To this day, Alfred Hitchcock is looked on as one of cinema's best and most influential directors. But how did the stars of his films find working with the great man?
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Alfred Hitchcock is one of cinema's greatest
and most influential directors.
His style is instantly recognisable -
the striking visuals, the tense plots,
and the elaborate set pieces
all helped to earn him a reputation as the master of suspense.
He was in total control.
Everything was planned to the smallest detail
before filming began. And an actor's job
was to see those plans through.
I'm very much interested in your attitude to actors,
because you once said that film stars are only puppets to be used in films.
Walt Disney, you said, had the best idea -
"When he didn't like them, he tore them up."
Now, this implied, and that's an understatement in itself,
that you haven't got a very high regard for actors.
Or is it only stars that you object to?
I think it's...
It's a difficulty of stars - they want to be writers today,
you know? They want to be producers.
They won't stick, like any decent cobbler would,
to their last, you know?
And I think that's one of the big problems -
when an actor wants to rewrite and arrives on the set
with his scene all ready...
I had that occasion happen to me once,
an actor came with a scene completely rewritten at 9am.
I said, "What about your co-star in the picture?
"She doesn't know a word of this. Hasn't been able to learn a word.
"Don't you have any regard for her?"
Not at all, it was just that he wanted to change the scene.
Course it wasn't permitted, naturally.
In this episode, we'll be focusing largely
on Hitchcock's leading ladies,
but his dealings with all his actors were interesting.
He once denied describing all actors as cattle,
saying that he'd been misquoted,
and what he'd actually said was,
"All actors should be treated like cattle."
But he loved to be provocative,
and many of Hollywood's greatest stars
would choose to work with him more than once -
Cary Grant, James Stewart, Grace Kelly and Joan Fontaine.
Can you say what it was like to work with Hitchcock for the first time?
He was darling. A bit formidable.
Enormously bawdy sense of humour.
And he had a habit -
whether it was conscious or not,
I don't know - but of rather keeping
all his actors at loggerheads.
So he would be the one in the middle - rather puckish.
Good for me, because it made me suffer quite a lot
and feel quite miserable all the time,
and it probably came out on the screen that way.
Why don't you go?
Why don't you leave Manderley?
He doesn't need you.
He's got his memories.
He doesn't love you, he wants to be alone again with her.
You've nothing to stay for.
You've nothing to live for, really, have you?
Look down there. It's easy, isn't it?
Why don't you?
Why don't you?
Don't be afraid.
He had absolutely no nonsense about
mood or meaning or any of that.
He was telling a story, expected you to tell it with him,
in absolutely common terms.
No theories, like the Actors Studio, or any of that.
Made it terribly clear. And I remember finally,
I had to cry one day, quite a lot, and I said,
"Hitch, I just can't cry any more."
He said, "Well, kid, what are we going to do?"
And I said, "Well, slap me in the face." He said, "Fine." Off he went, slapped me in the face.
I went back and the tears came down, partly pain,
but a great deal of gratitude for his understanding.
Was wonderful of him.
You said that he made you suffer quite a lot during the making
-of that thing, and that it was probably good for you. In what way do you mean?
I think that if you are playing an insignificant little girl
that has a terrible inferiority complex,
that it's better not to praise her too much
and tell her she's marvellous, or you'll undo what you want.
It was a little difficult.
I remember Larry Olivier telling a rather off-colour joke -
as a matter of fact, the first time I ever heard
a certain four-letter word ever spoken.
And Hitch said, "Oh, I wouldn't speak like that in front of Joan.
"After all, she is a bride." And Larry said,
"Oh, who'd you marry?"
And I shyly said, "Well, Brian Aherne."
And he said, "Oh, couldn't you have done better than that?"
So I think that's part of the treatment I was getting.
-It certainly helped the acting.
-It helped the acting to the extent
that you were nominated for an Academy Award in that movie,
-And the picture won it. Hitchcock I don't think got it.
I may be wrong, but I don't think he got it for that.
Then, of course, I did Suspicion.
Did get it for that. Also directed by Hitch.
And I don't think the picture got it, but there you are, that happens.
Joan Fontaine spoke there of Hitchcock's disdain
for the method style of acting,
and that certainly comes across in his comments here.
You don't think, then, that the actor can contribute anything artistically?
I mean, I don't mean just in his performance, but in...
Well, I think he can contribute a lot in performance
and interpreting the role,
-and come with bits of business and that kind of thing.
You know, he should develop his characterisation to the fullest,
and not try to rewrite it.
When you say rewrite, do you object to the altering of one or two words?
No, no, not at all.
I do object to changing storyline, and that kind of thing.
And I think a lot of it comes, the trouble,
is when actors go to these schools
and they're taught improvisation.
They've given a situation, they say, "Work it out."
Well, I say it's not acting, it's writing,
when you tell an actor to work something out.
Improvisation is not making up the pure performance,
it's making up a scene, and it's the job of a writer to do that.
Would you accept improvisation as an exercise?
Well, I certainly would not. In a studio, I wouldn't.
They can do it at their school as much as they like,
so long as they don't come in the studio
and want to improvise on the set.
-That would be no good at all.
Method actors might not have been happy with the attitude Hitchcock
displays there, but Ingrid Bergman had no such issues with him.
She worked with Hitchcock three times,
on Under Capricorn, Spellbound and Notorious.
And in this exchange, it's clear
how much she admired him and his creativity.
Which of the directors have been most useful to you? Which of the directors you've worked with?
Well, I don't want to answer that question, because, you see,
if I mention one, then I'll hurt somebody else.
So I think I will just skip that answer.
What do you look for in a director?
-Is that a sensible question, can you answer that?
-Yes, of course.
that he knows what he's doing,
and that he's able to communicate it to me.
There was censorship in America, wasn't there? The Hays Office in the '40s,
-particularly, was very hot on anybody doing anything.
Did you have trouble in this way? Did you ever try to swing the law?
Well, we had trouble several times with these things.
And now, for instance, if we take Notorious,
Hitchcock was very clever and invented a love scene
with a kiss that became famous in those days.
Looking at it today, I mean, it's laughable,
for what we see nowadays on the screen.
But a kiss couldn't last more than two seconds, I think it was,
it had to break. And it could not only be in...
It couldn't be in a horizontal position,
-even with clothes on, it had to be sitting down or standing up.
And he invented this thing that they tried to cut,
but he won, because not one kiss was longer than two seconds,
but there were so many of them, you see? So it looked like...
And that became a very famous love scene.
-This was you and Cary Grant?
Ingrid Bergman was one of the finest actresses Hitchcock directed,
but she doesn't fall into the category defined by critics
as the classic Hitchcock actress -
the cool, elegant blonde.
"Blondes make the best victims," he once said.
"They are like virgin snow that shows up the bloody footprints."
There is, I'd think you'd agree, Mr Hitchcock, a Hitchcock woman -
very tall, very cool, iceberg outside
and dampened down fires within.
Now, I know you've never submitted to the psychiatrist's couch,
but have you any idea at all
why you have this obsession with this kind of woman?
I'm only obsessed because I don't believe in
stamping the woman with the word "sex" all over her.
I think it should be discovered
in the course of our getting acquainted with her.
It's more interesting for this thing to be not apparent.
In other words, we don't have to have the sex
hanging round her neck like baubles all over her.
I think it should be...
There should be a certain mystery about it.
-But why is she always blonde? I mean, even Julie Andrews...
-I think that's traditional.
I think that dates back to Mary Pickford, you know,
if you remember. Tradition of the cinema is that the hero
was always a dark man and the heroine was always a blonde.
I think it's the simplification of identification, really.
The identification of a blonde
is key to the plot of one of Hitchcock's greatest films -
Vertigo. Kim Novak starred
as a woman pressured into changing her appearance
by an obsessed James Stewart.
That's not it. Nothing like it.
But you said grey, sir.
Now, look, I just want an ordinary, simple grey suit.
-I like that one, Scottie.
-No, no, it's not right.
The gentleman seems to know what he wants.
All right, we'll find it.
The pressure Kim Novak's character comes under in the film
turned out to be remarkably similar
to the reality actresses faced in the 1950s,
as she described to Michael Parkinson in 1981.
It was really...
Well, there was a lot of stress at the time,
because the star system was such that
you had to work under tremendous pressure.
There was so much emphasis put on the look,
on the image. They never really cared about what you were inside,
it was as long as you projected the right image,
and that usually meant how much lipstick,
how you wore your hair, things like that.
And there was such a need to always want to express yourself
and be yourself, but it wasn't the time.
Of course, you came under the wing, if that's the right word,
of Harry Cohn, who's either described as a mogul or a monster,
whichever way you look at him.
But he was one of the last great impresarios, wasn't he,
of picking out stars like yourself
and making them in his image. He saw you, it's said,
as a replacement for Rita Hayworth, is that right?
I think the story got changed around a little bit,
a little bit exaggerated.
There was always a number of people that were being built
and groomed for stardom, you know?
And I think at the time we had about ten girls and about eight men,
Jack Lemmon was one of them, being groomed,
and a couple of us made it in that group.
I don't think it was really a matter
of trying to take Rita Hayworth's place.
But he was, he was a strange man,
but there's a lot to say for him, really.
When you think about it, when I look back,
-I mean, he put the fear of God in me. He was terrifying, really.
Oh, God. To walk in his office and to see, you just...
And he was so...
Well, he was like a big gorilla. Like King Kong, really.
But on the other hand, he knew his business,
he knew what he wanted, he knew the kind of films
that should be made, and he knew how to get his results.
And mostly by putting fear into people, really.
I mean, he did like to work with fear as his main hold over everybody.
Did he wants to change you physically? Did he...
Well, yes, that in other words, there were always formulas.
They felt, well, this worked, that worked, let's put it together.
In fact, when they sent me to the make-up room at the studio
the first time, and I sat in the make-up chair
and he looked at me, not trying to see what features I had
that might be good in bringing out, but he looked and he thought,
"Now, let's see, let's try a Joan Crawford mouth
"and Marilyn Monroe hair, and..." you know, and all the different...
And he put it all together. By the time you got out of the chair,
you were so insecure, because I looked in the mirror,
it was absolutely frightening, I didn't look at all like myself.
So there was constantly a little bit of...
rebellion, I suppose. But I didn't do it outwardly,
cos I felt, well, they were experts,
and I didn't really want to say anything too much.
But I'd go in the back, in the dressing room
and rub off the lipstick and try to compromise,
put on something a little different.
But it was mostly the look that they tried to change.
-It should be back from your face and pinned at the neck.
I told her that. I told you that.
We tried it.
It just didn't seem to suit me.
You gained a reputation, did you not -
I don't know if this is hearsay, but it's what I've read -
for being quite difficult on one or two movies in this time in Hollywood.
Was that because you were trying to assert yourself?
-That you were trying to say, "I don't want any of this"?
-I think to a large degree.
They got very upset when I would smear off the lipstick and re-do my hair.
But not only that, yes, they would mind
if you would try to discuss how you wanted to play the role.
I mean, after all, there was not just the fact that they were the boss,
but at that time there were less rights for women as well,
in the sense that... I mean, it was enough trying to say what you want,
let alone being a woman saying it. I would always want to discuss it
and try to bring in my own self, if I could, to a part.
I felt I had something to offer in my own way.
Two years after Vertigo came the film that,
in terms of reputation, raised Hitchcock
to a whole new level - Psycho.
Audiences across the world were shocked
when the leading lady was killed halfway through the movie,
in the most unexpected and brilliantly executed manner.
The blonde this time is Janet Leigh.
To me, Marion Crane was a normal kind of girl.
She sang in the church choir, she was a good student.
-Nothing to do with the movie.
-Not in the script
-or in the book or anything?
this is just what I wanted Marion to be.
She was a good daughter. Her parents were killed,
so she had to give up the idea of going to college so she went to work.
She gave up a young love, that maybe she would have
been married and had children by that time.
-It's very simple clothes, isn't it? And no jewellery.
The dress was bought off the rack.
It was something that Marion Crane could have afforded as a secretary.
That's why there's not a lot of make-up,
and the hair is very simple, it's not styled, you know.
People have continued to be fascinated by her and by that film.
Why has it stayed in people's minds?
I think because of Hitchcock's brilliance
and his ability to tell his story so tightly.
He gets the audience right going on this path,
right to where we can show, and then provokes the audience
-into taking it...
-Take the leap.
-They take the leap,
they finish the creative process.
You can forget a photograph,
but you can't forget what you've created here.
-Do you have a vacancy?
Oh, we have 12 vacancies. 12 cabins, 12 vacancies.
They moved away the highway.
Oh, I thought I'd gotten off the main road.
I knew you must have.
Nobody ever stops here any more unless they've done that.
Here's the sequence - one of the most famous ever filmed.
-This is hard for me to watch.
-Is it hard for you to watch?
-See, look at the smile.
Yeah, you see, this is having made the right choice,
-and she knows she's made the right choice.
And it's washing not just her face and her hair, it's washing her soul.
-Yeah. And so, knowing this,
-the audience is almost at peace at this point.
You know, maybe she's going to go with one or the other,
that we don't know yet. But now... SCREAMING FROM SCREEN
I'm sorry to ask you to watch this, cos I know it's difficult,
but if we could talk about some of the techniques in it,
it'd be very interesting. For example, apparently Mr Hitchcock
shot slow motion sequences and everything like that
to add to the... We're watching it in slow motion here.
Yeah, see, you never...
People swear that they saw the knife go in the body
-and they saw blood spurt out.
-They never, ever did.
What Mr Hitchcock did was, when the knife went back,
with the music - the music was the thrust of the knife -
and as the music and the knife went forward,
you saw a quick shot of a tum, you know,
or of here, or a leg or something,
and you saw the knife go in there, but you never did,
because the next thing you saw was the knife coming back out.
So you swore you saw the knife go in and it was being pulled back out.
What's striking when you look at this in slow motion
is you can see a kind of terror on your face.
-It wasn't difficult.
-Look at that. Look at that.
Yeah, you have that apparition.
I mean, just the whole idea of it.
Cos there was someone there who was Mother.
I mean, not Tony, but you know.
And there was a knife - not a real one, but still.
I mean, just think of having something come at you like that,
and it doesn't take much imagination to...
I mean, to lose yourself in the fear
and in the frenzy,
and in the complete horror.
And it's the way it's shot that some of it is out of focus -
look at that, that's clearly an out of focus shot -
and then the knife comes into the foreground
-and then it goes into focus and it cuts through water.
-Yeah, and you...
-It cuts through the water, but never the skin.
-Never the skin.
Look at that.
It's agony. I mean, you know, you see, cos...
Imagine what it would be. That's why I don't take a shower.
-And it's true, I cannot...
-Is that really true?
That really, I swear to you, is true.
And it wasn't until I saw it -
not the shooting of it, cos that's done in pieces,
it's too difficult - but when I saw it, and realised
how completely defenceless we are in a shower.
Think about it. The water's going, you can't hear,
you can't see, cos the curtain or door or whatever is there,
and you're naked, you're defenceless.
So, you know, why would I put myself in that position ever again?
OK, let's get to the end of this extraordinary sequence.
This, to me, I think is one of the most pathetic - this next shot,
this one - you don't plan things like that.
Where you go down, it just happened, and the hair sticks up on the...
That, to me, is so pathetic.
It just shows the complete abject horror
of such a... You know, of such violence.
There's no control. The body has lost control.
Were you ever worried at the fact
that this was a horrific film?
Hitchcock would sell it as a black comedy
and talk about an exquisite murder.
Was there any sort of ethical problem about that for you?
-No, I just thought he was...
He was a great showman,
besides being the craftsman that he was, and...
Oh, no, I didn't feel that at all.
This was obviously entertainment.
It was Psycho that cemented Hitchcock's reputation
as the master manipulator of audiences.
Manipulated is how the next blonde who entered his life
claimed he made her feel. Tippi Hedren was a model
who Hitchcock spotted in a television commercial,
and then he cast her as the lead in his film The Birds,
despite the fact she'd never acted before.
How can you do this, Hitch,
put somebody totally unknown who's never acted before -
how can you put this woman into this film that you're going to do?
It's going to be a major motion picture.
You know, and Hitch gave me the assurance that I could do it.
And Hitch was not only my director, he was my drama coach.
You know, I was a very lucky lady.
First of all,
how did you get that effect of being attacked by the birds?
-I mean, were you actually pecked, or what?
-Indeed I was.
You know, it took five days to do that scene.
I started on a Monday morning, and it was really...
I don't know whether Hitchcock did this deliberately, but he...
We always planned on using mechanical birds,
and the morning that we started this,
I was in my dressing room on the set
and the assistant director came in and, you know, we were good pals,
and he couldn't look at me.
And he was looking at the floor and at the walls and the ceiling.
I said, "What's the matter with you, Jim?" And he said,
"We can't use the mechanical birds. They don't work." And he split.
You know, I went, "What?!"
Well, it turns out that they had five prop men
with great, huge cartons of ravens and seagulls
and all those good guys,
and which they alternately hurled at me for five days.
Oh, by the end of it, by the end of the Friday afternoon,
they had me on the floor with little bits of elastic coming through
the holes in the dress that the wardrobe lady had put in there,
with ravens and seagulls just sort of loosely tied
so they'd stay on my body.
LAUGHTER Cos they don't take direction well.
-And by the end of that day, one of them was sitting here,
and he decided to sit here, and just a little scratch in my eye,
and I said, "That's enough."
And I threw them all off and sat in the middle of the set crying.
But the question I really wanted to ask you, as well,
was why did you go upstairs in the first place?
-Cos that's one of my favourite moments.
-You're downstairs, and you know those birds are up there, and you hear this "prrr".
-And you go up - why do you go up?
-Do you know something? I said the same thing.
I'm not really a method actress, you know,
but a lot of times you need motivation.
Because I said, "Hitch, why am I doing this?
"I mean, she's heard these birds, they've been all over the place,
"causing all kinds of terror. Why is she going up there?" And he said,
IN A DEEP VOICE: "Because I tell you to."
-LAUGHTER OK, that's enough motivation.
-Good a reason as any.
Tippi Hedren claimed that "because I tell you to"
became the basis of her relationship with Hitchcock,
which carried on with the second film he cast her in,
the psychological thriller Marnie.
Sean Connery was Hedren's co-star in the film,
which became controversial for one particular scene.
From what I've read, most people accepted Hitchcock roles
without having read the script.
Is that the case? And how was it different for you?
Well, because I was very curious as to what it was,
because at the time of offering to me,
Grace Kelly was supposed to be playing the other part.
-The Tippi Hedren part?
-Yes, and so I said,
"Well, I would certainly like to read it." Not unusual,
I thought, because I would equally say,
"I don't think I'm right for it,"
-or, "This is more American than I could ever be."
But I liked it,
and eventually I had a terrific time with him.
Were you worried that it was a controversial part?
Because he's very sexually aggressive,
there's a rape scene that we're about to watch.
Oh, no. No, not at all.
I mean, I don't think I was that concerned
-about these kind of issues at all.
And his preparation for movie-making was second to none, in terms of
what he wanted in the script and he had visualised and everything.
-And I enjoyed enormously working with him.
Let's have a look at the scene.
There were a lot of Hitchcocks involved with Mr Hitchcock.
He used to think of himself as being a very simple man -
he was extremely complicated.
He was kind of con... TRYING to control
who I saw, what I...you know, all of those kinds of things.
So that became a very, very difficult time for me.
I think he became obsessed with this character named Tippi Hedren.
He felt that he had created Tippi Hedren.
He would not take his eyes off of me.
He may be talking to somebody over here,
but he was watching me all the time.
And it became...
It became very difficult.
Mrs Hitchcock came to me a number of times and said,
"I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry you have to go through this,
"or that you're going through this."
So she... You know, it was apparent to her.
During the filming of Marnie,
everything sort of went fine,
until probably the last quarter of the shoot.
It was a five month shoot, and it eventually got to the point
where I couldn't stand the control.
Or the trying to control.
And I resented it so highly that I finally told him
that I couldn't bear it any more,
demands were being put onto me that I couldn't acquiesce to,
and I said, "I need to get out."
And he told me that I really couldn't,
that I... You know, I had my parents to worry about, my daughter.
I said, "It doesn't matter. I can't live this way."
And he literally said, "I'll ruin your career."
He kept me under contract,
he paid me my little salary every week
for a couple of years. And by that time,
all of the people who did want to use me in films -
because after Marnie, you know, I was hot.
And was just told I wasn't available.
There was never a question of us working together again.
It was just a very definite cut-off.
And it was by me.
I am totally responsible for it.
No, I'm not. He is.
Friends of Hitchcock disputed Tippi Hedren's version of events,
saying they didn't recognise the man she described.
Kim Novak was one of several actresses
who said Hedren's experiences did not match her own.
But others who worked on Marnie agree with Hedren's claim
that Hitchcock became obsessed with her.
Whatever the truth, the relationship has come to be seen
as the most troubling and complicated of Hitchcock's career,
and in 2012, even became the subject of a film,
entitled The Girl.
Why do you use stars at all? I mean, Hitchcock is a star.
I mean, can't you do without them?
Yes, I can, but sometimes in front office, you know,
they like to have more than one star in the picture.
They'd like to, perhaps you could say, treble their odds.
Of course, someone who never gave Hitchcock any trouble
was the person who appeared in more of his films than anyone else.
With all those famous cameos, it is, of course,
the master of suspense himself - Alfred Hitchcock.
To this day, Alfred Hitchcock is looked on as one of cinema's best and most influential directors. But how did the stars of his films finding working with the great man? To some he was 'the master', to others 'the manipulator'. Talking Pictures explores the relationship between Hitch and his leading actors, using rarely seen interviews of the man himself and a line-up that includes Kim Novak, Tippi Hedren, Joan Fontaine, Janet Leigh and Sean Connery.