Fun Facts and Things to Observe in Hitchcock films

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I had a hard time finding a title who would do justice to this post. But let me explain what this article is about. Yesterday, I was thinking about all these facts from Alfred Hitchcock films and career that people tend to forget, or that are a bit weird or that not everybody necessarily notices. It’s really a mix of all that. I decided to share them on my blog, first of all for your own entertainment. Of course, there are some “fun facts” that I might forget, so if there are any you’re thinking about, please share them in the comments!

Here we go

  • Que Sera Sera was originally written for a Hitchcock film (The Man Who Knew Too Much, 1956)

Of course, devoted Hitchcock fans already know about that. But it always creates a surprise when I tell this to someone who doesn’t know much about him. Que Sera Sera (originally sang by Doris Day in the film) is a cute and innocent song so it’s normal that people don’t necessarily associate it to the Master of Suspense. However, once you’ve seen the film, you realize the important part it plays in the picture!

  • Robert Young starred in a Hitchcock film

I love Robert Young but somehow I tend to forget that he was in a Hitchcock film. And of all things, it was one of his early British films: Secret Agent (1936). This is obviously not Hitchcock’s most well-known film but it’s worth seeing for various reasons, including the one of Robert Young playing in it. And he has an important role. Of all American actors, why Robert Young? I’m not asking that because I don’t like him, just out of curiosity.

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  • Hitchcock directed a musical and it wasn’t THAT bad.

Waltzes From Vienna is the romanticized story of how Johann Strauss II composed The Blue Danube. Yes, Hitchcock said that it was one of the lowest points of his career. Yes, it’s far from being his best film. BUT, I’ve seen it and I actually enjoyed it! There are a lot of funny moments and I thought it was overall pretty entertaining.

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  • Elsie Randolph was in both Rich and Strange (1931) and Frenzy (1972) but had two VERY different roles

In the first one, she plays the annoying old maid and, in the second one, Gladys, the woman who works at the hotel where Jon Finch and Anna Massey find shelter. I must admit that I didn’t immediately notice that it was the same actress. Of course, in 40 years someone physically changes a lot but I also think it’s due to the fact that her roles are so different from one movie to another. I think it’s interesting that she and Hitchcock reunited after so many years.

  • John Williams composed the score of Hitchcock’s last film.

It’s normal for people to automatically associate John Williams to Steven Spielberg but, in 1976, he actually had only one Spielberg film to his credit: Jaws!

  • Hitchcock directed his own remake: The Man Who Knew Too Much

And he said that the original one (1934) was the work of an amateur and the remake (1956), the work of a professional. This is not something necessarily unknown but you have to keep in mind that directors who make a remake of their own movie are rare. In a way, I kind of see it as a way for Hitchcock to have more control on the faith of the picture. Because we know how many bad remakes there are…

  • Patricia Hitchcock was a lovely actress who deserved more recognition.

I like how Hitchcock’s family participated to his films: His wife, Alma Reville who wrote screenplays and his daughter Patricia, who appeared in three of his films: Stage Fright, Strangers On A Train and Psycho. I think she contributed a lot to the dark humour of Hitchcock’s film, especially in Strangers On A Train where she has a pretty important role. But yet, when it comes to discussing actors who appeared in Hitchcock films, people rarely mention her. Not as much as Grace Kelly or Cary Grant, anyway.

  • World War 2 was an important background in some Hitchcock films.

We often associate Hitchcock with suspense, but the war once was an important subject in some Hitchcock films: Foreign Correspondent, Lifeboat, Aventure Malgache, Bon Voyage, Notorious, and even I Confess.

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  • Hitchcock films rarely happen during winter.

I mean, have you noticed that? Sure some characters are sometimes cold, such as in the boat scene from Foreign Correspondent, but we actually rarely see any winter landscape in his films, except for The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) or Spellbound (1945).

  • Car rides seem to be associated with trouble

In North By Northwest, Cary Grant almost dies in one of them. In Suspicion, Joan Fontaine is positive she will be pushed out of one. In To Catch A Thief, Grace Kelly’s driving doesn’t seem very safe. In The Birds, Tippi Hedren finds herself trapped in a car in order to protect herself from the birds, but she can’t start it. Etc. etc. Oh and Lifeboat and Rich & Strange make us realized that boats aren’t very safe either.

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  • Hitchcock directed Ingrid Bergman in her last American Film before going to Italy.

Under Capricorn is far from being considered Hitchcock’s best but it is important at least for that reason.

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  • Hitchcock directed a German film.

Mary is the German version of Hitchcock’s Murder!

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  • His American films rarely don’t feature a British or British-born actor.

Just to name a few…: Rebecca has Laurence Olivier, Foreign Correspondent has Edmun Gwenn, Mr & Mrs. Smith has Emma Dunn. Suspicion has Cary Grant. Shadow of A Doubt has Henry Travers. Lifeboat has Heather Angel. Spellbound has Leo G. Carroll. Notorious has Claude Rains. The Paradine Case has Ann Todd. Rope has Constance Collier. Under Capricorn has Michael Wilding. Strangers On A Train has Pat Hitchcock. I Confess has Brian Aherne. Dial M For Murder has Ray Milland. To Catch A Thief has John Williams. The Trouble With Harry has, once again, Edmund Gwenn. The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) has Bernard Miles. The Wrong Man has Anthony Quayle. Vertigo has Tom Helmore. North By Northwest has James Mason. Psycho has Pat Hitchcock. The Birds has Jessica Tandy. Marnie has Sean Connery. Torn Curtain has Julie Andrews. And Family Plot has Catherine Nesbitt. I only name one actor for each one of these films, but there could have been more (especially in Rebecca). I guess the British touch was always there in Hitchcock films, via the humour, the casting or some locations.

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  • Cute pets

Have you noticed that Hitchcock uses cute pets in some of his films? And here I’m not talking about the birds in The Birds! Except maybe for the adorable lovebirds. I think this was a way to add a little touch of cute and innocent humour in some of his pictures. We can think of the calf and the rabbits in The Lady Vanishes, the dogs in The Farmer’s Wife, the kitten in Murder!, or just of Hitchcock’s own terriers making an appearance with him at the beginning of The Birds!

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  • Alfred Hitchcock almost made a film with Audrey Hepburn.

A film called No Bail For the Judge. Unfortunately, the project was never made and Hitchcock filmed his remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much instead. Lawrence Harvey would have been the other main actor. Audrey actually left the project when she refused to do a rape scene (which is perfectly understandable) and also due to her pregnancy. Hitchcock then lost interest for the film, mainly because he judged Audrey would have been perfect for the role.

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  • Vivien Leigh screen-tested twice for a Hitchcock film: The Lady Vanishes and Rebecca.

The main role in The Lady Vanishes went to Margaret Lockwood and the main role in Rebecca went to Joan Fontaine even though Vivien Leigh screen-tested for both films. Poor Vivien, I guess she didn’t have much chance when it came to star in one of Hitchcock films. I must admit, I can’t really imagine her as I De Winter but, as much as I love Margaret Lockwood, I think she could have been suitable for the role of Iris Henderson in The Lady Vanishes.

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  • “Colonel Bogey March” was heard in a Hitchcock film years before it was popularized by The Bridge On the River Kwai.

When the British prisoners of war whistled this tune in The Bridge On the River Kwai, they made history. However, we can hear Michael Redgrave mumble it in The Lady Vanishes.

  • Michael Rennie appeared in a Hitchcock film.

Years before he became better known in Hollywood thanks to The Day the Earth Stood Still, Michael Rennie made an uncredited appearance in Secret Agent. This was also the case for Michael Redgrave and Tom Helmore (who later played the role of Gavin Elster. Really, there ARE a lot of interesting things to say about the cast of this film…

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Oh and also, Hitchcock used to be thin and look like Walt Disney, but it didn’t last…

Portrait of a young Alfred Hitchcock, ca. early 1920s

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I hope you found that interesting, but I think amusing would be a more appropriate word. Can you think of other fun facts about Hitchcock films?

See you!

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