|You are in: Special Report: 1999: 08/99: Hitchcock100|
Monday, 9 August, 1999, 11:13 GMT 12:13 UK
Dial A to Z for Hitchcock
Alfred Joseph Hitchcock. In a career spanning six decades, this writer, producer, director and sometime actor created upwards of 5,500 minutes of some of the most evocative cinema to ever grace celluloid.
Bernard Herrmann. He scored Vertigo, North by Northwest and Marnie. His shrieking string arrangement for Psycho is arguably famous beyond the film on a par with the "daaaaa-dums" from Jaws.
Cattle. "Actors are cattle," declared the master of suspense. This assertion prompted the star of Hitch's movie at the time, Carole Lombard, to storm off the set. Claiming he was misquoted, the director smoothed the waters by saying: "Actors should be treated like cattle."
Dimension. Dial M for Murder was filmed in 3-D. Sadly, before the 1954 film hit cinemas the fad had faded and only a "flat" print was ever shown. It was a "nine-day wonder", lamented Hitchcock, "and I came in on the ninth day".
Edward Gein. The real-life inspiration for Psycho's Norman Bates - the "Hamlet of horror films" according to Anthony Perkins. Gein would often visit the grave of his overbearing mother, to "talk" to her. In 1957 police raided Gein's Wisconsin home looking for a vanished local woman. They found body parts Gein had exhumed from graves near his mother's. He died in prison in 1984.
Frenzy. Hitchcock's penultimate film, in which he broke his own rule and showed a naked body - albeit a corpse. Up until this point he had said of nudity: "Never in my films!"
High Anxiety. Mel Brooks's 1977 spoof tribute to the Master. The movie even used locations from Vertigo. Hitchcock himself was not above spoof. His 1932 film Number Seventeen was intended as a parody of so-called "dark house thrillers".
Ice Maidens. Hitchcock certainly preferred blondes. After the loss of Grace Kelly, Hitch cast a succession of ash-haired sirens. Janet Leigh, Eva-Marie Saint and Tippi Hedren all fitted the Nordic bill: "School ma'ams... but boy when they get going!" Kim Novak had too much chill for the director - he christened her "Miss Deepfreeze".
Jump! The bell tower from which Novak was to throw herself in the finale of Vertigo was taken down before filming. Hitch filmed the rest of the mission building, adding the tower on with special effects.
Knighthood. Hitch became Sir Alfred in 1980.
Leytonstone. The east London suburb where Hitchcock was born. The site of the family home is now occupied by a petrol station.
Mother. "A boy's best friend is his mother," claims Norman Bates in Psycho. Hitch's mother Emma was supposedly "very forceful". Critics look to his relationship with her to explain the strands of misogyny and Oedipal love in this work.
Oscars. Hitchcock was nominated for six Academy Awards. He scooped... none.
Pleasure Garden. Hitchcock's 1926 debut as a director. The tale of voyeurism and sadism earned the 27-year-old the label of "boy wonder".
Questionable gifts. Always the macabre joker, Hitch thought nothing of sending Tippi Hedren's daughter a coffin as a present. The five-year-old Melanie Griffith opened the casket to find a model corpse of her mother within.
Remakes. The 39 Steps, The Lady Vanishes and Dial M for Murder have all been remade, the latter as A Perfect Murder starring Michael Douglas. Paralysed Superman star Christopher Reeve played the wheelchair-bound "Peeping Tom" in a TV version of Rear Window. Gus Van Sant's recent "replica" of Psycho was met with a particular chill. Who can blame copyists, though, when Hitch seemed keen to remake even his own films?
Trains. Rail journeys figure heavily in Hitchcock films. The director hinted at their significance in an interview about North by Northwest. "The train entering the tunnel after the love scene between Grant and Eva-Marie Saint. It's a phallic symbol. Don't tell anyone."
UFA. When the British film industry hit a rough patch in the early 20s, Hitchcock's employers struck a deal with German giant UFA to produce films together. The arrangement allowed Hitch to see how masters like Fritz Lang worked.
Vertigo. This 1958 classic was taken from the novel D'Entre Des Morts. Less than enthralled by the translation From Among the Dead, studio execs suggested The Mad Carlotta, Afraid to Love and Tonight is Ours. Hitch knew better. Stung by a lukewarm reception, he withdrew the masterpiece. It was reissued after his death.
Walk-on. Hitch made brief cameos in all his films, from 1926's The Lodger onwards. His daughter Patricia took more major roles in Stage Fright, Strangers on a Train and Psycho.
X-rated. Hitch was a puritan, sex and violence in his films was seldom truly graphic. He did feel restricted by the British censor, who he felt frowned on "authentic" depictions of UK life. "If you imply 'it can't happen here' - if you set your story in Central Europe or make you villain a foreigner - officialdom raises no objections."
Yard. Frank Webber, a Scotland Yard detective, is one of the leading characters in Hitchcock's innovative 1929 movie, Blackmail. It was the British cinema's first feature film with synchronous sound - although it had been started as a silent film.
Zanuck. Hitch had a rough ride while on loan to Darryl Zanuck's Fox studio in the early 40s. The two fought running battles over the budget for Lifeboat, with Zanuck threatening to halt filming. The movie later won Hitch an Oscar nomination.
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