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Vertigo’s Production Manager Doc Erickson talks about working with Hitch

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.

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