Interview with Norman Lloyd, actor and producer, who is 100 today, remembers his time with Alfred Hitchcock

Norman Lloyd was interviewed by Save Hitchcock at his home in Brentwood, Los Angeles. The impeccably attired, gracious and alert Mr. Lloyd, was reading a copy of the New Yorker when we came to visit him. Erudite, precise, and with incredible recall for the myriad of actors, actresses and directors he has worked with, Norman Lloyd gives insight to working with Alfred Hitchcock.

“Hitch was an entertainer and wanted to tell a good story, he was a great storyteller, and he would himself grip you. He would proceed to tell you every frame of a picture from the opening shot. He used to say “If you can tell it, you can shoot it, but if you cannot tell it, you can’t”. He was an entertainer. Hitch was top of his game when he did The 39 Steps, kids who go to film school, should look at what he did in that picture. I once asked Hitch, who is your favourite leading man? He said Robert Donat – because he set the style and Cary Grant took on Donat’s thing, because he works like Donat. After The 39 Steps, the name Hitchcock became an international name. I was an actor in New York when The Man Who Knew Too Much came out and I remember it had a darkness and frightening quality.

I had done Saboteur for him in 1942, and then I went back to New York and did some theatre work, and I came out to LA in 1944 for John Houseman at Paramount, a picture with Joel McCrae and I looked up Hitch. And I think it was fair to say, we were very sympatico. I was accepted into the family by Alma. Hitch always used to say ‘Your friend Alma’. Always my friendship with him continued. In 1957, Hitch asked me to come out, after the television series started in 1955, and Joan Harrison needed help, because it was too much work. The show had been on 10 years, I did 8, Hitch said that was enough, because he didn’t want to go on after Jimmy Allardice died who did the intros.

Grace Kelly was his favourite actress, and she was a great girl. Even when she was the Princess, there was something regular about her. Hitch loved Grace but not in a passionate way. The thing about Hitch and Tippi has been exaggerated beyond reality. There are claims he had her blackballed. Ridiculous! He could not have done that. He wouldn’t have had that influence. If somebody wanted to hire her, they would have hired her. Hitch wanted me to do The Short Night, but the studio said we can’t call it a Hitchcock picture, so it didn’t happen.

Hitchcock is the most famous director in the world, because he was a great entertainer. People knew with a Hitchcock picture, they would have a good time, we may be frightened, amused, whatever, but he had this individual personality as a storyteller. Hitch had that greatest of all things, a story to tell. For me, Hitch was always about England, he worked so beautifully with John Williams, you saw the British Isles. He will be remembered as a Master. He knew instinctively about camera logic; the camera is placed exactly where it should be to tell the story. In Saboteur, the picture I made with him, the scene where I fall, that shot had to be worked out without a cut, because Hitch said we have to stay with him all the way to the bottom of the statue, that is storytelling, that is camera logic!”