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Hitchcock100 Monday, 9 August, 1999, 17:42 GMT 18:42 UK
Hitchcock: A life in film
Alfred Hitchcock
The safest hands in Hollywood: Even his flops were classics
Alfred Hitchcock's career spanned more than half a century, from the silent era to the mid 70s.

Hitchcock 100
His 50-plus films included some of the most popular and innovative ever made and securing Hitchcock's reputation as a pioneer of cinematic art.

Hitch was born in east London. On leaving Jesuit school, he took a job with a cable company. After work he enrolled in art classes.

In 1920 he took his first step towards fame, joining the London branch of Hollywood's Famous Players-Lasky (Paramount).

His first crack at directing came in 1922, when one of the directors fell ill, leaving Hitchcock to complete Always Tell Your Wife.

Hitchcock's rapid rise

Next came Number 13, which proved unlucky because it had to be scrapped when the studio was taken over.

Hitchcock
British film's 'wonderboy'
His film career finally took off with The Pleasure Garden in 1925, moving into the sound era with 1929's Blackmail.

Within a few years he had established himself as Britain's top film maker, thanks to hits like The Man Who Knew Too Much and The 39 Steps.

The Hitchcock style was visible even then. Gripping suspense and sinister currents beneath the outwardly ordinary.

The lure of Hollywood

In 1940, Hitchcock was lured to Hollywood, where he believed higher technical standards prevailed than in Britain.

His first venture there was Rebecca, an adaptation of the Daphne Du Maurier romantic novel.

It won the Oscar for best picture that year and Hitchcock was also nominated for an Oscar as best director.

The 40s were years of hits and misses for Hitchcock, but plenty of innovation.

His 1945 thriller Spellbound was notable for the famous dream sequence, designed by the artist Salvador Dali.

In 1948, he made Rope, an experiment in continuous shooting in which unusually long takes were interrupted only when the camera had to be reloaded.

The golden years

The 1950s were Hitch's golden era, when his talent reached full fruition.

A string of classics came from the master film maker. Rear Window, Vertigo and North by Northwest were among the biggest hits.

They helped cement the reputations of leading players like Cary Grant, James Stewart and Grace Kelly.

Towards the end of the 50s Hitchcock decided on a change of direction. The glossy, glamorous thrillers were replaced by the low- budget, black and white classic Psycho.

Released in 1960, it was a huge success. Though boosted by clever marketing, behind the hype it was an undoubted masterwork.

It was followed in 1963 by another hit, The Birds. The next year brought a blow. Marnie, with Sean Connery, bombed at the box office.

Fade follows Frenzy

Hitchcock's pace slowed during the 70s; he made only two movies. Frenzy was followed in 1976 by Family Plot, which proved to be his last film.

Hitchcock's heavy jowls and rotund figure were familiar to audiences around the world. He made cameo appearances in his films and delivered cryptic personal introductions to his TV series.

A familiar face

The cameos began in the 1926 film, The Lodger. Hitchcock made this brief appearance because another body was needed to fill the screen.

They soon became a trademark. He often cropped up early, so audiences would not be distracted from the plot, watching out for him.

He produced and hosted two mystery series for television; Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955-62) and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (1962-1965).

He is among the most analysed and studied of film directors. His method rarely changed. He drew up a storyboard from the script and planned each scene in careful detail.

No time for egos

James Stewart
Vertigo raised James Stewart to new heights
Actors were just part of the overall process and he had no truck with improvisation or the fragile egos of some Hollywood stars.

He was a man of obsession. Biographers have traced the theme of guilt in his movies back to his education by the Jesuits.

He frequently cast his leading ladies as cool blondes. Grace Kelly, Eva Marie Saint and Kim Novak all fitted the part perfectly.

Strong women were important in his life. He married Alma Reville in 1926. She was a film editor and script girl who would later collaborate as a screenwriter on many of his films.

Ignored by Oscar

Despite his success, Hitchcock felt undervalued in Hollywood; where he was seen as an entertainer rather than an artist.

He was nominated for five best director Oscars in his career. Rebecca, Lifeboat, Spellbound, Rear Window and Psycho. He lost every time.

The Academy finally gave him the Irving Thalberg Memorial Award in then late 60s.

He was treated with much more reverence in Europe, where he was idolised by young directors like Francois Truffaut.

His genius was recognised in Britain when he was knighted in the New Year's Honours list of 1980, four months before he died at the age of 80.

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Hitch on his first job
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Hitchcock on Psycho
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Hitch on his Hollywood lifestyle
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Hitchcock on his American audience
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