According to the obituary newsgroup and the Wikipedia, screenwriter Joseph Stefano died Friday after having fallen days earlier. He was 84. I find it surprising that no major media outlets have reported this sad news, since Stefano's script for Psycho remains one of the most original and daring ever written. Perhaps I am only more interested in his death having just read the chapter on Psycho in Peter Bart's new book Boffo. In the book Stefano is said to have come up with the idea of beginning the film's story with Marion Crane and holding off the introduction of Norman Bates until later. Robert Bloch's novel had the plot laid out more conventionally, with Crane being a far less significant character.

Without the film structured the way it is, it would not be as great nor would it have been as successful. Part of its popularity came about in the way that Hitchcock marketed it. Theaters showing Psycho were under strict instructions not to allow latecomers, despite the fact that it was previously common for moviegoers to enter a picture halfway in, then stay and watch the beginning afterward. It was a rare film of Hitchcock's to be so contingent on a surprise. Surprisingly, Stefano was not nominated for the Adapted Screenplay Oscar in 1961, even though the film was recognized in other categories. There are not many adaptations that improve on their source material as well as Psycho, nor are there many that exhibit such good judgment on the use of creative license. Stefano never wrote another hit film, turning down The Birds and Marnie in favor of working on the TV show The Outer Limits. He did eventually revisit his most successful character, though, writing the screenplay for the TV prequel Psycho IV: The Beginning, which featured E.T.'s Henry Thomas as a young Norman.
categories Cinematical