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Family Plot (1976) Poster

(1976)

Trivia

Jump to: Director Cameo (1) | Director Trademark (2)
Alfred Hitchcock's final film. It was his fifty-third.
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To make the cemetery in this movie appear weedy with long grass, the cemetery was paid by the production to let the grass and weeds grow for a whole four months without weeding and maintenance.
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Alfred Hitchcock's films have become famous for a number of elements and iconography: vertiginous heights, innocent men wrongfully accused, blonde bombshells dressed in white, voyeurism, long non-dialogue sequences, etc. In this his final film, one last iconographic element was added to the canon: the woman in black. Karen Black plays a villainous character whose outfit is the antithesis of the blonde dressed in white. Her costume comprises black hat, black dress, large black sunglasses obscuring the face and a long blonde wig. This menacing character image was notable in this movie and its image dominated in the film's printed promotional material and movie posters. The malevolent character-image has since been re-used in such famous movies as for character Bobbi in 'Brian de Palma''s Dressed to Kill (1980) and Hannibal Lecter's on-the-run end-of-movie disguise in The Silence of the Lambs (1991).
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First and only ever score of an Alfred Hitchcock film that was composed by composer John Williams.
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A street sign in the film reads "Bates Ave". The Bates Motel was the setting for Hitchcock's earlier film Psycho (1960).
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This is Alfred Hitchcock's final film and its final shot, the final ever shot in all of Alfred Hitchcock's 53 movies, was of a woman breaking the fourth wall by looking straight into the camera and winking at the audience. This was arguably a fitting coda to his career exemplifying the black humor that was prevalent in his movies.
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Alfred Hitchcock was famous for making his actors follow the script to the word, but in this movie he let the characters improvise and use their own dialogue.
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Faye Dunaway was offered the role of Fran for this movie, but turned the role down because it wasn't a lead role. It ended up going to Karen Black.
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The cemetery seen in this movie was Alfred Hitchcock's favorite location according to production designer Henry Bumstead.
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The meaning and relevance of this movie's title is, as explained in John Russell Taylor's book HITCH: The Life and Work of Alfred Hitchcock "a play on words . . . referring back to the complicated plot of family relations [from the film's story] and to the physical plot of ground in the cemetery . . ."
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The apparently Biblical sounding quotation that is read out at the funeral, is actually from the Book of Mormon (2 Nephi 9:20-27).
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At one point during filming, Bruce Dern questioned Alfred Hitchcock about why he was cast in the movie. Hitchcock replied, "Because Mr. Packinow wanted a million dollars, and Hitch doesn't pay a million dollars." It took Dern a while to realize that "Mr. Packinow" was Al Pacino.
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The final shot in the movie, a wink by the Barbara Harris character was a jokey reference that was not planned but Alfred Hitchcock decided to leave in.
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This movie's working titles were ' Missing Heir' and 'Deceit', the latter of which was used right up until the final week of shooting.
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Alfred Hitchcock was seventy-five years of age when he made this film.
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After this movie was completed, Alfred Hitchcock worked on the film script for the spy thriller 'The Short Night'. He never got to direct it due to his ailing health and it was not made. It would have been his fifty-fourth film. 'The Short Night' still has never been filmed to this day.
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Alfred Hitchcock was seriously in ill-health during the production of this movie. This lead to this picture being his final ever film. It was not intended to be his final picture as afterwards he worked on developing 'The Short Night' for the screen.
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The restaurant seen in the film was built on the Universal Studios back-lot and could be seen on studio tours in 1975.
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Ernest Lehman, who had previously written North by Northwest (1959) for Alfred Hitchcock, originally rejected this film's source novel as a potential project for him as a producer and/or director.
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Cinematographer Leonard J. South once said of working with Alfred Hitchcock on this movie: "He asks what lens you have on the camera, then he looks at the scene and he knows what will appear on the screen. He's rarely wrong. And he never moves the camera without a reason. When it moves, it's because the audience should be looking around with the actors. He's very specific about that."
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Actor Bruce Dern had previously worked with Alfred Hitchcock on episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955) as well as having had a small role in Marnie (1964). Dern once said of working with Alfred Hitchcock on this movie: " . . . he noticed everything - a shadow on a performer's face, a few seconds too long on a take. Just when we thought he had no idea what was going on, he'd snap us all to attention with the most incredible awareness of some small but disastrous detail that nobody would have noticed until it got on screen. And then he'd be bored again."
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Alfred Hitchcock's movies were known for featuring famous landmarks such as Mount Rushmore in North by Northwest (1959) and the Statue of Liberty in Saboteur (1942). Hitch apparently decided to leave this movie location unspecific and without recognizable landmarks and filmed it in the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco.
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As a publicity stunt to promote this movie, Alfred Hitchcock held a press conference junket in a mocked-up fake cemetery. Journalists had their names embossed on mock gravestones and the whole event was a reference to this movie's Family Plot (1976) cemeterial title.
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Roy Thinnes was originally hired to play Arthur Adamson, but Hitchcock's first choice William Devane became available so Hitchcock fired Thinnes without a reason and hired Devane. Some key scenes had been shot prior to this. Everything that had been shot was re-shot except for long shots which to this day remain as Roy Thinnes and not William Devane.
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Alfred Hitchcock initially wanted Al Pacino for the role of Lumley. According to an interview on the DVD with Bruce Dern, who ultimately got the part, Pacino's asking price was too high because of the recent successes he had enjoyed (Serpico (1973), The Godfather (1972), etc.)
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Lillian Gish wanted to test for the role of Julia Rainbird but the role had been promised to Cathleen Nesbitt.
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Jack Nicholson couldn't accept the role of George Lumley, as he was doing One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975).
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Liza Minnelli, Beverly Sills, and Goldie Hawn were all considered for the role of Blanche. Barbara Harris eventually was cast in the role. Apparently, Alfred Hitchcock was happy with the casting of Harris as Hitch had apparently tried to hire her before.
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Karen Black initially wanted the role of Blanche on this picture. Black ended up playing Fran in this movie.
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The screwball comedy nature of this movie evokes Alfred Hitchcock's earlier picture Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941).
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Alfred Hitchcock once said of this film: It's ". . . a melodrama treated with a bit of levity and sophistication. I want[ed] the feeling of the famous director Ernst Lubitsch making a mystery thriller."
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One of this picture's movie posters can be seen in the film Dazed and Confused (1993) when a group of teenagers go past a a drive-in movie theater.
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Roy Scheider and Burt Reynolds were considered for the part of Arthur Adamson aka Edward Shoebridge. The role eventually went to William Devane after Devane replaced Roy Thinnes.
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Alfred Hitchcock acquired the rights to this film's source novel "The Rainbird Pattern" in about August 1972, three months after he had attended the Cannes Film Festival where Frenzy (1972) premiered.
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The car chase in this movie isn't technically really a car chase as the downhill car sequence only involves one car. John Russell Taylor in his book HITCH: The Life and Work of Alfred Hitchcock calls it a a "runaway car ride".
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When Burt Reynolds was considered for the part of Arthur Adamson, Hitchcock watched The Longest Yard (1974) to see if he was right for the role. Hitchcock was instead impressed with Ed Lauter and cast him in the role of Maloney.
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Charles Tyner, who played the stonecutter that carved Edward Shoebridge's grave marker, had played a stonemason specializing in tombstones four years earlier in The Cowboys (1972). That film also starred Bruce Dern (that time as the antagonist) and also featured a score by John Williams.
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This movie's famous car chase was filmed on the Universal Studios very expansive back-lot.
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Shooting was delayed for a week from 5 May 1974 to 12 May 1974 due to extra costume and make-up tests.
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Director Cameo 

Alfred Hitchcock:  in silhouette 45 minutes into the film behind the door at the registrar of births and deaths.
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Director Trademark 

Alfred Hitchcock:  [bathroom]  features a modern chemical toilet.
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Alfred Hitchcock:  [left-handed protagonist]  Like several female leads in Hitchcock's films, such as Shirley McLaine, Eva Marie Saint, Kim Novak and Tippi Hedron, Barbara Harris is another blonde lefty.
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