A Brief History
On March 12, 2018, we join movie fans in celebrating Alfred Hitchcock Day, remembering all the great films and television this English director brought to us over the years from 1919 to 1980, one of the longest and greatest directorial careers in cinema history. (Once again, we could not find out who started this day and when. Alas!)
Born outside of East London in 1899, young Alfred was a loner, though he did well at Catholic school, although the strict physical discipline instilled a strong sense of fear in the boy. Likewise, Alfred feared the police his entire life after traumatic incident when he was only 5 years old in which his father sent him to the police station with a note, telling the cops to lock the boy up. The police complied, and Alfred was locked up a short time and admonished about his behavior, forever coloring his relationship with the police.
Upon reaching military age (18) during World War I, Alfred was deemed fit only for home garrison duties, after which he entered the field of journalism. He took a liking to the movies of his day, and in 1919 took a job with a new movie studio in London designing title cards. Alfred tried his hand at numerous aspects of the movie business, including writing and directing. By 1925 Hitchcock directed his first film as the head director, and a star was born though the movie flopped. Success followed, and in 1929 Alfred transitioned to sound movies (“talkies”).
Hitchcock’s resume of classic films include The Man Who Knew too Much, The 39 Steps, Sabotage, The Lady Vanishes, Rebecca, Suspicion, Lifeboat, Spellbound, Notorious, Rope, Strangers on a Train, Dial M for Murder, Rear Window, To Catch a Thief, The Man Who Knew too Much (second film by that name), Vertigo, North by Northwest, The Birds, Marnie, Topaz, Frenzy, and Family Plot, among others of the 53 films he directed. His films were mostly thrillers, featuring suspense and often murder. He became famous for making brief cameo appearances in his movies.
From 1955 to 1965, Hitchcock lent his talents to the small screen, hosting a television anthology program called Alfred Hitchcock Presents. His commentary before and after the episodes included some terrific humor, delivered in his characteristic dry understated tone.
The great director died of renal failure in 1980, his ashes scattered over the Pacific Ocean. He left behind his widow of 54 years and a daughter, as well as a legacy of cinema work that few could rival. Of course he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and was knighted as well. Although he never got the Best Director Oscar, Hitchcock and his films earned numerous other awards.
The downside to Alfred Hitchcock was his relationship with actors, people he referred to as “cattle” and “animated props,” and did not respect their cinematic opinions. Rebuffed sexually by actress Tippi Hedren, Hitchcock set about to ruin her film career. (Hedren is the mother of actress Melanie Griffiths.)
Do you have a favorite Alfred Hitchcock film? Please tell us which one is your favorite and why. Is he your favorite director? If not, who is?
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For more information, please see…
Ackroyd, Peter. Alfred Hitchcock. Anchor, 2017.
Deutelbaum and Poague. A Hitchcock Reader 2nd Edition. Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.
Truffaut, Francois. Hitchcock (Revised Edition). Simon and Schuster, 1985.