Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hitch and Harry

A Houdini biopic directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Cary Grant? It could have happened. In July 1944 mega producer David O. Selznick (Gone With The Wind) sent Hitchcock a memo in which he pitched two projects for the director's consideration. One was a biopic of Houdini. Wrote Selznick:

"Houdini" with either Cary Grant or Joe Cotton can, I think, be an outstanding and enormously popular picture with very great opportunity for treatment by you.

Unfortunately, Hitchcock turned down Houdini as well as Selznick's second suggestion, a Technicolor version of SHE with Ingrid Bergman. Instead, Hitchcock and Selznick would settle on doing Spellbound with Bergman and Gregory Peck as their next film.

Just another tantalizing what could have been.

The Hitchcock and Houdini names did finally come together in 1988 with an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents called, Houdini on Channel 4. The episode featured a magician (Nick Lewin) seeking the assistance of Houdini's spirit to unmask his murderous wife. Jan Filips played Houdini.

With thanks to the The Academy of Motion Picture Art and Sciences Margaret Herrick Library.


  1. Damn, a Hitchock Houdini film starring Cary Grant? That would have been effing SWEET.

  2. Coming up with a title would've been fun.

    The Trouble with Harry (No, wait. That's taken....)

    Dial 'H' for Handcuffs

    Dangling Near Your Rear Window

    Rope (Drat. Also taken.)

    Spellbound and Gagged and Locked in a Trunk and Thrown Overboard

    Strangers in a Chain

    and of course that ill-fated masterpiece


  3. This would be one of Alfred Hitchcock's few but famous lapses in judgement.

    Thanks Byron - you took all the good one liners today!

  4. As others have pointed out, Hitchcock's movies mostly are movies of situation, not character. People are thrown into unusual situations. I can see why he'd have no interest in a biopic.

    And I think he'd hate to make a movie that wasn't entirely fiction and a fabrication of his own mind. He wouldn't want to tell someone else's story, even with license.

    I guess Janet Leigh will be the one connection between Houdini and Hitchcock...

  5. Yeah, I agree, Eric.

    BTW, after reading the script of The Grim Game...a total Hitchcock movie!