Francois Truffaut, Alfred Hitchcock, and translator Helen Scott.
On June 2nd 1962, Francois Truffaut wrote a letter to Alfred Hitchcock asking whether he might interview him in depth about his life and career. Hitchcock agreed and later that summer the interviews took place over the course of a week at the director’s office on the Universal Studios lot whilst he was completing post-production work on The Birds.
Truffaut, who spoke very little English, hired Helen Scott of the French Film Office in New York, as translator between himself and Hitchcock. The interviews were recorded onto reel-to-reel audio-tapes and the content eventually edited down by Truffaut for his book on Hitchcock.
In 1984, Hitchcock's daughter Patricia donated a set of the interview tapes to the Margaret Herrick Library, where they are now part of the Hitchcock Collection. Although Truffaut claimed that the recordings lasted 50 hours, the surviving tapes — which cover the 1962 interviews — last for less than 26 hours.
Since its publication in 1966, Hitchcock/Truffaut has become one of the classic guides to the art and craft of filmmaking, as well as the definitive study of Hitchcock’s work. Never out of print, it has influenced successive generations of directors and helped to authenticate Hitchcock’s reputation as the supreme example of an auteur working within the studio system.
In the early 1990s, the interviews had a new lease of life when Truffaut’s biographer Serge Toubiana stumbled upon the original tapes while researching in the director’s archives. These were turned into a 25 part radio series on the French radio station 'France Culture', enjoying a huge success with the French cinephile public.
More recently the acclaimed documentary Hitchcock/Truffaut directed by Kent Jones retold the story of the Hitchcock/Truffaut book with commentary and insight from contemporary directors such as David Fincher, Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson and Olivier Assayas.
The following 25 episodes are taken from the original French radio broadcast. Each episode runs for just over 25 minutes.
1 - Hitchcock's childhood through to his early years in the film industry.
2 - The Lodger (1925) and a discussion about silent era.
3 - Blackmail (1929), Juno and the Paycock (1930) and the challenges of
adapting literary classics, Murder! (1930), directing in a foreign language
and the difference between European and American directors.
4 - A low ebb, return to success with The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934),
the difference between surprise and suspense, realism vs. stylization in cinema.
5 - The 39 Steps and a discussion about plausibility and film critics.
6 - Secret Agent (1936) and why it failed, Sabotage (1936) and a discussion about sympathetic villains and unsympathetic heroes.
7 - Young and Innocent (1937) and how some of Hitchcock’s most elaborate camera shots were achieved, The Lady Vanishes (1938).
8 - A discussion of Hitchcock’s English period, characteristics of British cinema, the superiority of American filmmaking and the move to America.
9 - Rebecca (1940).
10 - A discussion about Hollywood, Foreign Correspondent (1940), an explanation of the MacGuffin and its role in Notorious (1946).
11 - Mr and Mrs Smith (1941) and views on actors, Suspicion (1941).
12 - Saboteur (1942), problems of casting, Shadow of a Doubt (1943).
13 - Lifeboat (1944), return to London during the War to make propaganda films, Spellbound (1945).
14 - Notorious (1946), a discussion of films about film-making, The Paradine Case (1947).
15 - Rope (1948) and a discussion about filming and lighting in colour.
16 - More about the making of Rope, Under Capricorn (1949) and why it wasn’t successful.
17 - Stage Fright (1950) through to Strangers on a Train (1951).
18 - More about Strangers on a Train, the theme of transference of guilt, I Confess (1953), the role of humour in Hitchcock’s films.
19 - Filming love scenes, use of space in framing, defining suspense.
20 -Script construction and the importance of detail, Rear Window (1954).
21 - The Wrong Man (1956), Vertigo (1957), dreams.
22 - North by Northwest (1958), grooming actresses, mastery of timing, the enjoyment of fear in Psycho.
23 - Psycho (1960) and the triumph of pure film.
24 - The Birds (1963), the dramatic use of sound, control of perspective: from the objective to the subjective.
25 -Hitchcock discusses the opening scene of Psycho, his preferred reading material and his favourite type of woman character. Truffaut summarizes his views on Hitchcock's work.