Just like Alma Reville's mother took her to the cinema when she was still a kid, so was Pat Hitchcock getting an early motion picture education whether she liked it or not. While her mother was more ambivalent about it, Patricia caught the bug instantly and was very happy whenever they would go.
Many sources say that at the age of 13 she has made a conscious decision to become an actress, but the young Hitchcock herself said that since she remembers, she always wanted to be one.
Her first film experience came early - in 1936, when the girl was just 7 years old. In the movie Sabotage, there is a scene in which the Lord Mayor's Show parade takes place. When the boy gets into position and waits for the parade to come, directly on his right is Alma with young Pat. The latter gets quite an elbow treatment from Sylvia's little brother! You can watch the scene (and the whole movie) on Youtube here.
When attending primary school, classes often performed plays in front of the rest of the school. Patricia happily participated and enjoyed her first performances.
First Broadway play
Five years after Sabotage, John van Druten (who had just recently contributed to the script of a cult classic Gone with the Wind) was looking for a 12-year old (or near that age) girl to star in his Broadway play called Solitaire. Pat's parents knew that she would definitely be interested in it, but were afraid of what would happen to her self-esteem if she would get rejected.
As a result, Alfred and John plotted a scheme: they are just going to tell her that they need help with reading for van Druten during preparations, but she will not find out that in reality she is rehearsing for the role. Unless, of course, she gets the job.
Van Druten was happy with her performance and three weeks later, Patricia got the part. The story centered around a girl from a very wealthy family, but neglected by her parents. As a sign of protest, she starts hanging out with a homeless boy. Soon, he gets into trouble when a young girl is murdered outside the city and the punishment falls on poor people from the outskirts, him included. The main character Victoria has to swallow her pride and beg her parents to help him, despite them not wanting anything to do with that.
The play ended up a giant flop and only three weeks after January 27, 1942 - when it debuted, curtains were closed. Here's what Pat had to say about it:
Unfortunately, it opened right after Pearl Harbor, and that was the end of that, but not the end of my wanting to be an actress..
Despite the failure, signs were promising for the aspiring actress, as she got complimented by the press as being the only positive thing about this Broadway play. Alfred Hitchcock was working on Saboteur at the time and didn't even see her debut. Alma took a break from her duties at the studio (as always, she was working by her husband) to come and support her.
Second Broadway play
As Alfred was about to go to London to try and negotiate terms with the media baron Sidney Bernstein, he made a stop in Boston to check how his daughter is doing with her second play. Again, the offer had come from Hitchcock circles.
Whitfield Cook was a writer that few years later would contribute to two Hitchcock movies: Stage Fright and Strangers on a Train. At the time, he was a relatively unknown writer trying to break into theater. Alma Reville had read his short magazine stories and made contact with him. As an unexpected result, Patricia got another main part and Cook was about to have his Broadway debut.
Its name was called Violet and so was the name of the main protagonist. A charming and resourceful person, Violet has a father who has an extremely complicated love life. As he is about to marry for the third time, his daughter brings in two previous wives and their five children to stop him from doing so.
The comedy didn't fare better than Pat's first Broadway show at all. It debuted on October 24, 1944, but got cancelled three weeks later. Again. This one got even worse notes than the first and on this occasion Hitchcock's daughter wasn't spared.
Reflecting back at the experience, Patricia concluded that the biggest problem with the show was letting the original story author direct it. Cook couldn't sign the director he wanted and decided to do it himself. Completely inexperienced in the area, he failed miserably.
Education, move to England
For the next six years, Pat was concentrating on her education and didn't do any acting. Despite failing twice, she was still adamant about becoming an actress.
When in 1949 Hitchcocks came to England to shoot Under Capricorn, it was a great opportunity for Alma to show her daughter the city. Patricia was born and spent the first 8 years of her life there, but at such a young age she didn't remember much.
Before they traveled, the teenager considered joining a school in USA, but her grades weren't good enough. Noticing his daughter's concerns, Alfred suggested that she continues education at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in Great Britain. Pat said yes to it instantly. And so when they were sight-seeing, Reville and her daughter made a stop at RADA to enroll Patricia.
A year later, Stage Fright was being made. To give his daughter a possibility to appear on-screen, Hitch had created small part for her to appear in. She played a social and energetic secretary funnily named Chubby Bannister. Since the leading female star in that movie Jane Wyman (who also had studied at RADA) had a similar face to Pat, her father carelessly suggested that she also play Wyman's double in the car chasing scenes.
Shortly after the first movie for her dad, Patricia got an uncredited role of a maid in Mudlark. She later cherished the experience and reminisced how friendly and fun Alec Guinness (who played the main male part) was. The movie was a success and even got nominated for Oscar. Pat's contribution was minor though.
Third Broadway play
Since third time's the charm, Patricia soon decided to try her luck on stage one more time. The new play was written by Charlotte Hastings and directed by Herman Shumlin.
It was called The High Ground and told a story of a wrongly-accused woman who, by sheer luck, is freed as she is transported to prison. As she hides in a nearby convent, a nun gets hooked on her story, starts believing that the main protagonist is innocent and begins her own little investigation to get to the bottom of things.
Six months after the debut on February 20, 1951, a screen adaptation of that same story saw the light of day. The movie was released under the title Thunder on the Hill and starred Claudette Colbert as a nun and Ann Blyth as the wronged woman. You can watch its trailer on Youtube here.
Given that it is a typical whodunnit story, it's no wonder that the Hitchcock name is around. The High Ground was her last play, and the only one in which she wasn't the main character.
It's hard to trace the involvement of her character, but she is mentioned among the story's main figures. On the other hand, her character nurse Brent exists in the film too, but it is a very episodic role. Perhaps it was in the script as well, but Shumlin decided to make space for Alfred Hitchcock's daughter?
The adventure lasted only 23 performances, but was by far the best-received of Patricia's three stage adventures. It didn't matter anyway, as soon Patricia got her career high role of Barbara Morton in Strangers on a Train.
Strangers on a Train, radio work
Her part was memorable, especially in the classic scene in which Bruno 'jokingly' strangles an old woman at a party while centering his attention on Barbara (Youtube).
In 1952, she had to temporarily put her acting dreams on hold as she became married and soon gave birth to their first child.
Her husband Joseph got the job in the mailroom at CBS Radio and didn't make much money, so Pat was forced to look around for a new job. Give that acting is all she had ever done, she moved to TV where it was much easier to get work when someone wasn't a top quality actor - a rule that still stands today, albeit to a lesser extent.
On top of that, she also started to work for the radio herself, probably because of her husband helping her to get a job at CBS.
TV shows, last father movie
Between 1955 and 1960, Patricia played in ten episodes of Alfred Hitchcock presents. This made her ex-aequo third most often starring actor in the show. That still didn't amount to much, as overall the series had 360 episodes and rotation was heavy.
In 1958, she appeared in one episode of the famous show Playhouse 90 (IMDb) - a very popular drama in which astronomical amount of A-class actors had episodic roles. A year earlier, Whitfield Cook had written one episode of that show.
Similarities between the two don't end there! Both he and Pat contributed to Stage Fright and Strangers on a Train and both switched to TV after the latter.
Patricia Hitchcock's final big screen appearance was in her father's 1960 famous movie Psycho. She played Caroline, an office girl who witnessed an older man trying to impress Lila Crane by waving money in front of her nose. Caroline's reaction was very funny, her eyes opened wide as she saw the money and she got into an almost trance-state, half-ready to accept any proposition from the rich man.
The scene looks even funnier because Crane acted exactly the opposite way - she couldn't be more indifferent to the man's cheap seduction attempt. On top of that, Caroline made a weird proposition to give Vera Miles' character tranquilizers for her headache.
Since Psycho, the Hitchcock's daughter wasn't interested in appearing in TV shows anymore and instead focused back on movies, but this time it wasn't for her father. Her three appearances were in Ladies of the Corridor, Six Characters in Search of an Author and Skateboard.
Unfortunately, with those she again has proven that she doesn't have good instincts for selecting material to work with. The first two are poor movies while the third one is downright ridiculous (and here's proof).
Twenty two years later after her last motion picture contribution, she made one more. This time, it wasn't as an actress but as executive producer of a short documentary called The Man on Lincoln's Nose. It was a tribute to Robert F. Boyle, one of the most-acclaimed art directors in Hollywood history. There is a connection between him and Pat - he worked with her father on few occasions.
When the documentary was being made, Pat Hitchcock was already 82 years old. At that age, most popular people in the industry are usually already long in retirement. Since then, she hasn't done anything new and given her current age, it is doubtful that she will do more.
Watching her performances, it's easy to notice that Patricia felt comfortable in front of camera. Characters she created are convincing, unique and have something very likeable about them.
The question then arises: why didn't she succeed as an actress? She failed with stage plays and after just three, decided that there's no point continuing. Her most successful big screen roles were all in her dad's films, while all solo efforts were flops. In the TV world she was one of many nameless faces traveling from show to show to give episodic appearances.
Pat was a good actress, a quick look at any of her appearances in Hitch's movies is probably enough to convince most people. Her specific style limits the amount of roles she can play though. Until her late years, she retained her friendly childish appearance. In large budget motion pictures, such women are rarely on the front. Female leads are usually sexy and sensual - look no further than her father's movies to get examples!
Hitchcock's daughter was a skilled, brave and relaxed actress, but could play narrow set of roles which only made it possible for her to succeed with secondary characters. These parts she played well.