Alfred Hitchcock Bio: A Profile of that Famous Profile
Alfred Joseph Hitchcock
Born: August, 13 1899, London
Died: April, 29 1980, Los Angeles
One of the most famous— and possibly apocryphal– Hitchcock anecdotes concerns a five-year-old Alfred Hitchcock, sent to the local police station with a note from his father after some mischief-making.
After reading the note, a sergeant put young Alfred in a cell, and left him there for a few agonizing moments.
The policeman returned and let Alfred go, only to tell him, “This is what we do to naughty boys.”
True or not, this story and Hitchcock’s Roman Catholic background encompass all the themes Hitchcock would later put in his work– terror inflicted upon the unknowing, and sometimes innocent victim; guilt (both real guilt and the appearance of it); fear, and redemption.
A devout Catholic who attended church regularly throughout his life, Hitchcock was the son of greengrocers William and Emma Hitchcock and grew up with his older siblings, William and Ellen Kathleen in Leytonstone, part of London’s East End.
Fascinated by numbers and technology, Alfred was educated at the Jesuits’ St. Ignatius College, but left school at 16 to study engineering and navigation at the University of London.
Three years later, he started work as an estimator at Henley Telegraph Company. Hitchcock moved into the advertising department shortly after.
Hitchcock’s keen interest in cinema and art happily coincided with a job opening at Paramount studios in London as a title designer for silent films. He worked his way up to assistant director and in 1922, at the age of 22, started work on the film No. 13.
While the film was never finished, Hitchcock met his future wife, Alma Reville during production, and married her in December of 1926. He and Alma would go on to collaborate on all his projects, including Hitchcock’s own personal favorite, Shadow of a Doubt. (Their daughter Patricia worked as an actress, and had parts in Psycho and Strangers on a Train).
With The Pleasure Garden (1925), Hitchcock debuted as a director. His next film, The Lodger (1926), was a success and launched his career in England. He soon became the most successful and highest-paid director in England.
As the onset of World War II loomed over Europe, Hitchcock emigrated to the U.S. to direct Rebecca (1940). While the film won an Oscar, Hitchcock did not win for Best Director (and never would, although he would receive honorary Oscars.)
1950-1960 was an amazingly productive decade for Hitchcock. He made several films that would become minor classics (Dial “M” for Murder, To Catch a Thief, Strangers on a Train) and four masterpieces: Rear Window, Vertigo, North by Northwest, and Psycho.
1955 was an auspicious year for Alfred Hitchcock– he became a U.S. citizen and launched Alfred Hitchcock Presents, the TV show that catapulted him from lauded director and celebrity to icon. His visibility was increased by the uproar over Psycho, which upon its initial release sparked endless debate about the film’s onscreen violence.
Hitchcock wrote, produced and directed films up until 1979. His best-known later works include The Birds, Marnie, and Family Plot. Despite his penchant for murder, mayhem and shock, Alfred Hitchcock and his family led a quiet and unostentatious life, preferring the comforts of home to the Hollywood milieu around them. In the last year of his life, Hitchcock received the American Film Institute’s lifetime achievement award and was knighted in England. He died in 1980 in Los Angeles.
Hitchcock’s legacy is vast: books, tributes, film festivals, and imitators abound. Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, the monthly publication that bears his name, and other “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” anthologies, are still going strong.