An FOI request filed by website MuckRock yielded 18 pages of the FBI’s file on director Alfred Hitchcock. Surprisingly, the notes on the director weren’t concerned with the obvious: the violent content of his works, that he was a foreigner, etc. They were far more weirdly personal.
The MuckRock post has both the FBI and (un-redacted) National Archives versions of the pages, but the most interesting nugget begins with correspondence from October 1960, concerning an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents titled “A Crime for Mothers.” The plot: A woman enlists a private investigator to kidnap and hold for ransom a girl she believes is the same child she gave up for adoption years ago. At some point, the PI, who’s actually working for the adoptive parents, enlists an FBI agent pal to “explain kidnaping [sic] law” to the woman.
Really, it sounds like kind of an average episode (the twist: it’s all a ruse to teach the woman a lesson, and the “kidnap victim” is the PI’s own daughter), but the presence of an FBI agent was enough to draw the Bureau’s ire— and the script had to be rewritten to completely eliminate the character, and rewritten again to remove a line of dialogue that merely referred to the FBI in passing. “A Crime for Mothers” (which, incidentally, was directed by the glass ceiling-shattering Ida Lupino), first aired January 24, 1961; here’s the imdb description:
Jane and Ralph Birdwell get an unexpected and unwelcome visit from Mrs. Meade, their foster daughter’s biological mother. It’s been seven years since they took responsibility for the girl, but an adoption was never formalized as Mrs. Meade had simply disappeared. Meade now wants money from the Birdwells and threatens to sue to get her daughter back. A private detective suggests that Mrs. Meade just take her daughter and demand $25,000 from the Birdwells to give her back. She agrees but things don’t quite go as the planned.
Nope, no FBI mention here—nor in the other handful of episodes cited in the FBI files, the scripts of which were carefully scrutinized and edited if deemed necessary. It’s pretty amazing to think that the FBI cared so much about its portrayal in 1961, considering the number of TV shows since that have made agents their central characters—and not always showed them in a positive light, as longtime director J. Edgar Hoover would have insisted during Hitchcock’s heyday.
AP Photo by Robert E. Dear