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What Horror Film Led to Alfred Hitchcock Being Barred From Disneyland?

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Walt Disney barred Alfred Hitchcock from filming in Disneyland because Disney was so disgusted by Psycho.

All October long, I've done horror-related Movie and TV Legends. This closes us out for the month!

Today, over 60 years after Disneyland first opened, the California amusement park (and its spinoff parks in Florida, Paris and Tokyo) is still a huge deal. There really isn't a "downtime" for the theme park, as there isn't a point in the calendar year that the park isn't filled to the brim with visitors.

However big of a deal the park is now, it was much more of a cultural phenomenon back when it first opened in 1955 and in the next decade or so. The country really didn't have a theme park that was so nationally famous before. Sure, there were plenty of popular theme parks before Disneyland (and the rides at Coney Island certainly had a lot of cultural significance) but none rose to quite the same level. Part of that, of course, was due to Walt Disney using his popular television and film productions to promote the park and to continue to hype up just how "special" it was, like this news special from 1959...

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It was such a phenomenon that the legendary filmmaker, Alfred Hitchcock, planned to make one of his films there.

That did not too well.

It all started with screenwriter Ernest Lehman, who had recently made North by Northwest with Hitchcock in 1959.

Psycho came out in 1960...

And while the film was a major hit, there definitely were people who found the film a bit TOO depraved.

According to John Russell Tyler in his classic Hitchcock bio, Hitch: The Life and Times of Alfred Hitchcock:

More interesting seemed to be an idea which came to Ernest Lehman at this time. Disneyland had been open for four or five years, and was receiving an enormous amount of publicity. One day Lehman visited it, and the bank hold-up they were staging then had somehow fused with another idea he had, that of a man blind from birth who is given sight by some sort of eye transplant only to discover that the donor, supposedly killed in an accident, was really murdered and has transmitted to him through his eyes a visual memory of the murderer. Perhaps while visiting Disneyland the hero (call him Jimmy Stewart for the sake of argument) finds himself ‘recognizing’ someone he could never have seen, then have a recollection set off by the fake gun fight. Perhaps the whole movie could be made in Disneyland. Hitchcock in Disneyland! Hitch was at this time in Copenhagen with Alma on their post-Psycho holiday, but Lehman told Peggy Robertson, she was excited enough to tell Hitch about it on the phone, and Hitch was sufficiently excited to talk to Lehman himself.

When Hitch got back he and Lehman began working on the idea as they had worked on North by Northwest, and for a while everything went swimmingly. Then something appeared in the trade papers about the project, Walt Disney read it, and promptly made a statement that in no circumstances would Hitchcock, maker of that disgusting movie Psycho, be allowed to shoot a foot of film in Disneyland. Hitch and Lehman began to change things around again, this time placing the action on a round-the-world cruise (Hitch had a sudden, disconnected vision of a chase in Carcassonne), but turn it as they might, they never seemed able to lick the problem of too many coincidences, or find a natural-seeming way of getting all the characters in the right place at the right time.

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That's too bad, as that sure sounds like a great movie idea, right?

Not only that, but you can even tell how Lehman was coming from the famous Mount Rushmore sequence in North by Northwest to a Disneyland sequence in the squelched Blind film.

The legend is...

STATUS: True

Be sure to check out my archive of Movie Legends Revealed for more urban legends about the world of film.

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.

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