While he wanted to direct “Death on the Trail”, which would become one of his classics, Alfred Hitchcock was annoyed by the studio’s requests. He therefore decided to lie in order to achieve his ends despite everything.
Alfred Hitchcock was not the last to manipulate his collaborators to achieve his ends. Evidenced by this anecdote around the preparation of one of his classics, La Mort aux trousses, the story of a publicist mistaken for a spy and finding himself hunted down from all sides.
While tied to the MGM studio, Hitchcock is assigned to direct The Wreck of the Mary Deare, the story of an ideal culprit, a tugboat drawn quite involuntarily into an affair that overtakes him. Ernest Lehman is hired to write the screenplay adapted from the eponymous novel, but fails to achieve a satisfactory result and informs the filmmaker.
The latter announces to him that he has “an other idea”. From then on, the two men began to put down on paper this “new idea” without warning MGM. When the producers were told (and presented with a fait accompli), they let Hitchcock do this new project, titled North By Northwest, Where Death on the hunt.
Ultimately, The Wreck of the Mary Deare saw the light of day at MGM under the French title Cargaison Dangereuse, presenting the clash between Gary Cooper and Charlton Heston under the leadership of Michael Anderson.
Hitch the rogue
This is not the only “dirty trick” of Alfred Hitchcock during the preparation of Death on the hunt. While filming Cold Sweats, his previous film, actor James Stewart was convinced that one of his favorite directors would choose him for the role of Roger Thornhill, the hero of Death on the hunt. Except that Hitch wanted someone else.
To play this character of an individual taken for a spy who will unmask a plot, Hitchcock wants Cary Grant. As James Stewart is always so insistent, the director decides to voluntarily delay the announcement of his choice of casting, so that Stewart is obliged to leave to shoot another (big) film, Autopsy of a murder, with Otto Preminger.
It is only then that Hitchcock offers the role of Roger Thornhill to Stewart, knowing full well that he cannot accept it, and ends up hiring Grant in peace.
Did you say rogue?
“Death in the Trail” is one of the 5 best of 1959 according to your ratings: