The shower scene in Psycho. The biplane chase in North by Northwest. The gas station attack in The Birds. They’re some of the most memorable and terrifying scenes in cinema history—and they came from the mind of one man: Alfred Hitchcock. The Master of Suspense, who went by the nickname “Hitch,” is also one of the most recognizable Hollywood icons, and his life was as fascinating as his films.
Alfred Hitchcock's prolific film-making career spanned over half a century - he began making movies in 1921 and made his last film, Family Plot, in 1976. His unique cinematic style in the genre of psychological thrillers and suspense movies earned him the title of Master of Suspense.
In addition to making movies, Hitchcock created and hosted a television series called Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
Alfred Hitchcock was born in Leytonstone, England on August 13, 1899. He was the youngest of three children born to William and Emma Jane Hitchcock.
After attending a technical school at 15, Hitchcock spent the first years of his career as a draftsman, advertising designer, and writer. An interest in photography led to him working in London's film industry, first as a title card designer for silent movies and, just five years later, as a director.
In 1924, Hitchcock and his wife Alma were sent to Germany by Gainsborough Pictures—the British production company where he was under contract—to work on two Anglo-German films called The Prude’s Fall and The Blackguard. While working in Neubabelsberg, Hitchcock was taken under the wing of expressionist filmmaker F.W. Murnau, who created the chilling Dracula adaptation Nosferatu, and was shooting a silent film called The Last Laugh. “From Murnau,” Hitchcock later said, “I learned how to tell a story without words.”
Hitchcock quickly gained notoriety as a director who delivered suspense, twist endings, and dark subject matter. His own personality and gallows humor were embedded in popular culture through interviews, film trailers, and cameo appearances in his own films. He was popular with audiences at home and abroad, and in 1939 the Hitchcock family moved to Hollywood. In the three decades that followed he would cement his legacy by directing and producing his most successful and enduring works. His television anthology, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, ran from 1955 to 1965 and made him a household name.
During his career, he created over fifty feature films in a career that saw not only the development of Hitchcock's own distinctive directorial style, but also landmark innovations in cinema. In 1929, Blackmail was his first feature film with sound and in 1948, his first colour film was Rope. Hitchcock himself has been credited with pioneering many camera and editing techniques for peers and aspiring directors to emulate.
The most constant image in Hitchcock’s films seem to be Hitchcock himself. The filmmaker perfected the art of the cameo, making blink-and-you’ll-miss-them appearances in 39 of his own films.
Hitchcock collected many professional accolades including two Golden Globes, eight Laurel Awards, and five lifetime achievement awards. He was a five-time Academy Award nominee for Best Director and in 1940, his film Rebecca won the Oscar for Best Picture. In 1980, he received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II.