The Truth About The Attic Attack

Stories change with time and memory. In an interview from 2nd April 1963, while promoting The Birds in her home town of Minneapolis, the leading lady describes filming of the attic bird attack: “Mr. Hitchcock hated the scene and the set. He was scared. And he really hates to be scared, poor man, much as he enjoys scaring other people. He wouldn’t come onto the set until they had everything completely ready. Then he’d come, stay only long enough for them to make the shot, and then leave immediately.” Just how different is this from the scene in The Girl?

Hedren clippings-2 (dragged)

John Russell Taylor compares “Hitchcock” and “The Girl”

In anticipation of his re-released book Hitch: The Life and Times of Alfred Hitchcock, John Russell Taylor, Hitch’s official biographer compares the recent spate of Hitchcock biopics. While he finds “Hitchcock” the movie with Anthony Hopkins, “incomparably the more accurate and believable of the two films”, Taylor calls The Girl “a tissue of melodramatic invention” and “arrant nonsense” and questions how the “story seems to change exponentially” of those involved.

Great entertainers, says Taylor, never die, and Hitch was one of the greatest. You can read the entire article here:

No Emmy nominations for The Girl for Best TV Movie or Best Actress

The Emmy Nominations have been announced and highly criticised Hitchcock drama “The Girl” failed to be nominated in the Best TV Movie or Miniseries category. Sienna Miller was also snubbed failing to pick up a nomination for her portrayal in the Best Actress category. Leading the nominations are “American Horror Story” with 17, “Game of Thrones” with 16 and “Behind the Candelabra” with 15 nominations. Michael Douglas is tipped to win over Toby Jones in the Best Actor category for a TV or Miniseries for his superb portrayal of Liberace.

The Girl leaves empty handed at the BAFTAs

At the BAFTA awards in London, Hitchcock drama The Girl lost out in every category – Best Single Drama, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. Toby Jones and Sienna Miller joined the stars on the red carpet in the rain, only to lose out to Ben Wishaw for his stunning portrayal of Richard II and Sheridan Smith for her role in Mrs Biggs. The television drama, a joint production between the BBC and HBO, has been mired in controversy ever since its release last autumn. Associates close to Hitchcock, including cast and crew, have angrily defended the director, saying that the drama was one-sided and inaccurate in its portrayal. Although being nominated 8 times, The Girl only won an award for production design.

Why The Girl shouldn’t win at the Baftas

The Girl is nominated for 4 Baftas at this weekend’s TV awards. Here are 10 good reasons why we think it shouldn’t win.

  1. Crew members from The Birds and Marnie who were interviewed for the TV drama, Rita Riggs and Jim Brown’s widow, deny the sensationalist portrayal of Hitchcock. Other crew members who were not interviewed – Virginia Darcy, Lois Thurman, Hilton Green and actress Louise Latham – have also spoken out against the drama.
  2. The film has deeply upset the Hitchcock family, including grandchildren and great grandchildren, who have chosen to remain silent instead of justifying the movie with a response.
  3. Scenes suggest that Hitchcock put his leading lady in physical jeopardy, while the production records show that all due care was taken on the set, for both cast members and the trained birds. The American Humane Association was on set all the time when birds were used.
  4. The depiction of the telephone booth and attic filming is contradicted by the production archives at the Margaret Herrick Library and also on-set witnesses Virginia Darcy, Rita Riggs and Lois Thurman.
  5. Production was not shut down after the infamous filming of the bird attack in the attic. Co-star Veronica Cartwright confirms that they carried on filming while the leading lady recovered. Production records also show that the movie’s secretary Suzanne Gauthier reported she wasn’t harmed but needed three work days of rest, returning on Thursday 7th June 1962 to film the sand dune scene.
  6. Hitchcock producer Norman Lloyd called the TV movie ‘basically bullshit’ to Variety magazine – here speaks the wisdom of a 98 year old.
  7. The script is one-sided masquerading as objective truth. There is no mention of Noel Marshall, who the leading lady was engaged to at the time, which was a major reason for Hitchcock being upset, leading to the famous falling out.
  8. Star Kim Novak has publicly defended Hitchcock: “I never saw him make a pass at anybody or act strange to anybody. And wouldn’t you think if he was that way, I would’ve seen it or at least seen him with somebody? I think it’s unfortunate when someone’s no longer around and can’t defend themselves.”
  9. Hitchcock never raped or intentionally injured anyone – unlike some other directors. He lived his life in fantasy which is reflected in his movies. Vertigo has been named the Number 1 film of all time.
  10. “Hitch was in fact a wonderful human being as well as a master filmmaker,” says Norman Lloyd. “He deserves to be remembered that way.”

Hitchcock author casts doubts on ‘ruining my career’ claims

A new book by Scottish author Brian Hannan cast doubts on the widespread media reports that Hitchcock tried to ruin his leading lady’s career after she spurned his advances. In this new book Hitchcock’s Hollywood Hell, published by Baroliant Press, the author refutes claims that the director was vindictive enough to block other directors from hiring his star, saying that ‘Hitchcock took an enormous risk’ and ‘Hollywood did not bite’. Hannan persuasively argues a more tangled scenario of Hollywood business, box office returns and the leading lady’s age as reasons for the break in contract. This echoes other reports, most notably by Laura Truffaut, Francois Truffaut’s daughter, which has also refuted the allegations.
You can read the whole story here:

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.”