After watching Hitchcock on DVD all I can say is, I wish I’d spent my money on a real Hitchcock movie.

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While Anthony Hopkins got the voice right (most of the time) he looked ridiculous in his fat suit. This poorly conceived nonsense was not just a waste of his talent, it was a waste of Helen Mirren/Scarlett Johansson/Danny Huston/Toni Colette’s talent.

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As if to illustrate how far down the pecking order screenwriters were in those days, the Psycho screenwriter Joseph Stefano is given one small scene, in which he is interviewed and then hired by Hitchcock. I don’t know why they bothered.

Had they focussed on Stefano, rather than on the relationship between Alma Reville (Helen Mirren) and Whitfield Cook (Huston) – and had they had the imagination to hire unknowns to play the lead roles and supporting roles – it would have made for a more interesting movie.

Now here’s something interesting …

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Joseph Stefano’s Olive Green Olympia SG1 typewriter

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Joseph Stefano adapted Robert Bloch’s novel into a screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock in 1960. It was only Stefano’s second screenplay and the second Psycho adaptation – James P Cavanagh wrote the first, which Hitchcock swiftly rejected on the grounds that it read like a horror story written for television. Film legend has it that Hitchcock had to adapt his own schedule so that Stefano could keep seeing his psychoanalyst.

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Screenwriter Joe Stefano at his desk

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Stefano’s major alteration (in the “Hitchcock” movie this was credited to Alma Reville) was to have the film focus at first on the female character, Mary Crane – whose name was changed to Marion for the film. In the novel, the action begins with Norman Bates, and Crane is a passing stranger for whom, Stefano thought, readers feel little. By beginning with Crane – the part eventually played by Janet Leigh – Stefano changed the drift of the audience’s affections, and changed film history in the process: it was the first time a leading lady had been murdered within the first 20 minutes of a movie.

The film went on to win four Oscars. After the success of the film, Hitchcock asked Stefano to write the screenplays for The Birds and Marnie.

Stefano turned Hitchcock down. He was busy writing for the cult science fiction show The Outer Limits, twelve episodes of which he wrote on his Olympia typewriter.

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“It … just started typing on its own!”

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Hitchcock hired the novelist Ed McBain to write The Birds, and hired Jay Presson Allen, a woman who had just adapted The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie for the stage, to write Marnie.

According to the Internet, Stefano’s typewriter was auctioned at Christie’s in 2010 and sold for $4,375. It was put up for auction again on 11/20/2014, with bidding starting at $25,000 (£16,000).

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As far as I know, there were no takers.

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Extracts taken from an article for The Telegraph by Alice Vincent and Gaby Wood and published in November 2014.

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See Also: Alfred Hitchcock’s Cool Typewriters

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