On the list of the most interviewable auteurs in film history, Alfred Hitchcock must rank particularly high. I wouldn’t necessarily want to find myself on the business end of that sardonically stern gaze myself, but when Hitchcock agreed to sit down and talk, he really sat down and talked. For the ultimate case in point, we have his big interview with cinematic colleague François Truffaut, available both as twelve hours of MP3s and, in book form, as that mainstay of the cinephile’s shelf, Hitchcock/Truffaut. Those two filmmakers had their immortal series of interviews in 1962; a decade later, Hitchcock would turn up on national television for a chat with that auteur of the national chat show, Dick Cavett. You can watch choice segments of their conversation on Youtube.
At the top of the post, Hitchcock tells Cavett about the formative trauma visited upon him by his mother. “I think my mother scared me when I was 3 months old,” he recalls. “You see, she said, ‘Boo!’ It gave me the hiccups. And she apparently was very satisfied.” (No prizes for guessing what effect it made this master of suspense want his work to have on audiences.) Just above, you can hear Hitchcock’s thoughts on a laxative commercial that ran during one of the show’s breaks: “I wonder why all those people doing sports and all that sort of thing — where they would need a laxative after such vigorous movement all over the place.” Rest assured that he does get around to talking filmmaking, specifically about the processes behind Foreign Correspondent (below) and Sabotage, but perhaps nothing here reveals the workings of Hitchcock’s mind more than his conviction that “puns are the highest form of literature.”
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.