Hitch&Alma, an excerpt from the new Novel/Screenplay by Robert Schoen, published by Xlibris.
By now practically everyone knows what a MacGuffin is. This novel within a screenplay centers around a large and utterly fictitious one: namely that Alfred Hitchcock kept secret variants of his most famous scenes that no one has ever seen, not even his wife Alma, because they were too personally revealing.
The story and dialogue between Hitchcock, Alma, his mother Emma, and his cinematic collaborators are all figments of the author's imagination, largely supported by information found in the numerous biographies and articles on Hitchcock. Yet the principal information and inspiration for this book comes from countless hours of studying Hitchcock's films, trying to decipher their hidden message.
This is an attempt to explore the deeper personal meaning found within Hitchcock's cinema, and to underscore the link between the man and his art. The author confesses to writing this pack of white lies in order to arrive at a larger truth: that Alfred Hitchcock encoded a very subtle autobiography within his films. By linking certain scenes to key events in Hitchcock's life, it becomes apparent that the multi-leveled metaphors and symbolism found within these films reflect the psychological complexity of the man himself.
Often pegged "the Master of Suspense," this cliché worn moniker always shortchanged Hitchcock's far more impressive contributions to cinema. He was perhaps one of the greatest artists of all time, literally creating many of the tenets of modern cinematic vocabulary, in the way he composed his visual narrative and montaged these gripping images to tell his stories.
Hitchcock frequently dismissed the importance of the story content within his films, stressing that the true art lies in the way the story is told through the use of pure cinema. This author respectfully disagrees, and contends that the recurrent psychological themes Hitchcock explored, along with his modernist off-center moral vantage point, ambivalently looking down upon the foibles of his characters as if he were God Himself, are the true reasons why his films continue to be a source of endless fascination.
Although Hitchcock never took any writing credit for his movies, he was the principal architect of nearly every detail found within his films. Usually working from a novel or short story that intrigued him, he would envision and block out every aspect of characterization and visual plot with the credited screenwriter during extended story conferences, before a single word of the screenplay was committed to paper.
But even with all his phenomenal gifts of visual storytelling and piercing insight into human nature, Hitchcock was often assisted by his wife Alma in the finding and development of the literary works that ended up as Hitchcock movies. Under her maiden name Alma Reville, she earned a story credit in no less than sixteen of his films for story adaptation or screenplay collaboration.
Alma (whose name means "soul" in Latin) and Hitchcock first met while they both worked at the Famous Players-Lasky Studio in London during the early 1920's. They married in December 1926. Alma became his collaborator and sounding board in every sense, with a keen ear for dialogue and an editor's sharp eye for scrutinizing a film's final version for flaws so minor they escaped Hitchcock's own notice, and that of his top notch crew.
Hitchcock once boasted that he would be remembered as an enigma wrapped inside of a riddle. Using irony along with tongue-in-cheek humor as both a public shield and an open window into his soul, Hitchcock the man was soon embraced by audiences everywhere, just as much as his films were. It's safe to say that behind this great man was a very supportive, discreet and persistent woman.
In 1979, Hitchcock was awarded the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award, which he dedicated to his wife Alma, commenting "without whom I probably would have ended up at this banquet as one of the slower moving waiters."
In 1997, their daughter Patricia Hitchcock O'Connell endowed University of Southern California with the Alfred and Alma Hitchcock Chair, dedicated to the recognition of her mother's important contribution to Hitchcock's cinema. Perhaps this book will offer some salient clues to exploring the supporting role of Alma Reville Hitchcock and her lasting influence on her genius husband.
The following words slowly scroll across the darkness:
The truest autobiography of any artist is found within his work.
The following story is a work of fiction, even though much of it is based on actual events.
The portrayal of Hitchcock's life with his wife Alma, his mother, and the director's relation with his leading ladies should be regarded as fictional, but consistent with the obsessively recurrent themes he expressed in his films.
According to Hitchcock, a "MacGuffin" is the premise within a film that motivates the characters, while being of little importance in and of itself.
As far as anyone knows, Alfred Hitchcock never kept a secret collection of outtakes from his films.
EXT. SPANISH CHURCH - NIGHT
A desperate JIMMY STEWART tightly grabs the wrist of an anxious KIM NOVAK, dragging her toward the arched doorway.
STEWART: There's only one last thing I have to do, Judy. Then we'll be free of the past.
She pulls back from him, afraid to go in.
NOVAK: Let me go, Scotty.
Novak struggles as Stewart forces her inside the church.
Up the rickety wooden stairs of the bell tower, Novak is dragged to the top by Stewart, who forces himself with every step to overcome his fear of heights.
A harrowing view down the dilapidated stairwell dramatizes Stewart's fear of heights. As he drags her up, one of her shoes plummets down, CRASHING onto the floor far below.
INT. BELL TOWER - NIGHT
Stewart reaches the top and corners Kim, holding her close. Panting deeply, almost out of breath, he angrily confronts her.
STEWART: You made a fool of me, Judy. I wanted to believe you; all I ever wanted was for you to love me.
She clings to him desperately.
NOVAK: But I do love you, Scotty. I always have.
He looks away, not believing a word.
STEWART: You can't build love on top of lies, much less murder.
He shakes her at arm's length, as she looks into his eyes imploringly. She seems frightened by what she sees.
NOVAK: Scotty, we can run away. We can still be free of the past. I do love you, can't you see? That's why I stayed.
He turns away from her.
STEWART: I want to believe you, Judy. If only I could.
She buries herself in his arms, begging him to listen.
NOVAK: That's why I let you make me into Madeline again. Why can't you just love me like before?
His arms now close around her. He wants to believe, but his loving face slowly contorts into one of distrust.
STEWART: It's too late for that now.
As they embrace, they turn to the stairs, where they hear APPROACHING FOOTSTEPS. An elderly NUN appears at the foot of the stairs. She advances toward the couple, a candle in her hand, like the angel of death.
NUN: I heard noises. (looking at Novak) It's you. You were here the day that poor girl fell to her death.
A frightening realization slowly dawns over the nun's face.
NUN(cont.): Or was pushed.
NOVAK: She knows, Scotty. She saw me on the stairway after we threw Madeline off.
The nun gravely approaches Novak, who backs up fearfully toward the open ledge of the tower. They now both stand perilously on the edge. Stewart approaches the two women and stands between them, as if to decide. He looks to the nun, then to Judie.
STEWART: I'm sorry, sister.
He stares at the nun grimly, then grabs her, pushing her off the ledge of the bell tower. As she falls, Novak and Stewart instinctively grab each other, staring down in horror.
At their feet, two bony hands grasp onto the ledge for dear life. Stewart looks down to the pleading face of the nun, her habit twisting in the wind as she hangs onto life by a thread. She pleads directly into his eyes.
NUN: Help me, in the name of God.
STEWART: God help us both, sister.
Stewart's wingtip toe covers the small thin hand, then slowly presses down. The nun SCREAMS HORRIBLY, as she falls with flailing arms to the tiled roof far below.
He looks down grimacing, making the sign of the cross. He then cleans off his hands by slapping them together, as if he's just performed a dirty task. Novak joins him, placing a hand on his shoulder.
The couple embrace on the ledge, kissing deeply against the night sky, as the Herrmann SCORE builds to a crescendo. Stewart stares lovingly into her eyes.
STEWART(cont.): I did it for you, Judy. You helped kill Madeline for love. Now we're both guilty of the same thing.
They embrace again as the words, "THE END" are superimposed in front of them. They are figures on a movie screen in a small theater.
INT. STUDIO SCREENING ROOM
Two men sit next to each other in the darkness, watching the screen as the movie ends. JIMMY STEWART, in real life, looks to his side and studies the reactions of the smaller, oval faced man in silhouetted profile, ALFRED HITCHCOCK.
Hitch's expression is hidden like a poker player by two large hands bridged in front of his long nose. The hands lower, and an ironic smile finally reveals he is satisfied with the scene.
STEWART: Don't tell me you liked that, Hitch.
The director arches his eyebrows, as he turns to Stewart.
HITCHCOCK: What's the matter, Jimmy? Don't you like happy endings?
Stewart jumps up, staring angrily down to the seated Buddha.
STEWART: I can't be throwing a goddamned nun off the top of a church! I'll never work in this town again.
A dim light comes on in the back of the theater and Hitch's face is seen for the first time.
HITCHCOCK: I suppose you're right.
STEWART: You're darned tootin' I'm right!
Hitch looks up calmly to the agitated Stewart.
HITCHCOCK: But which would you prefer, Jimmy, imperfect love or honest incarceration?
Stewart shoots him a dirty look.
STEWART: Oh, don't give me that bull!
Stewart defiantly folds his arms, as if he's just had the final word on the matter.
HITCHCOCK: Well, I think the studio can afford to indulge me this once.
STEWART (very upset): Once? C'mon Hitch. These studio types don't care about art or any of that high faluting stuff. You make money, great! But one flop, and...
He slashes his throat with his forefinger. Hitch raises an eyebrow and gulps. He gets up from his seat and starts up the stairs of the darkened room.
HITCHCOCK: I'll be in the toilet.
INT. MEN'S ROOM - - LATER
Hitch stares into space against a softly lit white wall, his trademark SHADOWED PROFILE behind him. The toilet FLUSHES. He's in a stall about to exit, when he hears the VOICES of two STUDIO EXECUTIVES. He cocks his ear to listen.
FIRST EXECUTIVE (o.s.): Did you see that ending Hitch tried to slap on his last thriller?
SECOND EXECUTIVE (o.s.): You mean with the nun? Pretty wacky, huh?
FIRST EXECUTIVE (o.s.): I'll say. Do you think he's losing it?
A beat. Hitch leans over attentively.
SECOND EXECUTIVE (o.s.): Let's go in my office. The walls have ears.
FIRST EXECUTIVE (o.s.): Well, if you ask me, I don't see how this turkey's gonna fly with either ending. Who the hell kills off the leading lady for grand finale?
SECOND EXECUTIVE (o.s.): He's a funny guy. Maybe we should make him do a comedy.
The outer door SWINGS SHUT, as they exit the men's room. Hitch opens the stall and goes to the sink. His massive thick hands hold a bar of soap under running water, as he rubs them clean like Lady Macbeth.
His eyes rise to study his reflection in the full walled mirror. He calmly regards himself, without a trace of self-doubt, like a fat Narcissus.
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