On March 7, 1979, Alfred Hitchcock becomes the seventh recipient of the American Film Institute's Life Achievement Award. Hostess Ingrid Bergman introduces an array of actors and writers and directors, as well as the British ambassador to the United States, each of whom spoke with words of formal praise for Alfred Hitchcock's genius as a filmmaker. Included in the tribute are James Stewart, Cary Grant, Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Sean Connery, Tippi Hedren, Jane Wyman, Gregory Peck, Vera Miles, Rod Taylor, Teresa Wright, Henry Fonda, Joan Fontaine and Dame Judith Anderson.Written by
This American Film Institute ceremony honoring Alfred Hitchcock is equal parts spectacular and very, very sad. It was broadcast in March of 1979 on CBS-TV.
Spectacular: the sheer number of great Hitchcock stars in attendance. Hitchcock's two most famous male stars, James Stewart and Cary Grant (who rarely appeared on TV) sat on either side of Hitchcock and his wife Alma at their table. Ingrid Bergman was the night's hostess. Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Sean Connery, Vera Miles, Rod Taylor, Judith Anderson, Joan Fontaine, and on and on and on attended, as well as such new stars as Barbra Streisand.
Clips from Hitchcock's great movies were shown: "Psycho," "North by Northwest," "Vertigo," "Rear Window," "Rebecca."
What was the sad part?
Alfred Hitchcock himself. He was 79 years old and just a year away from death. He could hardly understand the festivities in front of him. Camera shots showed him staring into space. Wife Alma didn't look much better. Hitchcock was supposedly preparing a new film. This show proved: he could never make another film again.
"They always give these things to them too late," Ingrid Bergman said backstage. (Now, young stars like Tom Hanks get the AFI award even if many years are ahead in their careers.)
Hitchcock wasn't quite as bad off as he looked. His stare simply reflected the fact that he didn't know where the cameras were. At show's end, he gave a (pre-recorded) speech with wit and love for Alma.
And, if you watch this, catch the great moment of film history at the very end: A tearful Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant give Hitchcock the key from "Notorious' and hug him firmly. Within a few years, they'd all be dead. But they met this one last time for a wonderful embrace.
A great show. Rent it if you can.
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