“Drama is life with the dull bits left out”
These words are spoken by Alfred Hitchcock, who is one of the most intriguing personalities to ever have lived. He made a successful career by scaring people; to him psycho was a huge comedy. An English film director, writer and producer Alfred Hitchcock pioneered many techniques in the suspense and psychological thriller genres. As his birth anniversary passes (13th August, 1899) we take a walk down the memory lane called The Master of Suspense.
Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock was born in Leytonstone (now part of London), England into the modest family of William and Emma Jane Hitchcock. The youngest of the three siblings, Alfred had a very sheltered and strict Roman Catholic upbringing. Once his father sent him to the local police station with a note asking the officer to lock him away for 5-10 minutes for behaving badly and as a form of punishment, Alfred’s mother would force him to stand at the foot of her bed for several hours. These harshly treated incidents have later reflected in Hitchcock’s movies.
Alfred was 15, when his father passed away; he left St. Ignatius to study at the London County Council School of Engineering and Navigation in Poplar, London. He acquired a job as a draftsman and advertising designer for the cable company Henley’s. It was around this time that he began writing and submitting his short-story for in-house publications. Themes of false accusations, conflicts and fear were present in his stories from the start.
He officially entered the film industry in the year 1920 when he landed a full-time position at the Famous Players-Lasky Company designing title cards for silent films. Two years later he rose to the position of an assisting director. He got his first chance to direct in 1923, when one of the directors fell ill. Impressed with his work the studio gave him another chance with the movie Number 13, but before the movie could be completed the studio was closed. Hitchcock was then hired by Michael Balcon. Some of his initial movies were The Pleasure Garden and The Mountain Eagle that did not work well.
His luck smiled at him with his first thriller, The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog, and after that there was no stopping the man! In 1929, he made Blackmail, his first talkie movie and is also to be the first British sound feature film. The Man Who Knew Too Much, The 39 Steps and The Lady Vanishes are some of his movies that have made him immortal. He has career is at least half a century long in which he blended the themes of fear and fantasy with perfection.
Hitchcock, during his time was adored more by his audience than the critics. He had a sharp sense of humor, a trait visible in his movies. He made the phrase ‘actors are cattle’; he believed they should be treated like one. ‘Rebecca’ was the only movie to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, although four of his films have been nominated. He was awarded the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for lifetime achievement in 1967. He made the shower murder sequence a classic from his film Psycho, which is probably his most remembered film and fine example proving him The Master of Suspense!