Alma Lucy Reville got her first name after her aunt Alma and her second name after her mother Lucy. Born just one day after her only future husband Alfred Hitchcock, she was the second child (and second daughter) of Matthew Reville and Lucy Neville (maiden name Owen).
As a young girl, she went to a private school for girls and was on a track to get an education, to hopefully find a well-paid job when she grows up. Nothing came out of those plans, as she had to skip the last two years of school due to suffering from chorea (Wikipedia).
Both her parents worked in lace firm. It is unknown what kind of job exactly Lucy did, but Matthew was the firm representative. As the business wasn't doing well, both got fired and had to look for other work.
The father found it in a film studio. As Alma was getting older and came back to health, the pressure mounted on her to start earning her keep. Matthew managed to find her a job of a tea girl at the studio and this is how her adventure with cinema has begun.
Throughout the years, she has proven both inseparable and irreplaceable for Hitchcock. She was great companion to him and her many talents were utilized in the making of most of the great director's movies.
History has cast a shadow over her achievements and they weren't publicized nor analyzed in detail when Hitchcock was making his best movies in the first place. That sidekick role Reville actually preferred, but it's important to give credit where credit is due.
We will never know precisely what exactly was the extent of Reville's input as the couple has kept their ship tight, but people who worked closely with Hitch and his wife all said that it was enormous. That's why she deserves to be talked about separately.
At 1,52m (5'), Alma was almost guaranteed to be the smallest person in the room. To complete the picture, she was also very skinny. Apparently, when she was sitting in the car, her head could barely be seen. Reville didn't have an insanely high metabolism, she just wasn't eating much. At her weight, she probably didn't need to.
Her eyes were hazel, her hair reported blonde by some, red by others. She made sure that she always looks good and liked to dress in pretty clothes. This trait she didn't lose with time.
On the contrary: she took full advantage of what Hollywood had to offer and, probably with a little help from her husband, became one of many names on Edith Head's customer list. Head was the most accomplished costume designer in Hollywood history and she made custom clothes for Reville. On top of that, she was almost as small as the director's wife, so she was bound to know the ins and outs of making clothes for people of such dimensions.
Because of chorea, Alma got a first-hand experience of serious illness and realized the importance of good health. She took that lesson to heart and after coming back to health, started making sure that she eats healthy and lives a healthy lifestyle. As opposed to Alfred, who was on and off his diet often, she never slipped.
In his book The Art of Alfred Hitchcock, famous biographer Donald Spoto talks about a situation that once took place in 1976. Hitch and Spoto were in the middle of private screening in Los Angeles,
all of a sudden the telephone rings. Hitchcock picked it up – only for about five seconds – then he put the phone down and drew himself out of his chair and said, “I have to go home immediately. Madame wants me at home.” He left at once.
I regarded myself as a very attractive girl, prettier perhaps than I really was, but I was outgoing and social. You might say I had good self-esteem. I enjoyed pretty clothes. I loved movies and I loved what I was doing. I was an optimistic type, and I saw a rosy future.Alma Reville
The biographer continued to draw a conclusion that Alma had Alfred in control, that the director obeyed her blindly and that he'd be afraid to do otherwise.
While taking that conclusion to such extremes is questionable, it wasn't exactly a secret that Alma had a very strong character. In her youth, she was full of confidence. Despite being at the bottom-low in her first job, she wasn't shying away from anything or anyone.
Alma Reville's early career (about which you can read in the next article) is a proof of her resilience and mental strength as well. As a woman increasingly filling the shoes of man, surrounded by men which often were twice, three or even four times her age, she had absolutely no trouble standing her ground.
As she grew older, she hid more behind her husband. When her career was halted when she gave birth to Patricia, she started operating at Alfred's side and that seemed to be a sweet spot for her. Publicity was not what she wanted - surely a surprise to many co-workers who saw young growing Alma and were sure that they are looking at a star in the making.
When meeting her, many interviewers made notes that she is a shy woman. From what was gathered during peeking at Alfred Hitchcock's life, it is more likely that she withdrew to the backline, so to speak, by her own decision, and not because she was shy or afraid of anything.
That developed secrecy was both her trait and Alfred's. The couple's inner circle had room for two people only. Few others were included to some extent, but even among them Hitchcocks were never fully open. When in contact with other people, Alma was usually quiet, but was always present and made notes in her head. Later, when she was alone with her husband, all the information was coming out and decisions were made (to hire someone or not, for example).
Relationship with Alfred
For two years, Alma and Hitch had worked under the same roof before something started to happen between them. The heroine of this story once said that in that timeframe she hasn't even noticed him looking at her once!
Her first impression was that the director is confident, but keeping to himself. There is great character compatibility there, as this is exactly the character that Alma Reville became when she has grown older.
The maestro's initial opinion of her was nowhere near as flattering. He thought the girl to be extremely arrogant and she irritated him enormously. On the other hand, he felt drawn to her. Lucky for him, it hasn't proven to be a fatal attraction and from their relationship both benefited greatly.
How much he felt like getting closer to her was meaningless anyway though, as there was a big problem standing on the way. Back at the beginning of the XX century, there was still a distinction between men jobs and women jobs. The sole fact of woman having a better paying job than a man was a disgrace for the latter.
Had the beautiful young Miss Reville not accepted a lifetime contract without options as Mrs. Alfred Hitchcock some fifty-three years ago, Mr. Alfred Hitchcock might be in this room tonight, not at this table, but as one of the slower waiters on the floor. I share my award, as I have my life, with her.Alfred Hitchcock
American Film Institute’s 1979 Lifetime Achievement Award speech
Discrimination aside, it usually was a sign of that man having extremely low position in society. Margaret Thatcher would soon put such thoughts to sleep, but when the two birds were onto each other she wasn't even born yet. Hitch was the kind of man who would always carefully plan things out from behind the curtains, never to jump out of them trying his luck with a girl that could make him a laughingstock among his co-workers. Or at least he saw it that way.
Alma confirmed it in the course of an interview made by Patrick McGilligan for his wonderful biographical book:
Since it is unthinkable for a British male to admit that a woman has a job more important than his, Hitch had waited to speak to me until he had a higher position.
Given that the woman had five years of work for the studio under her belt when the young director entered the scene, it took him some time to get ahead. But after those two years, he was ready.
Once they started spending time together, they have quickly grown accustomed to each other and have instantly found a common tongue. Most of the subjects were professional - they have brainstormed projects they have worked on together and these efforts have paid dividends - both of them were awfully-talented workhorses on the rise. They took more and more responsibilities and became better and better at them.
After Hitch became very famous, Alma started completing his skillset with her own and at one point withdrew from creative work almost completely. She continued to serve as a filter for ideas, their templates and executions. Maestro had an absolute trust in her - he fully realized that her biggest asset was her insane eye for detail and feel for what can fly and what can't.
Giving up such an asset would definitely bring a visible damage to his movies, so he used her expertise and she was happy to make it available for him. Throughout the years, many people claimed that the best route to get Hitchcock into something was to get a 'yes' from his lady.
As much as sex was concerned, things looked dismal, to say the least. Alfred often joked that the pair made love only once and their daughter is the result. He joked and exaggerated about many things though, so just because he regularly said it doesn't automatically mean that it's true, but it is probable.
There's more. He also often claimed that he was impotent, which could be the direct cause of their modest sex life. An even more direct one would be if he would be gay, which seemed like a possibility for him - once, director said that if not for Alma, he could become one.
Sex life looked like the only thing that didn't work between them. The fact alone that they were married for 54 years is all the proof that's needed to estimate how good they were together.