His career spanned over half a century and he quickly established a distinctive directorial style, pioneering camera moves (especially POV shots, to create a sense of voyeurism), shot framing and innovative editing techniques and many sleight-of-hand effects (most noticeably his use of matte paintings, which I blogged about here). Best known for his mystery/suspense films, often with twist endings and a blunt view of violence, he frequently used "MacGuffins", a plot device with little or no relevance. As Hitchcock explained, "...in crook stories it is almost always the necklace and in spy stories it is most always the papers" saying to François Truffaut in their 1966 interview, "so you see that a MacGuffin is actually nothing at all."
He moved to Hollywood in 1939, feted as England's Best Director and became a US citizen in 1955. Considered one of the most influential directors of all time, his work laid a template for suspense films that is still being followed and yet there was always a touch of humour to his work (however dark), such as his cameo appearances at the start of each film.
A major voice in film and TV, not to mention books and anthologies, Hitchcock's last film was Family Plot in 1976 and he died of renal failure on April 29th 1980.
|me, with the Madame Tussauds model of Hitchcock, London 2003
I can't remember which of his films I saw first - I hope it was Psycho, but it was probably North By Northwest or The Birds - but I do know that I was an instant fan of his and some of his films - those already mentioned plus Rear Window, Vertigo and Frenzy - feature heavily in my list of favourites.
To mark the occasion of his birthday, here's a selection of photographs (from my favourite films) of the Master at work.
Rear Window (1954)
|With James Stewart and Grace Kelly on the fantastic set
|With Kim Novak - I find this film unpleasant but can admire the artistry of it
|With Cary Grant
|With Janet Leigh during the shower scene
|With Anthony Perkins
|With screenwriter Evan Hunter (aka Ed McBain), who also wrote "Marnie"
|Hitchcock's wife, Alma Reville, with the head that was due to be seen in the Thames (originally as his cameo appearance in the film)
|With Barry Foster ("Lovely...") in Covent Garden
Thanks for the entertainment, good sir.