7 May 2014

From Hitch to Billy

One of my previous posts, From one director to another, showed a note that Alfred Hitchcock sent to Billy Wilder, congratulating him on his film "The Apartment" (1960). In this post we see a similar note from Hitch to Wilder, this time showing his appreciation for one of Wilder's earlier films, "Double Indemnity" (1944), starring Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck. "Double Indemnity", which was not only directed but also co-written by Billy Wilder, is often regarded as the first true film noir and is one of Wilder's greatest films. 

Left: Hitch; right: Barbara Stanwyck and Billy Wilder on the set of "Double Indemnity".

Here is Hitchcock's note to Billy Wilder:


Dear Sir:

I had the very great pleasure of seeing a lovely picture the other night, and would like to say that the two most important words after 'Double Indemnity' are 'Billy Wilder'.

Alfred Hitchcock (signed)

Edit 9 May 2014:

While writing this post, I was not aware of the conflict between Billy Wilder and David Selznick at the time of the release of "Double Indemnity". On the Wikipedia page of "Double Indemnity" you can read all about this conflict:

"It was not uncommon at the time for studios to take out ads in trade journals promoting the virtues of their own films. David O. Selznick, no stranger to self-aggrandizement, frequently sought to put a high-culture patina on his pictures with "trade-book" ads. At just the time Double Indemnity was released, Selznick's latest tearjerker, Since You Went Away, was enjoying some box office success. In his ads, Selznick quoted various dignitaries claiming it was the finest picture they had ever seen, how it served such a noble purpose, how it elevated humanity to new levels – no high-toned platitude was too lofty to invoke. Indeed, the ad averred, the words Since You Went Away had become "the four most important words uttered in motion picture history since Gone with the Wind." The petulant Wilder despised such ostentation, so he placed an ad of his own: Double Indemnity, it claimed, were the two most important words uttered in motion picture history since Broken Blossoms, thus comparing D.W. Griffith's artistic 1919 classic with his own sordid story of iniquitous murder. Selznick was not amused and threatened to stop advertising in any of the trades if they continued to run Wilder's ads."

With his note, Hitchcock was unmistakingly referring to the situation with David Selznick and Billy Wilder. Whether Hitch, who had his own issues with Selznick, wrote the note to Billy Wilder or a trade paper (to take a jab at Selznick), I don't know. Thanks to Vienna from Vienna's Classic Hollywood for letting me know about the story.


  1. Don't think this note is to Wilder. More likely to a trade paper that David Selznick had advertised on,in which he said his new film,SINCE YOU WENT AWAY were the four greatest words since GONE WITH THE WIND.
    Hitch was taking a dig at Selznick.

    1. Hi Vienna, thanks for your comment. I never knew about the story between Selznick and Wilder. Really interesting. Yes, it could very well be that Hitch did not write this note to Wilder after all. I've added some text to my post with this new information, and also added a link to the post on your blog about the Selznick-Wilder conflict.

  2. You're welcome,Clarissa. Thanks for the link to my post.
    It was great to see Hitchcock's original note.