Thursday, November 16, 2017

Bill Krohn on Hitchcock and harassment

Sexual harassment is a big topic this autumn. Even Alfred Hitchcock's name appears among the harassers. This claim seems out of character regarding Hitchcock's often genial relationships with his leading ladies (some of whom became lifelong family friends). What's more, Hitchcock in my opinion is the greatest film artist to have dramatized sexual harassment, from Blackmail to Marnie, always with profound empathy towards the suffering of the female protagonist. Last night I wrote to Bill Krohn, a scholar known for his sober studies based on documents and other primary sources. With his kind permission I copy his remarks.

"Hitchcock never engaged in the kind of physical abuse Harvey Weinstein and others who have been named recently heaped on actresses and actors alike. Here are the facts as I know them:

1927–1950:  Hitchcock's wife Alma Reville was his closest collaborator from the early days through STAGE FRIGHT, the last credit she received on one of his films.  During the writing of STAGE FRIGHT she had an affair with Whitfield Cook (played by Danny Huston in HITCHCOCK). 

55:  Hitchcock then tried to even the score by verbally propositioning Brigitte Auber when he took her home in his limousine after a day spent working on TO CATCH A THIEF.  Auber, a sophisticated French girl who was, I believe, in love with Cary Grant, politely demurred, pretending she thought it was a joke.  By the way, Hitchcock was slimmed down thanks to one of his periodic reducing regimens, so if anything had happened they'd have been a couple like Roberto Rossellini and Ingrid Bergman.

1964:  Hitchcock was mad about 'Tippi' Hedren, a model he brought from New York and turned into a movie star.  His collaborators -- Harold Michelson, Robert Boyle and Albert Whitlock -- told me off the record when we did the BIRDS round-table for Cahiers that he ran the commercial he'd seen her in over and over in his private screening room, "quivering with lust," and the pot finally boiled over during the making of MARNIE:  He verbally propositioned her in her trailer, and she told him he was a "disgusting, fat pig" and she'd never let him touch her. 

Hedren, who has told many versions of the story, is a Southern woman, hence a flirt.  I don't think she was innocent in what happened in the trailer.  But she went to Hitchcock's best friend Lew Wasserman, then head of MCA-Universal, and begged him not to green-light MARY ROSE, which would have concluded a trilogy of films by Hitchcock starring Hedren, and Wasserman, as much out of concern for Alma as for Hedren, put it in Hitchcock's contract that he could do any film he wanted for $3 million "as long as it wasn't MARY ROSE."  That's how we got FRENZY and FAMILY PLOT.

I have read the script Hitchcock wrote himself for MARY ROSE -- Dan Auiler missed it while researching Hitchcock's Notebooks.  (I quote some of it at the end of Hitchcock at Work.)  It would have been very beautiful.  And for the record, contrary to what has been claimed, Hitchcock didn't destroy her career in revenge.  Two years later she starred opposite Marlon Brando and Sophia Loren in A COUNTESS FROM HONG KONG -- directed, ironically, by a very real Humbert Humbert, Charlie Chaplin.

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