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    Monday, November 24, 2008

    John Michael Hayes, R.I.P.

    The screenwriter, who died on November 19 at age 89, had a remarkable career. The highlight was easily the four consecutive films he wrote for Alfred Hitchcock in the mid-1950s: Rear Window, The Trouble With Harry, To Catch A Thief, and the remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much. This impressive run led to a falling out with Hitchcock; in Hayes’ words, “we parted because I was being too identified with him.” Hayes would make out just fine on his own, receiving an Academy Award nomination for his adaptation of Grace Metalious’ Peyton Place and writing the script for Butterfield 8.

    I reread the interview with Hayes in Patrick McGilligan’s Backstory 3 this morning. In it, Hayes recounts his relationship with Hitchcock, the reasons for his fade from Hollywood in the 1960s, and his surprise return to movie theaters at age 75 with 1994’s Iron Will. The piece ends with Hayes being asked about a rumored sequel to his greatest achievement, Rear Window. I love his response. It’s the answer of a true professional.

    I was offered an absolutely monumental sum of money by the man who owns the rights ... That money would help me in my old age ... I don’t know. Some pictures have a magic that’s almost indefinable. Grace is gone. Hitch is gone. Jimmy’s too frail. Wendell Corey’s gone. Raymond Burr is dead. We couldn’t recapture that kind of innocence. What could it possibly be?

    But I’ve done a story, just in case.

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