Do you know Hitchcock’s Wife? The power behind the filmmaker and Master of Suspense may surprise you. Alfred Hitchcock is renowned for his horror films, but did you know that Mrs. Hitchcock was the power behind the man?
Alma Lucy Reville
Alma Lucy Reville, Lady Hitchcock, born in 1899, was an English film director, editor and screenwriter. Did you know she was the wife of the well-known film director of horror movies, Alfred Hitchcock? She died at age 82, her career having started with the silent movies.
Growing up, she missed out on two years’ schooling when she was diagnosed with Sydenham’s Chorea, or St. Vitus Dance. That is an autoimmune disease, or neuropsychiatric manifestation of rhematic fever. It is a disorder characterized by rapid, uncoordinated jerking movements primarily affecting the face, hands and feet.
Sickness did not stop Reville. She entered the world of film when she was just 15-years old, as a tea-girl. Within two years, she was an assistant director to Maurice Elvey, one of the most prolific film directors in British film history.
Reville was given an acting role in The Life Story of David Lloyd George. Although she would liked to have become an actress, her career took her behind the camera.
Hitchcok’s Boss Then His Wife
Reville did not begin working with Hitchcock until 1923. At that point Reville was Hitchcock’s boss. By the time they met, she was an experienced editor and continuity supervisor.
She was well known and respected in her own right as an editor and England’s first female assistant director. She joins the ranks of women who achieved amazing firsts across the centuries.
Hitchcock and Reville were married in 1926, but Reville went against societal limitations and retained her maiden name. She became Hitchcock’s uncredited collaborator, with few people even knowing about her. She also worked on many non-Hitchcock films in the 1930s.
Reville was expert at spotting potential continuity flaws, a very important task, as any author will tell you. She was also expert at rewriting a script and was involved in the assembly stage of a film. She argued that editing was not merely a mechanical part of filmmaking, but was in fact an ‘Art’.
Reville moved into more screenwriting after the birth of their only child. She felt she didn’t have the temperament to become a director.
Hitchcock’s Wife and the Power Behind the Man
Reville was overshadowed by her director husband, though she was in the film industry long before Hitchcock. Few people even realize Hitchcock was married, let along know who his wife was.
Reville was the power behind Hitchcock and he relied on her throughout their over 50 years of marriage. He would ask her after each take of a scene, “Was that alright?”
Hitchcock’s wife oversaw a major re-edit of the film Psycho after his first cut failed with the studio bosses. Reville was one of the three-woman team who wrote an entirely new script for Strangers on a Train a short time before filming began.
The professional collaboration between Hitchcock and his wife is one of the movie world’s unsung ballads. Reville was clever and experienced and a pioneering figure in the British film industry and joins the ranks of pioneer women who changed the world.
When it came to filmmaking Reville and Hitchcock were intensely devoted to each other and to the project on hand, despite Hitchcock’s controlling nature. Reville was truly the ‘woman behind the man’, dying two years after Hitchcock.
Psycho Pushed Boundaries
With the help of his wife, Hitchcock became renowned for creating suspenseful and shocking tales that capitalized on an audience’s willingness to experience fear in the confines of a darkened theatre. He used visual disorientation with emotional destabilization.
Films like Psycho prodded and poked at the viewers’ worst anxieties. Psycho pushed boundaries explicitly for the first time. Blood could not be portrayed in colour, as it was deemed too suggestive. The unforgettable shower scene is iconic, even though I am not a horror fan.
People fear the unknown, and horror, suspense, and thriller films live in those realms. The film, Psycho, did not show violence as much as it insinuated violence. The movie was banned in several countries, including the United Kingdom. However, it paved the way for a decade of violently charged horror cinema.
Cinematic Legacy Unparalleled
Alfred Hitchcock’s cinematic legacy is unparalleled, though he never won an Oscar. Over the course of his career, that spanned more than 60 years, he made over 50 feature films, with many of those now considered an indispensable part of filmmaking history. Yet still, Hitchcock’s wife remains unknown.
Hitchcock’s psyche was seared with the memory of school thrashings and his rejection for military service because of his portly stature. He was legendarily obsessed with blue-eyed blondes, often pursuing them inappropriately. As a director, he would persecute them professionally after being rejected by them. Hitchcock’s psyche is also seen in his answer to a sore throat, “The perfect cure for a sore throat is to cut it.” To him, drama was life with the boring bits cut out.
In 1979, Hitchcock received a knighthood. He became Sir Hitchcock, but the woman who was his powerhouse, slipped into oblivion. Reville died two years after her husband’s death in 1980. They only had one child, Patricia Hitchcock.
Having discussed Reville as Hitchcock’s wife, let us take a couple of minutes to consider the draw that the genre of horror films has for many.
Horror is a genre of film and television whose purpose is to create feelings of fear, dread, disgust, and terror in the audience. The primary goal is to develop an atmosphere that puts the audience on edge and scares them. Alex Ago, a horror movie buff and director of programming said, “Conquering the fear of death is at the core of all horror films.”
Viewing horror films affects us, whether or not we know it. Fans of this genre, consume horror to experience stimulation. Watching horror for entertainment simultaneously stimulates both fear and excitement. The biochemical mix in the body changes as adrenaline is released, resulting in heightened sensations and a surge of energy. The heartbeat quickens, muscles tense and the stomach churns, as fear grips the body.
Some people find adrenalin rushes exhilarating but they can also be addictive. Others claim that horror in entertainment is said to be an expression of the collective anxieties of society. Traumatic scenes can also trigger traumatic memories from a viewer’s own life, which can be too much to handle.
I get concerned when children are permitted to habitually watch mature-only films. What is that doing to the psyche of the children? The goal of film-censors rating films is to protect the vulnerable.
Who needs to watch horror movies when we see things on the news that constantly shock us until we become desensitized (PTSD) to scenes of horror. It’s not our place to judge those who favour the horror genre, but for me, I would choose a good story line, good acting and clever filming every time, when it comes to enjoyable viewing. I loved Ants, Sonic Hedgehog and Who Killed Roger Rabbit. I also enjoy watching Hollywood greats, much to my grandson’s amusement.
As women, it is our duty as a parent to monitor what our children view, heedless of those who would criticise us. Life will become a challenge soon enough, children don’t have to face the dark side of humanity unnecessarily, and we can have balanced censorship.
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