Greenmantle (1939 – 1942)
Hitchcock very much wanted to direct a follow-up to The 39 Steps, and he felt that Greenmantle by John Buchan was a superior book. He proposed that the film would star Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman, but the rights from the Buchan estate proved too expensive.
Hitchcock desperately wanted to direct Norma Shearer, Robert Taylor, and Conrad Veidt in one of the first World War II dramas, Escape (1940). Hitchcock, a long-time admirer of Shearer's acting, had waited for years to find a project with her. However, Hitchcock was shut out of the project when the novel Escape by Ethel Vance (pen name of Grace Zaring Stone) was purchased by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Hitchcock knew he could never work for the notorious tyrant, MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer, who selected Mervyn LeRoy to produce the film. Years later, Hitchcock made the statement about the lack of true Hollywood leading ladies with the quote, "Where are the Norma Shearers?"
The Three Hostages (1964)
In 1964, Hitchcock re-read another Richard Hannay novel by John Buchan, The Three Hostages, with a mind to adapting it. Again, the rights were elusive. But also the story was dated, very much rooted in the 1930s, and the plot involved a villain whose blind mother hypnotizes the hero. Hitchcock, in interviews, said that he felt that the portrayal of hypnosis did not work on film, and that films that attempted this portrayal, in Hitchcock's opinion, turned out poorly.
The Bramble Bush (1951)
An adaptation of a 1948 novel by David Duncan about a disaffected Communist agitator on the run from the police, forced to adopt the identity of a murder suspect. The story would be adapted to take place in Mexico and San Francisco.
The politics and high budget made it a difficult project. Ultimately, Hitchcock did not feel that any of the scripts lifted the movie beyond an ordinary chase story, and he got permission from Warner Brothers to kill the project and move on to Dial M for Murder (1954).
The theme of the hero assuming a dangerous new identity would become North by Northwest. Michelangelo Antonioni's 1975 film The Passenger tells a similar story, but is not based on Duncan's book.
Flamingo Feather (1956)
This was to be a big-budget adaptation of Laurens van der Post's novel of political intrigue in Southern Africa. James Stewart was expected to take the lead role of an adventurer who discovers a concentration camp for Communist agents; Hitchcock wanted Grace Kelly to play the love interest.
After a disappointing research trip to South Africa where he concluded that he would have difficulty filming, especially on a budget – and with confusion of the story's politics and the seeming impossibility of casting Kelly, Hitchcock deferred the project and instead joined Stewart on The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956).
Mary Rose (1920 – 1980)
Hitchcock had long desired to turn J. M. Barrie's 1920 play Mary Rose into a film. in 1964, after working together on Marnie, Hitchcock asked Jay Presson Allen to adapt the play into a screenplay. Hitchcock would later tell interviewers that his contract with Universal allowed him to make any film, so long as it cost under $3 million, and so long as it wasn't Mary Rose. Whether or not this was actually true, Lew Wasserman was not keen on the project, though Hitchcock never gave up hope of one day filming it.
No Bail for the Judge (1958 – 1961)
An adaptation of the thriller novel by former judge Henry Cecil about a barrister who, with the assistance of a gentleman thief, has to defend her father, a High Court judge, when he is accused of murdering a prostitute. In a change of pace from his usual blonde actresses, Audrey Hepburn would have played the barrister, with Laurence Harvey as the thief, and John Williams as the Hepburn character's father. Some sources, including Steven DeRosa (see website below) say that Hitchcock's interest in the novel started in the summer of 1954 while filming To Catch a Thief, and that Hitchcock hoped to have John Michael Hayes write the screenplay. Hepburn was a fan of Hitchcock and had long wanted to appear in a film by him.
Samuel A. Taylor, scenarist for Vertigo and Topaz, wrote the screenplay after Ernest Lehman passed on it. The Taylor screenplay included a scene, not in the original novel, where the heroine disguises herself as a prostitute and has to fend off a rapist. Hepburn left the film, partly because of the near-rape scene but primarily due to her discovering she was pregnant. Harvey, who add signed on to the film primarily because he wanted to work with Hepburn, also left the project. Without Hepburn, the project didn't have the same appeal for Hitchcock. Changes in British law concerning prostitution and entrapment -- changes which took place after the novel was published -- made some aspects of the screenplay implausible. Hitchcock told Paramount Pictures it was better to write off $200,000 already spent on the film's development than to spend another $3 million for a film he no longer cared for. In the fall of 1959, a Paramount publicity brochure titled "Success in the Sixties!" touted No Bail for the Judge as an upcoming feature film starring Hepburn and Harvey, to be filmed in Technicolor and VistaVision.
The Wreck of the Mary Deare (1959)
The novel was optioned by MGM with the intention of having Alfred Hitchcock direct and Gary Cooper star. Hitchcock had long wanted to work with Cooper, but after developing the script with Ernest Lehman for several weeks, they concluded that it couldn't be done without turning the movie into "a boring courtroom drama". They abandoned the idea and started a new story which eventually became North by Northwest.
The Blind Man (1960)
After the success of Psycho, Hitchcock re-teamed with Ernest Lehman for this original screenplay idea: A blind pianist, Jimmy Shearing (a role for James Stewart), regains his sight after receiving the eyes of a dead man. Watching a Wild West show at Disneyland with his family, Shearing would have visions of being shot and would come to realize that the dead man was in fact murdered and the image of the murderer is still imprinted on the retina of his new eyes. The story would end with a chase around the ocean liner RMS Queen Mary. Walt Disney purportedly barred Hitchcock from shooting at Disneyland after seeing Psycho. Stewart left the project, Lehman argued with Hitchcock, and the script was never shot.
Village of the Stars (1962)
Hitchcock bought the rights to the Paul Stanton novel Village of the Stars and planned it as his follow up to the canceled The Blind Man project. The book follows a plane that is given an order to drop a nuclear bomb, only to have the order aborted. Unfortunately, the bomb has been let partially loose from its compartment, and the problem is that fuel is low and it has to be dropped somewhere.
Trap for a Solitary Man (1963)
Trap for a Solitary Man was scheduled to be directed by Hitchcock in Cinemascope for Twentieth Century-Fox. The story, based on a French play by M. Robert Thomas, follows a young married couple on holiday in the Alps. The wife disappears, and after a prolonged search the police bring back someone they claim to be her; she even says she is the man's wife, but the man has never seen her before. The play was adapted as the film Vanishing Act (1986).
Hitchcock approached Italian comedy-thriller writers Agenore Incrocci and Furio Scarpelli (Age & Scarpelli), writers of Big Deal on Madonna Street, to write a screenplay around an original idea Hitchcock had carried in his head since the late 1930s. A New York City hotel run by an Italian immigrant and his family who, unbeknownst to him, are using the hotel as cover for crimes, including the theft of a valuable coin from a guest of the hotel. (R.R.R.R. is the highest value of coin.)
The Italian screenwriters struggled with the story, and were not helped by the language barrier. Universal Studios wasn't keen on the idea and persuaded Hitchcock to move on to something else.
Kaleidoscope (1964 – 1967)
An original screenplay about a necrophiliac serial killer in New York City. Hitchcock approached many writers including Samuel Taylor and Alec Coppel, but in the end engaged an old friend, Benn Levy to flesh out his sketchy idea.
The story would have revolved around a young, handsome bodybuilder (inspired by Neville Heath) who lures young women to their deaths. The New York police set a trap for him, with a policewoman posing as a potential victim. The script was based around three crescendoes dictated by Hitchcock: the first was a murder by a waterfall; the second murder would take place on a mothballed warship; and the finale, which would take place at an oil refinery with brightly colored drums.
Hitchcock showed his script to his friend François Truffaut. Though Truffaut admired the script, he felt uneasy about its relentless sex and violence. Unlike Psycho, these elements would not be hidden behind the respectable veneer of murder mystery and psychological suspense, and the killer would be the main character, the hero, the eyes of the audience. According to Donald Spoto's 1983 biography Hitchcock: The Dark Side of Genius, a 1967 version of the screenplay portrayed the murderer as homosexual in a distasteful way that upset and distressed Universal executives.
Universal vetoed the film, despite Hitchcock's assurances that he would make the film for under $1 million with a cast of unknowns, although David Hemmings, Robert Redford, and Michael Caine had all been suggested as leads. The film – alternately known as Frenzy or the more "sixties"-esque Kaleidoscope – would not be made, but some of the ideas – and the title – would be recycled into his 1972 thriller Frenzy.
The Short Night (1976 – 1979)
Hitchcock's last, unfinished project was The Short Night an adaptation of the spy thriller of the same name by Ronald Kirkbride. A British double agent (loosely based on George Blake) escapes from prison and flees to Moscow via Finland, where his wife and children are waiting. An American agent – whose brother was one of the traitor's victims – heads to Finland to intercept him but ends up falling for the wife. It would be Hitchcock's third attempt – after Torn Curtain and Topaz – to produce a "realistic Bond film". Clint Eastwood, Walter Matthau, and Sean Connery were possible male leads. Liv Ullman was asked to play the double agent's wife.
The first writer assigned to the picture, James Costigan, quarrelled with the director, who asked for him to be paid off. Then Hitchcock's old sparring partner Ernest Lehman agreed to work on the script. Lehman felt the story should focus on the American spy and left out the double agent's jailbreak. Lehman left the film, too, and Hitchcock asked old friend Norman Lloyd to help him write a long treatment (outline). Lloyd, like Universal, was concerned that Hitchcock's failing health meant that the movie might not get made. When Hitchcock suggested moving straight on to the screenplay, Lloyd objected saying they weren't ready. Hitchcock reacted angrily, fired Lloyd, and worked on the treatment himself.
After a while, Hitchcock accepted that he needed another writer to work with him, and Universal suggested David Freeman. Freeman helped Hitchcock complete the treatment and wrote the screenplay. He wrote about his experiences in The Last Days of Hitchcock, which included his completed screenplay. But it was felt that Hitchcock would not have the strength to shoot the movie with its location filming and action set pieces. Universal decided to kill the project and close Hitchcock's expensive office on the Universal lot. The director died a year later.