“I LOVE THE sound of typing,” says Houstonian Meredyth Hayes, daughter of screenwriter John Michael Hayes. As a little girl, Hayes would sit in the hallway outside of her father’s office, listening to him tap out his famously quotable scripts (“Even in this light, I can tell where your eyes are looking.”) for such Hollywood royals as Cary Grant, Sophia Loren and Shirley MacLaine. On Saturday, Dec. 18, at the MFAH’s brand-new Lynn Wyatt Theater, Hayes will be on hand to introduce Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece Rear Window, one of four films her father wrote for Hitchcock. The film is a favorite of Lynn Wyatt, and will screen in its original, reel-to-reel 35mm glory.
Rear Window stars James Stewart as L. B. "Jeff" Jefferies, a photographer temporarily confined to a wheelchair due to a broken leg, who spends his time spying on the neighbors with a set of binoculars. Jeff shares this proclivity for voyeurism with his fashion model girlfriend, Lisa Fremont, played by a luminous Grace Kelly. When Jeff begins to suspect one of the neighbors is a murderer, Lisa agrees to help him investigate, and the two quickly find themselves in more danger than they could have imagined.
In addition to wearing one jaw-dropping ensemble after another, all designed by Edith Head, Lisa enjoys a sophisticated, knowing rapport with Jeff, a dynamic Hayes’ father based on himself and his wife Mildred (“Mel”), who was also a model. “That was before its time,” says Hayes of the intellect displayed by Kelly’s character. “Even today, we quantify models as being airheads. But my mother was a smart lady.”
As a child, Hayes traveled around the world with her parents, and met several stars of the films her father scripted, including Sophia Loren, who babysat her during the filming of Judith in Israel. Sadly, Hayes never met Kelly, and wishes she had. “When I see Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief, I don’t see my mother,” says Meredyth. “But in Rear Window, I see my mother greatly.”
Hayes settled in Houston in 1993, after several years of moving back and forth across the country, working as a talent scout and regional promotion manager for major record labels and producing television and videos for companies around the world. Throughout the years, much like the sound of typing she loved as a child, the memory of her father’s uncompromising commitment to his craft remained a source of comfort and direction.
“I was always guided by what truly inspired me and was lucky enough to be good at those things,” says Hayes. “I followed my heart, and I think that comes from him.”