I doubt if there is anyone reading this who has not heard of Alfred Hitchcock. Later this month on April 29, 2013 it will be thirty-three years since the master of movie and television suspense died at age 80.
Hitchcock was born in London, England in 1899 and by 1920 had developed an interest in the film business through his skill as an accomplished artist. During the 1920s he met his future wife and collaborator Alma Reville. They were married in 1927 and became the parents of daughter Pat who was born in July of 1928.
The year 1927 was a big one for Hitchcock as he not only got married but he directed his first film, The Lodger.
In the UK throughout the 1930’s until 1939, Hitch churned out many films with the best ones, in my opinion, being the original The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) with Peter Lorre, The 39 Steps (1935), and a personal favorite, The Lady Vanishes (1938). After Jamaica Inn in 1939, he moved to America where he would gain his biggest fame.
His first film after arriving in the U. S. was Rebecca which won the Oscar for best picture of 1940. He went on to do such favorites over the years as Strangers on a Train (1951), Rear Window, (1954), Vertigo (1958), Psycho (1960), and The Birds (1963). His 67 directorial credits also include his half hour TV show which ran from 1955-1961, Alfred Hitchcock Presents. That Sunday night show produced many memorable programs. He also did The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in 1962.
The above gives you a quick resume of Alfred Hitchcock’s life and major accomplishments in the UK and America but what kind of a guy was he and why were most of his works successful?
As a follower of vintage film productions, I was rarely bored with a Hitchcock film. That’s not to say I liked them all. I never could get into Torn Curtain (1966) even though I was drawn to see it because of the Hitchcock touch and that it starred Paul Newman and Julie Andrews. Another clunker to me was probably one of his most successful films, The Birds (1963).
The fun things about Hitchcock’s films were his ability to create suspense and a feeling of anxiety that kept the viewers on the edge of their seats through various twists and turns. He liked icy female characters, preferably blondes, to inhabit his films (Eva Marie Saint, Kim Novak, Tippi Hedren, Priscilla Lane, Janet Leigh, etc.). He also liked the excitement of someone being on the run like Cary Grant in North by Northwest (1959), Robert Cummings in Saboteur (1942), or Robert Donat in The 39 Steps (1935), etc.
He also always had a plot device that made the whole thing work referred to as the “Macguffin.” Combined with the music scores of Bernard Herrmann for many of the films, it made for an enjoyable couple hours.
Hitchcock also liked to tease his audiences with his cameo appearances. Here is all of them. Some I remember, some I don't. I think the best is the one with his picture in the newspaper in Lifeboat (1944) advertising a weight reduction product. Watch carefully for it.
I wish we had more Alfred Hitchcocks in Hollywood today.
(For more on Hitchcock, Psycho, and Phoenix, click here. For a complete list of his movies, click here.)