Henry K. Miller
Thursday 5 January
Elsie Codd interviews the American screenwriter Josephine Lovett for the British trade paper Kinematograph Weekly.
Lovett was employed by the British branch of Famous Players-Lasky, the world’s biggest film company, increasingly known by the name of its distribution arm, Paramount. In 1919–20, Famous Players-Lasky British Producers (its full name) had built a studio at Poole Street, Islington, and in the spring of 1921 Lovett had come with her husband, director John S. Robertson, to make a film version of Peter Pan. Lovett, wrote Codd, had been ‘collaborating with Sir James Barrie’ on the adaptation; meanwhile she had written and Robertson had directed two other films, most recently Spanish Jade, shot on location in Spain during the winter, when the London fog made even studio work an ordeal.
‘At that time, American scriptwriters were all middle-aged women,’ Hitchcock told Peter Bogdanovich, ‘and I learned scriptwriting from these women.’ His job at Poole Street was designing title cards, but this cannot have occupied all his time, and he took on whatever roles were going, absorbing all he could.
According to Codd, Lovett would confer with Robertson every evening, going over the next day’s scenes, and was ‘never absent from the “set” when the scenes are in the making’. She scouted locations and supervised the costumes. The nature of the Lovett-Robertson collaboration inevitably brings to mind Hitchcock’s future collaboration with Alma Reville, who was also employed at Poole Street, as an editor. By her account, however, Hitchcock was too shy to talk to her at this time. Born one day apart in August 1899, both of them were 22 years old at the start of 1922.
It was not Lovett, nor one of the other scriptwriters, who pushed Hitchcock to pursue his dream of directing. ‘I was talked into Number Thirteen by the publicity woman of Famous Players-Lasky,’ he told Bogdanovich, ‘who began to see something in me even before I’d got to writing or art direction, when I was just a young man around the editorial department.’ Or more accurately, this is what he told Bogdanovich according to a text published in 1963 by the Museum of Modern Art Film Library. More than 50 years later, in their book Hitchcock Lost and Found, Alain Kerzoncuf and Charles Barr, having been given access to Bogdanovich’s tapes, revealed that Hitchcock had given him the publicity woman’s name: Elsie Codd.