy nominated The Girl.
“Some of the things that are expressed about Hitchcock was highly over exaggerated. I think Hitch became upset because he thought Tippi wasn’t fulfilling the starquality that he thought she had or was looking for. After the preparation he was just fulfilling the obligation, so he’d be falling asleep when we were shooting.
Tippi he took through every word, every line. Tippi got his full attention.
I think he got a little bored with the project (Marnie), but I didn’t see much difference in his behaviour between Marnie and The Birds. Hitch didn’t like being in the elements, he stayed in the car alot in The Birds. The Birds was more complex, we had children and animals to work with.
I had the pleasure of getting close to him as anyone else had because we worked on both pictures back to back. When it came to work he kept pretty much inside himself.
I didn’t like working on the stage that much, my background was early television doing westerns, I loved working outdoors. Anytime you’re on the stage got claustrophobic.
Tippi and Hitch had their differences on Marnie, but I don’t think that there is any – there were some tensions between the two of them that you could feel on the set that permeated through the cast and crew.
Maybe Tippi didn’t get as much direction at times as she could have done. But Marnie was a cinch compared to doing Dallas (Jim Brown was line producer for three years from 1985). . .they were already wealthy, established multimillionaires. And none of them wanted to come to work they all wanted to go out and open grocery stores for $150,000.
When Bob Burks was ready, he’d give me a nod, and say 5 minutes, or sometimes he would nod and then I’d walk to Hitchcock’s portable dressing room on the stage, and knock on the door if it’s closed, or poke my head in.
I started in 1953, in the mailroom, started in the business at the age of 23, 25 when I became a second AD, first AD director at the age of 27, I directed a couple of Wells Fargo Westerns then worked with Hitch when I was 32 years old. Same age as Tippi. In 63, I was 33, and Tippi was the same age also.
Hitchcock was the greatest boost that anyone could have in his career. The mere fact that he chose me to work with him as his AD, Everyone else in the business thought I was good. His reputation rubbed off on me, and it became a tremendous boost in my career.
Hitch used fixed lenses he rarely used a zoom lens. He used to play games with me. He say where are we cutting the girl, where’s the size of this two shot? So by looking at the distance where the camera was to the distance the person being photographed. He’d train my eye to a 50 mm lens which he used most of the time, and it gave me a lot of confidence for looking through the camera. He was an absolute genius with the visuals.
I was much more pleased with the conclusion of The Birds, there was something special about it (compared to Marnie). But I didn’t feel Marnie was that special a project. I certainly wouldn’t rate Marnie among his better projects, comparable to some of his other works like To Catch A Thief, and Rear Window.
It wasn’t the lack of stars. Sean and Tippi did a marvelous job. Because the way it was shot, process and backgrounds, at a time when commercials, were a lot more interesting, motion pictures were being shot on location, different techniques, was too old fashioned, there was a breakthrough at that time when movies for television were being made, they were more exciting than that type of motion picture which was old fashioned.
I didn’t think that Hitchcock would ever make a picture that wasn’t going to be commercial. He made Psycho for 700,000 dollars and I think he felt his obligation for Universal and himself to make pictures that were successful.
He never expressed that he wasn’t pleased with it (Marnie) to me.
I think he really had a lot of respect for actors and actresses, and I think that the cattle quote was sort of the mystique that built up and he enjoyed that. I don’t think he actually felt that deep down, and I think it worked for him. He did his casting in the projection room.”
The Emmy nominated “The Girl” implies that Hitchcock deliberately tried to harm his leading lady with broken glass after she rejected an alleged kiss in the car on the way back from Bodega Bay to the Santa Rosa Motel in March 1962. Filming of the phone booth attack took place in mid June 1962, almost three months later, with much studio filming taking place in between at Universal. Now three of the Crew Members and On-set witnesses, Los Thurman the script supervisor, Rita Riggs the wardrobe mistress and Virginia Darcy the hairdresser, all deny that the smashing of the phone booth was a deliberate attempt by Hitchcock to harm Tippi. Moreover, the call sheets at the Margaret Herrick Library show that the filming of the pet shop scene (pictured) took place the day after the phone booth, with no visible signs of physical harm to the leading lady.
Lois Thurman was interviewed on 17th April 2013, Rita Riggs (left in picture) was interviewed on 5th September 2012 and Virginia Darcy (right in picture) was interviewed on 26th August 2013. Photo courtesy of Dave DeCaro http://www.davelandweb.com
“I don’t think he (Hitch) told them (the prop men) to make the glass break (in the phone booth),” says Lois Thurman. “How could he have done that? I was there all the time during filming of The Birds.”
“I really don’t buy that and I’m sorry that the BBC has taken that line,” agrees Rita Riggs. “I was on set all the time and have nothing but kind words to say about Mr. Hitchcock.”
Virginia Darcy says, “That was the prop man’s fault because he didn’t have unbreakable glass. Mr. Hitchcock didn’t have anything to do with it. Why would he endanger his lead actress on a $3million film so that she’s deformed for the rest of the movie? Use your brains people!. . . I was right there! I was never further than this (indicates six feet away) If the camera was here, I was here. I had to watch what those birds did, and I had to get it to match Tippi’s hair with every take. I couldn’t leave the set. I couldn’t have my eyes off my actor. Stick with the money you know. I was just behind the camera. Besides, those guys (the prop men) can not do that on purpose, they’d be fired. We were all looking out for her.”
“At the end of The Birds, we were sitting outside his office,” Virginia remembers. Hitch asked have you ever tried English cider? Tippi said don’t tell him no because you know we’ll get cases of it! So we said yes. He said, with alcohol in it? And she was sitting on the steps next to him. If he was so awful and such a pervert, why would she even get near him? If I was frightened of a man I’d stay as far away as possible.”
Yvonne Hessler, who worked at Hitchcock’s Paramount Studios from 1960-1962, was interviewed on Friday July 19th, 2013 in Los Angeles:
I worked at Paramount, because Hitchcock’s offices were there, and I was a secretary. Hitch was doing a lot of publicity for Psycho and going around the world for public relations and he was preparing later for The Birds. He was a very generous person and highly intelligent, and had a business side to him that was very conscious of costs. He hired you because you knew your job. If you didn’t, then that was terrible. It was a pleasure to work for him.
Hitch was very conservative. He was in the same navy blue suit, black shoes, black socks. Very conservative, never made a pass to anyone professionally, and anyone who says he did must have been imagining things, because he was not that kind of person.
I met Tippi a few times, she came into the office, She was a very quiet person, photogenic, very polite, very conservatively dressed, was very ladylike – and that’s what Hitch liked. She was in his office for 10 minutes at a time, and I saw nothing unusual. None of us could understand why he thought he could make a great actress out of this person at that time. We were all a little puzzled. But nevertheless he went ahead with that. He just felt that she would photograph well. Blonde hair photographs better than dark hair.
We were puzzled because Hitch had worked with Ingrid Bergman and Grace Kelly and some great, great actresses, and we couldn’t see that this person was a great actress. We saw that she was photogenic and photographed well and that was about it. But Hitch became determined – and could have been something like a Pygmalion complex. But that sort of voyeurism and sexuality (as depicted in the movies) was not ever evident to me – ever.
They played this up in the play Hitchcock Blonde and the Anthony Hopkins’ film – it was so obviously made up to sell the picture and sell the play. It was not Hitch – he was a conservative individual who was very cost conscious which is why they loved him at Universal.
He did not have to harrass actresses if that was on his mind. I don’t believe that story one bit, knowing Hitchcock as I did. It was something that didn’t interest him, his only sensual pleasure was food and all you have to do is look at him to know that. He adored his wife, I never witnessed anything else. There was never a pass to me or Peggy or Joan Harrison or any woman and we were all very ladylike.
Doc Erickson, the production manager who worked with Hitchcock at Paramount on Rear Window, To Catch A Thief, The Man Who Knew Too Much, The Trouble with Harry and Vertigo was interviewed on June 16th 2013.
I was the production manager and was concerned with the physical operation of the sets, working with Hitch was a joy because I’d spend so much time with him. He was a great storyteller and an interesting man to be around.
I guess my favourite was To Catch A Thief because of the setting, it was a joy to be working in the South of France. Wonderful. Cary (Grant) was a handful on location, we did not have a joyous relationship, he couldn’t have been a bigger headache. It was one thing after another, something he was unhappy about, and most of it contrived. Grace (Kelly) was one in a million, absolutely beautiful, marvelous, a delight, on both Rear Window and To Catch A Thief, a gorgeous, lovely person. At the time she was Hitch’s favourite actress. I don’t know how he felt about Fontaine and Bergman and some of the others, but I would think Grace was number 1.
I think it (Vertigo) meant a lot to Hitch, filming and people, and actors, opinions are so subjective. Hitch would be overjoyed to know it was the best picture of all time.
The way he worked with the actors, he gave a small amount of guidance, you didn’t have to do a lot with Grace, Cary or Jimmy, these people knew what they were doing. Hitch was criticised from some sides, saying he’d only direct by saying stand here, look this way and I’ll take care of the rest – that wasn’t really true. He was a master at composition, and the actor’s movements to relay the importance of the story that he was trying to tell. Hitch liked to sit right under the camera lens so he was looking right at the actors and their relationship to each other, and seeing the way the camera saw it. The camera would insist on seeing what they’d see.
On To Catch A Thief, working with Hitch in my capacity was no effort, it was very clear what he had in mind, all he had to do was deliver, there was no mystery in that regard, and he was very straight forward. You never found that he was leading you down the path or reluctant to tell you what he wanted. It was all very clearcut in the beginning, he used to say it was all in the script, never a doubt to what was on the set.
The only time I saw him angry was when we were shooting The Trouble With Harry on Stage 14, he had trouble getting a shot, getting the set just right. I looked at my wristwatch and he came running over and shook his finger in my face. He really went on, and then he walked away, and then he was smiling, and had his arm around me, he was exasperated and had to take it out on somebody.