LookingBack June 27

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

Happy 50th Birthday "Psycho"

Each week Albany Herald researcher Mary Braswell looks for interesting events, places and people from the past. You can contact her at (229) 888-9371 or mary.braswell@albanyherald.com.

Fifty years ago this month, one of the most influential films in Hollywood history was showing on screens all across the country. "Psycho" starred Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles, John Gavin and Martin Balsam and was directed by the one-and-only Alfred Hitchcock. Film historians credit this movie, the shower scene in particular, with introducing the slasher genre of movies. Critics gave "Psycho" a lukewarm reception, but only briefly. It rapidly became a box office hit.

The story

Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) is a working girl fed up with having to sneak away during lunch breaks to meet her lover, Sam Loomis (John Gavin), who cannot get married because most of his money goes towards alimony. One Friday, Marion's employer asks her to take $40,000 in cash to a local bank for deposit. Desperate to make a change in her life, she impulsively leaves town with the money. Exhausted from the long drive and the stress of her criminal act, she decides to spend the night at the desolate Bates Motel. The motel is run by Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), a peculiar young man dominated by his invalid mother. After Norman fixes her a light dinner, Marion goes back to her room for a shower....


* Alfred Hitchcock anonymously bought the rights to the novel by the same name from author Robert Bloch for about $9,000. He then proceeded to buy as many copies of the book as he could find in hopes to keep the ending secret.

* Hitchcock shot the film in black and white for two reasons. First, he felt it was too gory for color and second, it was much cheaper.

* During filming, the movie was referred to as "Production 9401" or "Wimpy".

* Alfred Hitchcock made his customary cameo appearance about four minutes into the film. He can be seen outside Marion's office wearing a cowboy hat.

* This was Hitchcock's last black and white film and his last for Paramount. By the time filming started, Hitchcock had moved his offices (and the filming) to Universal Studios. Universal owns the film today, even though it carries the Paramount Pictures logo.

* Before she stole the money, Marion's purse was white. Afterwards, it was black.

* Marion's white 1957 Ford sedan was the same car (owned by Universal Studios) that the Cleaver family drove on "Leave It to Beaver".

* The Bates home was the most expensive set for the picture -- it cost about $15,000.

* On the first day of shooting, the cast and crew members were asked to raise their right hands and promise not to divulge one word of the story... The ending was withheld until it was time to shoot it.

* Anthony Perkins was paid $40,000 for his performance -- the exact amount of money that Marion Crane stole from her employer.

* Alfred Hitchcock deferred his standard $250,000 salary in lieu of 60 percent of the film's net profits. His personal earnings exceeded $15 million.

* Hitchcock was so pleased with the musical score written by Bernard Hermann that he doubled his salary.

* To test the fear factor of Mother's corpse, Hitchcock had it placed in Janet Leigh's dressing room and listened to how loud she screamed when she discovered it there.

* The guard in the ending jail scene is Ted Knight, who played Ted Baxter on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" 10 years later.

* No rating was assigned to the movie until 1968 when an early version of MPAA ratings system gave it an "M" for mature audiences. A 1984 re-issue of the film included an "R" rating.

* Walt Disney refused to allow Alfred Hitchcock to film at Disneyland in the early 1960s because he had made "that disgusting movie, 'Psycho.'"

* The novel upon which this film is bases was inspired by the true story of Ed Stein, a serial killer who was also the inspiration for "Deranged" and "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," both released in 1974.

* Hitchcock had a canvas chair with "Mrs. Bates" written on the back prominently placed on the set throughout the shooting . This further added to the mystery of which actress was playing that role.

* Twenty-three years elapsed between "Psycho" and "Psycho II."

The shower

* Janet Leigh had only three weeks to work on the movie. One entire week was spent filming the shower sequence.

* There are over 90 slices in the shower scene and none involved Anthony Perkins. He was in New York rehearsing for a Broadway musical.

* Marli Renfro, the unbilled model who doubled for Janet Leigh in parts of the shower scene, was featured as a "Playboy" cover girl in September 1960 while the film was still in theaters. On the cover she was taking a shower.

* Despite the length of time spent on filming the shower scene, it lasts only 45 seconds in the movie.

* At the end of the scene, the first few seconds of the camera pull-back from Leigh's face is a freeze frame. Hitchcock did this because his wife, when viewing the rushes, noticed the pulse in Leigh's neck throbbing.

Did you know ... or do you remember?

In the lobbies of many of the theaters showing "Psycho", life-sized cardboard cutouts of Alfred Hitchcock pointing to his wristwatch were emblazoned with the following:

"The manager of this theatre has been instructed, at the risk of his life, not to admit to the theatre any persons after the picture starts. Any spurious attempts to enter by side doors, fire escapes or ventilating shafts will be met by force. The entire objective of this extraordinary policy, of course, is to help you enjoy 'Psycho' more. Alfred Hitchcock"

In some locations, uniformed Pinkerton guards enforced the rule!