November 20th, 2015
The Master of Suspense, revered filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock, actually hung out at a Hawaii hotel on a family vacation. While the man often regarded as the greatest British filmmaker is more associated with psychological thriller dramas, his granddaughter Tere Carrubba says he was quite opposite at home: a loving, jovial, sweet family man who loved to spend time with his wife, daughter, and granddaughters.
Tere - and I'm going to refer to her by her first name due to a familiarity that comes with being related by marriage - and her husband are in the Islands this week for the Hawaii International Film Festival, in which she attended the screening of his 1945 film Spellbound. After, she answered questions from the audience.
She does this all the time. She's invited to speak at festivals and events around the world about her famous grandfather, who directed more than fifty feature films in a career spanning six decades. Her mother, Pat, used to be the spokesperson, but can no longer do that, so it's up to Tere or her sister Mary. There is a third sister who prefers not to give public speeches.
Usually, she says, people want to know what Hitchcock was like outside of work, which is right in her wheelhouse. Anyway, she says she couldn't really talk movie jargon. "I was so young when the movies came out, I can't really answer many technical questions. I was in third grade when Psycho came out." She does, however, list Strangers on a Train and The Birds as her favorite films of her grandfather's.
On the other hand, she laughs, she's an expert on what he was like as a family man. At first, like all children of celebrities, it didn't dawn on her. "He was the only grandfarther I knew; I didn't know any different."
Tere describes him as "quite a character; he had a sense of humor. One year we spent Christmas with him and he dressed up as Santa Claus. That was pretty funny!"
When she was in first or second grade, she realized he was special, "but it wasn't important to me. There were more important things to a seven year old."
Then, as she got older, she realized his significance. "We'd be places and I saw all the attention he drew." Sometimes she or her sisters would pick him up at the studio and take him grocery shopping (which he loved!) and "it was odd at the produce aisle. Women would look, and be like, 'No that can't be him.'"
As masterful as he was in his craft, Tere says he left work at work. "Once he got home, he was home. That was his place of relaxing and being with family. We saw him and my grandmother a lot. They lived 30 minutes away, but we were there once a week," she says of his Los Angeles home.
Tere reflects on her close relationship with her grandfather. Was there one special memory that stands out? No, she says, there were too many. "Just all the times we spent together alone. Just family. Family was huge to him."
It's ironic, I point out, that despite her grandfather's iconic status in cinema, none of his descendants went into acting or making films. She nods, "I didn't have a passion. I don't think any of us had a passion for it, and you have to have a passion to be successful because it's a tough industry." The closest its gets to showbiz is her sister Katie, a lawyer for DreamWorks.
Tere's excited to be in the Islands for HIFF. It's her first time to get involved with that film festival, and she says she's pleased to be invited. "To this day, he's revered in the entertainment industry. I don't know that there's been anyone since him, that did what he did. It's a legacy, and I'm honored to represent him. I hope to do it well."
This isn't, however, her first time to Hawaii. She has been coming annually since she was a child. In fact, they vacationed here in 1971. "We came with my grandparents for Christmas to Mauna Kea. It was his idea, and it was a fun time. They enjoyed being here. It was beautiful," recalls Tere. But he certainly didn't come for the tropical sun as most tourists do. "He didn't wear a swimsuit. He didn't like the sun."
Her ties to Hawaii got even stronger after she met and married my paternal first cousin, Paul Carrubba, in 1988. The yearly visits continue, and though their trips are always whirlwind, we all try to squeeze in a family gathering.
Tere says so much about the Aloha State appeals to her: the natural beauty, the peacefulness of Hawaii, and - like her grandfather- the draw of family.