In 1919, Alfred Hitchcock launched his film career—though it was a quiet, humble beginning. He started as a title card designer, a job he held for six years before he directed his first film in 1925. After a succession of box office hits, he became one of the most famous figures in Hollywood, earning the nickname “Master of Suspense.” Throughout his 60-year career, Hitchcock made 50 feature-length films and won six Academy Awards. But among his numerous commercial successes, perhaps no Hitchcock film is more iconic than his 1960 psychological horror flick, Psycho.
The movie follows Arizona secretary Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), who's desperate to marry her boyfriend, Sam Loomis (John Gavin), but cannot afford it. After stealing $40,000 from her boss’ client, she hightails it to California, where Sam and their happily ever after await. But a long night of driving leaves Marion tired, and she pulls over to Bates Motel—a rundown place owned by a peculiar mother and son duo. When Sam doesn’t hear from Marion for several days, he recruits her sister, Lila (Vera Miles), to look for her. Lila's search brings her to the same motel, and she soon realizes that Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) and his "Mother" are not who they appear to be...
Psycho was revolutionary for its time, as it contained many film “firsts.” It boldly opens with Sam and a bra-clad Marion lying in the same bed—a sexual reference that not only scandalized 60s movie-goers but received criticism from religious organizations. Norman’s crossdressing was also the subject of much controversy, as was the depiction of a flushing toilet (for whatever reason, toilets had rarely been shown on screen). But it was Marion's shower murder that created the most buzz, jump-starting an entire mill of rumors: Did actress Janet Leigh use a body double? Was she actually stabbed? And did Alfred Hitchcock film the scene, or did someone else?
Of course, Psycho is now considered one of the best films of all time. Its legacy can be seen in the popularity of “slasher films”—of which Hitchcock’s movie was arguably the first—and remakes like the recent A&E show Bates Motel. Screenwriter and journalist Stephen Rebello examines the film's history and provides all the behind-the-scenes details in Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho. Packed with insider information that separates fact from rumor, the book was even made into a film starring Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, and Scarlett Johansson. Read on for an excerpt that dives into the infamous shower scene—and all the drama that surrounded it.
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Featured photo of Alfred Hitchcock courtesy of Alchetron