The Director's Daughter: Pat Hitchcock

For showtimes for Strangers on a Train, click here.  

When Pat first heard about Strangers on a Train, she was studying at the Royal Academy of the Dramatic Arts in London. Almost a year earlier, she made her screen debut in Stage Fright directed by her father, Alfred Hitchcock.

But her big connection didn’t mean Hollywood was easy street.

She said, “I would have loved it if he had believed in nepotism. But he only cast people if he thought they were absolutely right for the part. I could have told him a lot of parts I would have liked to have played, but he didn’t believe it.”

Thankfully though, Hitch felt his daughter would play the part of Barbara perfectly and gave her the script to read to see if she was interested. She accepted the role, calling it “wonderful.”

Rightly so, as the role allows her to be a part of one of the film’s memorable moments – when Robert Walker’s character relived his dastardly deed upon seeing the reflection in her glasses.

“The use of the music is very important because he goes back to the fairground so that people will understand and remember that it’s Robert Walker killing the girl… and that’s why he worked very closely with the musical director, the composer. Already he had decided that [musical cue] before he shot the movie,” Pat remembered.

But what was it like being in a mad man’s line of fire?

“Robert Walker was a wonderful man. I'd known him for many years, so I was very good friends with him.”

Pat also enjoyed working with her father on the film. While filming, he bet that since she was scared of heights she wouldn’t go on the Ferris Wheel. She accepted his $100 dare, only for her dad to play a practical joke and stop it just as they reached the top. Then he turned off the lights and let her wait there for three minutes. But his trick was all in good fun.

“The only sadism involved was that I never got the $100.”

After Strangers, Pat appeared in several episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents before she got to appear in his well-known thriller, Psycho.

“My father wanted a contrast to Janet, someone more bubbly. I barely remember the whole thing, and most people forget I'm in Psycho. I say, 'How can you possibly remember, after everything else that happens?’”

One thing that she does remember distinctly is how her mother saved the film. At one screening, Alma Hitchcock spotted that Janet Leigh could be seen breathing after the shower death scene. They quickly fixed it before the movie’s release.

Alma was a great influence in all of Hitch’s films. In fact, she even edited some of his British films and co-authored screenplays.

“My mother had much more to do with the films than she has ever been given credit for. He depended on her for everything, absolutely everything,” Pat said. “He would find a story and then take it to my mother and have her read it. And if she thought it would make a film, he would then go ahead with it and have a treatment and screenplay done.”

Hitch respected his wife’s opinion, especially since she had started working in the industry before he did. Of course, the collaboration didn’t negate his own prowess.

In fact, for each film, he would start with a blank piece of paper with rectangles on it and draw every single shot in the movie.

“So when he got on the set, he’d said he’d already made the film. So that’s why it was so great working with him because he was able to devote all of his time to the actors.”

She especially appreciated the soft way in which he critiqued work, taking an actor aside and suggesting a different performance.

“My parents were ordinary people. I know a lot of people insist that my father must have had a dark imagination. Well, he did not. He was a brilliant film-maker and he knew how to tell a story, that's all.”