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Celebrity Dieting: Hitchcock (Part 2)
By Grady Miller
Jul 5, 2013 - 7:55:50 AM


HOLLYWOODIn 1953, Hitchcock’s weight dropped an impressive forty pounds, to 219, “partly because he wanted to look better for the publicity photos with his new star,” writes Donald Spoto the "The Dark Side of Genius.: His new star was a cool, regal blond named Grace Kelly.

"Ok, so I went off my diet."


During the filming of “Rear Window,” another Grace Kelly vehicle, in late 1953, Hitchcock had slimmed down to an all-time low of 189 pounds and this coincided with a remarkable prolific period of making four films in 17 months, and the “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” TV series began, which as he said put mur-dah back where it belonged—in the living room. Being in the public eye, more than ever before, motivated meals of small steak on the set or Dover sole.

He looked remarkably thin for his cameo in “To Catch a Thief” (1955), flirting with that slim self the American public idolizes, freeing thin man trying to get out of every fat man.  He was very close to the publicity sacrilege of defacing the renowned Hitchcock profile. However, by the next year he had returned to his old habit of indulging great quantities of ice cream privately, (but not privately enough to hide it from his biographer Spoto).

Evidenced by the celebrated quote, “Conversation is the enemy of good food and wine,” he loved fine food and wines.  He loved them but didn’t enjoy them. By all accounts, he ate very quickly, quickly gulping and barely paused to chew. As a kid, I got to hear about it first-hand from a waitress who had attended Hitchcock in my hometown of Watsonville, California where the cast and crew lodged while filming scenes of “Vertigo” in nearby San Juan Bautista. The veteran waitress at the Miramar said, “He ate like a horse and never cracked a smile.”

Ice-cream binges, notwithstanding, Hitchcock managed to keep his weight under control throughout the prolific 50s. AfterMarnie” (1964) flopped and his anthology TV series was cancelled, his weight started a steady creep upward again. Author Leon Uris had seen a trim and almost dapper man during “Marnie.” When adapting his own novel “Topaz” for Hitchcock four years later he met a man huge bellied and florid-cheeked from drinking. Spoto says the director was openly depressed about time closing in, as it already had in 1968 for his physician, the cardio man, Dr. Tandowsky, who in the 1940s had first motivated the portly Hitchcock to stay ahead of the Grim Reaper and not cheat on his diet.

As Hitchcock neared 70, he’d reached en entente with dieting, and could tolerate his lapses. By now it was well-established in the press that an array of fittings for identical black and dark-blue suits to accommodate his fluctuating weight hung in the closet at his Bellagio Road residence. This boldly practical handling of the wardrobe/body mass problem displayed the master technician’s problem-solving flair. Likewise, a new foray into deprivation dieting was spurred not by vanity, as it had been in the 1950s, but by mundane difficulty in getting up and down stairs.

“I have lost more than 500 pounds,” he told TV interviewer Tom Snyder in 1973, shortly after inaugurating the new regimen. “Altogether, over my whole life.”

A meager 750 calories a day, no bread, no butter, nothing in the way of desserts. “Meat and string beans—that’s it,” he said and boasted, “I’ve lost 14 pounds in ten days.”  

The latest diet was short lived, but he still had fun with the diet clichés. When eating out he would flamboyantly order two steaks, not one, followed by two full portions of ice cream with a dab of strawberry jelly on top. Mel Brooks, who became friendly with Hitchcock while preparing “High Anxiety,” his valentine to the Master of Suspense, witnessed a gargantuan meal like this at Chasen’s, Hitchcock’s favorite restaurant.  Afterward, Brooks asked him if he wanted some cream for his coffee. “No no no,” replied Hitchcock, “I gotta watch the calories.”

To be continued

Grady Miller is the author of “Lighten Up Now: The Grady Diet.” He can be reached at

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