Hollywood Renegades Archive

The Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers

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Alfred Hitchcock—Independent Profile

Transatlantic Pictures: The Independent Film Company of Alfred Hitchcock and Sidney Bernstein

Excerpt from Hollywood Renegades by J. A. Aberdeen

David O. Selznick and Alfred Hitchcock.

Alfred Hitchcock came to Hollywood under long-term contract with David O. Selznick. Although the association with Selznick provided the director a high-profile entrance into the industry and a degree of artistic freedom, Hitchcock found Selznick's creative vision unavoidably obtrusive. He also resented the producer's loan out deals that sent the director to various studios, at a significant profit to Selznick. Most of Hitchcock's early American films were made on loan to other producers (including independents such as Walter Wanger and Jack Skirball) and studios (Twentieth Century-Fox), expanding the director's exposure to the industry, and laying the seeds of his own independent desires.

Hitchcock (director) and Walter Wanger (producer) on the set of Foreign Correspondent (1940).

While still working off his Selznick contract, Alfred Hitchcock formed an independent company with an old associate of his, British distributor and exhibitor Sidney Bernstein. At the end of World War II, they founded Transatlantic Pictures to produce films intermittently in Hollywood and London. The partners arranged for distribution through Warner Bros. and financing through the Bankers Trust Company. The company shared the London headquarters of Bernstein's Granada theaters, and awaited the fulfillment of Hitchcock's Selznick obligations in 1947.

Hitchcock made ambitious long-range plans, typical of the other first-time independents. He even adopted an experimental cinematic style in an effort to elaborate on his own thriller narrative formula. Unfortunately after the disappointing returns from his two independent films, The Rope (1948) and Under Capricorn (1949), Hitchcock folded Transatlantic Pictures. In 1949 Hitchcock signed a four-picture contract as producer-director at Warner Bros. trying to revive his artistic and commercial career.

Alfred Hitchcock and Sideny Bernstein.

Eventually, John Ford, Howard Hawks, and Alfred Hitchcock all returned to independent production with more caution the next time around. After John Ford's Argosy folded, Ford organized John Ford Productions, and continued to direct memorable films into the 1960s. Howard W. Hawks formed his own company Winchester Productions through which he produced the science-fiction classic The Thing from Another World (1951).

Alfred Hitchcock, studio portrait.

Alfred Hitchcock had the most amazing comeback from both an artistic and an independent production standpoint. When Paramount offered him a profit-sharing contract in 1953, Hitchcock's agent Lew Wasserman negotiated a provision for the filmmaker to retain the rights to his movies including Rear Window (1954), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), Vertigo (1958), and Psycho (1960). A further indication of Hitchcock and Wasserman's business astuteness came at the inception of the Alfred Hitchcock Presents television series in 1955 when CBS relinquished all program rights after first broadcast to Hitchcock's own company Shamley Productions. Later on, Hitchcock sold the rights of many of these properties to Universal in exchange for a sizable interest that made him one of the largest stockholders in the studio.



Transatlantic Pictures (Alfred Hitchcock and Sidney Bernstein): see Taylor, Hitch; Leff, Hitchcock and Selznick; Spoto, The Dark Side of Genius; Auiler, Vertigo, pp. 14-15; Rebello, Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, p. 27; Schatz, p. 489.

See Bibliography.


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