Alfred Hitchcock: Biography

Alfred Hitchcock is one of the most famous film directors of all time. He, himself was as mysterious as the plots of his movies.

Born to a Catholic family in London in 1899, Alfred Hitchcock endured many harrowing experiences throughout his lifetime that may have helped to fuel his fascination with the macabre. His father died when Hitchcock was only fourteen years old. He had to quit school, but continued to study and read on his own. He took evening classes, attended theater and cinema performances regularly, and he got his feet wet in the talent pool of art and writing. In 1920, Hitchcock became aware of an American film company called Famous Players-Lasky that was opening a studio in London. He was offered a position as a title designer, which he accepted, and developed a love for the art of filmmaking from there.

Hitchcock was determined to learn the ins and outs of the film industry, which led him to become an Assistant Director just three years after his introduction to the business. By 1925, he was a full-fledged director. Then, in 1921, Hitchcock met and became engaged to his first true love, Alma Reville, and they married five years later. They had one child, a daughter, born in 1928, and remained married until Hitchcock's death in 1980.

Hitchcock's first film, produced in 1927 garnered mixed reactions. The Lodger, which centered on a boarder who was suspected of murdering several women, harvested both critical and public acclaim. Yet some moviegoers were shocked by its aberrant content. The Lodger focused on such dismal topics such as murder, suspicion, and even touched upon sexual attraction. This film was prepared in the painstaking style for which Hitchcock became famous. He was dedicated to his art from the very beginning of his career. He even created storyboards with mock-ups of every shot in a film before shooting.



Hitchcock had directed a total of nine silent films and was one of Britain's leading directors when he made his first partially sound film, Blackmail, in 1929. Thirteen Hitchcock sound films followed, including Murder! (1930), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) The 39 Steps (1935), Sabotage (1936), and The Lady Vanishes (1938). By this point he had become known as Britain's top film director. Hitchcock journeyed to America in 1939, believing he would have more creative freedom. His first American film, Rebecca (1940) won an Academy Award for best film. Ironically, Hitchcock never did receive a best director award for this film, or for any of the other four films which were nominated over the years.

In America, Hitchcock was cranking out more than one movie a year, but this prolific nature abated after his direction of Psycho in 1960. Just a few of his classic pictures of this period were Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Notorious (1946), Strangers on a Train (1951), Rear Window (1954), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), Vertigo (1958), and North by Northwest (1959), all of which were concerned murder and/or espionage and their effect on personal and social relationships.

After the 1940's, Hitchcock made good on his promise to himself to begin producing films as well as directing them. However, as a result of his unending public appeal, Hitchcock did not attract the serious critical attention he deserved.

Like many writers, artists and celebrities, Hitchcock created an aura of mystery around himself, rarely revealing anything to interviewers that was more in depth than list of "technical tales" about the challenge of shooting various scenes. Yet he obviously enjoyed the appreciation of other filmmakers and considered self-promotion to be one of the keys to his professional success.

The only film aside from The Birds and Psycho that was financially successful in Hitchcock's later years was Frenzy (1972), a tale of a psychopathic murderer who could only combat his impotence by strangling women to death. Some critics accused that Hitchcock's later films lacked the dynamic power that his earlier works emanated. Some even began to downplay Hitchcock's role in his earlier successes, claiming that the screenwriters Hitchcock employed were responsible for giving his films' characters realistic personalities and motivations. Most of the western world, however, regards Alfred Hitchcock as The Master of Suspense.

Throughout his long career, Hitchcock made 53 feature-length films, he worked with scores of actors, including Ingrid Bergman and Grace Kelly, not to mention technicians, composers, publicists and studio administrators, and he created some of America's most popular and cherished films to date. Yet he frequently complained about his loneliness and his fear of death, even as he was still hailed, even in the last moments of his life, as one of the film industry's greatest directors of all time. Perhaps the darkness of his nature not only led Alfred Hitchcock to attain worldwide acclaim, but also prevented him from enjoying it.

© High Speed Ventures 2011