Walt Disney’s Old-Timey Feud With Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock utilized a variety of exotic locations for his classic films, from the French Riviera, to the streets of San Francisco, to some crappy motel in the middle of nowhere. Surprisingly, the Master of Suspense almost made a movie set in the Happiest Place on Earth. Or at least, he wanted to ...
While sadly not a sequel to Vertigo in which Jimmy Stewart anxiously rides the Matterhorn Bobsleds, the idea first came from screenwriter Ernest Lehman who had previously penned Hitch’s North by Northwest, the beloved classic featuring Cary Grant, James Mason, and a less-than-subtle dick joke ending.
Lehman had an idea for a movie about a blind jazz pianist (to be played by Stewart) who gains his sight after a miraculous eye transplant. Adding to the scientific dubiousness of the story, once the hero has new eyes, he suddenly experiences visions of his own murder; memories belonging to the eyes’ previous owner. Perhaps to distract from the fact this makes no goddamn sense whatsoever, the flashbacks would have been brought on by a staged wild west show at Disneyland. Hitch even suggested that “the whole movie could be made in Disneyland.”
Despite the fact that much of the story plays like a glorified commercial for Disney’s relatively new park, with the protagonist wanting to immediately witness the glory of teacup rides and tantrums with his newly-installed peepers, Walt himself was less than enthused about the idea. When news of the project first hit the trades, Disney freaked out and issued a statement to the press about how much he hated Hitchcock’s recent Psycho. According to Disney, he wouldn’t even let his kids watch that “disgusting” movie, so he definitely wouldn’t let its director into his precious faux-utopia.
After Disney’s harsh rejection, the movie (somewhat unimaginatively called The Blind Man) eventually fizzled out, even after Lehman tried to write around the problem by shifting most of the story to a luxury cruise ship. But The Blind Man was revived more than fifty years later for a 2015 BBC radio drama, with a “completed” script by Mark Gatiss of Doctor Who and Sherlock fame. It stars Hugh Laurie rather than Dana Carvey doing a Jimmy Stewart impression, but it’s still pretty good. And since it required no actual filming and Walt Disney is long dead/frozen, it does contain several scenes set in Disneyland.
And if anyone ever wants to do an actual movie version of the script, there is a precedent for clandestine film shoots on Disney property …
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Top Image: Universal, Disney