Alfred Hitchcock directed 60 films (and a handful of episodes of anthology TV) during a career that lasted almost as many years. Many were excellent, some were good, and a surprising number were so-so or worse, but his most serious fans are just as likely to talk about the other 15 — the ones Hitchcock, for one reason or another, didn’t get around to making. Find out more about the five most promising projects:
The Blind Man
Blinded jazz pianist Jimmy Shearing undergoes an eye transplant, but while he’s at Disneyland with his family, a Wild West show triggers visions that lead him to conclude that they are images of the eye donor’s murder — and the victim’s murderer. Shearing then sets out to find the man, culminating in a chase aboard the Queen Mary. (Hitchcock at one point planned to have the dying perpetrator render Shearing sightless once again by throwing acid in his face.)
A hitch in the production occurred when Walt Disney declared his amusement park off limits for the director of Psycho, and then James Stewart (who had worked with Hitchcock four times before), bailed out because he was too busy. Then, frustrated by script problems, celebrated screenwriter Ernest Lehman, who had recently contributed to the triumph of North by Northwest, quit. (Hitchcock, miffed, said he’d never work with Lehman again, but they collaborated on Family Plot, the director’s swan song.)
The Bramble Bush
This tale of a political fugitive who jumps out of the frying pan into the fire when he is compelled to pose as a murder suspect quickly ran into a variety of obstacles: It was to be set in San Francisco and Mexico, but the locations, and its political undertones, put it at odds with the studio’s desire for Hitch’s next project to be in 3-D, a brand-new fad at the time. (His coming-at-ya film turned out to be Dial M for Murder.) The script proved troublesome, too.
Fortunately, the director was able to resurrect the rough idea, of a wrongly accused man on the run, with great panache in North by Northwest. (That project had stemmed from Hitchcock’s notion of an innocent man hiding out on Mount Rushmore that the director jokingly called “The Man in Lincoln’s Nose.”)
Hitchcock’s most frustrating failure was his inability to adapt Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie’s play Mary Rose, about a woman who, years after disappearing for a month during a family visit to a Scottish island when she was a child, goes missing again on a return visit — this time for years. The subtext — she’s escaping, respectively, maturity and matrimony — was a natural for Hitchcock, whose films often deal with sexual repression.
Enraptured upon seeing the original stage production, Hitchcock later bought the rights to the play, but it wasn’t until the 1960s that he made a concerted effort to bring his adaptation to the screen, commissioning a script and sending the score to legendary film composer Bernard Herrmann. (He also checked about the availability of Fay Compton, who had played the title character in the premiere production, for portraying an older character in the film; long before, he had cast her in one of his early movies.)
The studio was unimpressed with the script, though (it is reportedly talky and uninspired until the third act), and the production never went anywhere, though his estate retained the rights until after his death.
No Bail for the Judge
When a prostitute is killed, evidence points to a judge, and the man’s daughter, a barrister, goes on the offensive to defend him with help from a thief. That’s the plot of a comic thriller by Henry Cecil Lyon, a judge who stuck close to his day job in his choice of story lines.
Hitchcock reportedly first thought about adapting Lyon’s book while filming To Catch a Thief, starring Cary Grant, and envisioned the actor taking on that ignoble profession again for the new film (though he was also said to have considered Laurence Harvey). For the starring role, he courted Audrey Hepburn, who reluctantly bowed out after the script had been written because she became pregnant; she was also leery about a rape attempt in the screenplay. Grant, disappointed that he wouldn’t be working with Hepburn, dropped out, too. (He soon got his wish when they starred together in Stanley Donen’s Hitchcockian Charade.)
Hitchcock, who lost interest in the project after that, took up Psycho next. He worked with Grant again in North by Northwest, but Hepburn, unfortunately, never appeared in one of his films.
The Short Night
This star-crossed final project, which was to have paired Sean Connery and Liv Ullman, concerned an American who agrees to assassinate a British double agent, just escaped from prison, who is responsible for his brother’s death. However, he falls in love with the man’s wife when he goes to Finland to intercept his target, who is headed for asylum in the Soviet Union. (The agent was based on actual spy George Blake.)
Hitchcock burned through three scriptwriters in the treatment phase before a fourth writer completed an outline and a screenplay. During preproduction, however, Hitchcock, by then 80 years old, informed the producer that he wasn’t feeling well enough to complete the project, and it was canceled. (He died the next year.)