HITCHCOCK, PSYCHO, AND PHOENIX
Alfred Hitchcock was a genius in movies and television. For those of us who saw his work in first release, we were able to see him gain stature in the entertainment business through the years.
To many movie fans, the most remembered films of Hitchcock are probably Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959), Rear Window (1954), and Psycho (1960). My personal favorite is Psycho because, not only is it a great movie with all the Hitchcock twists and turns, but it was done on a low budget, involved Phoenix, Arizona, and contained some innovations that changed the style of how films were made and marketed in its era.
We know the opening scene where downtown Phoenix is panned but did you know that Janet Leigh’s character’s name had to be changed from Mary Crane to Marion Crane because there was a Mary Crane in the Phoenix phone book? Also, most of the highway scenes were done in California. When Leigh drives out of town, she is supposedly in downtown Phoenix although none of the actors or Hitchcock were ever there. Only a crew sent to get exterior footage actually went to Phoenix.
Psycho was a low budget film shot by Hitchcock’s TV production company, Shamley Productions, and cost only $800,000. Hitchcock had to tell us that the date in the movie was December 11 since Phoenix had Christmas decorations on the streets and the cost to remove them by his exteriors crew would have been too much.
Another innovation of Hitchcock’s was to have the star (Leigh) get eliminated early in the film. Because of that he insisted on having not allow seating after the film began. By doing this it removed the complaints of those who showed up late to see Janet Leigh only to discover that her part in the film was over.
In spite of several bad reviews, Psycho was a huge hit proving that word of mouth can overrule the critics in most cases. The combination of Hitchcock’s direction, a fine cast including great character actors of the day getting a chance to shine (Martin Balsam, John Anderson, John McIntire, Simon Oakland), and Bernard Herrmann’s eerie musical score, made Psycho a film as enjoyable today as when it was released in 1960.
Alfred Hitchcock with clapper on the set of Psycho (1960)