“40 years to understand why he’d used the S word”: Alfred Hitchcock Sent A Writer Down A Rabbit Hole For 4 Decades Using Just One Word

Reviewed By: Angad Singh

Alfred Hitchcock Sent A Writer Down A Rabbit Hole For 4 Decades Using Just One Word

The late Alfred Hitchcock used to be one of the most remarkable film directors-cum-screenwriters of all time. But even more than that, he was renowned for his suspenseful on-screen works and his cameo roles in numerous films, which even earned him the title of the ‘Master of Suspense’.

Alfred Hitchcock
The late Alfred Hitchcock

Not only this, the legendary filmmaker even sent the famous British educationalist and writer, Christopher Frayling down a rabbit hole after saying just one word to him that sent him wondering for forty years what the former truly meant!

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Alfred Hitchcock Sent Christopher Frayling Wondering For 4 Whole Decades With Just One Word

The late Alfred Hitchcock was famously called the 'Master of Suspense'
The late Alfred Hitchcock was famously called the ‘Master of Suspense’

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Back in the summer of 1966, when Christopher Frayling was still a second-year undergraduate at Cambridge, he got the tremendous surprise of the late filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock doing a Q&A session in the Lady Mitchell Hall of their university.

Already one of the most recognizable presences in the industry, the director was met with an enormous response from everyone. And that’s also when he first met Frayling. Sharing with The Guardian, the British writer said,

“After the session, I found myself, for a few seconds, face-to-face with [Alfred Hitchcock]. There he was, dressed in [his] trademark plain dark-blue suit, crisp white shirt, dark silk tie, with a creased copy of the Times poking out of his jacket pocket. Close-up, he looked apprehensive, ill at ease, with a complexion rather like the color of the Financial Times – surrounded as he was by an excited flurry of young cineastes waving programs for him to sign.”

Awestruck and tongue-tied, Frayling started humming aloud the opening music of Hitchcock’s long-running signature TV show, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, which earned him a response from the screenwriter.

“Hitchcock smiled, walked away a little, turned his head and with a deadpan expression said one word: ‘Sunrise…’ I hadn’t a clue what he meant by this. It was like ‘Rosebud…’ from Citizen Kane, I supposed. But the great man had actually spoken to me.” 

While it took less than four seconds for Hitchcock to say it, the word stayed with Christopher Frayling for four whole decades until he finally understood what the director meant.

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Christopher Frayling Finally Figured Out What Alfred Hitchcock Meant After Forty Years

Christopher Frayling
Christopher Frayling

Christopher Frayling then went on to share how he finally decoded the mystery word after four decades. He told The Guardian,

“About 40 years later, someone sent me a DVD of FW Murnau’s film Sunrise (1927), with its original score restored, and the mystery was at last solved. The sequence in Sunrise where the peasant couple visit a photographer’s studio in the city – and accidentally knock over a headless Winged Victory sculpture, one of the photographer’s props – was accompanied by Gounod’s funeral march, the same tune with the same macabre charm as [Alfred] Hitchcock’s signature.” 

Further explaining the entire context behind Hitchcock saying ‘Sunshine’ to him, he continued to say,

“He was trying to let me know – with a characteristically mysterious flourish – that Sunrise was where he’d found the music, that a distant memory of Murnau’s film had originally inspired him. It had taken me 40 years to understand why he’d used the S-word.” 

Just like that, the one-word conversation that Christopher Frayling had with the late Alfred Hitchcock went on for forty whole years.

Source: The Guardian

Written by Mahin Sultan

An enthusiastic and eager learner looking for opportunities to expand her horizons and learning, Mahin Sultan is a hardworking and creative individual with multiplicity of skills and interests. She is fluent in English with a 4.5 months experience as a Content Writing Intern. She is a rather introverted and dorky kinda person at first meetings, but if you get on her good side, don't be surprised when you find her talking animatedly to you, even if it's in the middle of the road. A foodie, she loves to write, and spends her free time either with her nose buried in a good book or binge-watching K-dramas, new movies and TV serials (the awesome ones, obviously).