Born August 13, 1899, in London, Alfred Joseph Hitchcock's early life had its quirks; he was often made to address mom for hours as she sat in bed, and
dad once punished him by having the police lock him up! Both events would later play into his work. While working for a telegraph company, he developed
an interest in photography; shifting into designing title cards for an early branch of Paramount, Hitch first looked through the lens for the unfinished
Number 13 (1922). Moving to Berlin, he made his formal debut with The Pleasure Garden (1925). Though it bombed, he came back with the F.W.
Murnau-influenced The Lodger (1927), incorporating Expressionist techniques and exploring his 'innocent man' theme for the first time. It'd also mark
the first of Hitchcock's many playful cameos.
A pioneer, Hitchcock made Blackmail (1929), one of the UK's first soundies, and The 39 Steps (1935), which introduced the Macguffin'a plot device that
seems vital to the story, but has little to do with the film's meaning. Clever and strange, The Lady Vanishes (1938) was his last film before moving to
the States, where he directed the gothic Rebecca (1940); it later won Best Picture (surprisingly, Hitch was nominated five times for Best Director, but
never won). A laundry list of favorites followed, and after Saboteur (1942), film companies started using Hitchcock's name in the title. Seeming to
delight in the technical challenges of filmmaking, Hitchcock made use of the smallest set ever for Lifeboat (1944)'and yet still managed a cameo, his
picture appearing in a prop newspaper.
As fast as you can say 'action!' Hitchcock continued to push the envelope. Spellbound (1945) featured a dream sequence conceived by Salvador Dali; in
Rope (1948), his first color film, he experimented with extra-long takes. Hitch next added Stage Fright (1950), Strangers on a Train (1951), Dial M for
Murder (1954), Rear Window (1954) and To Catch a Thief (1955) to a growing suspense-thriller resume before the TV series Alfred Hitchcock Presents
(1955) brought him to new heights. Incidentally, the now-famous silhouette at the beginning of the show was his own design, originally drawn for a
Still, the best was yet to come! Vertigo (1958) and North by Northwest (1959) are praised to this day. But the crown jewel has to be Psycho (1960);
produced with a mere $800,000, it remains a masterpiece of unprecedented violence'and who can forget the shower scene and its screeching violins? The
Birds (1963), another well-received film, was one of the first to use an electronically produced score. While his pace slowed, Hitchcock's later
output included Marnie (1964), Torn Curtain (1966) and Topaz (1969). In 1972, he revisited London to film Frenzy, his last major hit (and the first to
use nudity and profanity). His last film was Family Plot (1976). Hitchcock received AFI's Life Achievement Award in 1979 and died on April 29, 1980,
after a lifetime of cinematic genius.
Critics' Choice Video applauds Hitchcock'the Master of Suspense!