Alfred Hitchcock received several letters from ophthalmologists who noted that Janet Leigh's eyes were still contracted during the extreme closeups after her character's death. The pupils of a true corpse dilate after death. They told Hitchcock he could achieve a proper dead-eye effect by using belladonna drops. Hitchcock did so in all his later films.
Although Janet Leigh was not bothered by the filming of the famous shower scene, seeing it on film profoundly moved her. She later remarked that it made her realize how vulnerable a woman was in a shower. To the end of her life, she always took baths.
Every theater that showed the film had a cardboard cut-out installed in the lobby of Alfred Hitchcock pointing to his wristwatch with a note from the director saying "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"
When the cast and crew began work on the first day they had to raise their right hands and promise not to divulge one word of the story. Alfred Hitchcock also withheld the ending part of the script from his cast until he needed to shoot it.
Janet Leigh received threatening letters after the film's release, detailing what they would like to do to Marion Crane. One was so grotesque she passed it on to the FBI. The culprits were discovered, and the FBI said she should notify them again if she ever received anymore letters.
The amount of cash Marion stole, $40,000 in 1960 would be equivalent to approximately $315,000 in 2013. The $700 difference she paid when trading in her car, and getting another one, would be equivalent to about $5,500 in 2013.
In the opening scene, Marion Crane is wearing a white bra because Alfred Hitchcock wanted to show her as being "angelic". After she has taken the money, the following scene has her in a black bra because now she has done something wrong and evil. Similarly, before she steals the money, she has a white purse; after she's stolen the money, her purse is black.
Alfred Hitchcock deferred his standard $250,000 salary in lieu of 60% of the film's net profits. His personal earnings from the film exceeded $15 million. Adjusted for inflation, that amount would now top $150 million in 2006 dollars.
One of the reasons Alfred Hitchcock shot the movie in black and white was he thought it would be too gory in color. But the main reason was that he wanted to make the film as inexpensively as possible (under $1 million). He also wondered if so many bad, inexpensively made, b/w "B" movies did so well at the box office, what would happen if a really good, inexpensively made, b/w movie was made.
When Norman discovers the body of Marion Crane, he shouts "Mother! Oh God! God! Blood! Blood!". Alfred Hitchcock had the bass frequencies removed from Anthony Perkins' voice to make him sound more like a frightened teenager.
The movie in large part was made because Alfred Hitchcock was fed up with the big-budget, star-studded movies he had recently been making and wanted to experiment with the more efficient, sparser style of television filmmaking. Indeed, he ultimately used a crew consisting mostly of TV veterans and hired actors less well known than those he usually used.
Alfred Hitchcock ran a deliciously droll and terse radio ad in the summer of 1960. In an era when sponsors used "Brand X" to describe their competitors' products, Hitch's voice said he wanted to compare his new movie with "Brand X". Then, the sound of a horse neighing and horse clippity-clop sounds. Hitch's voice said simply "Brand X is a western." "Now for my picture", followed by a loud scream. End of commercial!
Joseph Stefano was adamant about seeing a toilet on-screen to display realism. He also wanted to see it flush. Alfred Hitchcock told him he had to "make it so" through his writing if he wanted to see it. Stefano wrote the scene in which Marion adds up the money, then flushes the paper down the toilet specifically so the toilet flushing was integral to the scene and therefore irremovable. This was the first American film (and possibly first fictional film) ever to show a toilet flushing on screen.
Paramount gave Hitchcock a very small budget to work with, because of their distaste with the source material. They also deferred most of the net profits to Hitchcock, thinking the film would fail. When it became a sleeper hit, Hitchcock made a fortune.
This was Alfred Hitchcock's last film for Paramount. By the time principal photography started, Hitchcock had moved his offices to Universal and the film was actually shot on Universal's back lot. Universal owns the film today as well, even though the Paramount Pictures logo is still on the film.
To ensure the people were in the theaters at the start of the film (rather than walking in part way through) the studio provided a record to play in the foyer of the theaters. The album featured background music, occasionally interrupted by a voice saying "Ten minutes to Psycho time," "Five minutes to Psycho time," and so on.
According to biographers, Alfred Hitchcock himself had a troubled relationship with his own domineering mother who, like Mrs. Bates, forced him to stand at the foot of her bed and tell her everything that had happened to him, although the real relationship was not as disturbed as that seen in the movie.
Janet Leigh has said that when he cast her, Alfred Hitchcock gave her the following charter: "I hired you because you are an actress! I will only direct you if A: you attempt to take more than your share of the pie, B: you don't take enough, or C: if you are having trouble motivating the necessary timed movement."
In order to implicate viewers as fellow voyeurs Alfred Hitchcock used a 50 mm lens on his 35 mm camera. This gives the closest approximation to the human vision. In the scenes where Norman is spying on Marion this effect is felt.
On the Interstate 99 that eventually turns into Pacific Ave. near the Fife/Tacoma boarder in Washington State, there are several older hotels up along the strip. One of the former owners of one of the hotels is a horror movie buff and puts on costume parties in his retirement. Being a fan of the horror movies, he renamed the motel, Bates Motel. In April of 2012, the hotel was torn down, but the hotel sign is still intact.
According to Janet Leigh, wardrobe worn by her character Marion Crane was not custom made for her, but rather purchased "off the rack" from ordinary clothing stores. Alfred Hitchcock wanted women viewers to identify with the character by having her wear clothes that an ordinary secretary could afford, and thus add to the mystique of realism.
There are several references to birds in this film : Marion's surname is Crane, Norman's hobby is stuffing birds and he states that Marion eats like a bird. Coincidentally Alfred Hitchcock's next film was The Birds (1963)
The film only cost US$800,000 to make and has earned more than US$40 million. Alfred Hitchcock used the crew from his TV series Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955) to save time and money. In 1962 he exchanged the rights to the film and his TV series for a huge block of MCA's stock, becoming its third-largest stockholder).
The car dealership in the movie was actually Harry Maher's used car lot near Universal Studios. Since Ford Motor company was a sponsor of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955) TV show the car lot's usual inventory was displaced in favor of shiny Edsels, Fairlanes and Mercury models from Ford.
Norman's mother was voiced by Paul Jasmin, Virginia Gregg and Jeanette Nolan. Nolan provided some of the screams when Lila discovers the corpse of Mrs Bates. The three voices were thoroughly mixed, except for the last speech, which is all Gregg's.
As part of publicity campaign prior to release of the film, Alfred Hitchcock said: "It has been rumored that 'Psycho' is so terrifying that it will scare some people speechless. Some of my men hopefully sent their wives to a screening. The women emerged badly shaken but still vigorously vocal."
The Bates house was largely modeled on an oil painting at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The canvas is called "House by the Railroad" and was painted in 1925 by American iconic artist Edward Hopper. The architectural details, viewpoint and austere sky is almost identical as seen in the film.
Hitchcock always preferred to film indoors on a soundstage and only the distant shots of the Bates Mansion were shot outside on the back-lot. To accomplish this and allow for an exterior to interior dolly shot, a second, duplicate, mansion exterior consisting only of the front porch was constructed on the sound stage and the cut from exterior, back-lot, set to interior sound stage can clearly be seen as Lila approaches if you watch closely for the difference in the lighting when the camera cuts from her back to the porch and front door once she gets close.
Parts of the house were built by cannibalizing several stock-unit sections including a tower from the house in Harvey (1950). The house was the most expensive set of the picture but came to a mere US$15,000.
When Marion is having a conversation with Norman in his parlor, Norman says in reference to his mother: "She had to raise me all by herself after my father died. I was only five and it must have been quite a strain for her." The actor who played Norman, Anthony Perkins, was his parents' only child and he, like Norman, suffered the loss of his father when he was five years old. From then on, he was raised by his mother alone.
According to Stephen Rebello, author of "Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho", Alfred Hitchcock was displeased with the performance of John Gavin who played Sam Loomis in the film and referred to the actor as 'the stiff'.
An early script had the following dialogue: Marion: "I'm going to spend the weekend in bed." Texas oilman: "Bed? Only playground that beats Las Vegas." (This discarded dialogue was resurrected for the Gus Van Sant remake Psycho (1998), but was subsequently cut.)
One of the reasons why Alfred Hitchcock wanted to make Psycho in black and white is because Hitchcock loved french horror film Diabolique (1955), which was made in Black and White. Les Diaboliques is based on Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac's novel "Celle qui n'était plus" (She Who Was No More). Hitchcock attempted to buy the rights to this novel in 1950s. But director Henri-Georges Clouzot bought the film rights to the original novel. Clouzot reportedly beat Hitchcock by only a matter of hours.
"Psycho" was first scheduled to air on U.S. network TV in the fall of 1966. Just before it would have aired, however, Valerie Percy, the daughter of then U.S. Senate candidate Charles H. Percy (U.S. Senator, R-Illinois: 1967 - 85), was stabbed to death, apparently by an intruder, in a murder that, as of 2011, remains unsolved. It was deemed prudent, under the circumstances, to postpone the scheduled airing. Ultimately, the film was not shown on U.S. network TV until 1970, following a highly successful theatrical re-release the previous year. At that time, Universal released it on the syndication market, where it quickly became a popular staple on local late night horror film showings.
Although disputed, it is claimed that the graphic designer and title director Saul Bass directed the shower sequence. Bass certainly story-boarded the scene, but there is disagreement about the level of direction by Alfred Hitchcock and how much credit can be afforded by Bass for the construction of this iconic scene.
During filming, this movie was referred to as "Production 9401" or "Wimpy". The latter name came from the second-unit cameraman on the picture Rex Wimpy who appeared on clapboards and production sheets, and some on-the-set stills for Psycho.
According to Alfred Hitchcock, "Psycho" was originally intended to be a comedy. Speaking with the TV program Monitor in July 1964: "I once made a movie, rather tongue-in-cheek, called "Psycho." The content was, I felt, rather amusing and it was a big joke. I was horrified to find some people took it seriously. It was intended to make people scream and yell and so forth - but no more than screaming and yelling on a switchback railway. So you mustn't go too far because you want them to get off the railway giggling with pleasure."
As well as changing the character of Norman Bates, another variation on the novel is that the film expands the opening chapters of the book, going into greater detail about Marion absconding with $40,000.
On February 8, 1960, exactly one week after he finished "Psycho," Alfred Hitchcock directed an episode of TV's Startime (1959) ("Incident at a Corner", #1.27), that also featured Vera Miles and much of the same crew that worked on "Psycho".
A false story has circulated that George Reeves was hired to play detective Milton Arbogast and filmed a few of his scenes with the rest of the cast just a week before his death. There is no truth to this rumor whatsoever. Reeves died on June 16, 1959, almost two months before Alfred Hitchcock decided to make a film of "Psycho" and exactly one year before the June 16, 1960 date when the film had its world premiere in New York. Work on the script began in October, 1959, four months after Reeves's death. Filming began in November, 1959, five months after Reeves's death. At the time of Reeves's death, Hitchcock was on a world tour promoting North by Northwest (1959). (Source: "The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock," by Donald Spoto.) George Reeves did not live long enough to even know a film of "Psycho" was planned, much less actually appear in it.
At the end of the film, a policeman hands Norman a blanket. The policeman is played by Ted Knight (uncredited). Ted Knight went on to a career, mostly in TV. He is best known as playing the character of "Ted Baxter", the newscaster on the "Mary Tyler Moore" show in the 70's.
Director Alexander Payne said he couldn't imagine the film being made in color, because it's far more chilling in black and white, but it was later remade in color as Psycho (1998), to universal disapproval.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
After the film's release Alfred Hitchcock received an angry letter from the father of a girl who refused to have a bath after seeing Diabolique (1955) and now refused to shower after seeing this film. Hitchcock sent a note back simply saying, "Send her to the dry cleaners."
The ending involves a superimposition of three elements that many people fail to notice. The last shot of Norman Bates's face has a still frame of a human skull superimposed on it, almost subliminally. The skull is that of Mother. This then dissolves into the shot of the chain pulling the car with Marion's body out of the swamp. The chain is placed so that it appears to moving through where Norman/Mother's heart would be, symbolically showing that the two are tied together.
The shower scene has over 90 splices in it, and did not involve Anthony Perkins at all. Contrary to popular belief it wasn't due to a scheduling conflict Perkins had for the Broadway musical 'Greenville' but actually a deliberate decision on Alfred Hitchcock's part. On this subject Perkins states "Hitchcock was very worried that the dual role and nature of Norman Bates would be exposed if I were to appear in that scene. I think it was the recognizability of my silhouette, which is rather slim and broad in the shoulder. That worried him."
Janet Leigh wore moleskin adhesive patches covering her private parts when she acted out the shower scene so she would not really be nude and the camera would not pick up anything supposedly obscene. However, after the warm water of the shower washed off the moleskin, Alfred Hitchcock still did one more take. The take was used in the finished film.
Alfred Hitchcock strictly mandated, and even wrote into theater managers' contracts, that no one arriving after the start of each showing of "Psycho" would be admitted into the theater until the beginning of the next showing. Advertising artwork deceived audiences into thinking that Janet Leigh was its star, and patrons arriving after her murder would wonder where she was. Newspaper advertisements cleverly piqued audience curiosity with such statements as "You MUST see "Psycho" from the very beginning. No one - not even the President of the United States, not the theater manager's brother, not even the Queen of England (God bless her) - will be allowed into the theater after the beginning of each showing of "Psycho". This is to allow you to enjoy "Psycho" more. By the way, after you see the film, please do not give away the ending. It's the only one we have". News cameras photographed audience members waiting in lines outside theaters to see "Psycho", creating tremendous curiosity about the film and adding extra publicity.
Contrary to a widely told tale, Alfred Hitchcock did *not* arrange for the water to suddenly go ice-cold during the shower scene to elicit an effective scream from Janet Leigh. This urban legend appears to have originated with Universal tour guides making up an interesting thing to tell tourists as they passed the "Psycho" house, one of the most popular attractions on the lot. Janet Leigh said that the crew took great care to keep the water warm, and filming of the scene took an entire week.
Alfred Hitchcock even had a canvas chair with "Mrs. Bates" written on the back prominently placed and displayed on the set throughout shooting. This further added to the enigma surrounding who was the actress playing Mrs. Bates.
In Robert Bloch's novel, Norman Bates is short, fat, older, and very dislikable. It was Alfred Hitchcock who decided to have him be young, handsome, and sympathetic. Norman is also more of a main character in the novel. The story opens with him and Mother fighting rather than following Marion from the start.
Despite the fact that the entire film is in black and white, several viewers vividly (and specifically) recall the "red" blood as it swirled down the shower drain. Obviously, this could not be true, not just for the fact of the black and white film, but the blood was actually Bosco chocolate syrup. Although feature films were produced in color at the time, newsreels were shown in black and white. Filming the movie in black and white might have made it seem less gory (see other trivia), but it also might have seemed more real to viewers at the time who were used to seeing the news in black and white.
Alfred Hitchcock was very uneasy about the morphing of Norman's face into Mother's at the end of the film. He sent out three different versions of the film during its initial release. The first version included the ending seen on all prints today, the second contained no morphing at all, and the third contained the trick at the end, yet also included it at an earlier point in the film. When John Gavin as Sam Loomis comes back to the Bates Motel to look for Arbogast, there is a zooming shot of Norman standing by the swamp, looking very sinister. The third version of the film included the subtle morphing of Norman's face into Mother's at this moment.
Joseph Stefano and Alfred Hitchcock deliberately layered-in certain risqué elements as a ruse to divert the censors from more crucial concerns - like the action that takes place in the bedroom in the beginning and the shower murder. The censors reviewed the script and censored the "unimportant" extra material and Hitchcock managed to sneak in his "important" material.
Immediately prior to the closing sequence of Norman Bates in his jail cell, as the camera moves down the hallway to where police have confined him, the uniformed guard at the cell door is Ted Knight, best remembered as pompous, dim-witted news anchor Ted Baxter on Mary Tyler Moore (1970).
When Alfred Hitchcock was off due to illness, the crew shot the sequence of Arbogast inside the house going up the stairs. When Hitchcock saw the footage, he complimented those responsible but said the sequence had to be re-shot. Their version made it appear as if Arbogast was going up the stairs to commit a murder. Hitchcock re-shot the sequence.
At the end of the shower scene, the first few seconds of the camera pull-back from Janet Leigh's face is a freeze-frame. Alfred Hitchcock did this because, while viewing the rushes, his wife noticed the pulse in Leigh's neck throbbing.
During preproduction, Alfred Hitchcock said to the press that he was considering Helen Hayes for the part of Mother. This was obviously a ruse, but several actresses wrote to Hitchcock requesting auditions.
Alfred Hitchcock paid the title sequence designer Saul Bass (also credited as "Pictorial Consultant") $2,000 to draw storyboards for the scene where Arbogast is killed at the stairs. Bass was excited about the movie and asked Hitchcock for the opportunity. Hitchcock discarded his work because the shots showed Arbogast's feet slowly going up the stairs and this prepared the audience for a shock. Hitch wanted it to be a surprise and that's why he filmed Arbogast in a completely natural way.
The MPAA objected to the use of the term "transvestite" to describe Norman Bates in the final wrap-up. They insisted it be removed until Joseph Stefano proved to them it was a clinical psychology term. They thought he was trying to get one over on them and place a vulgarity in the picture.
Among the major promotional items for the film was a lengthy coming attractions trailer (filmed in several languages) of Alfred Hitchcock taking the audience on a seemingly lighthearted tour of the house and motel. At the end, Hitchcock pulls open a shower curtain to reveal a close-up of a woman screaming. The actress is not Janet Leigh but Vera Miles wearing a wig similar to Miss Leigh's hairstyle. The logo "Psycho" simultaneously comes onto the screen and cleverly covers Miss Miles' eyes so that the switch is not easily discernible.
Bernard Herrmann had written a cue for the climax where Mrs. Bates is revealed to be a skeleton and Norman the true killer. However, on the advice of Alfred Hitchcock, Herrmann re-used the theme from the shower scene. The alternate cue can be heard on the 1997 album conducted by Joel McNeely and performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.
Marli Renfro, unbilled nude model who doubled for Janet Leigh in portions of the murder sequence, was featured as a Playboy cover girl on the September 1960 issue while the film was still in theaters. Quite coincidentally, she was pictured on the cover taking a shower.
Bernard Herrmann composed the cue "The Swamp" for the scene where Marion's car is sinking in the swamp. But Alfred Hitchcock told Bernard Herrmann not to use the swamp cue in order to increase the suspense and the tension through silence. So the swamp cue wasn't used in the film.
In the Collector's Edition DVD documentary, Janet Leigh says that a nude body double was used in portions of the shower scene. The DVD notes include a quote from Alfred Hitchcock, in an interview with François Truffaut, in which he says the same thing.
Alfred Hitchcock (and his cinematographer) may actually have put one over on the censors. If you watch the sequence of the hand clutching around the shower curtain, you will see the curtain on the left side of the frame, the hand comes in center frame and diverts you from what can just been seen out of focus in the background right of the frame. If you increase the contrast on your monitor (particularly effective by tilting the monitor of a portable DVD player) the background visual information clearly resolves itself into a pair of naked breasts. Janet Leigh claims that she was not nude during the filming of this scene and was actually wearing a moleskin suit for the shot where she falls forward over the side of the tub. This is not disputed, but there was a nude model used for overhead and insert shots; this would be the case for the breast shot in question. Leigh insisted to her death that no nude woman, herself or a stand-in, was used in the actual filming, but modern video technology, including frame-by-frame advance, reveals one, in profile so as to expose no "private parts" and with the top of the frame at shoulder level so as to prevent identification.
According to Stephen Rebello, the Hays Office censors requested changes to the shower scene. Some believed they had caught a brief glimpse of one of Janet Leigh's breasts. (Rebello confirms that "there are definitely a couple of frames showing a bare breast and nipple.") Alfred Hitchcock waited several days and sent the film back unedited. This time, it passed the censors' inspection. For the "couple of frames" in question, Marion's head is turned from the camera, so it's not clear whether the breast belongs to Leigh. Leigh maintained: "It was me the whole time in that shower except for the time when he's wrapping the body in the shower curtain." But Robert Graysmith claims that Leigh's body double, Marli Renfro, was used for some of the shower scene shots as well.
Despite his reputation for cultivating extended working relationships with his leading ladies, after observing the reception of Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock reluctantly told Janet Leigh that they could never work together again, as she would always be remembered for her onscreen death as Marion Crane.