John Russell Taylor, Hitchcock’s official biographer, reviews The Girl

John Russell Taylor submitted the following review. He wrote “Hitch” in 1978 with the cooperation of Alfred Hitchcock:

“I’ve just been watching The Girl. The whole thing is totally absurd to anyone who, like me, knew Hitch, Alma, Jim Brown and Peggy Robertson at all, and Tippi back in the Seventies. Admittedly there are not many of us left, but even in its own terms it is pretty ridiculous and unbelievable. I mean in just the basics, like how a film is shot. For instance, if you are shooting a scene in which a woman enters a room composed and groomed, and is then reduced to a bleeding, crumpled hulk under concentrated bird attack, how could you follow the first take with forty-some more without a single interlude for makeup and hairdressing to return her to how she looked at the beginning for take two plus? And then again, with the telephone box episode, how likely is it that any director would, out of sheer spite, risk seriously disfiguring his leading lady right near the beginning of shooting an expensive production, or indeed ever, however he felt about her personally?

I can only trust that even a relatively ignorant audience will see this for the piece of unmitigated nonsense it is. Toby Jones sounds uncannily like, but doesn’t really look much like – and why is he given a wig obviously designed to suggest that Hitch dyed his hair, badly? The loud, jokesy image presented of a Hitchcock set, with Hitch bellowing dirty jokes to a sycophantically responsive attendance is, as anyone would tell you, totally wide of the mark. I’ve known directors – John Schlesinger, for example -, who loved and encouraged that sort of on-set atmosphere, but never Hitch in a thousand years. His sets were as quiet and orderly as a cathedral. Sienna Miller I thought gives as decent a performance as possible in the circumstances, but never comes within miles of Tippi in appearance or manner. And what about the shooting of the screen test where Hitch tells her to swing her hips and behave more sluttishly? After all, we know what the actual test looks like, as it is on the net and the DVD, and in any case this is the absolute opposite of what Hitch ever wanted of his cool blondes.

A pity Evan Hunter is no longer with us. He would certainly be suing over being made to look like a total idiot. I suppose it was built into the project that no one should be included, Tippi apart (and she was obviously involved with the film) who was left to sue. Well, anyway… Now for the Anthony Hopkins version of Hitch at the time of Psycho. . .”


Coming Soon Hitchcock The Movie

Happy 2013. As “Hitchcock” the Movie starring Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren is released nationally in the UK on February 8th, Save Hitchcock will run a special in the first week of February featuring exclusive interviews with the Psycho crew including Assistant Director Hilton Green, Script Supervisor Marshall Schlom, Costume Supervisor Helen Colvig, Men’s Wardrobe Ted Parvin, Women’s Wardrobe Rita Riggs and screenwriter Joseph Stefano (Archive).

Have a question about Hitch?

Our team of Hitchcock experts will be online after the UK transmission of The Girl on Wednesday 26th December between 2230-Midnight GMT, 1730-1900 EST and 1430-1600 PST, to answer all your questions on the making of The Birds and Marnie.

Post your questions here:

Ten bloopers to watch out for on BBC’s The Girl

The BAFTA nominated ‘The Girl’ has a number of interesting bloopers:

1. Where’s Noel Marshall? It was well publicized that Tippi was engaged to her agent Noel during the filming of Marnie and that they were planning to marry in September 1964. This displeased Hitchcock as he thought actors shouldn’t marry but remain committed to their craft, and a main reason for their fall out, but Noel’s never seen nor mentioned in The Girl.

2. The Telephone Booth scene. Why would Hitchcock offer Tippi the part of Marnie on June 7th 1962 (during filming of the sand dune scene) after Grace Kelly turned it down, and then deliberately try to deform her by shattering glass in the telephone booth filmed on June 12th only a few days later? Thereby putting her and a $3 million dollar movie in jeopardy?

3. The Attic attack. This was filmed over five continuous days, and not in 45 continuous takes without a break to re-aarrange hair and make up as suggested in the TV drama. Also the blood was fake, not real. Much of the exhaustion came from tying crows onto the costume with rubber bands.

4.The Star of Tomorrow Award and the Drowning Scene. In the movie they are said to occur at the same time prompting the big fall out; not according to the production schedule at the Margaret Herrick Library which states that the drowning scene was filmed on Friday 3rd January 1964, whereas the Star of the Tomorrow Award took place on Wednesday 5th February 1964, more than a month apart.

5.”After Christmas we shoot the disguise scenes”. The Girl says that the browned hair Marnie scenes were filmed after Christmas in 1964 giving Tippi the relief she needed to escape being blonde. Not according to the production schedule, as these were the first scenes to be filmed in November 1963 shortly after JFK’s assassination.

6.‘Touch Me’. In the film it’s said when Marnie is about to go riding; In an AFI seminar it’s implied it was said to the actress to make her act mad after she’s been caught robbing the Rutland safe.

7.‘Can’t you love Hitch just a little?’ In the film wardrobe girl Rita Riggs supposedly says it. In the book on which the drama is based, the writer Jay Presson Allen supposedly says it.

8.The opening Marnie shot. This was filmed on location in San Jose railway station as the production schedule testifies and not in the studio against back projection.

9. “The Birds is Coming!” According to the movie Hitchcock was planning this catchphrase as early as November 1961 when he offered Tippi the job. Evan Hunter states in ‘Me and Hitch’ that Hitch came up with this marketing brainwave in January 1963.

10.’Production shut down, that’s a first,’ says Alma. Not true according to Veronica Cartwright as they carried on filming using a body double in the scenes when Mitch carries Melanie down from the attic.


John Russell Taylor

John Russell Taylor, Hitchcock’s official biographer, was interviewed on tape on 20th December 2012 in London, England

“When I was first going to the studio to interview Hitch for my biography, the people around him, particularly Peggy (Robertson) said, don’t mention Marnie because it’s a sore point. It was one of my favourite films and I told Hitch that. Obviously it had left painful memories but he seemed to be pleased that I liked it and praised it. In some ways it was very close to his heart. I knew about the famous quarrel and I heard both sides, because I subsequently talked to Tippi about it. After about two thirds of the film had been shot, they had this quarrel consequent to which they had a flaming row on set to which they never spoke directly to each other for about a week. They would say ‘Would you ask Mr. Hitchcock? Would you ask Miss Hedren?’ which I’m sure contributed to the extraordinary atmosphere about the film. So I asked Hitchcock about it, and he said, ‘Oh we had this row, and she said something that no-one is permitted to say to me, ‘Well, she, hem, referred to my weight.’”

You can read the story in the new Kindle edition of “Hitch” by John Russell Taylor out soon on Amazon.

Linden Chiles & Mariette Hartley

Character actor Linden Chiles who plays office worker Artie (who offers Marnie a Danish) was Interviewed on August 22nd 2012 in Los Angeles:

“I showed up ready to shoot on my first day, after wardrobe & makeup & so forth.  I’d been over my few lines a hundred times or so it seemed AND I was nervous.    I opened the sound stage door.  It was completely dark and empty or so it seemed. I thought I’d come to the wrong place.  Usually these cavernous dens are a beehive of activity.  But not this time.  I stood there for a moment and as my eyes adjusted I could make out dozens of ghostly figures rushing about.  The place was a beehive but you could’ve heard a pin drop.     Right about then an AD showed up and introduced herself & took me over to meet Hitchcock.  He gave me a soft pudgy handshake & we went right to work in the office set with Tippi & Mariette Hartley.   Hitchcock & I hardly spoke another word.  He was very quiet & had next to nothing to say about my performance, but he shot the hell out of those few pages.  Covered every angle.  I’ve never worked with a director who did such exhaustive coverage.

“And he never deviated from the script.  Many directors like to “mess around”, improvise, rework the dialogue,  play with a scene,  get the actors input – not Hitchcock.  We shot it word for word   I don’t recall how many days we spent in that office,   Several as I recall.  We only shot 2 or 3 pages a day.   Everything was choreographed, every move,  every line.    I always felt that the movie, Marnie,  suffered from a lack of spontaneity.   Except for Sean Connery who is brilliant,  whose performance jumps off the screen,  all the other actors seemed flat,  unreal.  Just my humble opinion, of course.”

Mariette Hartley who plays office worker Susan was interviewed on December 3rd 2012 in  Los Angeles

“I had such a limited time with him, mine was the same size part as Linden’s, only a little larger. I had none of those experiences with other directors that I had with Hitch and I have mixed feelings. I was new to film and working on Marnie was my first experience. Hitchcock had seen me in Gunsmoke and hired me. He and I had a wonderful time, with  great repartee, he was very funny and giving, showing me the storyboarding which were exquisitely beautiful, I was so thrilled. Hitch had his own look, I feel so blessed that I was able to work with him and it was pretty amazing.”

Extracts from Hitchcock and the Making of Marnie, 2nd edition published in July 2013

Hilton Green

Marnie & Psycho Assistant Director HILTON GREEN was interviewed on tape in Pasadena, December 3rd 2012.

“I take offence at the portrayal of Hitchcock. I was with him a long time, and I was very close to Hitch and I never ever saw him as the way they portrayed him. When he came on the set, and blurted out and raised his voice, that never happened. There was no one to me like Alfred Hitchcock, and I feel so badly he never won the academy award and that bothered him.

“He didn’t bring to the set his problems, if there were problems. The only time I saw him emotionally upset and he called me into his office on the set (1958), and we were doing a television show, this was before Psycho and Marnie, I was the assistant on the show, and he had tears in his eyes and he couldn’t go on. He had tears in his eyes as he had just found that Alma had cancer. That was the only time I saw him emotionally upset. And he left that afternoon. He told me to go through and he just left.

“That’s what he had his fantasies, but in far as being connected, no, they were just fantasies. I feel they are just trying to exploit him today, the man is dead, he had a great career, he was a genius of a director, he was not in the in-crowd because he didn’t go to parties, and I felt he was more of an introvert. He wanted to know his crews, he didn’t want new faces. He was very professional. He knew exactly what he wanted and how to get it and there wasn’t any guessing.”

Doris Day

Doris Day mentioned in her 1975 autobiography In Her Own Story that initially she found working with Hitchcock challenging during The Man Who Knew Too Much as he never gave her any direction and she felt ignored. But as her hairdresser Virginia Darcy reassured her, “That’s good, that means you’re doing OK.”

Hitchcock expected his performers to do their job and he’d only interfere when they didn’t. Doris in fact gives a remarkable performance in The Man Who Knew Too Much, especially in the scene when she finds out that her son has been kidnapped. “It’s the best thing she’s ever done,” said director Peter Bogdanovich in his interview with Hitchcock who himself agreed.

That didn’t prevent Doris the professional from still worrying. But now at the age of 88, Doris has only fond memories to say about Hitchcock; “He was just Mr. Hitchcock, wonderful, a great director and a good friend. I loved working with him. In The Man Who Knew Too Much he shot the scene when I find out that my son is kidnapped from many different angles and he always knew exactly what he wanted. When filming in Marrakech, we’d go out to dinner with Mr. Hitchcock and Jimmy Stewart. After dinner Jimmy would play the piano and it was a wonderful time. I wish I had the chance to do more than one film with them.”

Eva Marie Saint

Eva Marie Saint the star of North by Northwest was recently interviewed by Turner Classic Movies about her work:

“Hitchcock was a gentleman, he was funny, he was so attentive to me, with the character, and he cared about everything my character Eve Kendall wore. He had an eye for the specifics of the character.” You can read the whole story here:

“Everybody had a different experience with him. There were six of us Hitchcock blondes, and it’s like we all were married to the man at one time or another and we all have a different take on him. Each actress was at a different stage of their life, we were different ages, some married, some not. My experience with Hitch was one of utter respect, warmth, friendliness and humour, and North by Northwest was a glorious time in my life. For me, it was beautiful and memorable and Hitchcock was funny, respectful and dear.”