When it comes to suspense flicks and psychological thrillers, British filmmaker and producer Alfred Hitchcock has helmed some of the best that the world has known and seen. In this installment of American Masters, let us pay tribute to the brilliant filmmaker and pioneer who has been called "The Master of Suspense."
Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock was born on August 13, 1899 in Leytonstone, London, England, to William Hitchcock, a greengrocer and poulterer, and Emma Jane Hitchcock (nee Whelan). He shared that he had a sheltered and very lonely childhood, marked by several abusive episodes. These unpleasant experiences would eventually emerge as recurring themes in some of his films.
Hitchcock exhibited his imaginative side during his employment as a draftsman and advertising designer for Henley’s, a cable company. He started making regular short article submissions to the company’s in-house publication upon its formation in 1919. It was also during this time that Hitchcock became interested in photography, and soon began dabbling in film production in London. He worked for the London wing of the future Paramount Pictures as a title-card designer. In just five years, he rose up the ranks from title designer to film director.
After establishing an eventful career in British cinema with his silent films and early talkies, Hitchcock moved to Hollywood, and became an American citizen in 1956. He developed a style that leans towards suspense and psychological thriller, which would eventually earn him the title “The Master of Suspense.”
His first American film entitled Rebecca was released in 1940, a psychological noir thriller which earned David Selznick, the film’s producer, the Academy Award for Best Picture. Soon, Hitchcock started directing a diverse selection of films, from the romantic comedy Mr. & Mrs. Smith in 1941, to the courtroom drama The Paradine Case in 1947, to the unsettling noir film, Shadow of a Doubt in 1943 (which is Hitchcock’s personal favorite out of all his films).
The 1950s saw the peak of the Hitchcock’s career, with the brilliant director working on some popular films with Grace Kelly, such as Dial M for Murder (1954), Rear Window (1954), and To Catch a Thief (1955). Towards the last leg of the 1950s and early 1960s, Hitchcock filmed what became his best movies: North by Northwest (1959), Psycho (1960), and The Birds (1963).
To cap everything, let’s watch the iconic shower scene from Psycho below:
American Masters pays tribute to some of the best artists who have contributed award-winning works in their respective fields. Read more articles on the American Masters series.