Why Alfred Hitchcock chose Scotts Valley
There are countless biographies of Alfred Hitchcock, and many of them mention that he owned an estate in the Santa Cruz area. But they never seem very interested in Why he chose Scotts Valley as his home, which is curious, because the sense of belonging was extremely important to the legendary director. He rose through the ranks of a heavily regulated film industry in his native Britain and was stung by accusations he had forgotten his roots after moving to the United States. career, observing geniuses of experimental cinema like FW Murnau and Fritz Lang. And he’s worked hard to fit into Hollywood, hosting dinner parties and becoming close friends with Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, and Cary Grant, among others.
Details of How? ‘Or’ What Hitchcock and his wife Alma Reville came to adopt Scotts Valley as their second home are well documented. In 1940, they purchased the 200-acre Heart o ‘the Mountains estate for $ 40,000, building on the ranch house on the property. They had recently moved from Britain to Hollywood after Hitchcock signed a seven-year contract with producer David O. Selznick.
His first film for Selznick was to be Rebecca, an adaptation of DaphnÃ© du Maurier’s scary thriller. Part of the filming was done at Point Lobos, which gave him his first glimpse of the Northern California landscape which he later used in several films. One of the stars of Rebecca was Joan Fontaine, who was from Los Gatos, and when he expressed interest in buying land in the area, she is said to be the one who directed him to Santa Cruz County (note that the Highway 17 had just been completed that year, making it easy for him to travel from his hometown to the coast).
But even though we know how the Hitchcocks got to Scotts Valley, there is still the question, as in all legendary director mysteries, of the motive. What would make the couple, who had lived in an apartment in London for the previous 13 years of their marriage and spent most of their Californian time in Bel Air, to choose what 80 years ago was a very rural community, to say the least? Why did Hitchcock – even then the very embodiment of a cosmopolitan blockbuster filmmaker – suddenly become interested in a life of growing vines and raising horses in the mountains?
Adam Roche, who wrote and produced the thoroughly researched 30-hour podcast The Adventures of Alfred Hitchcock, has a theory about it, and it dates back almost a century, when Hitchcock and Reville first visited the mountain resort town of St. Moritz in Switzerland in 1924. Two years later, the 2 December 1926, they got married and returned there for their honeymoon.
âThey spent every birthday in St. Moritz after working on a location there, and they put The man who knew too muchâThe original â there. And they fell in love with the mountain, I think. So every year they went back there for their birthday.
While the snowy winters of St. Moritz and the semi-permanent sun of Scotts Valley are opposed in many ways, Roche can imagine the similarities that drew Hitchcock.
âI think he was just drawn to this kind of rugged piece of the world,â he says. âAnd I think he liked that he could go and escape and get away from the chaos of a city. And after seeing her house now in Scotts Valley, you can really see her. He just loved gardening, he loved going out and having coffee on the patio in the morning. It was very remote, but for him to have a house in one of those places and then still make an annual pilgrimage to another of those places, I think that must have spoken to him.
Roche, a Briton himself, released the Adventures of Alfred Hitchcock podcast as part of his ongoing series Hollywood’s Secret History, who also explored Universal’s classic monster movies (A universe of horrors), gangster movies (Bullets and blood) and several other corners of the history of cinema. Independent podcaster who built a bit of a mini-empire with a huge following Patreon – “someone said to me the other day, ‘It’s almost like the MCU of old Hollywood,'” he says – Rock previously worked as a driver and chef before turning his love of old-fashioned radio shows and movies into a weekly podcast titled Attaboy Clarence.
This news, however, was nothing compared to the complexity of its Secret History series, and its original documentary-like writing has evolved over the past decade into an engaging, literary narrative style that combines in-depth research with true character development and dramatically recreated scenes from the lives of its subjects. This storytelling flair has become his signature, and recently New Republic Pictures took the film and television rights to their entire series. The first project to come out of the deal will be a feature film based on the life of 1940s RKO producer Val Lewton, responsible for atmospheric horror classics such as Cat people, I walked with a zombie and The Body Thief– which Roche documented over 32 hours of its Secret History series Shadows. The idea for this series was suggested to him by Mark Gatiss, who wrote for Doctor Who before co-creating the Benedict Cumberbatch series Sherlock. Roche was frustrated with the lack of information about Lewton, until a woman working for the Library of Congress contacted him out of the blue on social media.
“She said,” I heard you were doing a Val Lewton series. We have boxes and boxes of his correspondence, his diaries, stuff that has never been seen, not even by people who have written about him before. Would you like him for this show? ‘ And I was like, ‘Yes!’ He remembers. âSo she went to digitize hundreds and hundreds of sonnets that he wrote to his wife, poetry, complete diary entries for a whole year, albums he had. All the praise read at his funeral. I mean, the stuff that was in those boxes â basically sound soul was in there, and no one had seen it before.
“The birds” of Capitola
Roche is currently in the midst of a Secret History series on Cary Grant, titled Cary, and it continues to present its weekly virtual film club (drawn from an extensive library of classic films) to its Patreon members. And he’s also recently returned to Hitchcock; he is featured (along with directors like John Landis, Edgar Wright and Eli Roth) in the new documentary I am Alfred Hitchcock.
When he started his Hitchcock series, he explains, he knew very little about the director, but was a huge fan of his films. And the first one he saw was a late night TV show The birds-a film which also has a link with the region of Santa Cruz.
Although this movie is, like Rebecca, based on a story by Daphne du Maurier, those who come back and read the source material may feel a bit confused.
âIt’s nothing like the movie,â Roche says. “It’s just a man in a house, and all of a sudden the birds start to attack.”
The missing piece, according to legend, is a news item that Hitchcock saw about a bizarre incident on August 18, 1961, when thousands of birds infected with domoic acid neurotoxin went mad in Capitola. They rushed into buildings and cars, and even attacked people. What killed them was a mystery until many years later, giving the story a particularly sinister edge at the time.
As Hitchcock was already working on The birds, which came out in 1963, no one really knows how much he was influenced by the coverage of the incident in his description of the heartbreaking attacks in the film. But we do know that Hitchcock read about it – he even called the Santa Cruz Sentry read more – and Roche calls it a “serendipity” that the director has something to model his vision on of a more grainy, modernized update to the original story.
Interestingly, the biggest surprise for Roche in making the Hitchcock series was not about the man himself, but his wife.
âAlma’s story, for me, was the real eye-opener. Alma Reville is such a little-known heroine – she had a lot more influence on the release of films than people realize, âhe says. âI’m so happy when people come to the end of this thing and they say, ‘My God, Alma Reville, wasn’t she wonderful?’ Every time I get an email like this I say to myself “I did it”.
Find Adam Roche online at attaboyclarence.com. Armitage Wines Launches Tiny Winery Concerts Series on Former Hitchcock Estate, visit armitagewines.com.