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Alfred Hitchcock: 50 Years of Movie Magic
Alfred Hitchcock is among the few directors to combine a strong reputation for high-art film-making with great audience popularity. Throughout his career he gave his audiences more pleasure than could be asked for. The consistency of quality plot-lines and technical ingenuity earned him the recognition of being one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. His films earned him the reputation of being the "master of suspense", and after viewing two of his more popular films, Psycho and The Birds, it is evident why. There is a distinction between surprise, which lasts only a few seconds, and suspense which captivates one’s attention the entire length of a film. This is something that Hitchcock realized early on, and applied into his movies. He is one of the few directors whose name on a marquee is as important, if not more so, than any actor who appears in the film itself. Both his style of directing, and that of the movies that he has directed are very unique, making him stand out in the film industry. He pioneered the art of cinematography and special effects, which along with his cameos, are what he is most often associated with. Hitchcock led a long and prosperous life in the movie industry, starting as a teenager and making movies up until his death in 1980, while working on the 54th of his career (Sterrit 3).
Alfred Joseph Hitchcock was born on August 13, 1889 in London, England. As a child his parents were very strict with him and they imposed severe and unusual punishments upon him, as what they considered to be discipline. One of these incidents scarred him for life. As punishment for arriving home late one night, young Alfred’s father had a policeman friend lock the boy up in a cell for five minutes, "in order to teach him where naughty little boys who come home after 9 o’clock would eventually end up." (Phillips 27). Throughout his career he used the innocent man being arrested and imprisoned in his films, and claimed that forever after he had a fear of the police (Spoto 16). Fear was also a big part of his childhood, which later was evident in many of his movies. "Fear? It has influenced my life and my career." (18) explains Hitchcock, he also had a fear of being alone and of darkness which once again appeared in many of his movies. "...fear you see is an emotion that
people like to feel when they know they are safe." (39).
Hitchcock led a life of fantasy, and spent much of his time alone, entertaining himself because he did not have many friends growing up. He lived life as if he was on the outside looking in. Much like a person watching television or a director directing a picture. Reading was also a part of Hitchcock’s life from a young age. The novels Bleak House and Robinson Crusoe were two that stuck with him over the years. He also really enjoyed Edgar Allan Poe, stating that "Very likely it’s because I was so taken by the Poe stories that I later made suspense films." (39). In 1915 he started work for the Henley Telegraphy Company. He soon began to study art at the University of London, which led to being promoted to Henley’s advertising department to design cable ads. But Hitchcock’s true love was the movies. He hunted all over the famous Wardour Street trying to obtain a position in film-making. In 1920 a co-worker at Henley’s helped him put together a portfolio and he was hired instantly by The Famous Players-Lasky as a title designer for silent films. For two years Hitchcock wrote and designed for popular British movie directors. The hard working Hitchcock was recognized by his employers as well as leading actors of the day. In 1922 the director of Always Tell Your Wife, a film in progress, got very sick and had to leave the movie. The lead actor Seymore Hicks had to take over the duties of direction, but was stumped on ideas. The young Hitchcock assisted him with the rest of production, and a legacy had been born (Rohmer 4).
Hitchcock’s solo directorial debut, The Pleasure Garden was released in January of 1927, but
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