By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com June 15, 2012 at 11:58AM
What's the greatest Alfred Hitchcock film? Every film fan will have a different answer, with "The 39 Steps," "Rebecca," "Spellbound," "Notorious," "Rear Window," "Vertigo" and "North By Northwest" all making compelling cases for being the very best. But few of his films had such an impact on cinema as "Psycho," the 1960s thriller that saw him go into darker, more shocking territory than ever before, with some of the most famous sequences in the history of the medium.
Following secretary Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) as she embezzles money from an employer and hides out at a deserted motel owned by the mysterious Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), a man with serious mother issues, only to stunningly and unforgettably kill off its lead halfway through the film, the picture turned out to be the biggest hit of Hitchcock's career, and was arguably his last truly great movie. It was released fifty-two years ago tomorrow, on June 16, 1960, and to mark the occasion, we've assembled a collection of five facts you may not know about the film. Check them out below, and you can bet there's much more where this came from when "Hitchcock," starring Anthony Hopkins as the director, and revolving around the making of "Psycho," hits theaters next year.
Although the late 1950s saw Alfred Hitchcock make some of his greatest films, including "Vertigo" and "North By Northwest," it was a frustrating time for the director, with several pictures that came close to production but never quite panned out -- he made 9 films between 1950 and 1956, but only two in the following four years. In 1956, he'd set up a potentially expensive adaptation of Laurens van der Post's novel "Flamingo Feather," a tale about two hunters who discover a communist plot to take over South Africa. The director had hoped to cast James Stewart and Grace Kelly after their success together in "Rear Window." But in 1956, Kelly married Prince Rainier of Monaco, retiring from acting, and a research trip to South Africa led the director to believe that he'd face resistance from the authorities. Meanwhile, he'd long hoped to make a film of Henry Cecil's "No Bail For The Judge," a thriller about a female barrister who teams with a thief to defend her judge father from accusations of murdering a prostitute. He secured Samuel A. Taylor ("Vertigo") to write the script, and set his heart on Audrey Hepburn for the lead role, with Laurence Harvey as the thief and John Williams ("Dial M For Murder") as the father. But Hepburn became pregnant (she miscarried in 1959, but then had a son in July 1960), and dropped out of the project, and despite the fact that a 1959 Paramount brochure had already announced the film, the director pulled the plug (in part also because changes to British law regarding entrapment now made aspects of the plot implausible). With these projects falling apart -- in addition to "The Wreck Of The Mary Deare" at MGM, which would have starred Gary Cooper -- the director decided to make something quick and fast. Since both "Flamingo Feathers" and "No Bail For The Judge" had been set up at Paramount, Hitchcock felt he owed them his next film, and when his assistant Peggy Robertson brought him a review of Robert Bloch's novel "Psycho," he took it to the studio.