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Alfred Hitchcock

I would almost go as far as to say that the comfortable conditions that I had in making ‘Rebecca’

were in a large measure responsible for its success as far as I am concerned

Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock, kbe, 1899–1980.  English-born film director and producer; the “Master of Suspense.”  Scarce early typed letter signed, Hitch., one page, 7½” x 10”, on engraved personal stationery, no place [likely Bel Air, Los Angeles, California], July 31, 1940.

This excellent letter by Hitchcock is full of references to three of his films—two of which were nominated for Best Picture in 1940, and one of which won that award—and shows him at work behind the scenes.

The famed director writes to Edmond F. Bernoudy, whom he calls “My dear Eddie,” his assistant director on his 1940 romantic psychological thriller Rebecca, a David Selznick productionHitchcock praises Bernoudy’s work and expresses his desire to work with him again, although, he says, RKO Pictures had forced another assistant on him for his next film, Mr. & Mrs. Smith.  He writes, in full:

It looks as though we aren’t going to be able to be together on the next picture I’m sorry to say.  On my return from New York yesterday I found that RKO have allocated an assistant to me called Dewey Starkey and I know you will realize that it’s pretty difficult for me to refuse to take what I am led to believe is their number one assistant on the lot.

It looks to me, Eddie, as though this first picture here will have to be a miss as far as we are concerned, but nevertheless I’m going to try and make arrangements for you to come on the next one if you are free because I’m anxious not to sever our partnership.  If the company had been a smaller one I would have had no difficulty in continuing our association.

I want to thank you very much, Eddie, for all you’ve done to help me here.  I would almost go so far as to say that the comfortable conditions I had in making ‘Rebecca’ were in a large measure responsible for its success as far as I am concerned.  Had it been necessary for me to go on making it under the conditions [in] which I started I doubt whether the results would have been the same.

Please let us keep in touch and God willing we will be together before you can say ‘Walter Wanger’!

Rebecca, Hitchcock’s first American project, was a highly acclaimed film starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine.  Rebecca, the deceased wife of Olivier’s character Maxim de Winter, was never seen in the film but dominated the life of de Winter’s young second wife, played by Fontaine.  The film, which was shot entirely in black and white, was released April 12, 1940.  It received 11 Academy Award nominations, more than any other film that year, and won the Oscars for both Best Picture and Best Cinematography.  It was Hitchcock’s only film to be named Best Picture. 

Bernoudy (1901–1978) was Hitchcock’s assistant director on Rebecca.  Starkey (1898–1974), whom Hitchcock mentions in this letter, was the assistant director on the RKO comedy Mr. & Mrs. Smith, which Hitchcock references here as “the next picture.”  It was released January 31, 1941.

In between the releases of Rebecca and Mr. & Mrs. Smith, however, Hitchcock’s Walter Wanger film Foreign Correspondent was released on August 16, 1940.  Bernoudy had also served as Hitchcock’s assistant director on Foreign Correspondent, which had already been filmed when Hitchcock wrote this letter.  It was filmed in Hollywood and on location in the Los Angeles area between March 18 and June 5, 1940, and then a different ending was filmed July 5, 1940, after Hitchcock returned from a  trip to his native Britain with news that Nazi Germany, which started World War II by invading Poland the previous September 1, was expected to begin bombing Britain at any time.  Foreign Correspondent was nominated for six 1940 Academy Awards itself, including Best Picture, for which it lost out to Rebecca

Hitchcock alludes here to Foreign Correspondent by mentioning producer Walter Wanger his closing sentence:  “God willing we will be together before you can say ‘Walter Wanger’!  Our research shows, however, that despite Hitchcock’s effusive praise, Bernoudy never again served as his assistant director. 

Hitchcock’s letters are scarce in any form.  This one is very desirable because it relates to three of Hitchcock’s films and expressly discusses his only film to win an Oscar for Best Picture.

Hitchcock has signed this letter in jet black fountain pen.  The letter has two horizontal mailing folds and has two other vertical folds, one of which barely touches the paraph beneath Hitchcock’s signature.  The letter has been somewhat irregularly trimmed and shows some handling, and there is toning along the left vertical fold well away from the signature.  Overall the letter is in fine condition.




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