On my recent flight overseas, I watched the recent film, Hitchcock, with Anthony Hopkins playing the director. I thought it would be nice to see the real McCoy. So, here is Alfred Hitchcock as the Mystery Guest on What's My Line?, having a fine old time with an impish sense of humor. It was right after the release of Rear Window.
I actually had reason to once be with Alfred Hitchcock. I won't say "meet," because it wasn't really that. But when Hitchcock got knighted he was unable to travel to London for the event. Instead it was presented to him at a ceremony on a soundstage at Universal Studios where he had his office. I was working in publicity at the time, and couldn't imagine not breaking away from the office to attend. What amazed me is that no one else was interested. I wasn't able to leave in time to see the whole thing, but did get there in time for the press conference.
I don't remember much about the press conference, except for one question. It was meant to be whimsical, but came across as stupid and awkward. "Sir Alfred," the reporter asked with a lightness in his voice, "now that you've been knighted, do you believe this will affect your relationship with your wife?" There was a deathly pall in the room which went silent at the discomfort. Fortunately, Hitchcock broke the mood with the perfect answer. In that clipped, impeccable voice that so many know so well, he paused a moment and then answered, "I certainly hope so." The room cracked up.
Though I didn't ever meet Hitchcock, I did get to know his long-time secretary, a wonderful woman, Sue Gauthier. After he passed away, she came to work in the Publicity Department, where I was the head-writer. She was sweet, softspoken and wouldn't dream of telling tales out of school. But she adored working for "Mr. HItchcock" and did like talking about him. However, the one thing she wouldn't do, period, was do an interview with a reporter. She never had and no intention of doing so. Alas, when I mentioned who was working in our office to one of my oldest friends, Patrick Goldstein, it killed him that she wouldn't talk to a journalist. (Patrick was a long-time writer for the Los Angeles Times, who I not only went to college with at Northwestern, but we were in the same cabin at summer camp, Camp Nebagamon. And he even had a sleep-over one year after camp. So, when I say "oldest friend," I don't mean by Los Angeles standards, but real world.)
Still, I told Patrick I'd make his case to Sue. I told her what a decent, wonderful guy Patrick was, how I'd know him since I was a little kid, how he adored Hitchcock and film history, and would do nothing to embarrass her. With that introduction, and with the proviso that I'd sit in on the interview to protect her, she agreed to do her one and only interview ever.
And here is that fellow she did her interview about.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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