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Hitchcock
on holiday

Olaf Küng

Badrutt’s Palace Hotel has entertained many distinguished guests, but one of the most enthusiastic was the master of suspense himself – the film director Alfred Hitchcock

When you think about Hitchcock’s films, his lifelong love for the hotel is entertainingly ironic. As a notorious joker, he would doubtless have been the first to tell you so.

A true virtuoso of the silver screen, Hitchcock left his mark on thrillers, mysteries, horror and noir in genre-defining masterpieces like North by Northwest, Rear Window, Psycho, Strangers on a Train, The 39 Steps and Vertigo. His distinguished career, which began in the early days of silent cinema, saw him create more than 50 films from 1922 to 1976, often between stays at Badrutt’s Palace Hotel.

The cinematic techniques that made his name as a director and enthralled generations of audiences became his much-imitated artistic signatures. Tightly focused camera shots invite the viewer to assume the protagonist’s perspective. High-tension atmospheres of crackling suspense make you want to look over your shoulder in the cinema. The intrusion of chaos into everyday life is the thrilling foundation of many of his plots.

The antithesis of a Hitchcock plot 
But the hotel has always offered the exact reverse of what you feel when you watch a Hitchcock film. Its mighty Alpine panoramas, serenity and the opportunity it offers to step out of everyday life and into an ambience of timeless glamour are as far removed from the classic mayhem-laden Hitchcock film as you can possibly get. Perhaps that’s why he loved it so much – after all, even auteurs need a holiday.

The connection between Badrutt’s Palace Hotel and Hitchcock is undeniably strong. He first visited St Moritz in 1924, scouting for locations for the silent film The Prude’s Fall, and loved it so much he recommended that the film should be shot there. However, just before everyone else was due to arrive, an avalanche blocked the route and they had to turn back. The film had to be made in his native England instead, and it was quickly forgotten.

Family times in St Moritz
But the memory of his visit stayed with him. Hitchcock and his wife Alma – Charlie Chaplin famously said: “The Hitchcock touch had four hands, and two were Alma’s” – stayed at the hotel on their honeymoon in 1926 and records of their stay can still be found in the guest book. They clearly held the hotel in high regard, because they would return again and again throughout their 54 years of marriage for holidays, birthday celebrations and Christmas breaks.

The hotel’s archives hold many photos of the couple and their daughter Patricia at Badrutt’s Palace Hotel, and of them relaxing with family and friends, including Gregory Peck, Marlene Dietrich and the Queen of Iran. They struck up a lifelong friendship with the Badrutt family too, and often dined in grand style with Anikò and Hansjürg Badrutt. Patricia and the Badrutts’ son were almost the same age and enjoyed playing together.

“The archives hold many photos of the couple and their daughter Patricia at Badrutt’s Palace Hotel, and of them relaxing with family and friends, including Gregory Peck, Marlene Dietrich and the Queen of Iran”

Although St Moritz is famed for its energetic winter sports, the portly Hitchcock always favoured the more sedate pastime of walking in the invigorating mountain air and he often enjoyed the vistas of the Engadin with fellow guests and the Badrutts.

Creative inspiration in the Alps
As well as the surroundings motivating him personally, they also inspired him professionally. It is believed he came up with the idea to make his 1963 horror masterpiece The Birds during a visit. And he finally received his wish of filming in St Moritz in 1934 with his critically acclaimed thriller The Man Who Knew Too Much

In a charming touch, the Badrutt’s Palace Hotel’s archives also have many photos of Hitchcock indulging his high spirits; making silly faces with a bunch of mischievous boys, trying his luck at ten-pin bowling in the nearby Chesa Veglia and even recreating his famous silhouette from the opening of his TV show Alfred Hitchcock Presents with snow-covered trees and mountains in the background.

Holiday like Hitchcock
Today, Room 501 has been renamed the Hitchcock Suite in the film director’s honour and guests can stay where the master of suspense himself once enjoyed so many stays throughout his life. Better still, 2019 marks the centenary of Hitchcock starting his lauded career in cinema and Badrutt’s Palace Hotel is hosting a film season to commemorate its longstanding guest.

Throughout the summer, and subject to availability, you can stay in the Hitchcock suite, be thrilled at a live-screening of his most renowned films in the Embassy Ballroom, dine like a director on a Hitchcock-inspired menu and sample his favourite cocktail – a White Lady – just as he did in the Renaissance Bar all those years ago. How’s that for a cinematic legacy?

To find out more and make a reservation, please visit badruttspalace.com

If you are an Alfred Hitchcock fan, don’t miss the other special screenings taking place around the world to mark 100 years since the master of suspense entered the film industry  

21-23 June 2019
The World Theatre, Kearney, Nebraska, US
4k restoration of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo
theworldtheatre.org

7 July 2019
Leith Depot, Leith Walk, Edinburgh, UK
Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger with live music
leithdepot.com

22 August 2019
Various, New Zealand
Alfred Hitchcock Presents… Rear Window
eventcinemas.co.nz

12 October 2019
Atlanta Symphony Hall, Atlanta, US
Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho in concert 
atlantasymphony.com

October 2019
Various, New Zealand
Alfred Hitchcock Presents… Dial M for Murder
eventcinemas.co.nz

Published July 2019

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