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 it was not until three weeks later that the illustrious
career of Alfred J. Hitchcock really took off. In February of 1927 The Lodger
was released and it attracted mass audiences because of the rave reviews it
received early on. It marked the first time in British film history that a
director got more praise than