Did Alfred Hitchcock Sexually Harass His Female Stars?

By | January 30, 2019

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Alfred Hitchcock English film director and producer Alfred Hitchcock (1899 - 1980) frames a shot with his hands, 1964. Source: (Tony Evans/Timelapse Library Ltd./Getty Images)

Many actresses, including Janet Leigh, Eva Marie Saint, Ingrid Bergman, Grace Kelly, Kim Novak, and Tippi Hedren, made timeless films under the direction of Alfred Hitchcock. But was sexual harassment part of the deal? Regarded as The Master Of Suspense, Hitchcock was known for picking "muses" -- actresses, among the most beautiful in Hollywood, he fawned over and sometimes employed in multiple films. Hitchcock had a reputation as a demanding director, and in recent years we've come to understand that his intensity spilled over into these crushes, creating what we'd call a "toxic work environment" today. 

The #MeToo movement has been a cause celebre in Hollywood -- how would Hitchcock fare in today's climate? Would he be another Harvey Weinstein, John Lasseter, or Bryan Singer? Or was his behavior -- committed half a century ago, and disputed by some -- not such a big deal? This article is not a condemnation of Alfred Hitchcock, it's some elucidating information that'll allow you to form your own opinion. 

Hitchcock had a thing for blondes, most conspicuously the "icy blondes." He was known to lavish attention on them privately -- some would say he obsessed over them -- while pushing them out of their comfort zones on set. Years later, Tippi Hedren, who starred in The Birds (1963) and Marnie (1964), came forward detailing abuse, and asserting that Hitchcock ruined her career.

Janet Leigh Was Traumatized By 'Psycho' -- And Not Because Of Its Plot

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Left: Janet Leigh in Psycho; Right: Janet Leigh publicity photo. Source: (pinterest.com)

Psycho (1960) was a shocking film, one that ushered in a new kind of horror movie. Janet Leigh, who appears in its infamous "shower scene," was reportedly left shaken during the shooting, but not by the action we saw on screen. It was the director's behavior that freaked her out -- when, while blocking out the scene, Alfred Hitchcock advanced toward the nude actress with Mrs. Bates’s knife in his hand. Critics have surmised that Alfred Hitchcock’s films were a culmination of his deepest, darkest and innermost private fantasies, and Psycho -- with its voyeurism and violence -- may be the most unsettling of them all. Leigh was left horrified.