Director of the week: Alfred Hitchcock
January 26, 2022
The king of suspense, master of thrillers and pioneer of horror films. All these words are about Alfred Hitchcock, our new article is devoted to.
Hitchcock is recognized as one of the most famous figures of all-time in cinema history. He made a lot for the worldwide cinematography. We've already written about the genre of suspense he created. But recently our team realized that we didn't have a specific article about Alfred himself. That's why we decided to meet you with this extraordinary person.

Hitchcock was born on 13 August 1899 in Leytonstone, on the outskirts of east London in a regular family of Catholics. When Alfred was 5, His dad sent him to the local police station with a note. The policeman looked at the note and locked him in a cell for a few minutes, saying, "This is what we do to naughty boys". This accident caused a fear of police officers, Hitchcock had been suffering for all his life.

Due to financial troubles, family of Alfred had to move quite often, which was the reason he changed many schools. At the age of 7 he attended his first school, the Howrah House Convent in Poplar. 4 years later, his family moved to Stepney. From 1910 to 1913 Hitchcock studied at St Ignatius College in Stamford Hill.
In 1914, he was enrolled in night classes at the London County Council School of Engineering and Navigation in Poplar. His dad, William, died in the same year and young Alfred had to find a job as technical clerk to help his mother. He also studied art history, painting, economics, and political science in London University during this time.

When the First World War started, Hitchcock was considered unsuitable for army and joined a cadet regiment of the Royal Engineers and took part in theoretical briefings.
After the war he was interested in creative writing and worked as a founding editor and business manager of "The Henley Telegraph" for several years and took part in creating some advertisements. In a book-length interview in 1962, he told François Truffaut that this was his "first step toward cinema". Hitchcock really enjoyed watching films, especially, he liked Fritz Lang's "Der müde Tod" (1921).

In 1919 Hitchcock began working for Islington Studios in Poole Street, Hoxton, as a title-card designer. While working there, he gained experience as a co-writer, art director and production manager on at least 18 silent films. it is there that he met his future wife Alma Reville. Together they worked towards establishing "Woman to Woman" (1923).
When "Paramount" pulled out of London in 1922, Hitchcock was hired as an assistant director by a new firm run in the same location by Michael Balcon. Alfred worked on "The White Shadow" (1924), "The Passionate Adventure" (1924) and "Number 13" (1922), which wasn't finished because of financial problems.

In 1925, Hitchcock directed his first film "The Pleasure Garden", which was made in Munich. Although the film was on the financial flop, Balcon liked Alfred's work. Michael asked him to direct a second film in Munich, "The Mountain Eagle" (1926), which was lost and "British Film Institute" has it on the top of their BFI 75 Most Wanted list of missing films and is actively searching for it. Although Hitchcock himself called it "a very bad movie".
In the same 1926, Alfred directed his first thriller film "The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog" about a serial killer, wearing a black cloak and carrying a black bag. Hitchcock told Truffaut that the film was the first of his to be influenced by German Expressionism. He also made his first cameo appearances in this film, which lately became the thing of the director.

In 1926, Alfred and Alma Reville married and in 1928 Alma gave birth to their only kid Patricia. Hitchcock loved his wife to the moon and back, they worked together on many films including "Shadow of a Doubt" (1943) and "Suspicion" (1941).
Three years later, Alfred directed "Blackmail" (1929), which was one of the first sound film in Britain, even though, at first, director was skeptical of such instrument. He believed that camera work and acting were much more important than dialogues and sound effects. In "Blackmail" Alfred worked well with the plot and used a lot of new cinematography tools as changing angle of view, sound counterpoint and montage.

It's estimated that the reason Alfred didn't show a moment of murder itself was in "British Board of Film Censors" conservatism. Directors used to abandon showing violence in their movie in order to get a permission to show it to auditory.
By 1938, Hitchcock was on his peak in Britain, but he didn't really like offers he was getting, unless he received a proposal from producer David O. Selznick, which Alfred accepted. Under the contract he had to move to Hollywood.

In 1939, Hitchcock and his wife settled in the USA. He started working with Selznick. Although the producer gave financial support, there were some conflicts between them. David always tried to rule Alfred and controlled the whole process of creating films. For instance, they argued about the use of humor in "Rebecca" (1940). Despite all the problems, the film won Best Picture at the 13th Academy Awards. Hitchcock received his first nomination for Best Director.
Hitchcock's second American film, the thriller "Foreign Correspondent" (1940) was nominated for Best Picture that year. Hitchcock was really worried about the war in England, his concern resulted in a film.

"Suspicion" (1941) marked Hitchcock's first film as a producer and director. It is the first film of four starring Cary Grant by Alfred.

In 1942, his mother and brother passed away, which left a mark on the director.

Alfred's first color movie "Rope" was released in 1948. At the same time, it is the first attempt at making single-shot film, but it was actually shot in 10 ranging from 4-1⁄2 to 10 minutes each shot. Hitchcock hid cuts by having a dark object fill the entire screen for a moment.

"Under Capricorn" (1949), set in 19th-century Australia, also used the short-lived technique of long takes, but to a more limited extent. He again used Technicolor in this production, then returned to black-and-white for several years.
Alfred reached his peak in the 50s. During this productive time, he made such features as "Strangers on a Train" (1951), "Dial M for Murder" and "Rear Window" (1954), "To Catch a Thief" (1955) and "Vertigo" (1958). His favorite actors were Grace Kelly, Cary Grant and James Stewart.

From 1955 to 1965, Hitchcock even hosted the television series "Alfred Hitchcock Presents".

In "Vertigo", Stewart plays Scottie, a former police investigator suffering from acrophobia, who became obsessed with a woman he had been hired to shadow (Novak). "Vertigo" explored more frankly and at greater length his interest in the relation between sex and death, than any other work in his filmography. The film Vertigo contains a camera technique developed by Irmin Roberts, commonly referred to as a dolly zoom, which has been copied by many filmmakers.

"Vertigo" (1958) and "Rear Window" (1954) became, in some sense, atypical for the director. They were full of unconventional narrative ways and deep psychologism. Hitchcock's experimental tools had an impact on European arthouse.
After "Vertigo", the rest of 1958 was a difficult time for Alfred. His wife was diagnosed with cancer. Although she made a full recovery, Hitchcock was worried, because it caused him to imagine, for the first time, life without her.

In 1960, his best-known film "Psycho" was released. The unprecedented violence of the shower scene, the early death of the heroine, and the innocent lives extinguished by a disturbed murderer became the hallmarks of a new horror-film genre. "Psycho" was the most profitable of Hitchcock's career as well. He earned in excess of $15 million (equivalent to $130 million in 2020).

Next two years, Alfred made two more films, which were praised by critics: "the Birds" (1963) and "Marnie" (1964).
Although we appreciate Hitchcock's contribution to cinema history and love his films, we consider that it is important to mention that the director was accused of sexual harassment by the main actress of these films, Tippi Hedren. She gave a few interviews in which she told that Hitchcock became obsessed with her, isolated her from the rest of the crew and had her followed, whispered obscenities to her. Our team condemn any kinds of harassment and abuse.

Hitchcock became extremely famous worldwide. Directors of French New Wave respected him, even though they didn't like mainstream American movies. François Truffaut made several films inspired by his favorite director and, moreover, published a book with interview with his idol.

In 1976, the last film of Hitchcock "Family Plot" was released.

Hitchcock died at the age of 80 at home in Los Angeles because of renal failure.
So, what's unique about his style?

As we talked before, Hitchcock was inspired by German Expressionism. His movies made in 40s overlapped with noir. He admired Russian directors as Sergei Eisenstein, Dziga Vertov and the others. Hitchcock worked very carefully with the sound, creating new instrument of increasing the effect of suspense on the screens.

He also payed special attention to storyboarding to the finest detail, plot, characters and visual design.

Alfred's favorite characters were people getting in difficult life circumstances, he often used images of detectives and femme fatale. In a widely cited essay in 1975, Laura Mulvey introduced the idea of the "male gaze", examples of which are Hitchcock's films.
Alfred earned the name of "Master of Suspense" and experimented with ways to generate tension in his work.

Hitchcock liked using Point-of-view shot, which helped to see the scene with the position of the character.

And the most well-known feature of Alfred Hitchcock is absolutely his cameo. He appeared almost in all of his late films in the role of random strangers.

It was such a long article, but we hope, you liked it.
Here is our traditional list of recommendations:
• Rebecca (1940)
• Shadow of a Doubt (1942)
• Dial M for Murder (1954)
• Vertigo (1958)
• Birds (1963)
• Psycho (1960)
Author(s): Arina Bokach