Behind The Scenes Saturday: Psycho

Welcome back to Behind The Scenes Saturday! I’m sorry that this post is so late, I’ve been sick all week and I fell WAY behind. This week, I chose Psycho because it is undoubtedly one of the most influential horror films ever made! Enjoy!

(Triva provided by IMDb.com)

(SPOILER ALERT!!)

Psycho - 1960

  • On-set, supposedly, director, Alfred Hitchcock would refer to Anthony Perkins as “Master Bates”.
  • Alfred Hitchcock originally pictured the famous shower scene as completely silent, with no musical score. The film’s composer, Bernard Herrmann created a score for the scene anyway. After hearing the score, Hitchcock immediately changed his mind, and included it in the scene.
  • Speaking of the film’s music, Hitchcock was so pleased with it, he doubled Bernard Herrmann’s salary to $34,501. Hitchcock later stated that “thirty-three percent of the effect of Psycho was due to music”.
  • On the first day of filming, the cast and crew had to raise their right hands and promise not to divulge a single word of the story to anyone. Hitchcock also withheld the end of the script from the cast until it was time to shoot it.
  • In the early 1960s, Walt Disney refused to let Hitchcock film at Disneyland, because Hitchcock made “that disgusting movie, Psycho”.

"Psycho"
Janet Leigh 
1960 Paramount
Photo by William Creamer
**I.V.

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  • Hitchcock bought the rights to the novel anonymously from the author, Robert Bloch, for $9,000. He then bought as many copies of the novel as he could, to keep the ending a secret.
  • Janet Leigh (Marion Crane) wasn’t bothered by filming the famous shower scene. However, when she saw it on film, it made her realize how vulnerable a woman can be in a shower. Since Psycho, she only took baths for the rest of her life.
  • For the opening scene, Hitchcock wanted to show Marion Crane as “angelic” so he had Janet Leigh wear a white bra. After stealing the money, we then see her in a black bra, to symbolize her tainted innocence. You’ll also notice that before she steals the money, she has a white purse, and after she steals it, she has a black one.
  • Paramount Pictures disliked Psycho’s source material so much, they gave Hitchcock a very small budget to work with. They also deferred most of the box-office take to Hitchcock because they were sure the film would bomb. When it became a sleeper hit, Hitchcock ended up making a fortune.
  • After seeing the film Diabolique, a girl refused to take baths. After seeing Psycho, she refused to take showers. Her father ended up sending an angry letter to Hitchcock because of this. Hitchcock sent a note back to him, saying, “send her to the dry cleaners”.

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  • Alfred Hitchcock is famously known for having a cameo in his films. For Psycho, he didn’t want people to focus on finding his cameo instead of the plot, so he made sure to appear in the film quite early.  He can be seen standing outside of Marion’s office, wearing a cowboy hat.
  • After Psycho’s release, Janet Leigh started to get threatening and disturbing letters, mostly describing what they would like to do to Marion Crane. One letter was so disturbing, that Janet passed it on to the FBI. The culprits behind the letter ended up getting discovered.
  • Because it showed up better on camera, the blood in the film was actually Hershey’s chocolate syrup.
  • Janet Leigh stated that the wardrobe used for her character, Marion, wasn’t custom-made for her. Her clothes were purchased “off the rack” from regular clothing stores. Hitchcock figured that women viewers would identify more with the character if she was wearing clothes that an ordinary secretary could afford.
  • While acting out the shower scene, Janet Leigh used moleskin adhesive patches to cover her private parts. According to her autobiography, the patches ended up getting washed away while filming. She said, “What to do? …To spoil the so-far successful shot and be modest? Or get it over with and be immodest. I opted for immodesty”.

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  • The film’s screenwriter, Joseph Stefano, stood his ground on seeing a toilet on-screen to display realism. He also wanted to see the toilet flush on-screen. Hitchcock told him that he had to “make it so” through his writing if he wanted to see it. So, Stefano wrote the scene where Marion added up the money, then tore the paper apart and flushed it down the toilet. He made the toilet flushing necessary to the scene so it couldn’t be removed. Psycho ended up being the first American film to show a toilet flushing on-screen.
  • Hitchcock was not pleased with casting John Gavin as Sam Loomis. Based on Gavin’s performance, Hitchcock referred to him as “the stiff”.
  • Janet Leigh said that when he cast her, Hitchcock told her, “I hired you because you are an actress. I will only direct you if, A: you attempt to take more than your share of the pie, B: you don’t take enough, or C: if you are having trouble motivating the necessary timed movement”.
  • Hitchcock had a canvas chair that had “Mrs. Bates” written on the back of it. He placed it on set during filming as a rouse to spike curiosities about who was going to be playing Mrs. Bates.
  • Hitchcock hated the film’s ending, where the psychiatrist (Simon Oakland) explains Norman Bates’s condition. He thought the scene was not only boring, it also brought the film to a “grinding halt”. He wasn’t the only one who felt this way, as critics panned the scene as being one of Hitchcock’s worst he ever filmed. It was only put into the final cut of the film due to the studios and other powers-that-be who felt the scene was necessary to relieve the pressure from previous scenes.

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  • Marli Renfro was Janet Leigh’s body-double for some of the shots in the shower scene. She was paid $400.
  • When Hitchcock was off due to illness, the crew had to shoot the scene where the private investigator, Arbogast, is in the Bates’s house, going up the stairs. When Hitchcock saw the footage they shot, he complimented it, but he said it had to be re-shot. Their version made it look like “Arbogast was going upstairs to commit a murder”. He ended up reshooting the scene.
  • For her role in 5 Branded Women (1960), Vera Mills had to shave her head. So, in Psycho, she had to wear a wig.
  • Bernard Herrmann mentioned how the shots where Marion is driving after taking the money looked too ordinary. Hitchcock suggested adding anxious voices in her head to add to the action and tension. Herrmann also added the suggestion to bring back the main title music for the scene. Both additions worked perfectly for the scene.
  • To add to the ruse, Hitchcock told the press he was considering casting Helen Hayes for the part of Norman’s mother. Several actresses ended up writing to Hitchcock, requesting auditions.

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  • In the novel, Norman was described as being in his forties, short, overweight, and homely. Hitchcock wanted audiences to like and sympathize with the character, so he cast Anthony Perkins, who was in his twenties, tall, thin, and handsome.
  • Caroline, Marion’s co-worker, was played by Alfred Hitchcock’s daughter, Patricia Hitchcock.
  • To test the “fear factor” of Mrs. Bates’s corpse, Hitchcock placed it inside Janet Leigh’s dressing room and listened to how loud she screamed when she discovered it.
  • After the film was released, Hitchcock received letters from ophthalmologists. They informed him that Janet’s Leigh’s eyes were contracted after her death. When we die, our eyes dilate. They told him that belladonna drops were good to use for a proper “dead-eye effect”. Hitchcock used those drops in all of his later movies.
  • It was once rumored that Hitchcock made the water in the shower ice-cold to get a genuine scream from Janet Leigh. This rumor was debunked by Leigh. The rumor was created by Universal Studio tour guides to tell tourists as they viewed the Bates house.

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  • Even though Norman Bates was the real killer, Anthony Perkins wasn’t involved in filming the shower scene at all. Due to Perkins’ silhouette, which was very slim and broad-shouldered, it would’ve been obvious he was Marion’s killer.
  • While looking at the rushes of Marion’s death, Hitchcock’s wife noticed the pulse in Janet Leigh’s neck was throbbing. To fix this issue, the pull-back from Marion’s dead body was a freeze-frame.

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