Hitchcock Is a Gentleman Farmer Who Raises Gooseflesh

Ingrid Bergman? Alfred Hitchcock? Stephen King? Stefan Kanfer? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: I once heard a remarkably apt description of a director who created horror films:

That auteur is a farmer who raises gooseflesh.

Gooseflesh is also referred to as goose bumps or horripilation. Would you please tell me the name of the director and the name of the quipster?

Quote Investigator: In March 1979 Alfred Hitchcock received the Lifetime Achievement Award of the American Film Institute (AFI). The acclaimed actress Ingrid Bergman who starred in three films with Hitchcock: Notorious, Spellbound, and Under Capricorn was the host of the ceremony. A segment from her introductory speech has been uploaded to YouTube, and it shows her delivering the line although it is possible that the AFI hired someone to help her prepare. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Congratulations to the American Film Institute who tonight acknowledged what our audiences have known for 50 years that Alfred Hitchcock is an adorable genius.

Dear Hitch, I’ve come all the way from London, from your home town, to give you my love and affection. One might say that Hitchcock is a gentleman farmer who raises gooseflesh.

Enigmatically, a reporter for the Associated Press who covered the event presented a slightly different quotation: 2

“Hitch is a gentleman farmer who raises gooseflesh,” said Ingrid Bergman, mistress of ceremonies for the program, which will be telecast March 12 on C.B.S.

Although ailing with arthritis, Hitchcock was able to walk to the table of honor on his own, amid a standing ovation.

Bergman did use the phrase “Dear Hitch” in her speech, but she clearly enunciated “Hitchcock” as part of the quotation. Perhaps the reporter employed an inaccurate transcript.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

According to “Simpson’s Contemporary Quotations” the remark was recalled in articles memorializing Hitchcock after his death in 1980: 3

INGRID BERGMAN
Hitch is a gentleman farmer who raises goose flesh.
On Alfred Hitchcock, recalled on his death 29 Apr 80

In 1985 “The Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes” presented a tale with the same wordplay, but the punchline was put into the mouth of Hitchcock: 4

At a French airport one day, the customs official looked suspiciously at Hitchcock’s passport, in which his occupation was listed simply as “Producer.” “What do you produce?” he asked. “Gooseflesh,” Hitchcock replied.

In 1986 a book reviewer in “Time” magazine applied a similar remark to bestselling horror writer Stephen King: 5

In his new novel, It (Viking; $22.95), Stephen proves once again that he is the indisputable King of horror, a demon fabulist who raises gooseflesh for fun and profit.

In 2012 industrious quotation compiler Robert Byrne placed the statement in “The 2,548 Wittiest Things Anybody Ever Said”: 6

Alfred Hitchcock is a gentleman farmer who raises gooseflesh.
—Ingrid Bergman (1915-1982)

In conclusion, Ingrid Bergman should receive credit for this expression. She used it during a 1979 event celebrating the career of Alfred Hitchcock. It is possible that Hitchcock employed the quip, but the 1985 citation appeared after his death, and it provides only weak evidence.

Image Notes: Publicity photo of Ingrid Bergman. Promotional still from the 1945 film Spellbound showing Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman. Images accessed via Wikimedia Commons. Images have been cropped and resized.

Notes:

  1. YouTube video, Title: Ingrid Bergman Calls Alfred Hitchcock An “Adorable Genius”, Uploaded on April 14, 2009, Uploaded by: American Film Institute, Description: Ingrid Bergman plays hostess at the AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute To Alfred Hitchcock, (Quotation starts at 0 minute 56 seconds of 3 minutes 56 seconds), (Accessed on youtube.com on March 28, 2018) link
  2. 1979 March 8, The Seattle Times, Hitchcock honored by Bob Thomas (Associated Press writer), Quote Page C2, Column 4, Seattle, Washington. (GenealogyBank)
  3. 1988, Simpson’s Contemporary Quotations, Compiled by James B. Simpson, Section: Ingrid Bergman, Quote Page 273, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. (Verified on paper)
  4. 1985, “The Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes”, Edited by Clifton Fadiman, Section: Sir Alfred Hitchcock, Quote Page 280, Column 2, Little, Brown and Company, Boston. (Verified on paper)
  5. 1986 October 6, Time, Books: King of Horror by Stefan Kanfer, Time Inc., New York. (Accessed via time.com archive on August 25, 2012)
  6. 2012, The 2,548 Wittiest Things Anybody Ever Said, Compiled by Robert Byrne, Quote Number 1,415, Touchstone: A Division of Simon & Schuster, New York. (Verified with hardcopy)