The acknowledged master of the thriller genre he virtually invented, Alfred Hitchcock was also a brilliant technician who deftly blended sex, suspense and humor. He began his filmmaking career in 1919 illustrating title cards for silent films at Paramount’s Famous Players-Lasky studio in London. There he learned scripting, editing and art direction, and rose to assistant director in 1922. The Lodger (1926), his breakthrough film, was a prototypical example of the classic Hitchcock plot. It was due in no small part to Hitchcock’s visual imagination that the British critics hailed The Lodger as a landmark British film upon its release. However, it was less well received in the U.S. when it was released in June 1928, under the title ‘The Case of Jonathan Drew’.
Hitchcock once said that he was sent by his father to the local police station with a note asking the officer to lock him away for 10 minutes as punishment for behaving badly. He also remarked that his mother would force him to stand at the foot of her bed for several hours as punishment (a scene alluded to in his film Psycho). This idea of being harshly treated or wrongfully accused would later be reflected in Hitchcock’s films.
His 1929 film Blackmail is said to be the first British “talkie.” In the 1930s, he directed such classic suspense films as The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) and The 39 Steps (1935). In 1939, Hitchcock left England for Hollywood. The first film he made there, Rebecca (1940), won an Academy Award for best picture. Some of his most famous films include Psycho (1960) – shower murder scene, The Birds (1963) and Marnie (1964). His works became renowned for their depictions of violence, although many of his plots merely function as decoys meant to serve as a tool for understanding complex psychological characters. His cameo appearances in his own films, as well as his interviews, film trailers and the television program Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1962-65), made him a cultural icon. Hitchcock directed more than 50 feature films in a career spanning six decades. He received the American Film Institute’s Life Achievement Award in 1979.