Stephen Rebello’s “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of ‘Psycho’” was one of the first books I ever read about filmmaking. I loved it in high school (and again when I reread it a few years later in grad school) but it’s been a decade since I looked at it, and while I watched the new film based on Rebello’s book, called simply “Hitchcock,” I often found myself wondering which of the film’s various twists and turns were drawn from the historical record and which from the screenwriter’s biopic handbook. Did Alma Hitchcock really consider straying from her marriage? Did she actually fill in for Hitch in the director’s chair when the filmmaker came down with a fever during the production of ‘Psycho?’ Did screenwriter Joseph Stefano really play such an insignificant role in the creation of the movie?
For the answers to those and other questions about the movie, see Time Out Chicago‘s new piece “fact-checking” “Hitchcock” against Rebello’s book and others. TOC editor Ben Kenigsberg put in the research, and now reports his findings on the various inaccuracies in the film, like these about Alma Hitchcock and her role in the making of ‘Psycho:’
“Alma Hitchcock In the movie’s wildest flight of fancy, Hitchcock grows paranoid that his wife is having an affair with Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston), a TV writer who also worked on ‘Stage Fright’ and ‘Strangers on a Train.’ ‘Hitchcock’ sees ‘Psycho’ as the project that rekindled Alma and Alfred’s great romance. But according to controversial Hitchcock biographer Donald Spoto, Alma had an almost mothering relationship with her husband; Spoto suggests he may not have slept with her in decades. Rebello writes that Hitch referred to going to dinner with ‘Mom’ on evenings when the couple dined at Chasen’s. That certainly casts ‘Psycho’ in a different light, but ‘Hitchcock’ — which gives Alma her richly deserved due as Hitch’s collaborator — takes an improbably rosy view of their relationship. Hitchcock’s apparent sexual frustrations are explored more clearly in HBO’s ‘The Girl.'”
So maybe don’t go to “Hitchcock” to get the “true” story of the making of ‘Psycho’ or the secrets of Alfred and Alma’s home life. Or, if you believe my review, for anything else. But that’s just my opinion; on our Criticwire Network, “Hitchcock” is currently pulling a B- average out of 16 critics, with a fair amount of praise for the performances of Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren in the lead roles. If you could convince Hopkins to read the audiobook version of Rebello’s book you’d really be on to something.
Read more of “Fact-checking Sacha Gervasi’s ‘Hitchcock.'”