Patricia Hitchcock, ‘Strangers on a Train’ Star, Dies @ 93

Patricia Hitchcock, whose performance as a bespectacled Barbara in the film classic Strangers on a Train included participation in an iconic scene, has died at 93.

Ms. Hitchcock through the years (Images via headshots)

THR reports she died at her Thousand Oaks, California, home on Monday.

The daughter of Master of Suspense Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980) and screenwriter Alma Reville (1899-1982), Hitchcock enjoyed appearances in some of her dad's films — but never as many as she would have liked. She told The Washington Post in 1984:

"I wish he had believed in nepotism — I'd have worked a lot more. But he never had anyone in his pictures unless he believed they were right for the part. He never fit a story to a star, or to an actor. Often I tried to hint to his assistant, but I never got very far. She'd bring my name up, he'd say, 'She isn't right for it,' and that would be the end of that."

She was right for the role of Chubby Bannister (thanks, Dad) in Stage Fright (1949), civic-minded Barbara Morton in Strangers on a Train (1951), pill-dispensing Caroline in Psycho (1960) and 10 other roles on her dad's series Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955-1960).

But it is her performance in Strangers that still resonates so strongly 71 years after it was shot. In an indelible scene, deliciously daffy character actress Norma Varden (1898-1989), after giddily discussing a theoretical murder with an actual killer played by Robert Walker (1918-1951), is nearly strangled to death by him as Ms. Hitchcock's Barbara looks on in horror. It is she who tells the police who the killer is, even if it is too soon to collar him.

Ever after, she was asked to speak about the film (and her father). In 1997, she went into detail about how Strangers was made, giving great credit to her mother as the person whose opinion mattered the most to her father.

Ms. Hitchcock was born on July 7, 1928, in what is now Kensington and Chelsea in London. After two years in boarding school, the family moved to L.A. in 1939 in order for her father to make the movie Rebecca (1940). She always aspired to act, studying it in school and going on to appear in two short-lived Broadway shows in the '40s.

Her first stage part, in 1942's Solitaire, came after being recommended by actress Auriol Lee (1880-1941), who was in her dad's 1941 film Suspicion. It was a monumental leading role for a woman, comparable to Lady MacBeth in terms of volume of lines. Was the play a hit? "It opened three weeks after Pearl Harbor — what can I tell you?" Hitchcock would later say.

Her Broadway follow-up was the 1944 comedy Violet, which fared no better, and also acted in The High Ground (1951) with a very young Marian Seldes (1928-2014).

She made her TV debut in the 1949 telefilm The Case of Thomas Pyke, and aside from her Hitch films, appeared in The Mudlark (1950), The Ten Commandments (1956) and her final film, Skateboard (1978).

Ms. Hitchcock guested infrequently on television. Along with AHP, her appearances were limited to: Suspense (1952), My Little Margie (1954), Front Row Center (1955), Screen Directors Playhouse (1956), Matinee Theater (1956), The Life of Riley (1958), Playhouse 90 (1958), Suspicion (1958) and the TV movies Ladies of the Corridor (1975) and Six Characters in Search of an Author (1976), the latter of which was her swan song in the medium.

In 2003, a Ms. Hitchock published Alma Hitchcock: The Woman Behind the Man, a memoir about her mother's overlooked legacy.

Don't miss the full Television Academy archival interview with this important link to early TV and the Hitchcock oeuvre:

She is survived by three daughters, six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

No Comments Yet.

Leave a comment