Unquestionably one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, Alfred Hitchcock has played a crucial role in shaping modern cinema. Known as the ‘Master of Suspense’, he is popular for creating over 50 movies and masterpieces like The Psycho, Rebecca and Rear Window. Hitchcock’s cinematic style with its incredible plot twists and ability to make characters larger than life will keep you on the edge of your seat. Let’s unravel the mystery behind the most influential film director of the 20th century, Alfred Hitchcock.
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Alfred Hitchcock, the Cinematic Genius
Alfred Hitchcock was a famous English director, screenwriter and filmmaker. He is known as one of the most influential and extensively studied filmmakers in cinematic history. In 1920, Alfred Hitchcock entered the film industry and directed over 50 feature films in his six decades career. He was publicly known for his interviews, cameo roles, and the host and producer of the television anthology Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955–65). Hitchcock’s films gathered 46 Academy Award nominations. In 1939, he stepped into Hollywood and made his first American film, Rebecca, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Alfred Hitchcock was conferred with the AFI’s Life Achievement Award in 1979. Passed away in 1980, the Master of Suspense has a magnificent legacy and is one of the most celebrated icons in history. In 1978 John Russell Taylor, a famous English film critic, described him as “the most universally recognisable person in the world” and “a straightforward middle-class Englishman who just happened to be an artistic genius”.
Did you know: Hitchcock in an interview said that “I’m frightened of my own movies. I never go to see them. I don’t know how people can bear to watch my movies.”
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Born on August 13, 1899, in London, England, Alfred Hitchcock grew up in a strict, Catholic family. He used to talk about his childhood as lonely and sheltered; his social interactions were affected due to his obesity. He once recounted an incident where his father sent him to the nearby police station with a note when he was five, asking the officer to lock him up for 10 minutes as punishment for misbehaving. He also mentioned that his mother would force him to stand at the foot of her bed for many hours as punishment (a scene depicted in his film Psycho). Being brutally treated or wrongfully accused are ideas that are reflected in Alfred Hitchcock’s films.
Alfred Hitchcock had a huge extended family. Every summer, his wealthy uncle John would rent a seaside house in Cliftonville, Kent, for the family. Hitchcock became class-conscious there, noticing the contrasts between tourists and locals.
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From Always Tell Your Wife to The Psycho
Alfred Hitchcock studied at St. Ignatius College before taking art courses at the University of London. He worked as a draftsman and advertising designer for Henleys, the cable company. He started writing and submitting short articles for the in-house publication Henley’s Keys. Alfred Hitchcock employed ideas of false accusations, contrasting emotions and twist endings with impeccable skill. In 1920, Hitchcock stepped into the film industry with Famous Players-Lasky Company, where he designed title cards for silent films. He was working as an assistant director just after a few years.
Alfred Hitchcock directed his first film in 1925 and began producing thrillers. His 1929 film Blackmail is considered the first British “talkie.” In the 1930s, he made classic suspense films such as The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) and The 39 Steps (1935).
Did you know: After the release of Hitchcock’s greatest movie Psycho, the newspapers ran ads that said “Please do not give away the ending. It’s the only one we have!” to keep the suspense alive.
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Movies by Alfred Hitchcock
The first film Alfred Hitchcock created was The United States, Rebecca (1940), which won an Academy Award for Best Picture. The most famous films of Alfred Hitchcock include Psycho (1960), The Birds (1963) and Marnie (1964). His creations were renowned for their portrayal of violence and served as a tool for understanding complex psychological characters. The top 10 movies of Alfred Hitchcock are listed below:
- The Birds (1963)
- The 39 Steps (1935)
- The Lady Vanishes (1938)
- Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
- Strangers on a Train (1951)
- Rear Window (1954)
- North By Northwest (1959)
- Psycho (1960)
- Vertigo (1958)
- Notorious (1946)
Did you know: Alfred Hitchcock is a cultural icon and often made cameos in his own movies.
Books by Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock was also a master writer who wrote suspenseful stories with intriguing titles. Here are some of his best-known books:
- Alfred Hitchcock’s Ghostly Gallery (1962)
- Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Stories Not for the Nervous (1965)
- Alfred Hitchcock Presents Stories to Be Read With the Lights on (1967)
- Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbinders in Suspense (1967)
- Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Stories That Scared Even Me (1967)
- Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Stories to Stay Awake By (1971)
- The Best of Mystery: 63 Short Stories Chosen by the Master of Suspense (1980)
- Tales of Terror: 58 Short Stories Chosen by the Master of Suspense (1986)
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Honours and Awards
Alfred Hitchcock received many accolades during his lifetime. Here are a few of his many honours and awards:
Honours and Recognitions
- 1960: Inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame on 8 February (two stars)
- 1996: Entertainment Weekly ranked him at No. 1 in its “50 Greatest Directors” list.
- 2002: MovieMaker named him the most influential director of all time
- 2002: Ranked 2nd in the Sight and Sound Critics’ top ten poll and 5th in the director’s top ten poll
- 2005: Hitchcock was ranked at No. 2 on Empire magazine’s “Top 40 Greatest Directors of All-Time” list
- 2007: The Daily Telegraph critics’ poll announced him as Britain’s greatest director
- 2007: Total Film magazine No. 1 on “100 Greatest Film Directors Ever” list
- 2012: Selected by artist Sir Peter Blake, author of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover, to feature in a new version of the cover
- 2013: nine restored versions of Hitchcock’s early silent films, including The Pleasure Garden (1925), were shown at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Harvey Theatre; known as “The Hitchcock 9”, the travelling tribute was organised by the British Film Institute
- Won two Golden Globes (1958, 1972)
- Eight Laurel Awards
- Five-lifetime achievement awards
- First BAFTA Academy Fellowship Award (1971)
- AFI Life Achievement Award (1979)
- Five nominations for an Academy Award for Best Director.
- His film Rebecca, nominated for 11 Oscars, Academy Award for Best Picture (1940)
- Eight of his films had been selected for preservation by the US National Film Registry (2018)
Did you know: Alfred Hitchcock is not just famous for his mind blowing movies but also his wit and humor. In 1968, he gave the shortest speech at the Oscars while receiving the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award!
Death and Legacy
Alfred Hitchcock directed more than 50 acclaimed feature films in his career of six decades. On April 29, 1980, Hitchcock passed away quietly in his sleep in Bel Air, His life partner, assistant director and collaborator, Alma Reville, survived him. She was also called “Lady Hitchcock” and died in 1982.
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The Birds (1963), The 39 Steps (1935), and The Lady Vanishes (1938) are some of the most famous movies of this cinema genius.
Hitchcock released his first movie Always Tell Your Wife in 1923.
Hitchcock lost his life on 29th April 1980.
Here’s all you needed to know about Alfred Hitchcock, one of the greatest directors of all time. Despite facing adversities in his life, he was a man who discovered his passion and created history by producing phenomenal work.
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