Hitchcock on Hitchcock, Volume 1

Hitchcock on Hitchcock, Volume 1: Selected Writings and Interviews

Edited by Sidney Gottlieb
Copyright Date: 1995
Edition: 1
Pages: 364
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt13x1hpm
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  • Book Info
    Hitchcock on Hitchcock, Volume 1
    Book Description:

    Gathered here for the first time are Alfred Hitchcock's reflections on his own life and work. In this ample selection of largely unknown and formerly inaccessible interviews and essays, Hitchcock provides an enlivening commentary on a career that spanned decades and transformed the history of the cinema. Bringing the same exuberance and originality to his writing as he did to his films, he ranges from accounts of his own life and experiences to techniques of filmmaking and ideas about cinema in general. Wry, thoughtful, witty, and humorous—as well as brilliantly informative—this selection reveals another side of the most renowned filmmaker of our time.

    Sidney Gottlieb not only presents some of Hitchcock's most important pieces, but also places them in their historical context and in the context of Hitchcock's development as a director. He reflects on Hitchcock's complicated, often troubled, and continually evolving relationships with women, both on and off the set. Some of the topics Hitchcock touches upon are the differences between English and American attitudes toward murder, the importance of comedy in film, and the uses and techniques of lighting. There are also many anecdotes of life among the stars, reminiscences from the sets of some of the most successful and innovative films of this century, and incisive insights into working method, film history, and the role of film in society.

    Unlike some of the complex critical commentary that has emerged on his life and work, the director's own writing style is refreshingly straightforward and accessible. Throughout the collection, Hitchcock reveals a delight and curiosity about his medium that bring all his subjects to life.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-96094-7
    Subjects: Film Studies, Performing Arts, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
    S. G.
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xxiv)

    Alfred Hitchcock was an unusually prolific filmmaker and instantly recognizable personality whose popularity and influence show no sign of waning. There is one area of his activity, though, that is neglected, underappreciated, even largely unknown: his writings. Throughout his life Hitchcock was glib, witty, and, if we qualify the term in certain ways, highly literate. He repeatedly emphasized the need for cinema to rely on pictures rather than dialogue, and his most well-known manner of self-representation was via an image, as in his trademark (and nonspeaking) cameo appearances in his films and in the cartoon caricature that aptly identified him....

  5. A Life in Films
    • Introduction
      (pp. 3-6)

      Hitchcock began to reminisce about his life in films at a fairly young age. “My Screen Memories” and “Life Among the Stars” were published while he was only in his late thirties, but by this time he had already spent more than seventeen years in the rather new industry, which qualified him to speak as one of the veterans. And in any event, at the time of these first reminiscences, Hitchcock was called on not so much as one of the old lions but as one of the bright stars among directors. In the late 1930s, Hitchcock’s reputation was at...

    • My Screen Memories (1936)
      (pp. 7-26)

      Looking back is sometimes amusing—and sometimes humiliating. It is not a thing I care to do as a rule.

      I prefer to look forward. I am usually more interested in the immediate future than in the past. But there is, I suppose, a certain advantage in contemplating things that have gone by, for a while, in preference to things to come. It helps one to realize one’s mistakes—gives one a sense of proportion.

      Having made up my mind to take the plunge, I0’ll do the job properly by going right back to the very beginning of my association...

    • Life Among the Stars (1937)
      (pp. 27-50)

      Have you ever been on location with a film outfit? Or watched one at work? If not, let me tell you just how many people are transported.

      There is, of course, the director. There is the production manager, who looks after the finance and organization, to leave the director’s mind free for the actual acting problems. There is the first assistant director and the second assistant director.

      There is the cameraman—who nowadays never touches the camera except to peep through the lens to see how the scene will photograph. There is the camera operator—for we don’t crank today,...

    • The Woman Who Knows Too Much (1956)
      (pp. 51-53)

      The day I proposed marriage to Alma she was lying in an upper bunk of a ship's cabin. The ship was floundering in a most desperate way and so was Alma, who was seasick. (We were returning to London from Germany, where I had just finished directing a movie. Alma was my employee.) I couldn’t risk being flowery for fear that in her wretched state she would think I was discussing a movie script. As it was, she groaned, nodded her head and burped. It was one of my greatest scenes—a little weak on dialogue, perhaps, but beautifully staged...

    • After-Dinner Speech at the Screen Producers Guild Dinner (1965)
      (pp. 54-58)

      They say that when a man drowns, his entire life flashes before his eyes. I am indeed fortunate, for I am having that same experience without even getting my feet wet.

      First of all I wish to express my deep appreciation for this honor. It makes me feel very proud indeed. It is especially meaningful because it is presented by my fellow dealers in celluloid. After all, when a man is found guilty of murder and condemned to death, it always makes him feel much better to know that it was done by a jury of his friends and neighbors....

    • Surviving (1977)
      (pp. 59-64)
      John Russell Taylor

      At Universal it was a mild, flat, sunny afternoon. The sort of day a crop duster might suddenly come at you out of the empty sky. I recognized the stocky white figure of Sarah, the Hitchcocks’ pet Scottie, being ceremoniously walked by a secretary, signifying that the master was in residence—and Mrs. H. too, as it transpired. Regular as clockwork, whether he has some immediate project on hand or not, Hitchcock puts in a 9 to 5 day at the studio, reading properties, screening movies to check on the work of actors or technicians he might possibly be interested...

  6. Actors, Actresses, Stars
    • Introduction
      (pp. 67-72)

      Hitchcock is frequently thought of and highly regarded as a unique and innovative formalist, interested primarily in exploring film structure and technique, and as a fantasist, centering his films around eruptions of the extraordinary. But he seems to have always thought of himself as a “realist,” a notoriously slippery and ambiguous term, but one that conveys his awareness of various forces that restricted his autonomy: he worked within a studio system; filmmaking is a commercial as well as an artistic enterprise; and the audience is in some ways as much of a director as the filmmaker, demanding vivid, lifelike characters...

    • How I Choose My Heroines (1931)
      (pp. 73-75)

      The chief point I keep in mind when selecting my heroine is that she must be fashioned to please women rather than men, for the reason that women form three-quarters of the average cinema audience. Therefore, no actress can be a good commercial proposition as a film heroine unless she pleases her own sex. Screen aspirants please note!

      My contention will probably be challenged by the supporters of the “physical” school of screen art who assert that sex appeal is the most important quality which can be possessed by any screen actress, but ignore the fact that the woman stars...

    • Are Stars Necessary? (1933)
      (pp. 76-78)

      Ever since the birth of films, I suppose, producers have been asking themselves this question, and with ever-growing insistence the public have answered “yes.”

      There are idealists who consider films as an art pure and simple, and who say that all actors should be subordinate to the film.

      As a film producer, Iknowthat art must first of all be commercially popular to be successful, and that one of the greatest factors which make a film commercially successful is the popularity of the stars in it.

      Whichever way one looks at it, the “star” question is there, because examination...

    • Women Are a Nuisance (1935)
      (pp. 79-81)
      Barbara J. Buchanan

      I asked Alfred Hitchcock point-blank: “Why do you hate women?” “I don’t exactly hate them,” he protested. “But I certainly don’t think they are as good actors as men.”

      I had gone out to Shepherd’s Bush to get to the bottom of Hitch’s brutal disregard for glamour, love-interest, sex-appeal, and all the other feminine attributes which the American director considers indispensable.

      InThe 39 Steps(as in other films with other actresses) Hitch deliberately deprived Madeleine Carroll, one of our best actresses, of her dignity and glamour.

      It seems that if he must have women in his films, at least...

    • Nova Grows Up (1938)
      (pp. 82-85)

      Four years or so ago, I directed Nova Pilbeam inThe Man Who Knew Too Much. And I have recently finished working with her for a second time onYoung and Innocent.

      It is well known that girls change tremendously between the ages of fourteen and eighteen. Nova Pilbeam is no exception to the rule.

      The girl I have just directed might be an entirely different person from the child who appeared inThe Man Who Knew Too Much. She has changed tremendously, both physically and mentally.

      Let me say right away that the Nova of today is altogether more...

    • Crime Doesn’t Pay (1938)
      (pp. 86-89)

      When I directed Peter Lorre inThe Secret Agent,I tried an experiment. Although the menace, he was also the comedy relief. In fact, he was far more humorous than villainous.

      It was breaking all the rules, of course, but I think the experiment was a success. It permitted filmgoers to see the other side of Lorre’s personality. He was known as a heavy. Since, he has become a straight actor, and you have probably seen him as “Mr. Moto” two or three times.

      Lorre is undoubtedly one of the screen’s most expert villains. But I think he is wise...

    • What I’d Do to the Stars (1939)
      (pp. 90-94)
      J. Danvers Williams

      Any day now our most celebrated director, Alfred Hitchcock, will be off to Hollywood.

      All his life, so far, Hitchcock has remained rigidly faithful to the British film industry. Now he is greatly looking forward to a change of environment.

      Two pictures are definitely scheduled for him in Hollywood:Titanicand the Daphne du Maurier subject,Rebecca. He tells me that if the opportunities arise he will remain there and make several more pictures.

      “Working under new conditions with an entirely fresh crowd of people will be like a tonic,” Hitchcock told me. “I am itching to get my hands...

    • Elegance Above Sex (1962)
      (pp. 95-96)

      A national magazine editor once asked me to give him a few words about my conception of femininity. After devoting a lot of thought to the subject I was forced to give him even fewer words than he expected.

      “Not being a woman,” I said, “I don’t know what femininity is.”

      I do think I know, however, what kind of woman is most fascinating, and therefore most feminine, to men. I am not speaking of the kind of woman at whom men are prone to gawk on the street. We have all seen women who exaggerate their physical attributes to...

  7. Thrills, Suspense, the Audience
    • Introduction
      (pp. 99-106)

      Hitchcock’s first published writing was “Gas,” written for an in house magazine put out by the firm he worked for at the time, the Henley Telegraph and Cable Company. It is a lurid, somewhat overheated tale, perhaps rightly described by Spoto as like an “undergraduate’s imitation of a Poe short story” (46)—I prefer to think of it as a vision of Poe as filmed by D. W. Griffith—but in any event it is uncanny how this brief story prefigures so much of Hitchcock’s later work. Spoto points out that “Gas” “shows the young Hitchcock’s instinctive grasp of the...

    • Gas (1919)
      (pp. 107-108)

      She had never been in this part of Paris before—only reading of it in the novels of Duvain, or seeing it at the Grand Guignol. So this was the Monunarte? That horror where danger lurked under cover of night; where innocent souls perished without warning—where doom confronted the unwary—where the Apache reveled.

      She moved cautiously in the shadow of the high wall, looking furtively backward for the hidden menace that might be dogging her steps. Suddenly she darted into an alley way, little heeding where it led . . . groping her way on in the inky...

    • Why “Thrillers” Thrive (1936)
      (pp. 109-112)

      Why do we go to the pictures? To see life reflected on the screen, certainly—but what kind of life?

      Obviously, the kind we don’t experience ourselves—or the same life but with a difference; and the difference consists of emotional disturbances which, for convenience, we call “thrills.”

      Our nature is such that we must have these “shake-ups,” or we grow sluggish and jellified; but, on the other hand, our civilization has so screened and sheltered us that it isn't practicable to experience sufficient thrills at firsthand.

      So we have to experience them artificially, and the screen is the best...

    • Let ’Em Play God (1948)
      (pp. 113-115)

      Every maker of mystery movies aims at getting the audience on the edge of their seats. The ingredient to keep them there is called (“suspense.” Producers cry for it, writers cry in agony to get it, and actors cry for joy when they do get it. I’ve often been asked what it is.

      As far as I’m concerned you have suspense when you let the audience play God.

      Suppose, for instance, you have six characters involved in a mystery. A man has been murdered and all six are possible suspects but no one is sure including the audience.

      One of...

    • The Enjoyment of Fear (1949)
      (pp. 116-121)

      I suppose the proper way to begin a piece on the enjoyment of fear would be to prove that such a thing exists. Can fear be enjoyable? Or even pleasant? I was discussing this point with an old friend not long ago.

      “Fear,” he said, “is the least pleasant of all emotions. I experienced it when I was a boy, and again during both wars. I never want my children to experience it. I think it entirely possible, if I have anything to say about it, that they’ll live their entire lives and never know the meaning of the word.”...

    • Master of Suspense: Being a Self-Analysis by Alfred Hitchcock (1950)
      (pp. 122-124)

      Directors of motion pictures, ever since the leather puttee era, have been permitted at least one eccentricity per capita, and my habit of appearing in my own pictures has generally been regarded as exercise of the directorial prerogative. InStage FrightI have been told that my performance is quite juicy. I have been told this with a certain air of tolerance, implying that I have now achieved the maximum limits of directorial ham in the movie sandwich.

      It just isn’t true. There may have been a “MacGuffin” in my film appearance, but not a ham. My motives have always...

    • Core of the Movie—The Chase (1950)
      (pp. 125-132)
      David Brady

      Q. First, Mr. Hitchcock, I wonder if you would tell us why you consider the chase so important in films?

      A. Well, for one thing, the chase seems to me the final expression of the motion picture medium. Where but on the screen can automobiles be shown careening around corners after each other? Then, too, the movie is the natural vessel for the chase story because the basic film shape is continuous. Once a movie starts it goes right on. You don’t stop it for scene changes, or to go out and have a cigarette.

      Q. You. think, then, that...

    • Murder—With English On It (1957)
      (pp. 133-137)

      A neighbor interrupted a rose-bush-pruning reverie of mine the other morning to exclaim with gusto: “Well, I see you’ve got another juicy murder case on your hands over there!”

      I glanced hastily around to see if by chance I had overlooked a body somewhere in my matutinal peregrinations.

      But it quickly developed that by “you” my friend meant not me personally but my native England; and that by “juicy murder case” he was referring to what I dare say some English newspaper by now has cited as “The Unfortunate Occurrences at Eastbourne.” These involved, you may recall, what is alleged...

    • Would You Like to Know Your Future? (1959)
      (pp. 138-141)

      Would you like to be able to predict the future? A movie director can, you know. In making a film, he takes an imitation slice of life in his hands and arranges it just the way he wants it. He knows, in the first scene, just what is going to happen in the last.

      Now, this is a godlike quality. It gives the director a great sense of power. But there’s just one small trouble with it. The stuff the movie director is working with isn’t real. It’s synthetic. It's not life itself. It’s only an imitation of life.

      In...

    • Why I Am Afraid of the Dark (1960)
      (pp. 142-145)

      It’s been several years that people have called me “the king of suspense.” Was I influenced by Edgar Allan Poe? To be frank, I couldn’t affirm it with certainty. Of course, subconsciously, we are always influenced by the books that we’ve read. The novels, the painting, the music, and all the works of art, in general, form our intellectual culture from which we can’t get away. Even if we want to!

      First of all, I have to confess that I’m easily frightened. I realized this when I was four or five years old. I remember that night when I woke...

    • A Redbook Dialogue Alfred Hitchcock and Dr. Fredric Wertham (1963)
      (pp. 146-154)
      Alfred Hitchcock and Fredric Wertham

      Dr. Wertham: I didn’t seePsycho,I’m sorry to say, but many people have commented on the act of violence in that movie. Was it a little stronger than you would have put in formerly—say ten or fifteen years ago?

      Mr. Hitchcock: Well, I don’t know. I havealwaysfelt that you should do the minimum on screen to get the maximum audience effect. I believe the audience should work. Sometimes it is necessary to go into some element of violence, but I only do it if I have a strong reason. For example, inPsychothere was this...

  8. Film Production
    • Introduction
      (pp. 157-164)

      Hitchcock is recognized as one of the great auteurs, and he frequently praises the model of what he calls “one-man pictures,” films that bear the signature of a strong producer-director, knowledgeable in all areas of cinematic technique, construction, and economics. The essays and interviews in this section, though, show Hitchcock’s deep awareness that an auteur by no means operates independently but rather in the context of stylistic conventions, production routines, and institutional pressures that set up the horizon of filmmaking (a highly charged term for a director who often identifies his ideal sight as a clear horizon). Describing these circumstances...

    • Films We Could Make (1927)
      (pp. 165-167)

      Captain Cook, when he discovered Australia, must have felt like I do when I am asked to suggest what the new British film should be or may be. How shall one lay down rules for the development of an uncharted continent?

      For that is what the film is as a medium of expression. It differs from the novel, the play, music, and the ballet. Perhaps it approaches nearest to music and the ballet. It can play on the emotions and can delight the eye. But how we shall finally use the film none of us—British directors or otherwise—can...

    • “Stodgy” British Pictures (1934)
      (pp. 168-171)

      It is just six years since I started work on the first British all-talking picture,Blackmail.I am now preparing an adaptation of John Buchan’sThe 39 Steps.

      In those six years the sound picture has progressed and matured enormously, but there is a danger of our British studios being content to turn out standardized types of pictures. British talkies need more variety.

      It must always be remembered that the primary aim of pictures is to provide entertainment. To entertain people, one must first capture their interest.

      For example, the initial problem which has confronted every film director since the...

    • If I Were Head of a Production Company (1935)
      (pp. 172-175)

      It’s easy and pleasant to theorize; but unsupported theory has explosive properties when exposed to the air, so I propose to confine these remarks strictly to a basis of experience.

      Remember, I am speaking of the ideal conditions; true, they are realizable—but they might cost a lot of money.

      Still, as I can’t imagine myself becoming head of a production company that hadn’t a lot of money at its disposal, that’s quite legitimate.

      Starting with the actual studio, I want plenty of space. There will be derisive grins here from readers who know my corpulence; but I want more...

    • More Cabbages, Fewer Kings: A Believer in the Little Man (1937)
      (pp. 176-178)

      There is a certain man whose annual holiday from work causes considerable regret to the British people, for with his holiday comes the cessation of a newspaper feature that makes millions laugh. Strube, theDaily Expresscartoonist, is the man, because through the medium of his pen-and-ink character, the “Little Man,” we see our true British selves, the failings, the shortcomings, triumphs, and achievements of the middle class.

      The middle classes are the essence of England, and Strube in his wisdom has chosen his “Little Man” from their ranks because that little bowler-hatted individual reflects the only genuine life and...

    • Much Ado About Nothing? (1937)
      (pp. 179-182)

      Shakespeare was an imaginative playwright—he wrote his scenes as taking place in forests and ships at sea. He had almost the scenario writer’s gift for keeping the story moving from setting to setting. But, for all his flow of imagination, sixteenth-century stagecraft let him down. It could not rise to the settings of forests or ships at sea—it had not the skill to build him Macbeth’s castle as a fitting background to his drama.

      Shakespeare, undaunted, used another device. Perhaps inwardly he pined for scenery, but, deprived of a paint brush, he put his colors into the words...

    • Directors Are Dead (1937)
      (pp. 183-185)

      Filmgoers are at last beginning to realize that producers and directors are entirely different screen species. In the past, the director has received all the publicity. The producer has been a vague manbehind-the-scenes.

      Apart from the late Irving Thalberg, Sam Goldwyn, and perhaps one or two others, producers used to be completely unknown by name, and most filmgoers have given the director all the credit for the success of a picture.

      A lot of people have criticized my recent declaration that the director was becoming less important and that the producer was really the man on whom pictures relied.

      I...

    • Director’s Problems (1938)
      (pp. 186-191)

      There are directors and directors. There are directors who merely interpret a script. In other words, their job is largely to see that the characterization is carried out, that the story is complete and presented on the screen by their choice of shots. That is to say, each piece of film that goes to make the whole is chosen and designed by them.

      The general method that is used by, I might say, the average director, is to shoot what we’d term plenty of material and then cut.

      I personally don’t use that method at all. I aim at getting...

    • The Censor and Sydney Street (1938)
      (pp. 192-195)
      Leslie Perkoff

      The film world with its play of names, sensational and unsteady in its juggling with stars, is more sober in its treatment of craftsmen. Griffith, Disney, Eisenstein, Duvivier—such names have solid foundations. Likewise the name Alfred Hitchcock, one of the few real English contributions to film technique.

      Unlike too many of his colleagues, Hitchcock often rejects the Philistine insensitiveness to film problems. Thus his unequivocal recognition of the writer as the prime factor in the substance of the dramatic film, his prophecy of the future obsoleteness of the director unless his status and power expand to that of the...

    • The Censor Wouldn’t Pass It (1938)
      (pp. 196-201)
      J. Danvers Williams

      When I saw his latest film,The Lady Vanishes, it struck me that Hitchcock’s famous formula of secret agents, guns, and hold-ups was wearing just a little thin.

      True, as an evening’s relaxation,The Lady Vanishesis worth anybody’s shilling. Judged purely as a piece of mechanical entertainment it compares favorably with the majority of American-made pictures.

      But what a pity, I couldn’t help thinking, that so talented a director as Hitch should waste his knowledge of the film medium and his sense of the dramatic on such a basically trivial story.

      There were sequences inThe Lady Vanishes(as,...

    • Old Ruts Are New Ruts (1939)
      (pp. 202-204)

      Somebody told me that Hollywood motion pictures were in a rut; I was told that at a party a few days after I arrived here to sign a long-term contract with David O. Selznick. Well, in fifty years the movies have made a lot of ruts, but I don’t imagine any of us are still in the rut that was used ten or twenty or thirty years ago.

      Somebody also said, in writing this article I should talk about Hollywood ruts because I was new to Hollywood and could see the ruts.

      I’ll talk about that in a moment. Just...

    • Production Methods Compared (1949)
      (pp. 205-209)

      The filming of each picture is a problem in itself. The solution to such a problem is an individual thing, not the application of a mass solution to all problems.

      Something I do today makes me feel that the methods I used yesterday are out of date, and yet tomorrow I may be faced with a problem which I can best solve by using yesterday’s methods. That is why I try to make my first rule of direction—flexibility.

      Next, I try to make it a rule that nothing should be permitted to interfere with the story. The making of...

    • Film Production (1965)
      (pp. 210-226)

      By far the greater majority of full-length films are fiction films. The fiction film is created from a screenplay, and all the resources and techniques of the cinema are directed toward the successful realization on the screen of the screenplay. Any treatment of motion picture production will naturally and logically begin, therefore, with a discussion of the screenplay.

      1. THE SCREENPLAY.—The screenplay, which is sometimes known, also, as the scenario or film script, resembles the blueprint of the architect. It is the verbal design of the finished film. In studios where films are made in great numbers, and under...

    • In the Hall of Mogul Kings (1969)
      (pp. 227-230)

      When I arrived in America somewhat over 30 years ago to makeRebecca,my first English picture in America, I found myself a minor figure in a vast film industry made up of entrepreneurs who headed the studios, and I became involved in the making of a picture under the producer system.

      In those days the individual producer was the man who made the pictures. He was king. The director, the writers, actors, designers, and the like were all subject to his taste and approval. His method usually was to buy, or be handed by the studio head, material for...

  9. Technique, Style, and Hitchcock at Work
    • Introduction
      (pp. 233-240)

      These essays overlap with those in the previous section on a variety of points, but here Hitchcock focuses more precisely on the details of his own artistic and technical methods, less concerned with the broad contexts of filmmaking than with the more immediate tasks and materials at hand. He took great delight in talking and writing about how he worked: this not only served publicity purposes, calling attention to his mastery of film art and catering to the public’s desire for behind-the-scenes views of how films are made, but also had important critical and theoretical functions. Hitchcock was indeed a...

    • On Music in Films (1933–1934)
      (pp. 241-245)
      Stephen Watts

      When the British student of intelligent cinema turns to survey the creative side of filmmaking in his own country the names available for reference are pathetically few. Even ranging over the whole of the talkie’s short history he can probably produce a bare half-dozen, say (alphabetically for safety!) Asquith, Dupont, Grierson, Hitchcock, Korda, and Saville, and only the two last-named of these can be regarded, at the moment, as contributors to the ordinary cinema.

      But the arrival ofWaltzes from Viennaand the news that he has joined the Gaumont-British organization bring back to prominence the name of Alfred Hitchcock....

    • Close Your Eyes and Visualize! (1936)
      (pp. 246-249)

      In North London, on the banks of the Grand Junction Canal, stands a tall building topped by a giant chimney. In 1924 the film critic of theDaily Expresssaid, concerning a film made in this building, that it was “the best American picture made in England.”

      That film,Woman to Woman,starring Clive Brook and Betty Compson, was made at what are now the Gainsborough studios and was produced by the embryonic Gainsborough Company for Famous Players-Lasky. Therein lies my debt to America, for in the beginning I was American trained and under the old F.P.-L. banner dug myself...

    • Search for the Sun (1937)
      (pp. 250-252)

      Filmgoers, lying back in upholstered comfort in the cinemas today, are apt to take a film for granted. In a sense they are right, for they are there to be entertained and not to worry about how the film got there. I sometimes think, however, that if they but know of some of our “headaches” and difficulties behind the scenes, theirs would be a greater appreciation when the film is finally unspooled before their critical eyes.

      Largely on account of the machinations of cartoonists and fiction writers, the public in general has a delightfully distorted idea of what goes on...

    • Direction (1937)
      (pp. 253-261)

      Many people think a film director does all his work in the studio, drilling the actors, making them do what he wants. That is not at all true of my own methods, and I can write only of my own methods. I like to have a film complete in my mind before I go on the floor. Sometimes the first idea one has of a film is of a vague pattern, a sort of haze with a certain shape. There is possibly a colorful opening developing into something more intimate; then, perhaps in the middle, a progression to a chase...

    • Some Aspects of Direction (1938)
      (pp. 262-266)

      Many people imagine that the director’s work begins in the studio and is confined to handling the actors. In my case this is not true: before I go into the studio I like to have the whole film complete in my mind. I like to have the whole story down, shot by shot, on paper, and this means working a lot on the script before I even enter the studio. The preliminary steps are something like this.

      First, when I’ve got my story I like to strip it right down to the bone—just take the essentials and write them...

    • Lecture at Columbia University (1939)
      (pp. 267-274)

      I have some notes here that are mixed up with a letter from my mother, and I am trying to sort them out. First of all, before we go into melodrama and suspense, about which Mr. Abbott asked me to speak to you, I wish to talk about the method one invariably uses in designing a motion picture script.

      When I am given a subject, probably a book, play, or an original, I like to see it on one sheet of foolscap. That is to say, have the story, in its barest bones, just laid out on a sheet of...

    • My Most Exciting Picture (1948)
      (pp. 275-284)

      ShootingRopewas a little like unpuzzling a Rube Goldberg drawing.

      A long time ago I said that I would like to film in two hours a fictional story that actually happens in two hours. I wanted to do a picture with no time lapses—a picture in which the camera never stops.

      InRopeI got my wish. It was a picture unlike any other I’ve ever directed. True, I had experimented with a roving camera in isolated sequences in such films asSpellbound, Notorious,andThe Paradine Case.But untilRopecame along, I had been unable to...

    • On Style (1963)
      (pp. 285-302)
      Cinema and Alfred Hitchcock

      Hitchcock: What isCinema?

      Interviewer:Cinemais distributed nationally in the United States, a magazine for what we think of as the “intelligent motion picturegoer.” Our premise . . .

      H: Are there intelligent picturegoers?

      I: We presume so . . . Our premise is that there are intelligent motion picturegoers who look to directors as the creators of motion pictures. Now what I’d like to talk to you about is film style. You stated recently that the two things common to all your films are style and suspense, whereas otherwise they are all quite different. I presume your films...

    • Hitchcock Talks About Lights, Camera, Action (1967)
      (pp. 303-314)
      Herb A. Lightman

      What factors are involved in your decision to employ a specific style of photography to realize a particular script in visual terms? For example, what led you t o adopt the “reflected light” approach to filmingTorn Curtain?

      Away from here one often hears complaints about what is called “Hollywood Gloss.” When we were preparing to filmTorn Curtain,I began casting about for a photographic style that would help us tell the story in a more realistic, not so “glossy” way. Actually, I’ve felt for a long time that our color films were being photographed in almost the same...

    • It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s . . . The Birds (1968)
      (pp. 315-317)

      I suppose thatThe Birdsis probably the most prodigious job ever done. I don’t know whether you are aware of what we call double printing, but we have a system called the traveling matte process.

      Let us assume that we’re going to photograph two men talking on the corner of Fifth Avenue, New York, and we’re shooting the picture in June, but the story requires a snow-covered street. Now, normally in a scene like this they’d shoot the background, and we'd put it on a screen and stand the two men in front of it. In this particular case...

    • Hitchcock at Work (1976)
      (pp. 318-326)

      Mr. Hitchcock: The film is going to open with a girl, back view, going into a railroad station at Hartford, Connecticut. At present, I don’t know what time of the day we can shoot it because we don’t want it full of crowds because it may cover her up. The essential part is that we follow her back view into the station as she goes to the desk or booking office.

      Evan Hunter: The ticket window. But Hitch, it should be on a Friday evening because she goes directly there from robbing the safe.

      Mr. Hitchcock: Well, we needn’t say...

  10. A Bibliography of the Writings of Alfred Hitchcock
    (pp. 327-332)
  11. Works Cited
    (pp. 333-334)
  12. Index
    (pp. 335-340)