Henry K. Miller
Elsie Codd publishes a profile of screenwriter Ouida Bergère in the March issue of Picturegoer magazine.
Bergère and George Fitzmaurice, British FP-L’s second married writer-and-director unit, had arrived in London shortly after Josephine Lovett and John S. Robertson in the summer of 1921. The couple’s recent credits for the American company included an adaptation of George du Maurier’s Peter Ibbetson, of which Robert E. Sherwood said: Fitzmaurice ‘has gained an excellent conception of the spiritual quality of Du Maurier’s novel, and has interpreted it on the screen with commendable reverence and care.’ It was to craft a more reverent script for Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca that Sherwood was brought into contact with Hitchcock in 1939.
Bergère and Fitzmaurice's first film for British FP-L, Three Live Ghosts, shot in the autumn of 1921, had opened in New York on New Year’s Day 1922. In the winter of 1921–2, while Robertson and Lovett had been in Spain shooting Spanish Jade, Fitzmaurice and Bergère had been in Italy shooting The Man From Home.
Codd, interviewing Bergère in her ‘cosy flat in Park Lane’, asked whether her work ended with her handing in the script. Bergère told her that ‘every night both she and “Fitz.” go through every scene which is to be shot on the following day, discussing the psychology of the characters in its bearing on the action’. Here again was a model for Hitchcock and Reville. While Bergère was rarely on set, ‘occasionally he entrusts the direction of some particularly “feminine” episode to his wife – perhaps an emotional “bit,” or a scene in which a child is the central figure’.
According to Donald Spoto, one of Hitchcock’s principal biographers, ‘It was the occasional evening with Fitzmaurice that provided virtually the only social life Hitchcock had in these years of the 1920s.’ Meanwhile, it is claimed by the film historian Anthony Slide that Alma Reville, who edited The Man From Home, the last FP-L film to be completed at Poole Street, was also socially connected to the Fitzmaurice-Bergère ménage. According to Slide she was engaged to Fitzmaurice’s British assistant director, Leslie Hiscott. His source was Arthur C. Miller, director of photography on both of Fitzmaurice’s British FP-L films. If the story is true – no other writer has confirmed it – Hitchcock’s diffidence towards Alma is easier to understand.
About the time Codd's article appeared, in mid-late February, Bergère, Fitzmaurice, and Robertson were were reported as having left London and due to arrive in New York on 25 February. Lovett was already there, and by 1 March at the latest so was Tom Geraghty. Although there was ‘some talk’ of Donald Crisp using the studio, he had not yet done so, and although John Gliddon was said to have taken it over, he and his company had left for Egypt. Poole Street was vacant from this point, creating a vacancy for Number Thirteen.