Alfred Hitchcock

ALFRED HITCHCOCK He was known to his audiences as the ‘Master of Suspense’ and what Hitchcock mastered was not only the art of making films but also the task of taming his own imagination. Director of many works such as Vertigo, Psycho, The Birds and The 39 steps, Hitchcock told his stories through intelligent plots, witty dialogue and tales of mystery and murder. In doing so, he inspired a new generation of film makers and revolutionized the thriller film, making him a legend around the world. His brilliance was sometimes too bright: He was hated as well as loved. Hitchcock was unusual, inventive, impassioned, yet demanding.

Alfred Joseph Hitchcock was born on August 13, 1899(Sennet 108). His birthplace is Leytonstone, England(Sennet 108).He went to St. Ignatius College in London England where he learned to excel in many things(Sennet 110). Not only was Alfred Hitchcock a film director but he was also a screen writer and a film producer.

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He began his film making career in 1919 illustrating title cards for silent films at Paramount’s Famous Players-Lasky studio in London(Philips 50). There he learned scripting, editing and art direction, and rose to assistant director in 1922.That year he directed an unfinished film, MRS. PEABODY. His first completed film as director was THE PLEASURE GARDEN (1925), an Anglo-German production filmed in Munich(Spoto 41).

In 1926, Hitchcock created the film that would set off his career, THE LODGER, his breakthrough film, was a prototypical example of the classic Hitchcock plot: an innocent protagonist is falsely accused of a crime.(Spoto 45). In 1929, Alfred made his first sound film, BLACKMAIL.In this story of a woman who stabs an artist to death when he tries to seduce her, Hitchcock emphasized the young woman’s anxiety by gradually distorting all but one wordknifeof a neighbor’s dialogue the morning after the killing(Spoto 56). Here and in MURDER! (1930), Hitchcock first made the link between sex and violence. THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1934), a commercial and critical success, established a favorite pattern: an investigation of family relationships within a suspenseful story.

(Spoto 70). THE 39 STEPS (1935) showcases a more mature Hitchcock; it is an efficiently told chase film containing exciting incidents and memorable characters. In 1938, Hitchcock created another film, THE LADY VANISHES.

This is a sleek, fast-paced, and magnificently entertaining film. Hitchcock’s last British film, JAMAICA INN (1939), and his first Hollywood effort, REBECCA (1940), were both handsomely mounted though somewhat uncharacteristic works based on novels by Daphne du Maurier(Spoto 82). Despite its somewhat muddled narrative, FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (1940) was the first Hollywood film in his recognizable style. SUSPICION (1941), the story of a woman who thinks her husband is a murderer about to make her his next victim, was an exploration of family dynamics; its introduction of evil into the domestic arena foreshadowed SHADOW OF A DOUBT (1943), Hitchcock’s early Hollywood masterwork.

(Spoto 87). Hitchcock would return to the feminine sacrifice-of-identity theme several times, most immediately with the masterful NOTORIOUS (1946), a love story about an FBI agent who must send the woman he loves into the arms of a Nazi in order to uncover an espionage ring. Other psychological dramas of the late 1940s were SPELLBOUND (1945), THE PARADINE CASE (1948), and UNDER CAPRICORN (1949). Both LIFEBOAT (1944) and ROPE (1948) were interesting technical exercises.

In ROPE, Hitchcock sought to make a film that appeared to be a single, unedited shot. ROPE shared with the more effective STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (1951), a villain intent on committing the perfect murder(Spoto 121).During his most inspired period, from 1950 to 1960, Hitchcock produced a cycle of memorable films which included minor works such as I CONFESS (1953), the classy thrillers DIAL M FOR MURDER (1954) and TO CATCH A THIEF (1955), THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1956) and the black comedy THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY (1955). He also directed several top-drawer films like STRANGERS ON A TRAIN and THE WRONG MAN (1956), a critique of the American justice system. His three masterpieces of the period were investigations into the very nature of watching cinema. In 1954, Hitchcock created REAR WINDOW. This film made viewers voyeurs, then had them pay for their pleasure.(Spoto 160).

This story of a photographer who happens to witness a murder was a huge success. VERTIGO (1958), as haunting a movie as Hollywood has ever produced at the time, took the lost-feminine-identity theme of SHADOW OF A DOUBT and NOTORIOUS and identified its cause as male fetishism. However, NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959) is perhaps Hitchcock’s most fully realized film of the period. this exciting chase movie is full of all the things for which many remember Hitchcock: ingenious shots, subtle male-female relationships, dramatic score, bright color, inside jokes, witty symbolism andabove allmasterfully orchestrated suspense.(Spoto 173). Films created in Hitchcocks later years included THE BIRDS (1963).

This film presented evil as an environmental fact of life. It is also one of Hitchcocks more popular films. In 1964, he created MARNIE. Hitchcock’s disappointing TOPAZ (1969), an unfocused story set during the Cuban missile crisis, was not of his typical narrative economy and wit. He returned to England to produce FRENZY (1972), a tale much more in the Hitchcock style, about an innocent man suspected of being a serial killer. His final film, FAMILY PLOT (1976), pitted two couples against one another: a pair of professional thieves versus a female psychic and her working-class lover.

It was a fitting end to a body of work that demonstrated the eternal symmetry of good and evil.(Spoto 180).Perhaps no other film changed Hollywood’s perception of the horror film as drastically as did PSYCHO. More surprising is the fact that this horror classic was directed by Alfred Hitchcock, a film maker who never relied upon shock values until this film. Here Hitchcock indulged in nudity, blood baths, necrophilia, transvestitism, schizophrenia, and a host of other taboos and got away with it, simply because he was Hitchcock.

(Rebello 31). The great director clouded his intent and motives by reportedly stating that the entire film was nothing more than one huge joke(Rebello 32). No one laughed; Instead they cringed in their seats, waiting for the next assault on their senses.

The violence and bloodletting of PSYCHO may look tame to those who have grown up on Freddy Krueger and Jason, but no one had ever seen anything like it in 1960.Inspired by the life of the demented, cannibalistic Wisconsin killer Ed Gein (whose heinous acts would also inspire THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, 1974 and DERANGED, 1974)(Rebello 30), PSYCHO is probably Hitchcock’s most gruesome and dark film. PSYCHO’s enduring influence comes not only from the Norman Bates character, but also from the psychological themes Hitchcock develops. Enhancing the sustained fright of this film are an excellent cast, from which the director coaxes extraordinary performances, and Bernard Herrmann’s chilling score.(Rebello 60).

Especially effective is the composer’s so-called murder music, high-pitched screeching sounds that flash across the viewer’s consciousness as quickly as the killer’s deadly knife. Bernard Herrmann achieved this effect by having a group of violinists frantically saw the same notes over and over again(Rebello 62). Hitchcock really shocked Paramount when he demanded that he be allowed to film the sleazy, sensational novel that Robert Bloch based on the Gein killings.Bloch’s subject matter and characters were far from the sophisticated homicide and refined characters usually found in Hitchcock’s films, but the filmmaker kept after the studio’s front office until the executives agreed. He was told, however, that he would have to shoot the film on an extremely limited budgetno more than $800,000.

Surprisingly, Hitchcock accepted the budget restrictions and went ahead with the film, utilizing television technical people, who were less expensive than standard Hollywood crews(Rebello 89). Moreover, the director, realizing that Paramount expected this to be his first box-office failure, proposed that he finance the film with his own money in return for 60 percent of the profits. Relieved that this wouldnt be a big loss, Paramount agreed to act as the film’s distributor. But even Hitchcock’s close associates refused to believe that he was making a wise decision.His longtime associate producer, Joan Harrison, refused to take points in this film, opting for a direct salary, telling him You’re on your own on this one, Hitch.(Rebello 95).

After rejecting writer James Cavanaugh’s adaptation of the Bloch novel, Hitchcock, at the urging of MCA, met briefly with writer Joseph Stefano, who had only one screenplay credit, THE BLACK ORCHID (1959), a less-than-inspiring film starring Sophia Loren and Anthony Quinn(Rebello 104). Although he had expressed doubts about Stefano, Hitchcock changed his mind after meeting the writer and gave him the green light. When Stefano told Hitchcock that he could not work up much sym …