Hitchcock by Hitchcock

The Aftermath of Psycho

In 1955, on the occasion of signing the deal that would bring him to television, Hitchcock joked to the Los Angeles Times, “I am entering television because I am the tip of a tendril.  I am a slave to MCA.”  What Hitchcock left out of his quip was that his “slave-master” had negotiated an incredibly brazen contract whereby ownership of each episode would revert to Hitchcock after its initial airing. 

In 1962, with his shocker of a follow-up to North by Northwest still circulating through the drive-ins of America, Hitchcock sold his television series back to MCA-Universal (which had by then become one), along with the rights to Psycho (which he had self-financed), a transaction that resulted in him becoming the third-largest shareholder of an entertainment behemoth that provided more hours of television to the Big Three networks than any other Hollywood studio.  

Thus, in making the tawdry little TV-inspired film that nearly everyone in town had implored him not to make, Hitchcock had, in effect, gained for himself a substantial slice of television itself.  Yet financial windfall, however welcomed, was never his goal.  Hitchcock was first and foremost a storyteller, and the fact that Psycho initially befuddled and polarized the critics—as if he had somehow sullied the good name of Hollywood—amused him endlessly.  Critical opinion eventually came around, and it is now agreed that Psycho affirmed, once and for all, the Master’s virtuosic control of script, camera, and montage.  Television, on the other hand, made him a permanent household guest: the jolly, albeit slightly wicked teller of bedtime stories.  To Hitch, they were sides of the same coin.

Once, when interviewed on location, he had this to say:  "Now that they know my face, they gather from miles around.  It's hard to get any directing done.  I heard one woman say excitedly, 'Look Maude, there's Hitchcock of television! Now what do you suppose he's doing on this movie set?'"


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