DIRECTOR PROFILE: Alfred Hitchcock

hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980)

Born: August 13, 1899 Leytonstone, London, England

Genres: Psychological Thrillers, Romantic, Mystery, Drama, Comedy, Political, Crime

Academy Awards: None. 5 nominations for Best Director.

Must See: Strangers on a Train (1951), Psycho (1960), North by North West (1959), Shadow of a Doubt (1942), The 39 Steps (1935), The Lady Vanishes (1938), Rebecca (1940), Dial M for Murder (1954), Vertigo (1958), Notorious (1946), Rear Window (1954)

Recommended: The Birds (1963), Spellbound (1945), Rope (1948)

Few entertainers could lay claim to the level of fame and recognition that Alfred Hitchcock achieved. Like Charlie Chaplin before him, Alfred Hitchcock could be immediately recognized by his appearance. He was as much a filmmaker as he was a celebrity always accepting the public attention that comes with being a famous celebrity.

Although he is well-known for being the Master of Suspense, he was by no means one-dimensional. Unlike most directors, Hitchcock was praised for his range as a film-maker who could transcend genres and even create his own. As a result, Hitchcock produced psychological thrillers, dramas, and horror films, and was successful at all three genres.

Hitchcock was accused of making ‘bourgeois’ films about elites in society, however his films often portrayed them as corrupt and manipulative. In Vertigo, for example, Gavin Ulster (Tom Helmore), who was an industry magnet, devises an intricate plan to murder his wife. Ulster deliberately set up Det. John ‘Scottie’ Ferguson (James Stewart) as a witness even if it meant possible danger on account of his psychological condition.

In Rope, the character of Brendan Shaw’s (John Dall) contempt for human life seems to represent a film-maker that was concerned about depravity. Unlike the more socially-conscious directors like Jean-Luc Godard and Sergei Eisenstein, Hitchcock had an unconventional method of showing his contempt for the social-political elite.

Much has also been mad of Hitchcock’s heavy use of murder in his films. Because of it, Hitchcock was often portrayed as a sadistic film-maker. However, what is often overlooked is the fact that murder is used as a plot device often to drive the story forward.

In Shadow of a Doubt, for example, Charlie (Teresa Wright) discovers that her uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotton) is actually a murderer. The theme that Hitchcock is presenting here, among many is the duality of mankind. The duality of human beings allows them to hide aspects of their personality even from those most important to them. In other movies like Psycho, murder is used to teach the characters and therefore the audience a valuable lesson.

There is no other director who has received greater acclaim then Alfred Hitchcock. His films produced more famous quotes and scenes then any director after or before him. What is often overlooked about is career is the fact that he was able to achieve a great degree of independence from producers that paved away for the creative surge of the 1960s and 70s. Because of this he is often cited as the most influential film-maker of all-time.

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