Alfred Hitchcock’s place among legendary film directors has long been secure due to a long line of classics stretching from gems like The 39 Steps (1935) and The Lady Vanishes (1938), to the films that reigned Hollywood for the next 30 years; including Notorious ( 1946 ), Rear Window ( 1954 ), Psycho (1960) and The Birds ( 1963 ). He created stylish, beautifully constructed, and visually opulent films that masterfully showcased the period’s most alluring stars; including Ingrid Bergman, Grace Kelly, Cary Grant, and James Stewart. No filmmaker has paralleled his popularity and critical acclaim within their own lifetime.
Born in London on August 13, 1899, Alfred Hitchcock worked for a short time in engineering before entering the film industry in 1920. Hitchcock studied engineering at St. Ignatius College in London and quickly obtained a job as a draftsman and advertising designer for the cable company Henley's. It was while working at Henley's that he began to write, submitting short articles for the in-house publication. From his very first piece, he employed themes of false accusations, conflicted emotions and twist endings with impressive skill. In 1920, Hitchcock entered the film industry with a full-time position at the Famous Players-Lasky Company designing title cards for silent films. Within a few years, he was working as an assistant director.
In 1925, Hitchcock directed his first film and began making the "thrillers" for which he became known the world over. His 1929 film Blackmail is said to be the first British "talkie." In the 1930s, he directed such classic suspense films as The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) and The 39 Steps (1935). He left for Hollywood in 1939, where his first American film, Rebecca, won an Academy Award for best picture.
Hitchcock's films during the 1940s were diverse, ranging from the romantic comedy Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941) to the courtroom drama The Paradine Case(1947) to the dark and disturbing film noir Shadow of a Doubt (1943). Suspicion (1941) marked Hitchcock's first film as both a producer as well as director. Although the film was set in England Hitchcock used the north coast of Santa Cruz, California, for the English coastline. This film was Cary Grant's first picture with Hitchcock, and it is notable as one of the few times that Grant would be cast in a sinister role.
The 1950's was an amazingly productive decade for Hitchcock. He made several films that would become minor classics including; Dial "M" for Murder (1954), Strangers on a Train (1954), and To Catch a Thief (1955). He also made four movies that are considered to be some of his best work: Rear Window (1954), Vertigo (1958), and North by Northwest (1959).
North by Northwest 1959
In 1960 Hitchcock created his best known film, Psycho. Psycho was a low budget film for Hitchcock with a budget of $800,000; it was shot in black-and-white on a sparse set. The unprecedented violence of the shower scene, the early death of the heroine, and the innocent lives snuffed out by a disturbed murderer became the defining hallmarks of Hitchcock's new horror genre. Psycho was followed by The Birds (1963) and the romantic psychological drama Marnie (1964).
By the 1970's Hitchcock's career was winding down. Frenzy was released in 1972, a tale centered around a string of "Necktie Murders". His final film was released in 1976 with Family Plot. He received the American Film Institute's Life Achievement Award in 1979. One year later, on April 29, 1980, Hitchcock died peacefully in his sleep in Bel Air, California. He was survived by his lifetime partner, assistant director and closest collaborator, Alma Reville, also known as "Lady Hitchcock," who died in 1982.