Press Centre

Perspectives

  • Episode: 

    6 of 7

  • Title: 

    Perspectives: Jonathan Ross: Alfred Hitchcock - Made in Britain
  • Transmission: 

    Sun 21 Apr 2013
  • Time: 

    10.00pm - 11.00pm
  • Week: 

    Week 17 2013 : Sat 20 Apr - Fri 26 Apr
  • Channel: 

    ITV

 

The information contained herein is embargoed from press use, commercial and non-commercial reproduction and sharing - in the public domain - until Tuesday 16 April at 12.01am.
 
Jonathan Ross: Alfred Hitchcock - Made in Britain
 
Broadcaster Jonathan Ross follows the life and career of the most celebrated director in the history of cinema, Sir Alfred Hitchcock, in search of the British roots of his unique style in this sixth documentary in the Perspective arts strand for ITV.
 
A huge fan of the Hollywood legend, Jonathan sets out to discover what led the son of an East End grocer to begin a career in the film industry in Britain.
 
Jonathan visits the Gainsborough Studios where Alfred Hitchcock secured his first job in the film industry at the age of 20, designing inter-titles which appeared on screen in the silent movies. Just five years later he was directing movies. 
 
He meets veteran actress Jean Marsh who starred in Hitchcock’s penultimate film, Frenzy, to hear what he was like to work with when the great director came back to shoot on location in London in the early 1970s.
 
As he returns to his own childhood home in East London Jonathan recalls how his first viewing of the iconic Hitchcock movie Psycho “scared the life out me”.
 
Press pack production notes:
 
Broadcaster Jonathan Ross follows the life and career of the most celebrated director in the history of cinema, Sir Alfred Hitchcock, in search of the British roots of his unique style in this sixth documentary in the Perspective arts strand for ITV.
 
A huge fan of the Hollywood legend, Jonathan sets out to discover what led the son of an East End grocer to begin a career in the film industry in Britain.
 
Jonathan says: “Alfred Hitchcock was born and raised in Leytonstone in East London, coincidentally where I spent all my childhood.
 
“He spent the first 40 years of his life living and working on making movies here in London, so I wanted to find out to what extent this Hollywood legend, this master of cinema, the most famous and successful director in the history of cinema, was actually made in Britain.
 
“I wanted to find out what led an East End grocer’s son into the fledgling film industry in the first place.”
 
Jonathan visits the Gainsborough Studios where Alfred Hitchcock secured his first job in the film industry at the age of 20, designing inter-titles which appeared on screen in the silent movies. Just five years later he was directing movies. 
 
He meets veteran actress Jean Marsh who starred in Hitchcock’s penultimate film, Frenzy, to hear what he was like to work with when the great director came back to shoot on location in London in the early 1970s.
 
As he returns to his own childhood home in East London Jonathan recalls how his first viewing of the iconic Hitchcock movie Psycho “scared the life out me”.
 
Alfred Hitchcock was born above his father’s greengrocer’s shop at 517 Leytonstone High Road on August 13th 1899. The house was demolished and a garage now stands on the site. But there’s a blue plaque on the wall of the garage in tribute to the local hero who died on April 24 1980.
 
Hitchcock’s childhood was part of his legend. Whenever he talked about his time in the East End he’d always cite experiences from his childhood which he felt explained how his outlook developed. He described a brush with a grotesque auntie in his cot as being one of the most horrible experiences of his life.
 
In an archive interview with Hitchcock in the documentary Hitchcock says: “ It must have all started when I was in my mother’s arms at the age of six months and she said to me ‘boo’. 
 
Alfred Hitchcock stands out as one of the most successful film directors of all time. His big personality was almost as famous as his movies. He is pretty much unique in cinema history in as much as his career began in the era of silent films, he built his reputation in the era of the early talkies and then really went on to create masterpieces in the golden age of Hollywood. In total he made 53 feature films, 23 of those films were made before he went to America. 
 
Jonathan visits Leytonstone tube station close to where he grew up in East London which has commemorated Hitchcock in a series of mosaics depicting the films he made. 
 
“Walking down here gives just a hint of what this local hero achieved. To make over 50 films in a career is a feat in itself that not many directors have even come close to.
 
“These are the kind of movies I want to find out about because these are the films that formed the foundation of Alfred Hitchcock’s career, when he was living, working and making movies here in London. Some of these were hits, that’s what helped him become the master, and that’s what has been forgotten about, which is a shame.
 
“The first time I became aware of Hitchcock was when Psycho was going to be shown on the television when I was a kid,” Jonathan recalls as he returns to the house he lived in as a child, and where he shared a bedroom with his four brothers.
 
“We were told we couldn’t see this movie, it was too scary for children of our age. I decided I knew better, so that night when my parents and brothers were asleep I crept out of bed and downstairs and watched the film on our black and white TV, on my own, in the dark, because I didn’t want anyone to know I was up.
 
“It scared the life out of me. I’d like to say very publicly to my parents: ‘you were both right, I’m sorry I shouldn’t have done that’. But part of me is glad I did.” 
 
Hitchcock worked with many actors, cinematographers, composers time and time again, but there was only one true constant in his career: his wife Alma. He married Alma Reville in 1926, and she became his closest collaborator, credited with working with him on 22 movies, and informally assisting him on many more.
 
Hitchcock’s first film, The Pleasure Garden, was released in 1925. Hitch’s third picture, The Lodger, starring Ivor Novello, was considered even at the time to be a masterpiece of British film-making, and established Hitchcock as the top British director at the age of just 28. 
 
Jonathan says: “Inevitably when you watch a film like The Lodger today, some of it seems a little stagey, but even now you can sense how innovative and bold it must have seemed to the audience. I really get the feeling that this was a modern film-maker, working at the very cutting edge of what was possible in cinema.
 
“It’s also our chance to see the first of the legendary Hitchcock cameos, even if it’s just the back of the great man’s head.” 
 
Working largely in London, Hitchcock directed a series of classic thrillers in the first decade of the talking picture era – most obviously The 39 Steps and The Lady Vanishes but also others such as Young and Innocent and Sabotage which stretched the boundaries of cinematic technique and put genuinely chilling moments on British cinema screens.  The programme features numerous clips from the films on which Hitchcock developed his craft and with which he made his name in Britain and beyond.
 
By the late 1930s Hitchcock had slightly outgrown the British film industry, and the move to Hollywood offered him all kinds of resources and opportunities that he couldn’t get in Britain.  He would have wonderful studio technology, he would have access to the biggest stars, and to the best literary properties. His first Hollywood movie, Rebecca, was an instant hit, and it won producer David Selznick the Oscar for Best Film.  
 
It was an explosive start to this latest chapter in Hitch’s legendary film-making career. 
Hitchcock re-paid his adoptive country with a string of classic movies including Rear Window, Psycho, To Catch a Thief, Vertigo, The Birds and Marnie. 
 
Jonathan says: “Although most of the films he made in the rest of his career would be shot in Hollywood with American money, I still think of him as a British director. He would use British actors, he would make films based on stories by British writers, and they would always be essentially Hitchcockian. 
 
“The Birds and Rebecca were both written by English writer Daphne Du Maurier, and Marnie was also from an English novel by author Winston Graham.  It seems that Hitchcock was happiest with source material that came from Britain.” 
 
At the height of his success Hitchcock was an international brand, but Britain was never far from his thoughts.  For all his success in America, recognition in his home country still mattered to him. In 1971 he returned to Britain for his penultimate movie, Frenzy, starring Jean Marsh.
 
As Jonathan takes Jean for a ‘spin’ in a vintage car on a set at Greenford Studios she talks of her experiences of working with Hitchcock.
 
Jean says: “Hitchcock knew exactly what he wanted, and when you didn’t get what he wanted he would wait to do endless takes.
 
“I asked him why he wanted to do one scene over and over again when all I was doing was walking to the flat, and he told me ‘it doesn’t work- you are not doing it’.
 
“So I thought about how I could make it work, and decided I will think that I want to rush because I want to pee. So I did that and he said ‘that’s fine’.
 
“Hitchcock was such a huge star that if you were in the street with him people would look at him, and I’d say what about me I’m Jean Marsh. There’s non-one like Hitchcock. even Spielberg isn’t a star, and Hitchcock was a star. he liked the two sides of himself; he liked playing Hitchcock as well as being him.”
 
Jonathan says: “I find it somewhat fitting that Frenzy was to be Hitch’s last hit.  He made one more film Family Plot, but with illness dogging his final few years he walked away from his last film in the planning stages.  He was knighted in 1980, but died in hospital in April of the same year.
 
“There’s been a lot of stuff recently, a lot of people coming forward to talk about their relationship with Hitchcock.
 
“I am wary of their version of the truth. Obviously they knew Hitchcock, but when someone comes out and says he was this or that, and you think that’s only based on your working experience of him for a short period of time you have to assume may be they didn’t see the whole man.
 
“Some people have said he saw himself as his leading men; inside he wanted to be Cary Grant, when he looked in the mirror he saw himself as Cary Grant. I can’t help but think that must be bullshit.
 
“I don’t think that he was an idiot, and I don’t think he was someone who was self-delusional, and I think he was also an incredibly commercially aware film-maker.
 
“Sir Alfred Hitchcock travelled an awfully long way from Leytonstone High Road, propelled by talents that Britain couldn’t ultimately contain.  By leaving these shores he could become a legend.  Alfred Hitchcock is buried in America, but I’m now even more convinced that Britain made him what he was – and shaped his talent to scare the world.  And he never forgot it.”
 
The producer and director is Andy Devonshire
The Executive Producer is Tom Webber
 
 
Series overview:
 
The return of the Perspectives documentary strand for its third run brings together powerful stories and a unique insight into the arts from a range of well-known figures.
 
It encompasses seven single films from a rich variety of distinctive individuals offering their take on subjects for which they have a personal enthusiasm and fascination.  
              
Perspectives’ diverse range includes Hugh Laurie making a musical pilgrimage to immerse himself in the Blues, Warwick Davis exploring the miraculous survival of a family of Jewish dwarfs during the Second World War, Sheila Hancock revealing her passion for the Brontë sisters, David Suchet unravelling the mystery surrounding the life of Agatha Christie, and Paul O’Grady looking at the flamboyant life of the queen of burlesque, Gypsy Rose Lee. 
.