Writer. Nationality: British. Born: England, 14 August 1899. Family: Married the director Alfred Hitchcock, 1926 (died, 1980); daughter: Patricia. Career: Early 1920s—editor's assistant, London Film, then Famous Players-Lasky, London; 1925—script girl on Hitch-cock's The Pleasure Garden, then writer of many of his scripts, as well as scripts for other directors; 1939—emigrated to the United States with Hitchcock. Died: 6 July 1982.
Films as Cowriter for Alfred Hitchcock:
Juno and the Paycock
The Skin Game; Rich and Strange (East of Shanghai)
Waltzes from Vienna (Strauss's Great Waltz)
The 39 Steps
The Secret Agent; Sabotage (A Woman Alone)
Young and Innocent (The Girl Was Young)
The Lady Vanishes
Shadow of a Doubt
The Paradine Case
I Confess (uncredited)
Other Films as Cowriter:
The Constant Nymph (Brunel); The First Born (Mander)
After the Verdict (Galeen)
The Outsider (Lachman); Sally in Our Alley (Elvey)
The Water Gipsies (Elvey); Nine till Six (Dean)
Forbidden Country (Rosen)
The Passing of the Third Floor Back (Viertel)
It's in the Bag (Wallace)
Film as Editor:
Woman to Woman (Cutts)
By REVILLE: articles—
Sight and Sound (London), Autumn 1976.
Wilson Library Bulletin, December 1988.
On REVILLE: articles—
Taylor, John Russell, "Alma Hitchcock," in Take One (Toronto), May 1976.
Obituary, in Cinématographe, no. 82, October 1982.
* * *
Alma Reville's career is difficult to assess, since during most of it she worked exclusively on the films of her husband, director Alfred Hitchcock. Her contribution to his work fluctuated during the course of their 50-year marriage. It was sometimes that of a professional screenwriter or consultant, more often that of a supportive and knowledgeable wife.
Reville entered the British film industry even earlier than her husband, whose career spanned both the silent and sound eras. From the age of 16, Reville worked as a cutter (editor), first at the London Film Company, then at Famous Players-Lasky's English branch at Islington. Hitchcock's courtship of her began at the latter studio when he invited her to work as a cutter on Woman to Woman, an independent production which he was assistant directing under Graham Cutts at Islington; thus from the beginning, the couple's relationship was based on a combination of personal and professional interests. She shared her first screenwriting credit with Hitchcock as cowriter of his boxing melodrama The Ring in 1927, while continuing to work with other directors as scriptwriter, continuity girl, and assistant director.
Ambitious and talented, Reville sought to move into the director's chair herself. But the birth of a daughter, Patricia Alma, in 1928 and the family's subsequent move to America altered her ambitions. Joan Harrison, whom Hitchcock hired as a secretary in 1935, quickly took over many of the routine production duties which had previously been Reville's responsibility, while Reville focused exclusively on preparation of her husband's scripts. Harrison eventually became involved in this capacity too, often sharing screen credit with Reville. When the Hitchcocks moved to America in 1939 so that Hitchcock could work under personal contract to David O. Selznick, Harrison went along.
The scripts Reville worked on for Hitchcock in Hollywood were Suspicion, a troubled project which was nearly not released; The Paradine Case, on which producer Selznick was more exasperating in his interference with Hitchcock than usual; Stage Fright; and I Confess, which was made on Reville's initiative, but proved to be a box office failure. Three of these films concern a man who betrays a woman. Reville was partly responsible for this pattern, which probably reflected her attitude toward her husband, whose interest in her waxed and waned; the couple's marriage was reportedly celibate after the birth of their daughter as Hitchcock's romantic fancy attached itself silently and unreciprocally to the various glamorous blondes in his films.
In the mid-1950s, at the peak of Hitchcock's confidence and power, Reville retreated firmly into the background and stayed there. He still sought and respected his wife's judgment on potential projects and relied on her keen eye for detail during the editing process. A famous story about Psycho has it that Reville saved its most famous sequence from being marred by a significant blemish that no one else had caught during months of editing. As the final cut was being prepared for release, Hitchcock showed it to her. She alone spotted a single blink of Janet Leigh's eye as the actress lay "dead" following the notorious shower murder scene. The gaffe was replaced with a cutaway shot, and Psycho went out to theaters, the sequence shocking audiences around the world and making film history.
—Patricia Ferrara, updated by John McCarty