How cool is this! An article by Fr. Mark Henninger, a
Jesuit priest and professor of philosophy at Georgetown
University, appeared on December 7, 2012 in the U.S.
edition of The Wall Street Journal (page A15). Father
Henninger knew “Hitch” personally, and was able to offer
Mass for the iconic film director several times before he
died on April 29, 1980.
True to form, the new Hollywood film about Alfred
Hitchcock is bashing his memory by claiming he
essentially turned against God and his Catholic Faith at
the end of his life.
In his most timely article, Father Henninger says: “Not
true! And I was there.”
The entire article, entitled Alfred Hitchcock’s Surprise
Ending, can be found
here are the highlights:
"I remember as a young boy watching the black-and-white
"Alfred Hitchcock Presents" on TV and being enthralled
from the start by the simple nine-stroke line-drawing
caricature of the famed movie director's rotund profile.
The mischievous theme music set the mood as Hitchcock
appeared in silhouette from the right edge of the
screen, and then walked into the center replacing the
caricature. "Good evening." There followed his droll
introductions, so unlike anything else on television.
"Such childhood emotions came over me again when in early
1980 I entered his home in Bel Air to see him dozing in
a chair in a corner of his living room, dressed in
At the time, I was a graduate student in philosophy at
UCLA, and I was (and remain) a Jesuit priest. A fellow
priest, Tom Sullivan, who knew Hitchcock, said one
Thursday that the next day he was going over to hear
Hitchcock's confession. Tom asked whether on Saturday
afternoon I would accompany him to celebrate a Mass in
"I was dumbfounded, but of course said yes. On that
Saturday, when we found Hitchcock asleep in the living
room, Tom gently shook him. Hitchcock awoke, looked up
and kissed Tom's hand, thanking him.
"Tom said, 'Hitch, this is Mark Henninger, a young priest
'Cleveland?' Hitchcock said.
"After we chatted for a while, we all crossed from the
living room through a breezeway to his study, and there,
with his wife, Alma, we celebrated a quiet Mass. Across
from me were the bound volumes of his movie scripts,
"The Birds," "Psycho," "North by Northwest" and others—a
great distraction. Hitchcock had been away from the
church for some time, and he answered the responses in
Latin the old way. But the most remarkable sight was
that after receiving communion, he silently cried, tears
rolling down his huge cheeks.
"Tom and I returned a number of times, always on Saturday
afternoons, sometimes together, but I remember once
going by myself. I'm somewhat tongue-tied around famous
people and found it a bit awkward to chitchat with
Alfred Hitchcock, but we did, enjoyably, in his living
room. At one point he said, "Let's have Mass."
"He was 81 years old and had difficulty moving, so I
helped him get up and assisted him across the breezeway.
As we slowly walked, I felt I had to say something to
break the silence, and the best I could come up with
was, "Well, Mr. Hitchcock, have you seen any good movies
lately?" He paused and said emphatically, "No, I
haven't. When I made movies they were about people, not
robots. Robots are boring. Come on, let's have Mass." He
died soon after these visits, and his funeral Mass was
at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Beverly Hills…
"Why exactly Hitchcock asked Tom Sullivan to visit him is
not clear to us and perhaps was not completely clear to
him. But something whispered in his heart, and the
visits answered a profound human desire, a real human
need. Who of us is without such needs and desires?...
One of Hitchcock's biographers, Donald Spoto, has
written that Hitchcock let it be known that he "rejected
suggestions that he allow a priest . . . to come for a
visit, or celebrate a quiet, informal ritual at the
house for his comfort." That in the movie director's
final days he deliberately and successfully led
outsiders to believe precisely the opposite of what
happened is pure Hitchcock."