NORMAN BATES in "Psycho" (1960) didn't really have a mother, but the late "Psycho" director, Alfred Hitchcock, most assuredly has a daughter.
"He was 'Hitch' to everybody, even my mother," Patricia Hitchcock O'Connell recalls. "And if somebody didn't know him, you could tell. He'd be called 'Alfred.' "
And plain "Al"? "Never," she laughs. "I think my father would have ignored it."
The bespectacled ex-actress, now 55, appeared, as Patricia Hitchcock, in three of her father's films -- "Stage Fright" (1950), "Stranger on a Train" (1951) and "Psycho." She also showed up for numerous episodes of the 1950s television series "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" -- "whenever they needed a maid with an English accent." But after "Pat" Hitchcock married businessman Joseph O'Connell in 1952, she slowed down her acting career to raise a family in Los Angeles' Woodland Hills; they have three married daughters and three granddaughters. In 1982, following bypass surgery for Joseph, the O'Connells retired to Lake Tahoe.
And to financial comfort. The Hitchcock estate -- O'Connell and her daughters -- owns outright the five vintage Hitchcock-directed films being reissued in America and western Europe: "Rope" (1948), "Rear Window" (1954), "The Trouble With Harry" (1955), "The Man Who Knew Too Much" (1956) and "Vertigo" (1958). Though Hitchcock family rights were leased to Universal Pictures for nine years, the estate stands to make additional revenues during the lease period.
"It's very complicated, but there are different percentages," O'Connell says tersely, preferring to focus the interview on her Bel-Air childhood as Hitchcock's devoted daughter.
"I was brought up rather as an English child, so I knew what was expected, and I pretty much always did it. You didn't speak unless spoken to, but it didn't bother me, or have any repercussions. I didn't know anything else.
"However, my father didn't believe in punishment. When I did something wrong, he would reason with me. Sometimes I wish he would have screamed more. He'd say, 'Do you realize how you've hurt your mother and me?' Of course, I'd want to go through the floor. I was very close to my father. He used to take me out every Saturday, shopping and to lunch. On Sundays, he took me to church regularly, until I could drive. Then I'd drive him to church regularly. It's because of his diligence that my religion is so strong today."
The Hitchcock home was quite small by Bel-Air standards -- two bedrooms and a den, no tennis court or swimming pool. "My father was not an athlete at all, not at all. He didn't do any exercise." The Hitchcocks stayed home most evenings reading, listening to classical music, or, in later years, watching television.
"My father could whistle anything from the classics. You'd say, 'How does that tune go?' and he'd whistle it. I never heard him sing. For pleasure, he would read biographies. He could draw almost anything, though he only did it for work. He never drew or painted for pleasure."
There were no doodle pads. Hitchcock was too organized, too fastidious and tidy. He sat home with his shirt buttoned to the top button and his bureau drawers and closet in consummate order.
"My room was always a mess," O'Connell remembers. "But he didn't criticize such things in other people as much as he wanted his own things neat." She recalls his perfectly stacked Christmas presents by the tree. "Before you knew it, they'd be opened and put away. It was hysterical! Even the wrapping paper would be thrown out right away."
At home, Hitchcock's only extravagances were fancy wines and gourmet dinners. He added a wine cellar to their house and would have his favorite foods shipped fresh to Bel-Air from around the world. He got scrod sent from Boston, and his beloved Dover sole flown over from England.
"I learned early on how to prepare Dover sole," O'Connell says. "We would freeze them with the bone inside. As they began to defrost, we skinned them so they retained their moisture." Hitchcock's wife, the former Alma Reville, cooked each night, and daughter Pat washed the dishes. Hitchcock would take charge for uncharacteristic family outings: barbecues on the beach below their second house on a mountain top in Santa Cruz. "It was quite a production. It would take us a long time to get the car packed and another long while to get the barbecue going. My father was the chef and he would bring real bricks to build the barbeque."
In Bel-Air, Hitchcock occasionally took over in the kitchen, and would proceed in typically exacting Hitchcock fashion. "He loved to cook Yorkshire pudding, and he loved to cook meticulous things. It had to do with the neatness of his mind. He had a favorite recipe with thin layers of potatoes, then thin layers of onions, then potatoes, then onions. It would take a long time to make and forever to get it thin, thin, thin."
O'Connell talked more about Alma Reville Hitchcock, who edited many of her husband's British films and even authored and coauthored some of his screenplays, including "Murder!" (1930) and "Rich and Strange" (1932). And in America?
"She was much more brilliant than people realized," O'Connell says. "She never edited in this country. She only did the early treatments . . . She didn't do screenplays. But even after she stopped doing treatments, she was invaluable. She had a fantastic eye for everything on the screen.
"She would see the rough cut first, then the cut without the music, then with the music. Even in the last years, my father would bring a script home and have her read it before anyone else."
O'Connell credits her mother with saving "Psycho" from a major faux pas. At a last screening of a print, Alma Reville noticed that Janet Leigh was still breathing, still swallowing, after having been killed off in the shower.
Patricia Hitchcock was in "Psycho," too, playing the plain girl who works alongside Leigh in the office at the beginning. "My father wanted a contrast to Janet, someone more bubbly. I barely remember the whole thing, and most people forget I'm in 'Psycho.' I say, 'How can you possibly remember, after everything else that happens?' "
She attributes her early interest in acting to being brought on the set by her father in England, if she remained very quiet.
"I have a picture of me, with Margaret Lockwood and my dog, on 'The Lady Vanishes.' I was absolutely fascinated. When I was 8, I did two plays in England at boarding school. I played "Rumpelstiltskin" and "The Little King Who Didn't Grow Up." Don't ask about them. I just remember I was very impressed with the costume, all good braids. I was smitten. It never occurred to me that I'd do anything else but act."
Young Patricia played teen-age leads in two short-run Broadway plays: "Solitaire" (1942) and "Violet" (1944). Hitchcock biographers write that the director missed both of his daughter's performances. O'Connell says that her father saw her in "Violet," though he didn't say much. "He never commented, only if he didn't like something. Acting was a business -- that's how he viewed it."
She made her screen debut in Hitchcock's "Stage Fright," because cast and crew were rehearsing at England's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where she was a student -- a tiny role at a garden party. She was also star Jane Wyman's double in a tricky stunt involving a fast-moving car: "I drove right into the camera and had to stop at a plate-glass window." Her unperturbed father utilized Patricia because of her driving ability.
Patricia is best known within the Hitchcock film oeuvre for her role in "Strangers on a Train," in which her character was nearly strangled by the homicidal Bruno (Robert Walker) at an afternoon cocktail gathering. Critics who read devious things into Hitchcock movies have taken notice of the director's choice of his only daughter for a near-homicide.
O'Connell balks at a Freudian reading. "It was a non-strangulation. It was an acting job, that's what it was. It was just shot a couple of times, and it was very easy. Robert Walker was a wonderful man. I'd known him for many years, so I was very good friends with him."
O'Connell also is disturbed by a story in Donald Spoto's unauthorized 1983 biography, "The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock." Supposedly Hitchcock played a cruel joke on Patricia on the "Strangers" set -- leaving her in the dark for an hour at the top of an amusement park ferris wheel. She dangled there alone while he went off and shot a scene.
O'Connell says she was accompanied by two young actors on her ascent to the top of the ferris wheel. "They stopped the ferris wheel and turned off the lights for all of three minutes, turned them back on, and we went down and all had a good laugh about it. Critics are reaching. It's ridiculous."
Her heyday as an actress was the era of live television drama in the 1950s. She appeared on "Playhouse 90," "Climax," with her favorite role a teleplay for "Suspense Theatre." She played the girlfriend of wife-killer Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippin (actor Thomas Mitchell), from a famous true-life British murder case.
Curiously, none of her appearances on "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" were directed by her father.
"I wish he had believed in nepotism," Patricia Hitchcock O'Connell says of Alfred Hitchcock. "I'd have worked a lot more. But he never had anyone in his pictures unless he believed they were right for the part. He never fit a story to a star, or to an actor. Often I tried to hint to his assistant, but I never got very far. She'd bring my name up, he'd say, 'She isn't right for it,' and that would be the end of that."