5 October 2015

A belated thank-you from Hitchcock

In early 1950, Patricia Highsmith's debut novel "Strangers on a Train" was published. Almost immediately after publication, several filmmakers expressed interest in turning the book into a film, among them Alfred Hitchcock. In trying to secure the rights to Highsmith's novel, Hitch made an anonymous bid as he always did in order to keep the price low— which Highsmith accepted. The winning bid was $7,500, and Highsmith was reportedly annoyed when she heard that Hitch was the bidder, realising she could have asked for a higher price. 

Having secured the film rights to "Strangers on a Train", Hitch remembered to thank the woman who had made him take note of Highsmith's novel in the first place. Ramona Herdman was publicity director at Harper & Brothers (Highsmith's publisher) and had sent him a copy of the novel to read. On 17 May 1950, Hitch sent Miss Herdman the following thank-you note, informing her that he would be using the novel for his next film. Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train" was released in 1951, starring Robert Walker and Farley Granger, and is generally regarded as one of his finest efforts.

Source: Patricia Highsmith Papers (Swiss Literary Archives)



May 17, 1950

Miss Ramona Herdman
Publicity Director
Harper & Brothers
49 East 33rd Street 
New York 16, N.Y.

Dear Miss Herdman,

I know this is a very belated note, but thought you would like to know that as a result of your sending me "Strangers on a Train" I'm using it as the basis for my next picture.

Thanking you,



Alfred Hitchcock
Note: Raymond Chandler was hired by Hitchcock to write the screenplay for "Strangers on a Train". To read about their troublesome collaboration and the angry letter Chandler wrote to Hitchcock, feel free to visit this post.

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