|A favorite scene from Foreign Correspondent, referenced in David Rudkin's new play The Lovesong of Alfred J. Hitchcock.|
"Alfred Hitchcock was a very close friend of mine from early boyhood. I mean that metaphorically.” -Playwight David Rudkin, in a recent interview about his new Hitchcock bio-playSome time in the early 1980s, my dad flagged a listing in our local paper for a Chaplin feature, The Circus, that was screening at the nearby Scottsdale Center for the Arts. He knew I was into movies and thought I wanted to do that for a living one day (I was just into my teens by this point), so he suggested we go. What followed over nearly the next decade or so was a film education, and not just in Chaplin but in Welles and Hawks and Ford and Huston, Astaire and Minnelli and Donen...and, possibly above all, Alfred Hitchcock. I had the great good fortune to see just about every canonical work by the Master of Suspense on the big screen, with almost no prior knowledge (so I didn't know what was coming in, say, Psycho or Strangers on a Train). What's even better is that that little revival house would often bring back some audience favorites, so I must have seen North by Northwest on that big(gish) screen three summers in a row.
Later, in film school at USC, I binged on films, as many as five a week, not only in plush cinemas on campus but at such priceless big-screen revival houses as the New Beverly, film series at LACMA and UCLA, the Silent Movie, the State Theater in Pasadena, and among the world cinema, new and old, that I was exposed to, I would never pass up the chance to see or revisit a Hitchcock film. Even better, I had the great pleasure of taking an entire critical-studies class on Hitch, taught by an ex-Jesuit, Drew Casper, who illuminated many of the subtexts and influences, religious and otherwise, in the master's films.
So I was chuffed at the chance to chat recently with David Rudkin, whose new play The Lovesong of Alfred J. Hitchcock opens at 59E59's Brits Off Broadway festival on May 4. Rudkin, though from quite another generation and continent, and exposed at a much younger age to Hitchcock's film, followed a similar journey to mine from enthrallment to enlightenment; as we learned more about what Hitch was really up to and "working out" in his films, our admiration for his genius has been complicated, surely, but only deepened. As Rudkin put it: “He was able to develop an intensely private personal form of art, and yet do so in a way that spoke universally." Exactly. My piece, for the paper of record, is here.