Why comparing Alfred Hitchcock to Harvey Weinstein is unjustified

The recent reports of Harvey Weinstein have been unjustly compared to Alfred Hitchcock, precipitated by Tippi Hedren’s allegations of Hitchcock’s alleged misconduct on the set of Marnie (1964). Yet, despite Hedren’s evolving reports, with the exception to a much lesser extent by Diane Baker (supporting actress on Marnie), the vast majority of actresses who worked with Hitch have nothing but complimentary remarks to say about him. None of them mention sexual harassment. They span from Grace Kelly in 1953, to Barbara Leigh Hunt, some twenty years later during the filming of Frenzy.

BRIGITTE AUBER, To Catch A Thief, 1955: “I have not changed my point of view on Hitchcock. He was a brilliant and wonderful man.”

DORIS DAY, The Man Who Knew Too Much, 1956: “Hitch was 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.”

KIM NOVAK, Vertigo, 1958: “He is one of the great directors and one to be studied. He was a perfectionist and didn’t make any short cuts.”

EVA MARIE SAINT, North by Northwest, 1959: “My experience with Hitch was one of utter respect, warmth, friendliness and humour, and North by Northwest was a glorious time in my life.”

KARIN DOR, Topaz, 1969: “I loved working with Hitchcock and get very upset when other people criticise him”

BARBARA LEIGH-HUNT, Frenzy, 1972: “He never touched me. I was very distressed to read all the reports about him in the newspapers. It wasn’t the Hitch that I knew.”


Rita Riggs, wardrobe mistress, dies in LA.

Rita Riggs, the wardrobe mistress on The Birds and Marnie, died in Los Angeles on June 5th 2017. She was the apprentice to Edith Head, and gave many great interviews for Save Hitchcock, as well as The Making of Hitchcock’s The Birds and Hitchcock and the Making of Marnie. Rita was a supporter of Alfred Hitchcock and strongly disapproved of the portrayal of him in the media and the HBO/BBC drama The Girl. “It’s like newspapers, it sells,” she said of the rumours, and “I have nothing but good memories of working with him on The Birds and Marnie.”

Portions of her interview will be published on this page.

“He loved beauty so much. He was like the Prince inside the Frog” – Rita Riggs on Alfred Hitchcock.

Hitchcock and the Making of Marnie in paperback


Just published in paperback, Hitchcock and the Making of Marnie Revised Edition tells the complex story of the director’s most personal and complicated film. With candid interviews from Sean Connery, Tippi Hedren, Diane Baker, Louise Latham, as well as AD Jim Brown, Script supervisor Lois Thurman and wardrobe mistress Rita Riggs, Hitchcock and the Making of Marnie is the definitive guide to a film which continues to perplex as well as enthral. Available on Amazon.


Tippi: A Memoir

At the age of 86, Tippi Hedren has published her memoirs, modestly titled Tippi: A Memoir. Starting her career as a New York fashion model, she was discovered by Hitchcock in October 1961, while advertising a diet drink on television. After elaborate screen tests, Hedren went on to star in two of the director’s films, The Birds and Marnie. Hitchcock died in 1980, and some 55 years after first being discovered, Hedren says she now looks upon the man, her director and drama coach, with ‘admiration, gratitude and utter disgust.’

There are only two chapters in Hedren’s memoirs dedicated to working with Alfred Hitchcock, one on the making of The Birds, and the second on the making of Marnie. The majority of the book is dedicated to Hedren’s passion project ‘Roar’, about filming with lions and other big cats, and the subsequent formation of her animal preserve. Unless you haven’t seen the BBC/HBO drama The Girl based on Hedren’s recollections which aired in 2012, you’re unlikely to learn anything new in the memoirs, which reads like a treatment for the screenplay – certainly nothing new about Hitchcock’s psychological directing techniques.

Below is a Review of the main talking points and how recent interviews with Hitchcock’s co-workers on The Birds and Marnie differ from the memoirs.

The First Meeting with Hitchcock

Hedren says after being discovered on Friday 13th October, 1961, she was invited to meet MCA-Universal head Lew Wasserman the following Tuesday. After agreeing to sign a 7-year exclusive contract to Alfred Hitchcock, she describes a luncheon for two for herself and Hitchcock, served with red wine.

In previous interviews Hedren said she met a lower ranking MCA agent named Herman Citron who asked her to sign the contract. This was also confirmed by Universal Production Assistant Jerry Adler – who is still alive, and who was tasked by Hitchcock to find Hedren. Jerry Adler also states he was present during Hitchcock and Hedren’s first meeting; ‘It was around lunchtime, and I don’t remember any wine being offered. Lunch could have been offered but I don’t think so. I don’t remember it as a long meeting.’

“Hitchcock’s only sensual pleasure was food and all you have to do is look at him to know that,” says Yvonne Hessler, Hitchcock’s secretary during Psycho and The Birds, who was interviewed in the spring of this year. “He adored his wife, I never witnessed anything else. There was never a pass to me or Peggy or Joan Harrison and we were all very ladylike.”

The Kiss in the Limo

During location filming of The Birds, according to Hedren, Hitchcock was giving her a ride in his limousine back to the Santa Rosa motel where she was staying, when he suddenly forced himself upon her and tried to kiss her, while some of the crew was gathered outside the motel.

The kiss in the car first came to light in 2008 with the publication of the book Spellbound by Beauty. It was famously re-enacted in The Girl, despite the protests of those who worked with Hitchcock. ‘How else is she going to stay in the eye of the public than by coming up with increasingly sensational stories about Hitchcock?” says Hitchcock’s official biographer John Russell Taylor, in the foreward to his new edition of “Hitch” and quoted in The Bloomsbury Reader. Taylor remarks how strange it is that any onlookers, such as Assistant Director Jim Brown and Hitchcock’s Assistant Peggy Robertson, never mentioned the limo incident in subsequent interviews. ‘He would never have done anything to embarrass himself publically,’ says Jay Presson Allen, a close friend and screenwriter of Marnie. There are no other witnesses on record to prove or disprove this story.

The Telephone Box

The alleged kiss in the limo is used to segue to another infamous incident during the filming of The Birds – the smashing of the glass telephone booth with Hedren inside. During studio filming (according to the memoirs a day after the limo incident), the glass shattered for real, spraying Hedren’s left cheek with tiny shards. Hedren does state that she’s never excused Hitchcock and isn’t excusing him now of rigging the telephone booth, but says a small part wonders if she was being punished for rejecting him.

John Russell Taylor reasons, ‘Is it conceivable for a moment that any director, however crazed (and Hitch certainly was not that) would risk disfiguring and incapacitating his new star in the middle of shooting a very expensive film? He calls The Girl ‘a tissue of melodramatic invention’.

The chronology of this story doesn’t tally with the call sheets or the production schedule. The Bodega Bay location filming was completed at the end of March 1962, and was followed by three months of studio filming at Universal studios in Los Angeles. The phone box wasn’t filmed until June 12th when all the process work had been scheduled, and all the other actors – including Rod Taylor and Jessica Tandy – had departed leaving only Hedren who was on a 7 year contract. In between the two events, months of studio filming occured. It also happened a few days after Hedren was offered the part of Marnie, (during filming of the sand dunes scene) which makes even less sense, that Hitchcock would deliberately try to harm his new star.

The intent to deliberately harm is also denied by wardrobe mistress Rita Riggs, script supervisor Lois Thurman, and hairdresser Virginia Darcy, all who are still alive today and were extensively interviewed.

The Attic Scene

What is true is that during the infamous attic scene, filmed in late May 1962, Hedren endured five days of filming when live birds were thrown towards her.

But any intent by Hitchcock to deliberately harm her is denied by two of the bird trainers who are still alive today. Bud Cardos says, “Hitchcock was all about reality. He wouldn’t interntionally hurt [Tippi], but the birds did fly at her. I think she panicked a couple of times.” Gerry Gero, assistant to Ray Berwick the bird trainer, agrees, “I would say they threw birds at Tippi and it delivered the film. Why she didn’t say something then and waited for after 50 years? If she wasn’t onboard with it, she should have done something about it then. Hitchcock was a fabulous person and I don’t remember any animosity between them at the time. Tippi was a real trooper and tolerated a lot of stuff. I never saw that she was resentful or had any hard feelings about it.” Hedren’s hairdresser Virginia Darcy affirms that, “We were all looking out for her.”

“Miss Hedren was not injured in the shooting of the picture, however she had to take a three day rest after working so strenuously during that sequence,” wrote Suzanne Gauthier, Hitchcock’s secretary to a fan enquiry on May 15th 1963, shortly after The Birds was released.

The Photoplay Award

 In February 1964, towards the end of the filming of Marnie, Photoplay Magazine wanted to present Hedren with an Award in New York for ‘Best promising actress’. Hedren maintains that it was to be presented on a Friday night, and that she wasn’t due to work that day and would have been able to take a long weekend off, and return to the set in good time to work on Monday.

The archival records in the Hitchcock Collection at the Margaret Herrick Library, Los Angeles, tell a different story – the awards were to be presented on a Wednesday, in the middle of a filming week. A memo from Universal publicity manager David Golding sent on January 31, 1964, advised Hitchcock that it was impractical for Hedren to fly to New York to accept the Photoplay award, as the ceremony was scheduled to take place midweek on Wednesday February 5th rather than over a weekend. He cited Sean Connery’s imminent departure at the end of February as evidence of the pressure that the production was under to complete the filming on time. Connery was scheduled to return to Britain to begin filming Goldfinger in March 1964. The award ceremony also clashed with the filming of the powerful flashback sequences as the call sheets held at the Margaret Herrick library testify, and Hitchcock did not want Hedren to break the mood for her character.

Louise Latham, who played Marnie’s mother, and is still alive today says she has sympathy for Hitchcock over the Photoplay event. “I find some of the allegations hard to believe. My observations are so far from what Tippi claims, and I’m a rather observant person, and was trained in the theatre.  She’s a lovely woman, but I don’t think Tippi should have said those things about Hitch. . . . I wasn’t aware of her being hassled on the set.”

The Big Bust Up

It’s well documented that Hitchcock and Hedren had a big row over the Photoplay event. Hedren goes further to accuse Hitchcock of sexual harassment in her memoirs, as detailed in The Girl.

John Russell Taylor, Hitchcock’s official biographer, gives a markedly different story to The Girl’s version of events; “When I was first going to the studio (in the 1970s), the people around him, particularly Peggy [Robertson] said, don’t mention Marnie because it’s a sore point. It was one of my favourite movies and I told him that. Obviously it had left painful memories and he seemed to be pleased, I liked it and praised him. 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 after, ‘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.’”

Rita Riggs remarked in 2012, “He could be a total Jekyll and Hyde but I never saw that. I think Hitch did many things to get performances from [Tippi], particularly in Marnie, because he didn’t depend on her with acting technique, he may have shocked her with all manner of his techniques. I never really thought he was serious. He was a jokester and a prankster and I have good memories all through The Birds and Marnie.”

Not being invited to The Wrap Party

Hedren asserts that after the flaming row, Peggy Robertson came to tell her it would be best if she didn’t attend the wrap party. The cast and crew were then insulted, and that the party subsequently was a ‘huge flop’.

The party was according to cast interviews a huge success. A collection was taken up to buy Sean Connery a $750 dollar watch from Ruser’s Jewelry in Beverly Hills. He subsequently took off his watch and put on the new one. The crew were impressed with Connery’s professionalism. On the back of the watch were engraved the words, ‘To Sean from his fellow workers on Marnie’. Connery took off the watch that he was wearing and put the new one on. “I had a great time with Hitchcock,” he recalls. “He tells you on the set what moves he wants. . . . He used to tell me funny stories before a take quite often, but he never dwelt upon the psychology of the character. . . . His humor was pretty schoolboyish.”

Following Connery’s return to England, the first unit filmed more scenes between Marnie and her mother. And on Friday, March 13th, the crew drank the two dozen bottles of champagne that Connery had bought them. According to a memo dated March 20th, Peggy Robertson wrote to Connery on the set of Goldfinger. “Everyone was delighted with your thoughtfulness and they all send you their love and thanks … it was a good end of the picture party.” Peggy mentions in the memo that Hedren contributed Hors d’oeuvres. If you weren’t invited to an end of picture party, why would you contribute hors d’oeuvres?

Never Speaking to Hitchcock Again

Hedren says Hitchcock never spoke directly to her again after the big row.

Yet she is on record saying that she met with Hitchcock and Alma in London in the Spring of 1966. She was invited to have tea with them at the Ritz, while she was filming Chaplin’s A Countess from Hong Kong. She then suggested that Hitchcock and Charlie Chaplin have their photograph taken together. Hitchcock’s response was, ‘Why would I want to do that?’

Hitchcock blocking Truffaut’s Offer

In the memoirs, Hedren says Hitchcock kept her under contract for two years saying ‘She’s not available’. The one offer that hurt her the most, which Hitchcock apparently prevented, was her starring in Fahrenheit 451 directed by Francois Truffaut.

Laura Truffaut, Francois’ daughter, who was interviewed in Berkeley, California this spring, denies the story. “I did some research through my father’s correspondence and biography, as well as through a very researched book on his work based on his very extensive archives (Francois Truffaut au Travail, by Carole Berre).  I also asked my mother about whether she had ever heard my father’s mentioning Tippi Hedren as a possible part of the cast of Fahrenheit 451. She was just as surprised as I was. My parents had a close relationship and it is extremely unlikely in my view that my father seriously entertained this project without sharing it with my mother or mentioning it to us in later years. I am all the more confident about this as my father was not secretive about the other actors who were considered for casting in that film. The only other actress seriously considered was Jean Seberg.”

Brooke Allen, the daughter of the film’s producer, Lewis Allen, also denies the claim. “First I’ve ever heard of Tippi Hedren being up for the role in Fahrenheit 451. My father produced that movie and never mentioned any such thing. They were very excited about working with Julie Christie.” The casting files of Lewis Allen for Fahrenheit 451, held at the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin, corroborates this. They include correspondence for Julie Christie, Jane Fonda, Mia Farrow and Florence Henderson, but there is no mention of Tippi Hedren.

Why Mary Rose was scrapped

Hitchcock was planning a third film with Hedren to star in, based on the JM Barrie play ‘Mary Rose’. Jay Presson Allen wrote the screenplay, but Hitchcock allegedly threatened to cancel it after the Marnie bust up.

According to John Russell Taylor, Mary Rose was shelved because Universal didn’t want to finance a third film with Hedren as star, as the first two films had failed. Universal told Hitchcock he had two attempts to make her a star and they would not finance a third attempt – indeed, forbade him from making Mary Rose for them at all. They deemed it ‘un-commercial.’

“He told various people that the studio took one look at the script and barred him from making it, so there is some truth in it; he was considering it, maybe if things hadn’t gone wrong on Marnie, that was his next. There was also the question of Tippi’s popularity or otherwise with the public. Wasserman was very commercially minded, because he was also Hitch’s agent,” recalls Taylor.

In 1972, Hitchcock was interviewed by the journalist Janet Maslin. In response to his attempt to make a star out of Hedren, Hitchcock said “I later turned her over to Universal, because you can’t have the same woman in every picture. . .they offered to renew her contract if she would agree to do television, which she didn’t want to do.”

As for the other incidents described in the Memoirs, where there were no witnesses, or no studios memos, only Hedren knows if they occurred or not. Louise Latham concludes by saying, “For Hitchcock to go down as this monstrous thing, to the degree that [Tippi] was vulnerable is not accurate.” What would have been fascinating is an account of how Hitchcock taught and manipulated Hedren to give an effective performance in both The Birds and Marnie. Sadly these are lacking in the memoirs.

Differring Accounts

Tippi: A Memoir is published on November 1st by Harper Collins.

Hitchcock and the Making of Marnie, Revised Edition by Tony Lee Moral is published in paperback on December 1st by Rowman and Littlefield.

The Making of Hitchcock’s The Birds is published by Oldcastle Books.

Hitch: The Life and Times of Alfred Hitchcock by John Russell Taylor is published in paperback in January 2017.



The Girl in Alfred Hitchcock’s Shower says Hitch was a Gentleman



MARLI RENFRO, a pin up model, who doubled for Janet Leigh in Psycho’s infamous shower scene, was interviewed on 15th October 2014 in Los Angeles, California.

“I was 21 years old when I made Psycho. They wanted a pin up model to double for Janet Leigh in the shower scene. I was hired for 2-3 days and worked for a total of 7 days. When I first met Alfred Hitchcock, he was everything I thought he would be. I’ve always been a big fan of Hitchcock, and would have done the movie for free to work with him. He was very polite, very professional, knew exactly what he wanted. He put me at ease.”

“I have heard various people in the business not speak kindly of him, but for one thing I think it might be personality clashes. The other thing is he knows exactly what he wants. To the T. I can’t say anything bad or negative about him. He was totally professional and had a great sense of humour.”

“I was almost naked doing the shower filming. Except I had a little rubber patch on my crotch and that was it. I was a nudist at the time, so being without clothes was very comfortable. My first day of work I showed up for make up, I was there for 2-3 hours, and I wore a grey and white wig which matched Janet Leigh’s hairstyle. One of the make up men walked me to the set, I took off my robe, and started doing some stretching exercises and stood there nonachantly. When you don’t have any clothes on it’s really very boring compared to wearing say a sexy negligee.”

“Hitchcock was very professional and made sure everyone was very respectful to me. I never got the impression that Hitchcock was lecherous. Nothing even bordering, not a tinge. I would have been aware of it if he had.”

“Once he brought the measuring tape from the lens of the camera and brought it to my left nipple. I thought that was very funny, it was his sense of humour showing. But he didn’t touch me!

“It’s so easy to say things after someone has passed on. I don’t agree with anything like that. To continually press on after somebody has passed on, I take that with a grain of salt myself. To me he is a genius in his field. When filming the shower scene was over, Hitch said thank you, it was a pleasure working with you, and he was very cordial.”


2016 proves to be yet another year of Alfred Hitchcock in the headlines. Tippi Hedren’s memoirs are due to be published in November and Hitchcock’s ‘The Girl’, makes an appearance at the Hay Literary Festival in the UK this summer. But many people who worked closely with Hitch are still unhappy with the media’s portrayal of the famed director. Over the following week Save Hitchcock publishes some new interviews which aim to set the record straight.

Yvonne Hessler, Hitchcock’s secretary (1960-1962), interviewed on tape in Los Angeles in February 2016:

“My first impressions of Hitchcock was that he was a conservative person. Always dressed in a Navy blue suit with a white shirt, black shoes, black socks. That he was a very good verbal communicator, extremely intelligent and in general a Gentleman.

Knowing Hitchcock as well as I did, there is an enormous amount of fabrication in the media. Hitch was really non confrontational. He would never have gone up to anyone and say anything of a sexual nature. He was a perfect gentleman. He always treated Peggy (Robertson) and I in the office, as a perfect gentleman. In the office he never made a pass. That’s not to say he was passive. He was highly intelligent, that he would never make that kind of overture, to make an assault sexually. Never! He was too smart to do that. That is my judgement. His great sensual delight in life was not women, it was food, plain sensual food.”

Hitchcock/Truffaut: the documentary

Hitchcock/Truffaut is released this week in the UK, a 90 minute insightful documentary on the relationship between two titans of cinema, Alfred Hitchcock and Francois Truffaut. The week long series of interviews between the two directors was conducted in August 1962, when Hitchcock was editing The Birds. Truffaut and translator Helen Scott flew to LA and interviewed Hitchcock extensively in his office. The book “Hitchcock” was not actually published until 1966. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of this pioneering book, which has influenced generations of filmmakers, from Martin Scorsese to David Fincher, here are a selection of best quotes from the Hitchcock interviews.

From Hitchcock:

“One of the first things I learned in the school of art, was there was no such thing as a line. There was only light and shade. On the first day, I drew in lines.”

“In Saboteur, every time, I cut to the bomb, I cut to a different angle to give it a vitality. If I had cut to the same angle every time, the audience would have got used to it, but I wanted to say no, no, be careful.”

“In suspense it’s vital that the public know, or otherwise they have nothing to be suspenseful about. Mystery is not necessarily suspense. Mystery for example in a whodunit is an intellectual question? Suspense may be of it, and is necessary to involve emotion. Emotion is a necessary ingredient of suspense.Even with a group of evil men, the public will say be careful there’s a bomb. I don’t think they would say, oh good, they will be blown up.”

From Truffaut:

“Hitchcock has never won an Oscar, although he is the only living filmmaker whose films, when they are reissued twenty years after their first appearance, are as strong at the box office as new films. . . the basic premise of the film: “Birds attack people.” I am convinced that cinema was invented so that such a film could be made. Everyday birds — sparrows, seagulls, crows — take to attacking ordinary people, the inhabitants of a seacoast village. This is an artist’s dream; to carry it off requires a lot of art, and you need to be the greatest technician in the world.”

No film of Hitchcock’s has ever shown a more deliberate progression: as the action unfolds, the birds become blacker and blacker, more and more numerous, increasingly evil. When they attack people, they prefer to go for their eyes. Basically fed up with being captured and put in cages – if not eaten – the birds behave as if they had decided to reverse the role.

Hitchcock thinks that The Birds is his most important film. I think so too in a certain way – although I’m not sure. Starting with such a powerful mold, Hitch realized that he had to be extremely careful with the plot so that it would be more than a pretext to connect scenes of bravura or suspense. He created a very successful character, a young San Francisco woman, sophisticated and snobbish, who, in enduring all these bloody experiences, discovers simplicity and naturalness.

The Birds can be considered a special effects film, indeed, but the special effects are realistic. In fact, Hitchcock’s mastery of the art grows greater with each film and he constantly needs to invent new difficulties for himself. He has become the ultimate athlete of cinema.

In actual fact Hitchcock is never forgiven for making us afraid, deliberately making us afraid. I believe, however, that fear is a noble emotion and that it can be noble to cause fear. It is noble to admit that one has been afraid and has taken pleasure in it. One day, only children will possess this nobility.”

Read more quotes in Alfred Hitchcock’s Movie Making Masterclass http://www.amazon.com/Alfred-Hitchcocks-Moviemaking-Master-Class/dp/1615931376/ref=sr_1_fkmr2_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1456959435&sr=8-3-fkmr2&keywords=alfred+hitchcock+movie+making+masterclass




Filmwerk reviews Hitchcock and the Making of Marnie Revised Edition

“Moral has written a thoughtful, definitely well researched and strong study on the process of how this film was adapted, constructed, filmed and marketed as well as a great deal of attention to the original book’s author, Winston Graham and how it was changed and adapted as a very different screenplay by Evan Hunter who had just finished working on The Birds for Hitchcock was employed to write a draft. However, pulling no punches Hunter fell out with Hitchcock for the so-called rape sequence that Hunter felt very uncomfortable with. With Hunter sacked he then employed a less feminist writer in the female playwright and author, Jay Presson Allen who went on to become a close friend of the director and to get the screen credit. A great deal of the book is given over to Graham, Hunter and especially Presson Allen and as a result the book demonstrates the process in adapting the book to the screen well.

But these were not the only problems for Hitch. His original leading lady had been Princess Grace of Monaco herself, Grace Kelly who had planned to come out of her early retirement in a part Hitchcock wanted to be especially written for her. Kelly had starred in three Hitchcock films and had become the archetype of his ice cold blondes.”

Read the full review in Filmwerk



How Winston Graham conceived Poldark’s Demelza Carne and Marnie from his feminist point of view

Winston Graham’s Poldark begins on the BBC this Sunday 8th March, 2015. The author, who wrote the novel Marnie, was interviewed shortly before his death in 2003 by Save Hitchcock.

When questioned on his position about the abjection of women in society, Winston Graham described himself as an instinctive feminist. The roots of his feminism can be traced back to his childhood, early in the 20th Century. Graham was born in Victoria Park, Manchester in 1908, six years before the start of the First World War. He already had a brother, Cecil, who was ten years older. Graham’s mother, Anne Mawdsley, wanted him to be a girl, so she molly coddled him as a child. He wrote in his autobiography, “Many years later it dawned on me, looking back over the evidence, that my mother badly wanted a girl when I was born, and although she mostly disguised her feelings she would dearly have loved to dress me up in buttons and bows.”

Because of the age difference between his brother Cecil and himself, Graham was in effect brought up as an only child. When it turned out that he was ‘delicate’ of health as he was growing up, unlike his older brother, his mother used that as an excuse to channel her mixed feelings on wanting him to be a girl by lavishing him with excessive attention and spoiling him, even to the point of delaying his schooling until he was seven. This may account for Graham’s feminine roots and empathy with the woman’s position. “The image my father liked to present of himself was that of a frail child,” says son Andrew Graham. But the reality was Graham was in relatively good health for most of his life and indeed lived until the age of 95. His son believes that he cleverly used his appearance and claims of fragility so that not only was he spoiled by his mother, but later in life, he often pretended to be weak so women would look after him or conduct chores on his behalf. Graham’s mother Anne, also had the reputation of being delicate. Before she married Graham’s father, her mother told him that they could never have children saying that Anne was too delicate. In reality she lived to the age of 80 and produced two sons, whose longevity exceeded hers.

The Graham family never adopted a scientific approach to medicine and remained fearful of ill health. Just before Graham’s 14th birthday, he became seriously ill with pneumonia and his mother also contracted double pneumonia and nearly died. Graham remembers being sent to the cinema one night when she was gravely ill. When Graham was 16, he contracted pneumonia again, and his own life too was in jeopardy. He also had a weak heart and when enlisting for service, was turned down by the airforce, army and navy for medical reasons. “When it came time for me to register I chose what I thought the least uncivilized of the three services, which was the navy,” remembers Graham. But he failed the medical and was passed from the navy to the army. The army too turned him down, so he applied for the Coastguard Service and was accepted in 1940.

Although Marnie is the product of an overtly religious upbringing at the hands of her mother, Graham’s family was not religious. As he mentions in his memoirs, “Were we God-fearing? Not really. My mother kept steadily, if quietly to her beliefs all her life, but her father was very much a free-thinker and associated with atheists and agnostics.” Graham shied away from overt religion and would only go to church twice a year with his mother. But he used his knowledge to create the character of Mrs. Elmer, Marnie’s zealously religious mother in the novel. The girl Christine, his childrens’ babysitter also believed in her faith. “It came from Christine, because her mother was religious at the time,” said Graham. “I transferred my sympathies to her, and anything religious came from the person that I was writing about.” After Graham’s father died, his mother supported him in his writing career. “When my father died I was nineteen and my mother knew there was only one thing I wanted to do in life, and as she could just afford to support me if I lived at home, she offered to do so,” says Graham. “I never earned a living any other way.” His mother was depicted as being frail and of ill health, but in reality she was a very strong character, a proper Victorian lady, who told him frightening stories as a child. “She loved to make your flesh creep – and God, did she not make mine! It was not of ghosts of which she spoke but of ill-health.” She spoke about her cousin Ernest who contracted pneumonia and was dead within a week, and of other relatives who similarly died young, scaring the young Winston with tales of illness and disease.

Andrew Graham believes that his father’s fear of ill health, compounded by his mother’s, enabled him to write about Marnie’s fear of sex. A grave fear of bad health and dying is therefore equated with a great fear of sex. In the free association scene, when Mark offers the word ‘death’, Marnie’s reply is ‘me’. On the origins of the character Marnie, Andrew Graham says that while Christine the baby sitter, and the other women in the newspaper articles undoubtedly helped his father start the process of creating Marnie, “the ideas that come from them are just the start and not more than that. My father believed passionately that characters have to come alive and live in the author’s imagination if they are to have conviction.  Further, I suspect that my father did not have a huge problem in working on Marnie’s introspection. My father’s elder brother was ten years older and so my father was brought up almost as an only child.  What is more his mother “molly-coddled” him and gave him a fear of ill-health and I think he used this to find his way into Marnie’s fears about sex.”

Graham himself acknowledged, “I’m a novelist and I like to create characters sympathetically, and I don’t really use characters to make a point of my own.” The characters in Marnie were those he identified with, such as Marnie’s view of sex equated with his fear of illness. He was definitely writing from Marnie’s point of view during the rape scene, as he was writing in the first person. “All the time you were seeing Mark more of less through her eyeline,” said Graham. “That’s one of the problems in writing from the first person.” The reader was seeing Mark Rutland from the neurotic stand point of Marnie. And Graham firmly believed that Mark was a straight forward stationer with none of the fetishism and hang ups that Hitchcock gave him.

By 1939, Graham was 31 years old and very eligible for work. When he became successful as a writer, he liked to describe himself as the ‘Most successful unknown author in Britain’. It was a part of an image he liked to project and cultivate, and there was some underlying truth to the role he played. He wrote his first Poldark novel, Ross Poldark, in 1945, which quickly became a Book Society Recommendation. This was followed by Demelza in 1946. Up until 1948, when the Poldark novels became a success, Graham was writing a succession of novels but making little money. Living in Cornwall he would write books to order, for example he wrote Cordelia in 1949 for the book of the month club, and gained good income from its American sales. It sold well in 1949, but until the Poldark series no-one knew who Graham was as an author. Soon three quarters of his income would come from theAmerican sales of his books. Later when Marnie hit the headlines in 1962, Graham remarked to the press, “I was the most successful unknown novelist in England.”

Despite the considerable sales of the Poldark novels, Graham still questioned his success as a literary author. In his mind, he didn’t sell very well; as an author he was neither the intellectual type nor did he write blockbusters. He wrote in his memoirs, “I am, I suppose, what is generally called a popular novelist”. But in Andrew Graham’s estimation, the books on Cornwall are far better than their Daphne du Maurier’s equivalents such as Jamaica Inn (1936) on smuggling. Unlike du Maurier who came from a more upper class background – her father was Gerald du Maurier an actor and theatre manager and her grandfather George du Maurier the cartoonist for Punch magazine – Graham was more middle class. Whereas Daphne du Maurier’s writings are solidly upper middle class, Graham coming from a lower class background was able to write an authentic glimpse of what life must have been really like in the Cornwall of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

In his first four Poldark novels he conjures up evocative descriptions of struggling tin miners, half starved labourers and rough squires, all battling for survival in the harsh Cornish environment. It was with this class consciousness that Graham was also able to write Marnie. “I automatically became part of Marnie,” said Winston Graham. “With any luck, I saw she did have a happy ending. I tried to imply at the end of the book that she had now come around and felt about Mark.” Foremost a storyteller, a skill which he developed from childhood, Graham was a novelist rather than an intellectual. He was always putting some of himself in the story. Graham himself described himself as “very young – younger than my years – in spite of having been a professional writer so long; and I was too romantic. My approach to women was too romantic – it still is – but it was by then a part of my nature and was too inbred to be changed.”

Despite Winston Graham’s claims to be a feminist, albeit an instinctive feminist, his son Andrew believes that his father wouldn’t understand what being a genuine feminist was. “He may have been sympathetic to a feminine view of the world. But in terms of his women having rights, few of his characters did apart from Demelza Carne, the servant girl in the Poldark novels, who was feisty,” says Andrew Graham. Also Winston Graham had no view of women running companies, and he was a member of ‘Blacks’, the Gentleman’s club. He didn’t believe that women should go to work, and indeed he didn’t want his wife Jean to go to work. So he really wasn’t a feminist in the true sense of the world. Perhaps that can explain the conflicting interpretations in the Marnie text, and the identification with the Mark Rutland character.

Therefore Graham could never really describe himself as a true feminist because he was never subjected to the pressures of women in patriarchal society. His daughter in law, Peggotty Graham, has read most of his books, and has the opinion that his portrayal of women is unconvincing. “He had a very old fashioned view of women,” said Peggotty. “He was no more of an instinctive feminist for someone of his time. I wouldn’t have thought he understood what feminism was. Maybe outwardly he thought he was an instinctive feminist, but inwardly he wasn’t. I agree with Andrew’s view. He liked to think he was, but he wasn’t. He liked women, but wasn’t a misogynist or anything like that. He didn’t want his wife to work – they did run a bed and breakfast when they first moved to Perranporth.” Winston Graham himself said, “I may be an instinctive feminist, not that I believe in holding banners or anything, because a number of feminists I’ve met have been perfectly awful.”

Read more in Hitchcock and the Making of Marnie, Revised Edition http://www.amazon.co.uk/Hitchcock-Making-Marnie-Tony-Moral/dp/0810891077/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1425803235&sr=8-1&keywords=hitchcock+making+marnie

Rod Taylor, star of The Birds, was a handsome leading man who battled with Hitchcock, while engaged to Anita Ekberg

Rod Taylor, who passed away on 7th January 2015, four days before his 85th Birthday, was interviewed by Save Hitchcock on 1st June 2012, at his home in Beverly Hills, California. It was one of the last few interviews Rod gave before his death.

Rod Taylor had come to Hollywood in 1955 from Sydney, Australia and, prior to The Birds, had worked his way up through bit parts and TV films. He had been the winner of the Newspaper Critics Best Actor of the Year award and won a plane ticket to London, stopping off in LA. He liked Hollywood so much that he stayed. His first American film was The Virgin Queen (1955), followed by playing Elizabeth Taylor’s fiancé in Giant (1956). His most famous role to date had been George the inventor in MGM’s time-travelling adventure The Time Machine (1960). At 5 ft 11 in, 175 lbs, with light brown hair and blue eyes, Rod was a natural athlete, expert at tennis, surfing and swimming.

Rod went along with his agent, Wilt Melnick of the Louis Shurr Agency, to Hitchcock’s bungalow in January 1961. ‘The initial meeting with Hitchcock was a disaster,’ recalls Rod. ‘I called him by his first name, Alfred this and Alfred that. He went totally white for 20 minutes, and had total misgivings about our meeting.’ Rod thought he didn’t say all the right things and remembers commenting, ‘I hope the birds and things don’t kind of totally outshadow the people.’ Of course, that’s the story… they’re supposed to. So that was number one. Wrong. But then we really talked about ‘making movies’ and how I loved it, and how I was interested in his work. I brought that up and said the right thing. We didn’t get into any deep discussions about the movie itself at all. No ‘What do you think of the character?’ – none of that. It was taken for granted that I loved it and wanted to work with him.’

When they left Hitchcock’s office, Rod said to agent Wilt, ‘Well, you can forget that movie.’ Two days later, Rod got a call from Hitchcock offering him the part. Rod believes that Hitchcock was influenced by Lew Wasserman, who knew him from films such as The Time Machine. Wasserman backed Hitchcock to the hilt and often suggested actors to appear in his movies, and Rod himself was absolutely flattered and astonished that Hitch would want to work with him.

By 2 February 1962, columnist Hedda Hopper in the LA Times was reporting that Hitchcock had signed a four-picture deal with Rod over the next six years, which was negotiated by Wilt Melnick. At the time Rod was engaged to the Swedish actress Anita Ekberg, who famously jumped into the Trevi fountain in Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (1960). Interestingly, the character of Melanie Daniels is also mentioned ‘jumping into a fountain in Rome’, possibly as a sly reference to Ekberg and the La Dolce Vita years of the early 1960s.

Rod was to be paid $50,000 for 12 weeks work and three weeks additional. He would end up working a total of16 weeks because of overruns on the film’s special effects. The four-picture deal was to commence 31 December 1962 and Rod started work on The Birds on 5 March 1962. By 28 May, a multiple-feature contract had been issued between Rod and Alfred Hitchcock Productions, but issues on the set between the director and star, resulted in the contract being suspended.

‘Any warmth or masculinity to the character came from me and not Hitch,’ Rod says. There was one scene, for example, where Rod was required to leap off the dock and come to the aid of Tippi who had just been hit by a seagull. Hitchcock wouldn’t let Rod show overt physical tenderness towards Tippi during that scene. ‘That’s because he didn’t have any experience of behaving like a masculine and rugged man, whether by jumping off the dock or rushing to a woman in need of aid,’ says Rod. ‘He had no streak of tenderness for relationships between men and women and he just didn’t show tenderness in his movies.’

According to Rod, Hitchcock tried every day to cut off any warmth Rod brought to the character. ‘He did give me a few line readings which I ignored.’ A famous publicity still of Hitchcock on location shows him leaning over Rod, one hand paternally on his shoulder, as he looks over the body of Suzanne Pleshette. ‘That’s a very rare glimpse of him standing over me in that still,’ says Rod, ‘fooling everyone into believing that he was fond of me and how gentle he was. Wrong!’ For Rod, the photograph was pure showmanship for publicity’s sake on Hitchcock’s part.

During the filming of The Birds, Rod was engaged to Anita Ekberg, the voluptuous Swedish actress who famously jumped into the Trevi fountain in Rome in Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita which set the mood for the permissiveness of the swinging 60s. Hitchcock used this detail to infuse the character of Melanie Daniels, as a ‘shallow, wealthy playgirl’, with the same background of ‘jumping into a fountain in Rome.’

A couple of years earlier, Rod was offered a part in Thunder in the Night which involved location filming in Italy. It was here that he met Anita Ekberg and the two began a tumultuous on/off relationship in front of the world’s paparazzi. Brawls in bars between the two followed, strange gifts exchanged, including a blue bottomed monkey from Anita, to the point that Rod felt like ‘Every day I was starring in an Errol Flynn movie.”

During the filming of The Birds Anita flew out from Rome, to join Rod on location. “He was a handsome young man, always very pleasant,” remembers Birds crew member Mary Bennett. “He was engaged to Anita Ekberg, and they had a fight, and she had thrown the engagement ring. He was looking for it and couldn’t find it and was telling the story to the amused crew.”

The press had a field day while various wedding dates were set between the couple, but they kept being postponed. The engagement was called off months later, after filming of The Birds, and the two stars would go their separate ways, eventually marrying different people within a year of breaking up.

At the end of their lives, the fate of Rod Taylor and Anita Ekberg was curiously entwined. Rod had been married to his third wife Carol for the last 35 years, living happily in Beverly Hills. But Anita would finally settle in Rome, broken and penniless and plagued with ill health. She died four days after Rod, uncannily on Sunday morning, 11th January 2015, on what would have been his 85th birthday.

Read more about Rod and Hitchcock in “The Making of Hitchcock’s The Birds” by Kamera Books