Nationality: British. Born: Alfred Joseph Hitchcock in Leytonstone, London, 13 August 1899, became U.S. citizen, 1955. Education: Salesian College, Battersea, London, 1908; St. Ignatius College, Stamford Hill, London, 1908–13; School of Engineering and Navigation, 1914; attended drawing and design classes under E.J. Sullivan, London University, 1917. Family: Married Alma Reville, 2 December 1926, daughter Patricia born 1928. Career: Technical clerk, W.T. Henley Telegraph Co., 1914–19; title-card designer for Famous Players-Lasky at Islington studio, 1919; scriptwriter and assistant director, from 1922; directed two films for producer Michael Balcon in Germany, 1925; signed with British International Pictures as director, 1927; directed first British film to use synchronized sound, Blackmail, 1929; signed with Gaumont-British Studios, 1933; moved to America to direct Rebecca for Selznick International Studios, decided to remain, 1939; returned to Britain to make short films for
Ministry of Information, 1944; directed first film in color, Rope, 1948; producer and host, Alfred Hitchcock Presents (The Alfred Hitchcock Hour from 1962), for TV, 1955–65. Awards: Irving Thalberg Academy Award, 1968; Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur, 1971; Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters, France, 1976; Life Achievement Award, American Film Institute, 1979; Honorary Doctorate, University of Southern California; Knight of the Legion of Honour of the Cinématheque Français; knighted, 1980. Died: Of kidney failure, in Los Angeles, 29 April 1980.
Films as Director:
Number Thirteen (or Mrs. Peabody) (incomplete)
Always Tell Your Wife (Croise; completed d)
The Pleasure Garden (Irrgarten der Leidenschaft); The MountainEagle (Der Bergadler; Fear o' God); The Lodger; AStory of the London Fog (The Case of Jonathan Drew) (+ co-sc, bit role as man in newsroom, and onlooker during Novello's arrest)
Downhill (When Boys Leave Home); Easy Virtue; The Ring (+ sc)
The Farmer's Wife (+ sc); Champagne (+ adapt); The Manxman
Blackmail (+ adapt, bit role as passenger on "tube") (silent version also made); Juno and the Paycock (The Shame ofMary Boyle)
Elstree Calling (Brunel; d after Brunel dismissed, credit for "sketches and other interpolated items"); Murder (Mary,Sir John greift ein!) (+ co-adapt, bit role as passerby) AnElastic Affair (short)
The Skin Game (+ co-sc)
Rich and Strange (East of Shanghai) (+ co-sc): NumberSeventeen (+ co-sc)
Waltzes from Vienna (Strauss's Great Waltz; The GreatWaltz)
The Man Who Knew Too Much
The Thirty-nine Steps (+ bit role as passerby)
Secret Agent; Sabotage (The Woman Alone)
Young and Innocent (The Girl Was Young) (+ bit as photographer outside courthouse)
The Lady Vanishes (+ bit role as man at railway station)
Rebecca (+ bit role as man outside phone booth); ForeignCorrespondent (+ bit role as man reading newspaper)
Mr. and Mrs. Smith (+ bit role as passerby); Suspicion
Saboteur (+ bit role as man by newsstand)
Shadow of a Doubt (+ bit role as man playing cards on train)
Life Boat (+ bit role as man in "Reduco" advertisement); BonVoyage (short); Aventure Malgache (The Malgache Adventure) (short)
Spellbound (+ bit role as man in elevator)
Notorious (+ story, bit role as man drinking champagne)
The Paradine Case (+ bit role as man with cello)
Rope (+ bit role as man crossing street)
Under Capricorn; Stage Fright (+ bit role as passerby)
Strangers on a Train (+ bit role as man boarding train with cello)
I Confess (+ bit role as man crossing top of flight of steps)
Dial M for Murder (+ bit role as man in school reunion dinner photo); Rear Window (+ bit role as man winding clock); ToCatch a Thief (+ bit role as man at back of bus); The Troublewith Harry (+ bit role as man walking past exhibition)
The Man Who Knew Too Much (+ bit role as man watching acrobats);
The Wrong Man (+ intro appearance)
Vertigo (+ bit role as passerby)
North by Northwest (+ bit role as man who misses bus)
Psycho (+ bit role as man outside realtor's office)
The Birds (+ bit role as man with two terriers)
Marnie (+ bit role as man in hotel corridor)
Torn Curtain (+ bit role as man in hotel lounge with infant)
Topaz (+ bit role as man getting out of wheelchair)
Frenzy (+ bit role as man in crowd listening to speech)
Family Plot (+ bit role as silhouette on office window)
The Great Day (Ford) (inter-titles des); The Call of Youth (Ford) (inter-titles des)
The Princess of New York (Crisp) (inter-titles des); Appearances (Crisp) (inter-titles des); Dangerous Lies (Powell) (inter-titles des); The Mystery Road (Powell) (inter-titles des); Beside the Bonnie Brier Bush (The Bonnie BrierBush) (Crisp) (inter-titles des)
Three Live Ghosts (Fitzmaurice) (inter-titles des); Perpetua (Love's Boomerang) (Robertson and Geraghty) (inter-titles des); The Man from Home (Fitzmaurice) (inter-titles des); Spanish Jade (Robertson and Geraghty) (inter-titles des); Tell Your Children (Crisp) (inter-titles des)
Woman to Woman (Cutts) (co-sc, asst-d, art-d, ed); The WhiteShadow (White Shadows) (Cutts) (art-d, ed)
The Passionate Adventure (Cutts) (co-sc, asst-d, art-d); ThePrude's Fall (Cutts) (asst-d, art-d)
The Blackguard (Die Prinzessin und der Geiger) (Cutts) (asst-d, art-d)
Lord Camber's Ladies (Levy) (pr)
The House across the Bay (Mayo) (d add'l scenes); Men of theLightship (MacDonald, short) (reediting, dubbing of U.S. version)
Target for Tonight (Watt) (supervised reediting of U.S. version)
The Gazebo (Marshall) (voice on telephone telling Glenn Ford how to dispose of corpse)
The Directors (pr: Greenblatt) (appearance)
Makin' It (Hartog) (documentary appearance from early thirties)
Once upon a Time . . . Is Now (Billington, for TV) (role as interviewee)
By HITCHCOCK: book—
Le Cinéma selon Hitchcock, with François Truffaut, Paris, 1966; published as Hitchcock, New York, 1985.
By HITCHCOCK: articles—
"My Own Methods," in Sight and Sound (London), Summer 1937.
"On Suspense and Other Matters," in Films in Review (New York), April 1950.
Interview with Claude Chabrol, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), February 1955.
Interview with Catherine de la Roche, in Sight and Sound (London), Winter 1955/56.
"Rencontre avec Alfred Hitchcock," with François Truffaut, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), September 1956.
"Alfred Hitchcock Talking," in Films and Filming (London), July 1959.
Interview with Ian Cameron and V.F. Perkins, in Movie (London), 6 January 1963.
"Hitchcock on Style," in Cinema (Beverly Hills), August/September 1963.
"Rear Window," in Take One (Montreal), November/December 1968.
"Alfred Hitchcock: The German Years," an interview with B. Thomas, in Action (Los Angeles), January/February 1973.
"Hitchcock," transcript of address to Film Society of Lincoln Center, 29 April 1974, in Film Comment (New York), July/August 1974.
"Hitchcock," an interview with Andy Warhol, in Inter/View (New York), September 1974.
"Surviving," an interview with John Taylor, in Sight and Sound (London), Summer 1977.
On HITCHCOCK: books—
Amengual, Barthélémy, and Raymond Borde, Alfred Hitchcock, Paris, 1957.
Rohmer, Eric, and Claude Chabrol, Hitchcock, Paris, 1957.
Bogdanovich, Peter, The Cinema of Alfred Hitchcock, New York, 1962.
Perry, George, The Films of Alfred Hitchcock, London, 1965.
Wood, Robin, Hitchcock's Films, London, 1965; published as Hitchcock's Films Revisited, New York, 1989.
Douchet, Jean, Alfred Hitchcock, Paris, 1967.
Simsolo, Noel, Alfred Hitchcock, Paris, 1969.
Taylor, John Russell, Hitch, New York, 1978.
Bellour, Raymond, L'Analyse du film, Paris, 1979.
Fieschi, J.-A., and others, Hitchcock, Paris, 1981.
Hemmeter, Thomas M., Hitchcock the Stylist, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1981.
Bazin, Andre, The Cinema of Cruelty: From Buñuel to Hitchcock, New York, 1982.
Narboni, Jean, editor, Alfred Hitchcock, Paris, 1982.
Rothman, William, Hitchcock—The Murderous Gaze, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1982.
Spoto, Donald, The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock, New York, 1982.
Weis, Elisabeth, The Silent Scream: Alfred Hitchcock's Sound Track, Rutherford, New Jersey, 1982.
Belton, John, Cinema Stylists, Metuchen, New Jersey, 1983.
Phillips, Gene D., Alfred Hitchcock, Boston, 1984.
Douchet, Jean, Alfred Hitchcock, Paris, 1985.
Deutelbaum, Marshall, and Leland Poague, A Hitchcock Reader, Ames, Iowa, 1986.
Hogan, David J., Dark Romance: Sexuality in the Horror Film, Jefferson, North Carolina, 1986.
Humphries, Patrick, The Films of Alfred Hitchcock, Greenwich, Connecticut, 1986.
Kloppenburg, Josef, Die Dramaturgische Funktion der Musik inFilmen Alfred Hitchcocks, Munich, 1986.
Ryall, Tom, Alfred Hitchcock and the British Cinema, London, 1986.
Sinyard, Neil, The Films of Alfred Hitchcock, London, 1986.
Leff, Leonard J., Hitchcock and Selznick: The Rich and StrangeCollaboration of Alfred Hitchcock and David O. Selznick inHollywood, New York, 1987.
Modleski, Tania, The Women Who Knew Too Much: Hitchcock andFeminist Theory, New York, 1988.
Brill, Linda, The Hitchcock Romance: Love and Irony in Hitchcock'sFilms, Princeton, New Jersey, 1988.
Leitch, Thomas M., Find the Director and Other Hitchcock Games, Athens, Georgia, 1991.
Raubicheck, Walter, and Walter Srebnick, editors, Hitchcock'sRereleased Films: From Rope to Vertigo, Detroit, 1991.
Sharff, Stefan, Alfred Hitchcock's High Vernacular: Theory andPractice, New York, 1991.
Finler, Joel W., Hitchcock in Hollywood, New York, 1992.
Kapsis, Robert E., Hitchcock: The Making of a Reputation, Chicago, 1992.
Price, Theodore, Hitchcock and Homosexuality: His 50-Year Obsession with Jack the Ripper and the Superbitch Prostitute, Metuchen, New Jersey, 1992.
Spoto, Donald, The Art of Alfred Hitchcock: Fifty Years of His MotionPictures, New York, 1992.
Hurley, Neil P., Soul in Suspense: Hitchcock's Fright and Delight, Metuchen, New Jersey, 1993.
Naremore, James, North by Northwest: Alfred Hitchcock, Director, New Brunswick, New Jersey, 1993.
Sloan, Jane, Alfred Hitchcock: A Guide to References and Sources, New York, 1993.
Arginteanu, Judy, The Movies of Alfred Hitchcock, Minneapolis, 1994.
Gottlieb, Sidney, editor, Hitchcock on Film: Selected Writings andInterviews, Berkeley, California, 1995.
Sloan, Jane E., Alfred Hitchcock: A Filmography and Bibliography, Berkeley, 1995.
Boyd, David, editor, Perspectives on Alfred Hitchcock, New York, 1995.
Rebello, Stephen, Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, New York, 1998.
Samuels, Robert, Hitchcock's Bi-Textuality: Lacan, Feminisms, andQueer Theory, Albany, New York, 1998.
Freedman, Jonathan, and Richard Millington, editors, Hitchcock'sAmerica, New York, 1999.
Auiler, Dan, Hitchcock's Notebooks: An Authorized and IllustratedLook inside the Creative Mind of Alfred Hitchcock, New York, 1999.
On HITCHCOCK: articles—
Pratley, Gerald, "Alfred Hitchcock's Working Credo," in Films inReview (New York), December 1952.
"Hitchcock Issue" of Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), October 1953.
May, Derwent, in Sight and Sound (London), October/December 1954.
Bazin, André, "Alfred Hitchcock," in Radio, Cinéma, Télévision (Paris), 23 January 1955.
Sarris, Andrew, "The Trouble with Hitchcock," in Film Culture (New York), Winter 1955.
"Hitchcock Issue" of Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), August/September 1956.
Pett, John, "A Master of Suspense," in Films and Filming (London), November and December 1959.
Cameron, Ian, "Hitchcock and the Mechanics of Suspense," in Movie (London), October 1962.
Higham, Charles, "Hitchcock's World," in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), December/January 1962/63.
Houston, Penelope, "The Figure in the Carpet," in Sight and Sound (London), Autumn 1963.
Truffaut, François, "Skeleton Keys," in Film Culture (New York), Spring 1964.
Cameron, Ian, and Richard Jeffrey, "The Universal Hitchcock," in Movie (London), Spring 1965.
"An Alfred Hitchcock Index," in Films in Review (New York), April 1966.
Sonbert, Warren, "Alfred Hitchcock: Master of Morality," in FilmCulture (New York), Summer 1966.
Lightman, Herb, "Hitchcock Talks about Light, Camera, Action," in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), May 1967.
Braudy, Leo, "Hitchcock, Truffaut, and the Irresponsible Audience," in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Summer 1968.
Houston, Penelope, "Hitchcockery," in Sight and Sound (London), Autumn 1968.
Millar, Gavin, "Hitchcock versus Truffaut," in Sight and Sound (London), Spring 1969.
Durgnat, Raymond, "The Strange Case of Alfred Hitchcock," in Films and Filming (London), February 1970 through November 1970.
Smith, J.M., "Conservative Individualism: A Selection of English Hitchcock," in Screen (London), Autumn 1972.
Kaplan, G., "Lost in the Wood," in Film Comment (New York), November/December 1972.
Poague, Lee, "The Detective in Hitchcock's Frenzy: His Ancestors and Significance," in Journal of Popular Film (Bowling Green, Ohio), Winter 1973.
Sarris, Andrew, "Alfred Hitchcock, Prankster of Paradox," in FilmComment (New York), March/April 1974.
Simer, D., "Hitchcock and the Well-Wrought Effect," in Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury, Maryland), Summer 1975.
Fisher, R., "The Hitchcock Camera 'I'," in Filmmakers Newsletter (Ward Hill, Massachusetts), December 1975.
Silver, A.J., "Fragments of a Mirror: Uses of Landscape in Hitchcock," in Wide Angle (Athens, Ohio), v. 1, no. 3, 1976.
Bellour, Raymond, "Hitchcock, the Enunciator," in Camera Obscura (Berkeley), Fall 1977.
Lehman, Ernest, "He Who Gets Hitched," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), May 1978.
"Hitchcock Section" of Wide Angle (Athens, Ohio), vol. 4, no. 1, 1980.
Combs, Richard, "Perché Hitchcock?," and Ivor Montagu, "Working with Hitchcock," in Sight and Sound (London), Summer 1980.
"Hitchcock Issue" of Cinématographe (Paris), July/August 1980.
Lehman, Ernest, "Hitch," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), August 1980.
Wollen, P., "Hybrid Plots in Psycho," in Framework (Norwich, England), Autumn 1980.
Belton, John, "Alfred Hitchcock's Under Capricorn: Montage entranced by mise-en-scène," in Quarterly Review of Film Studies (New York), Fall 1981.
"Hitchcock Issue" of Camera/Stylo (Paris), November 1981.
Brown, R.S., "Herrmann, Hitchcock, and the Music of the Irrational," in Cinema Journal (Chicago), Spring 1982.
Rossi, J., "Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent," in Film and History (Newark, New Jersey), May 1982.
"Hitchcock Issue" of Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), 1 December 1982.
Wood, Robin, "Fear of Spying," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), November 1983.
Jenkins, Steve, and Richard Combs, "Hitchcock x 2. Refocussing the Spectator: Just Enough Rope . . . ," in Monthly Film Bulletin (London), February 1984.
Sussex, Elizabeth, "The Fate of F3080," in Sight and Sound (London), Spring 1984.
Kehr, Dave, "Hitch's Riddle," in Film Comment (New York), May/June 1984.
"Hitchcock Issues" of Revue Belge du Cinéma (Brussels), Autumn 1984 and Winter 1984/85.
Bannon, B.M., "Double, Double, Toil and Trouble," in Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury, Maryland), January 1985.
Allen, J. Thomas, "The Representation of Violence to Women: Hitchcock's Frenzy," in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Spring 1985.
French, Philip, "Alfred Hitchcock—The Filmmaker as Englishman and Exile," in Sight and Sound (London), Spring 1985.
Kapsis, Robert E., "Alfred Hitchcock: Auteur or Hack?," in Cineaste (New York), vol. 14, no. 3, 1986.
Zirnite, D., "Hitchcock, on the Level: The Heights of Spatial Tension," in Film Criticism (Meadville, Pennsylvania), Spring 1986.
Miller, G., "Beyond the Frame: Hitchcock, Art, and the Ideal," in Post Script (Jacksonville, Florida), Winter 1986.
Abel, Richard, "Stage Fright: The Knowing Performance," in FilmCriticism (Meadville, Pennsylvania), no. 1/2, 1987.
Anderegg, Michael, "Hitchcock's The Paradine Case and Filmic Unpleasure," in Cinema Journal (Chicago), vol. 26, no. 4, 1987.
Kapsis, Robert E., "Hollywood Filmmaking and Reputation–Building: Hitchcock's The Birds," in Journal of Popular Film and TV (Washington, D.C.), Spring 1987.
Greig, Donald, "The Sexual Differentiation of the Hitchcock Text," in Screen (London), Winter 1987.
Lee, Sander H., "Escape and Commitment in Hitchcock's RearWindow," in Post Script (Jacksonville, Florida), vol. 7, no. 2, 1988.
Wood, Robin, "Symmetry, Closure, Disruption: The Ambiguity of Blackmail," in CineAction! (Toronto), no. 15, 1988.
American Cinematographer (Los Angeles), January 1990.
Desowitz, Bill, "Strangers on Which Train?" in Film Comment (New York), May/June 1992.
Foley, J., "The Lady Vanishes," in Bright Lights (Cincinnati), no. 10, July 1993.
Wood, Brett, "Foreign Correspondence: The Rediscovered War Films of Alfred Hitchcock," in Film Comment (New York), July/August 1993.
Green, Susan, "The Trouble with Hitch," in Premiere, February 1994.
Salt, Barry, ". . . Film in a Lifeboat?" in Film History (London), vol. 6, no. 1, Spring 1994.
Kendall, L., "Better Is To Catch a Thief: A History of Hitchcock II," in Film Score Monthly (Chula Vista, California), no. 59–60, July-August 1995.
Hall, John W., "Touch of Psycho?: Hitchcock's Debt to Welles," in Bright Lights (Cincinnati), no. 14, 1995.
Hemmeter, Thomas, "Hitchcock's Melodramatic Silence," in Journal of Film and Video (Atlanta), vol. 48, nos. 1–2, Spring-Summer 1996.
Perry, Dennis R., "Imps of the Perverse: Discovering the Poe/Hitchcock Connection," in Literature/Film Quarterly, vol. 24, no. 4, October 1996.
Hunter, Evan, "Me and Hitch," in Sight and Sound (London), vol. 7, no. 6, June 1997.
On HITCHCOCK: films—
Casson, Philip, Interview with Alfred Hitchcock, for TV, Great Britain, 1966.
Ya'acovolitz, M., and S. Melul, Im Hitchcock bi Yerushalayin (WithHitchcock in Jerusalem), short, Israel 1967.
Schickel, Richard, The Men Who Made the Movies: Alfred Hitchcock, for TV, U.S., 1973.
* * *
In a career spanning just over fifty years (1925–1976), Hitchcock completed fifty-three feature films, twenty-three in the British period, thirty in the American. Through the early British films we can trace the evolution of his professional/artistic image, the development of both the Hitchcock style and the Hitchcock thematic. His third film (and first big commercial success), The Lodger, was crucial in establishing him as a maker of thrillers, but it was not until the mid-1930s that his name became consistently identified with that genre. In the meantime, he assimilated the two aesthetic influences that were major determinants in the formation of his mature style: German Expressionism and Soviet montage theory. The former, with its aim of expressing emotional states through a deformation of external reality, is discernible in his work from the beginning (not surprisingly, as he has acknowledged Lang's Die müde Tod as his first important cinematic experience, and as some of his earliest films were shot in German studios). Out of his later contact with the Soviet films of the 1920s evolved his elaborate editing techniques: he particularly acknowledged the significance for him of the Kuleshov experiment, from which he derived his fondness for the point-of-view shot and for building sequences by cross-cutting between person seeing/thing seen.
The extreme peculiarity of Hitchcock's art (if his films do not seem very odd it is only because they are so familiar) can be partly accounted for by the way in which these aesthetic influences from high art and revolutionary socialism were pressed into the service of British middle-class popular entertainment. Combined with Hitchcock's all-pervasive scepticism ("Everything's perverted in a different way, isn't it?"), this process resulted in an art that at once endorsed (superficially) and undermined (profoundly) the value system of the culture within which it was produced, be that culture British or American.
During the British period the characteristic plot structures that recur throughout Hitchcock's work are also established. I want here to single out three examples of his work, not because they account for all of the films, but because they link the British to the American period, because their recurrence is particularly obstinate, and because they seem, taken in conjunction, central to the thematic complex of Hitchcock's total oeuvre. The first Hitchcock theme is the story about the accused man: this is already established in The Lodger (in which the male protagonist is suspected of being Jack the Ripper); it often takes the form of the "double chase," in which the hero is pursued by the police and in turn pursues (or seeks to unmask) the actual villains. Examples in the British period are The 39 Steps and Young and Innocent. In the American period it becomes the commonest of all Hitchcock plot structures: Saboteur, Spellbound, Strangers on a Train, I Confess, To Catch a Thief, The Wrong Man, North by Northwest, and Frenzy are all based on it.
A second Hitchcock plot device is the story about the guilty woman: although there are guilty women in earlier films, the structure is definitively established in Blackmail, Hitchcock's (and Britain's) first sound film. We may also add Sabotage from the British period, but it is in the American period that examples proliferate: Rebecca (Hitchcock's first Hollywood film), Notorious, Under Capricorn, The Paradine Case, Vertigo, Psycho (the first third), The Birds, and Marnie are all variations on the original structure.
It is striking to observe that the opposition of the two themes discussed above is almost complete; there are very few Hitchcock films in which the accused man turns out to be guilty after all (Shadow of a Doubt and Stage Fright are the obvious exceptions; Suspicion would have been a third if Hitchcock had been permitted to carry out his original intentions), and no Hitchcock film features an accused woman who turns out to be innocent (Dial M for Murder comes closest, but even there, although the heroine is innocent of murder, she is guilty of adultery). Second, it should be noticed that while the falsely accused man is usually (not quite always) the central consciousness of type one, it is less habitually the case that the guilty woman is the central consciousness of type two: frequently, she is the object of the male protagonist's investigation. Third, the outcome of the guilty woman films (and this may be dictated as much by the Motion Picture Production Code as by Hitchcock's personal morality) is dependent upon the degree of guilt: the woman can sometimes be "saved" by the male protagonist (Blackmail, Notorious, Marnie), but not if she is guilty of murder or an accomplice to it (The Paradine Case, Vertigo).
Other differences between the two types of films are also evident. One should note the function of the opposite sex in the two types, for example. The heroine of the falsely accused man films is, typically, hostile to the hero at first, believing him guilty; she subsequently learns to trust him, and takes his side in establishing his innocence. The function of the male protagonist in the guilty woman films, on the other hand, is either to save the heroine or to be destroyed (at least morally and spiritually) by her. It is important to recognize that the true nature of the guilt is always sexual, and that the falsely accused man is usually seen to be contaminated by this (though innocent of the specific crime, typically murder, of which he is accused). Richard Hannay in The 39 Steps can stand as the prototype of this: when he allows himself to be picked up by the woman in the music hall, it is in expectation of a sexual encounter, the notion of sexual disorder being displaced on to "espionage," and the film systematically moves from this towards the construction of the "good" (i.e., socially approved) couple. The very title of Young and Innocent, with its play on the connotations of the last word, exemplifies the same point, and it is noteworthy that in that film the hero's sexual innocence remains in doubt (we only have his own word for it that he was not the murdered woman's gigolo). Finally, the essential Hitchcockian dialectic can be read from the alternation, throughout his career, of these two series. On the whole, it is the guilty woman films that are the more disturbing, that leave the most jarring dissonances: here, the potentially threatening and subversive female sexuality, precariously contained within social norms in the falsely accused man films, erupts to demand recognition and is answered by an appalling violence (both emotional and physical); the cost of its destruction or containment leaves that "nasty taste" often noted as the dominant characteristic of Hitchcock's work.
It is within this context that the third plot structure takes on its full significance: the story about the psychopath. Frequently, this structure occurs in combination with the falsely accused man plot (see, for example, Young and Innocent, Strangers on a Train, Frenzy,) with a parallel established between the hero and his perverse and sinister adversary, who becomes a kind of shadowy alter ego. Only two Hitchcock films have the psychopath as their indisputably central figure, but they (Shadow of a Doubt, Psycho) are among his most famous and disturbing. The Hitchcock villain has a number of characteristics which are not necessarily common to all but unite in various combinations: a) Sexual "perversity" or ambiguity: a number are more or less explicitly coded as gay (the transvestite killer in Murder!, Philip in Rope, Bruno Anthony in Strangers on a Train); others have marked mother-fixations (Uncle Charlie in Shadow of a Doubt, Anthony Perkins in Psycho, Bob Rusk in Frenzy), seen as a source of their psychic disorder; (b) Fascist connotations: this becomes politically explicit in the U-boat commander of Lifeboat, but is plain enough in, for example, Shadow of a Doubt and Rope; (c) The subtle associations of the villain with the devil: Uncle Charlie and Smoke in Shadow of a Doubt, Bruno Anthony in the paddle-boat named Pluto in Strangers on a Train, Norman Bates' remark to Marion Crane that "no one ever comes here unless they've gotten off the main highway" in Psycho; (d) Closely connected with these characteristics is a striking and ambiguous fusion of power and impotence operating on both the sexual and non-sexual levels. What is crucially significant here is that this feature is by no means restricted to the villains. It is shared, strikingly, by the male protagonists of what are perhaps Hitchcock's two supreme masterpieces, Rear Window and Vertigo. The latter aspect of Hitchcock works also relates closely to the obsession with control (and the fear of losing it) that characterized Hitchcock's own methods of filmmaking: his preoccupation with a totally finalized and story-boarded shooting script, his domination of actors and shooting conditions. Finally, it's notable that the psychopath/villain is invariably the most fascinating and seductive character of the film, and its chief source of energy. His inevitable destruction leaves behind an essentially empty world.
If one adds together all these factors, one readily sees why Hitchcock is so much more than the skillful entertainer and master craftsman he was once taken for. His films represent an incomparable exposure of the sexual tensions and anxieties (especially male anxieties) that characterize a culture built upon repression, sexual inequality, and the drive to domination.
Alfred Hitchcock was a film director famous for well-made suspense thrillers such as Strangers on a Train, Rear Window, and Psycho. He was interested in showing the terror in everyday situations.
Early life and education
Alfred Hitchcock was born in London, England, on August 13, 1899, the youngest of William and Emma Whalen Hitchcock's three children. His father was a poultry salesman and an importer of fruit. Hitchcock was generally a quiet child; however, at five years old his father arranged to have him locked in a cell at the local police station for five minutes after he misbehaved. Hitchcock developed a lifelong interest in the subject of guilt, which was further developed during his time at the strict St. Ignatius College. He also attended the University of London, planning to pursue a career in electrical engineering. After leaving the university he worked with a telegraph company and in advertising.
Hitchcock soon became interested in motion picture production and found a job as a title card writer with the British division of the Famous Players-Lasky Company, which later became Paramount Pictures. In 1923 he began writing scenes for the Gainsborough Film Studios. Hitchcock's first film as a director was The Pleasure Garden, which was filmed in Germany. His other early films included The Lodger (1925), an exciting treatment of the Jack the Ripper story, and Blackmail (1930), the first British picture with sound. Some think that Hitchcock's next films, The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) and The Thirty-Nine Steps (1935), were responsible for the revival in British movie making during the early 1930s.
In 1939 Hitchcock left England with his wife and daughter to settle in Hollywood, California. For the most part his American films of the 1940s were expensively produced and entertaining. These included Rebecca (1940), based on a best-selling suspense novel; Suspicion (1941), about a woman who believes her husband is a murderer; Lifeboat (1944), a study of survival on the open seas; and Spellbound (1945), a murder mystery. Less ambitious but more accomplished was Notorious (1946). Hitchcock's first ten years in Hollywood ended with two interesting failures: The Paradine Case (1947) and Rope (1948).
Beginning with the unusual Strangers on a Train (1951), Hitchcock directed a series of films that placed him among the great artists of modern film. His most important films during that time were I Confess (1953), Rear Window (1954), To Catch a Thief (1955) , The Trouble with Harry (1956), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), Vertigo (1958), and North by Northwest (1959). Many of Hitchcock's films deal with the theme of an ordinary person caught up in situations beyond his or her control. Hitchcock himself also made a brief appearance (or "cameo") in one scene in each of his films.
Psycho (1960) was Hitchcock's most terrifying and controversial (causing dispute) film, and its most famous scene made an entire generation of moviegoers nervous about taking a shower. The Birds (1963), Marnie (1964), and Family Plot (1976) were Hitchcock's final and less brilliant films. Hitchcock also expanded his directing career into American television, with a series that featured mini-thrillers (1955–65). Because of failing health, he retired from directing after Family Plot. He was knighted in 1979 and died soon afterward in Los Angeles on April 29, 1980.
Hitchcock's films enjoyed new popularity in the 1990s. After a restored version of Vertigo was released in 1996 and was surprisingly successful, plans were made to re-release other films, such as Strangers on a Train. According to Entertainment Weekly, as of 1997 plans were underway to remake as many as half a dozen Hitchcock films with new casts, an idea that met with mixed responses from Hitchcock fans.
For More Information
Mogg, Ken. The Alfred Hitchcock Story. Dallas: Taylor, 1999.
Perry, George. Hitchcock. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1975.
Spoto, Donald. The Art of Alfred Hitchcock. New York: Hopkinson and Blake, 1976.
Spoto, Donald. The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock. Boston: Little, Brown, 1983.
Taylor, John Russell. Hitch: The Life and Times of Alfred Hitchcock. New York: Pantheon Books, 1978.
Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980), was a film director famous for skillfully wrought suspense thrillers. He was essentially concerned with depicting the tenuous relations between people and objects and rendering the terror inherent in commonplace realities.
Born into a working class family in London, Alfred Hitchcock attended St. Ignatius' College to prepare for the ministry. However, rebelling against his Catholic upbringing, he fled to the Bohemian seacoast in 1921. He soon involved himself in motion picture production, receiving valuable training with the British division of Famous Players Lasky. In 1923 he began writing scenarios for the Gainsborough Film Studios.
Hitchcock's first film, The Lodger (1925), an exciting treatment of the Jack the Ripper story, was followed by Blackmail (1930), the first British talking picture. Some think that Hitchcock's next films, The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), and The Thirty-Nine Steps (1935), were responsible for the renaissance in British movie making during the early 1930s.
Fame Spread in Hollywood
In 1939 Hitchcock left England with his wife and daughter to settle in Hollywood. For the most part, his American films of the 1940s were expensively produced and stylishly entertaining. These included Rebecca (1940), based on a best-selling suspense novel; Suspicion (1941), about a woman who believes her husband is a murderer; Shadow of a Doubt (1943), the tale of a small-town psychopath diabolically masquerading as a Good Samaritan; Lifeboat (1944), a heavy-handed study of survival on the open seas; and Spellbound (1945), a murder mystery about psychoanalysts. Less ambitious but more accomplished was Notorious (1946), praised for its rendering of place and atmosphere. Hitchcock's first decade in Hollywood ended with two interesting failures: The Paradine Case (1947) and Rope (1948).
Hitchcock Became Master of Suspense
Beginning with the bizarre Strangers on a Train (1951), Hitchcock directed a series of films that placed him among the great artists of modern cinema. His productions of the 1950s were stylistically freer than his earlier films and thematically more complex. His most significant films during that time were I Confess (1953), Rear Window (1954), To Catch a Thief (1955), The Trouble with Harry (1956), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), Vertigo (1958), and North by Northwest (1959).
Psycho (1960) was Hitchcock's most terrifying and controversial film, and made an entire generation of moviegoers nervous about taking a shower. The Birds (1963), Marnie (1964), and Family Plot (1976) were Hitchcock's final and less brilliant films. Hitchcock also expanded his directing career into American television, with a series that featured mini-thrillers (1955-1965). Because of failing health, he retired from directing after Family Plot. He was knighted in 1979 and died soon afterward in Los Angeles on April 29, 1980.
Hitchcock Renaissance in the 1990s
Hitchcock's films enjoyed newfound popularity in the 1990s. After a restored print of Vertigo was released in 1996 and became surprisingly successful, plans were made to re-release other films, such as Strangers on a Train. According to Entertainment Weekly, as of 1997 plans were underway to remake as many as half a dozen Hitchcock films with new casts, an idea that met with mixed responses from Hitchcock fans.
The finest critical study of Hitchcock's films is by the French critic and film maker François Truffaut, Hitchcock (1966; trans. 1967). Other valuable treatments are Robin Wood, Hitchcock's Films (1965; 2d ed. 1969), and George Perry, The Films of Alfred Hitchcock (1965). For analysis of Hitchcock's work from his silent films to the early 1960s see the relevant chapter in John Russell Taylor, Cinema Eye, Cinema Ear: Some Key Film-makers of the Sixties (1964).
Nashawaty, Chris, "Deja View, " Entertainment Weekly, Dec. 6, 1996.
Ryall, Tom, Alfred Hitchcock and the British Cinema, 2nd ed., Athlone, 1996. □