Alfred Hitchcock Talks with Dick Cavett About Sabotage, Foreign Correspondent & Laxatives (1972)

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.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Alfred Hitch­cock: The Secret Sauce for Cre­at­ing Sus­pense

Alfred Hitchcock’s Rules for Watch­ing Psy­cho (1960)

Ing­mar Bergman Vis­its The Dick Cavett Show, 1971

Woody Allen on The Dick Cavett Show Cir­ca 1970

Alfred Hitchcock’s Sev­en-Minute Edit­ing Mas­ter Class

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 Ange­lesA Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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