The man who helped establish the Hitchcock persona

Alfred Hitchcock in the James Allardice-scripted introduction for The Jar, an episode on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour

Another in a series about unsung figures of television.

Alfred Hitchcock was long known as the “master of suspense.” But it was writer James Allardice who helped mold the director’s image with the public.

Allardice (1919-1966) wrote all of the introductions and epilogues performed by Hitchcock on Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.

Each week, audiences witnessed Hitchcock making droll remarks, including jibes at his unnamed sponsors. (“And speaking of business,” he says with disdain, “we come to this item.”)

Norman Lloyd, still with us at 103, discussed Allardice in a 2000 interview for the Archive of American Television. Lloyd worked at a producer on Hitchcock’s television shows after being an actor in the director’s Saboteur (1942) as the villain who fell from the Statue of Liberty.

Allardice “was a little fella, he looked not unlike Woody Allen,” Lloyd said. “Actually a little better looking. But…same height, the glasses and everything.”

The writer “had an absolute genius for creating this character Hitchcock played every time the show went on the air,” Lloyd added. “Hitchcock said every word this man wrote. Never changed a comma…What he was doing was precious in regard to the success of the show.”

Hitchcock’s creative team would send summaries of several episodes for Allardice. According to the Lloyd interview, Allardice sometimes didn’t even begin writing until a few days before the deadline but always delivered his work in on time.

To be sure, Hitchcock already was famous when Alfred Hitchcock Presents debuted in 1955. The director’s name had long been attached to the titles of his films (“Alfred Hitcock’s To Catch a Thief,” “Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window” and so on.)

However, now Hitchcock himself was coming into millions of homes via television. No silent, momentary cameos like in his films. The director was now truly a performer. Because the two shows were anthologies, Hitchcock was the only face the audience could count on seeing every week.

And it was Allardice who was feeding him his lines and establishing the settings.

What settings they were. Hitchcock in a giant bottle. Hitchcock holding a ticking bomb, describing it as a dynamite-powered clock. Hitchcock’s brother “George” manipulating Hitchcock like a marionette (a dual role, of course).

Allardice spent a full decade working for Hitchcock on the two television series. (Alfred Hitchcock Presents ran seven seasons, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour ran three.)

“Jimmy had a voice, so to speak that he used Hitchcock for,” Lloyd said in the 2000 interview. “It became the Hitchcock persona but it was Jimmy saying a lot of things about the world through these mad introductions and conclusions.”

You can view an excerpt from Lloyd’s interview where he discusses Allardice below.

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