New book on The Making of The Birds is worth a flutter


Reviewed in this month’s TOTAL FILM and EMPIRE FILM Magazines



CIANO Segn 3 Empire



Psycho’s costume designer talks about dressing the stars and working with Hitch

Helen Colvig, Psycho’s costumer designer, who also went on to design the costumes for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, was interviewed on Monday 3rd December 2012 in Los Angeles:

“Of all the directors I worked with, I think Hitchcock is the one that people ask about the most. He didn’t have many failures. Vertigo didn’t do as well, but it was a heck of a good film.

He probably had it all figured out in his mind, so when he came on the set, he was as calm as could be and said roll them. Of course he gave directions, he was very relaxed about it. He didn’t lose his temper, he said cut, he didn’t scream.

Was the opening scene shocking? Was it ever. You see everything now, but it was risqué then. I thought it was shocking. That’s what Hitch was going for, a shocker. Mr. Hitchcock wasn’t really fond of Mr. Gavin. Mr. Hitchcock said, it doesn’t matter, he’s not going to be in the picture much, so he dropped him into shadow.

He allowed Anthony Perkins to bring his own sweater to wear in the movie, which was dark red, it was good for the location and the season. They worked well together. Perfect casting, he was a little quirky in real life, and his strangeness came through. I think Hitchcock knew he was gay, I realized people started to refer to him that way after the movie, I don’t think he wanted to come out of the closet, he just was.

Hitchcock wanted it to make Psycho look so people were familiar with, clothing, underclothing, suitcasing, so everyone recognizes that, it lulled you in, so that when you got to the stabbing scene it will blow you away. He wanted Janet Leigh to wear an Olga bra which would be familiar with women everywhere. Janet Leigh’s dress fabric was a very light wool, so it doesn’t wrinkle that much, so its going to look the same, scene after scene, you want it to look similar.

Vera Miles wasn’t up there attractive as Janet in the film, her character would never have done what Janet did, ie stolen the money. It’s possible that Hitchcock made her dowdy but I was never aware of it. Vera was one of the loveliest ladies, very quiet and professional.

I dressed ‘Mother’ and made twelve different dresses for her in various sizes. That was a lot of fun to do.

In my interview with him, Mr. Hitchcock told me what he expected from each character and how it should look. He said some shocking things, he’s been and seen everything. He likes to share. I did like him, first of all comes respect, if you respect someone, then comes like.

I liked his directness, his way of explaining things to you, was very detailed and precise. He had his own ideas which was going to be followed and those weren’t compromised.”

Vera Miles dispels the rumours about Hitchcock and Psycho

Unfortunately Vera Miles, star of The Wrong Man and Psycho, doesn’t give interviews today, but an archive interview from 1982 shows that she only has fond memories of working with Hitchcock:

“There was a great deal of respect between Hitchcock and me. .He expected people to be good and never rehearsed them at all. When you signed a contract with Hitchcock it stipulated the number of hours a day you would work.

And as for playing casting couch in the role, I’d have told him to go to hell. Neither of us had time for that kind of thing.” You can read the entire article here:,4717710,5668320&dq=donald+spoto&hl=en

Marshall Schlom, Psycho’s Script Supervisor, talks about shooting a Movie Classic

Marshall Schlom, the Script Supervisor on Psycho, was interviewed on 30th November 2012:

“My job was to keep a record of the takes for editing. Hitchcock quit at 5.30pm every day. Even on location he would only stay until 7.00pm that was his maximum.

He became ill, and got the flu, so he asked me and Hilton to film the Arbogast sequence going up the stairs from the storyboards. He always wanted Hilton and me to have the same information as him on the set. So the two of us ended shooting those days he was ill. When it came to the Arbogast sequence, we showed him what we did, and the lights were dim, after the showing to him, we turned off the stop and go, he  went up to the screen turned around and put his hands behind him, and said fellows we’ve made a big mistake. George and I looked at each other, he said, when you show the hand on the rail, the feet on the stairs, this montage, this sequence, when you show it to the audience, you’re predicting, you’re telling the audience that something is about to happen, I don’t want that. Take them all out and give me a shot of Arbogast just coming in at the front door, point of view up the stairs, and then a shot of Arbogast coming up the stairs, put that in, and don’t put in anything else, because the audience is going to predict that something is going up. So we devised a way, camera floated and the hand came in right in front of that frame, and we cut to Arbogast going like this, so that’s what we have in the film.

Then we had a cast and crew screening of the film. When this shot came and the knife came in, everyone in the audience in front of us came off their seats this far, they knew the shot was coming in. In the dark, except for the flickering of the projection, he bent forward to look to me, and he smiled, that was his way of saying I told you this was going to happen.

Hitchcock had this other side of him, he kept poking away at this humour and everyone on the set responded to it. Jack Russell would line up the shot, and Hilton would get him from his dressing room.

I think he found Janet Leigh a bit stiff, I think she was a bit tense, I think she wanted to make sure that she did the right thing for Hitchcock. Very nice lady, very accessible. He occasionally went up to her and he’d tell her a dirty joke, and she started to laugh. She did soften because she had to stop laughing and that worked very well for her. The two worked very well, she was a joy to be around.

What was he really like? He had so many facets to his personality. I felt he was a pixie, a real pixie. On the one hand he could be one person, and the next moment he could be someone else. And if Janet started to laugh, he might have made her laugh even more.

One incident that happened, in the film there’s a shot of Vera Miles looking at a book and there’s a falcon bird way up in the frameline, and we did that shot for some reason several times. And it was like Hitchcock felt at that moment he wanted to get more of her reaction of what she was reading or what the audience would never see. Her eyebrow goes up a little and my recollection is that we had 10 or 12 shots of her with slightly different facial expressions at each time. Hitchcock said use the shot where her eyebrow goes up a little bit. We went back to the editing room but Hitch said that’s not the cut what I want, there’s another one. We must have followed these shots for an hour, looking for this eyebrow, but Hitch kept saying its still wrong, it’s not the one we want. Then we put all the shots on a reel and projected it on the screen, and he looked through, he said stop that’s the one I want. We couldn’t see it on the miovola it was too small, only when on the big screen. It was so minute that it was the only take he wanted. He never told us what’s in the book, but we’re assuming its pornography.

When he was directing films at Paramount, he had a favourite camera operator, and his name was Lenny South, and over a period of time, Lenny became a cinematographer, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Hitchcock helped him along some place.

Hitchcock knew everything about making movies, it was his job to go to work and make movies. I can tell you without a doubt, he knew more about making movies than any other director that I’ve been associated with. He ran a masterclass for me, that’s the best way to describe it.”

Psycho’s AD talks about the making of the Movie

PSYCHO AD HILTON GREEN was Interviewed in Pasadena on December 3rd 2012 about “Hitchcock” the movie and the Making of Psycho

“I thought Anthony Hopkins did a wonderful job, but they took licenses for entertainment.

 In Hitchcock the movie, when he got sick and couldn’t come to work, Alma never came on the set, what she did do were the things in the cutting room, the blinking of the eye, she did do that. But the day he became ill, I directed that. He had a bad cold. I didn’t want him to come to work because we were insured.

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, 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.

I feel they are just trying to exploit him today, the man is dead, he had a great career, he was a genius of the director, he was not  in 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 this guessing. There was none of that. He could tell you right down to the frame where he would cut the movie.

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. He never raised his voice, only one instance, the swinging light in Psycho. The camera operator kept saying he’d got it. He wanted a flash across the lens, but it took two different shooting days to get it.

There was no one to me like Alfred Hitchcock, and I feel so badly he never won the Academy Award and that bothered him.

His life was all about movies. I didn’t know Alma as well as I knew him. She was great, I don’t know if he would have become as great as he was without her.”