Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock (August 13, 1899 – April 29, 1980)
Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock aka “Master of Suspense” was a British born director known for his mastery of the suspense and psychological thriller. He was an innovator using film editing (cuts) as the basis to construct a film. He poked, stabbed and forced us to face our fears, obsessions and compulsions.
Hitch is one of my favorite directors because of his fearlessness. He used a voyeuristic style and cuts to let you see inside the heads of his leading characters. Rear Window (1954) is a classic example of his style as the audience becomes the voyeur along with James Stewart’s character. We go along with Hitch and peer through the windows of Stewart’s neighbors and cross a line we otherwise wouldn’t.
In Psycho (1960) we peer through the peephole with “Norman Bates” (Anthony Perkins) and end up rooting for this very troubled individual. Not allowing patrons to enter the theater after Psycho started was a great gimmick. His most fearless move was what occurred in the first 45 minutes of the film. Now that’s risk and genius!
In 1992, the US Library of Congress deemed the film “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.
Now, meet Hitchcock as he takes us through the Bates Motel and the events that occurred. This is Sir Alfred in all his shocking glory.
Although Hitchcock is legendary for his film editing genius, Rope (1948 ) proved to be his ultimate experiment. Instead of using film editing, he would shoot the movie in one long sequence. Stopping only to change the camera role. Like filming a play. Each role of camera film holds about 10-12 minutes of film.
The set was insane with flying walls and furniture. Jimmy Stewart once remarked about placing his drink on a table, turning back around and not only was the drink gone but the table it was sitting on. Everyone had to be on their mark and not drop a line because if anything went wrong they had to do everything all over again. Hitchcock said the film just about killed him!
A Little Hitchcock History:
His first directing assignment, Number 13, began in 1922 but unfortunately wasn’t finished due to financial issues. His big break came in 1927 with the completion of his thriller The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog. The plot revolved around a search for a Jack the Ripper type of serial killer and mistaken identity. Hitchcock’s first thriller is ripe with mood and the German Expressionist influence. A taste of things to come in Hitch’s repertoire, it was a commercial and critical success.
Hitchcock’s tenth film, Blackmail was released in 1929 and considered Britain’s first talkie. It also starts his usage of landmarks as a tradition and appears in the longest cameo of all his films.
The 39 Steps (1935) is widely considered the best of Hitchcock’s early films and made him a star in the U.S. It also branded Hitch’s obsession with the cold blonde, sophisticated leading lady which Grace Kelly would come to epitomize. Then there’s the infamous “MacGuffin.” A reoccurring plot device that actually had no real significance to the story-line. A decoy. Just another Hitch thing.
Alfred Hitchcock’s films were produced in Britain until in 1939. When David O. Selznick signed him to a seven year contract, Hitch relocated to the United States with his wife Alma Reville (his closest collaborator) and his daughter Patricia Hitchcock.
Alma Reville was an accomplished director, writer, editor and producer in Britain before she met Hitch while working at Paramount‘sFamous Players-Lasky studio in London, during the early 1920s. Patricia Hitchcock appeared in several of her dad’s films including: Psycho, Strangers on a Train and Stage Fright.
Rebecca (1940) was Hitchcock’s first American film. It won the Academy Award for Best Picture and Hitchcock was nominated for Best Director but did not win. In fact, although nominated five times, he would never be afforded that honor.
Alfred Hitchcock became an American citizen in 1956 and was a multiple nominee and winner of a number of prestigious awards. Hithcock was the recipient of two Golden Globes, eight Laurel Awards, and five lifetime achievement awards including the first BAFTA Academy Fellowship Award.
Hitchcock received a knighthood in 1980 when he was appointed a Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE) by Queen Elizabeth II.
What’s your quintessential Hitchcock film?
- Stage Fright (1950)
- Saboteur (1942)
- Strangers on a Train (1951)
- The Birds (1963)
- Spellbound (1945)
- Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
- Rebecca (1940)
- Foreign Correspondent (1940)
- The 39 Steps (1935)
- Rope (1948)
- Vertigo (1958)
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