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(born Aug. 13, 1899, London—died April 29, 1980, Bel Air, Calif., U.S.) English-born motion-picture director whose suspenseful films won immense popularity.

The son of a London poultry dealer, Hitchcock attended St. Ignatius College, London, and the University of London, where he studied engineering. In 1920 he began to work in the motion-picture industry, designing title cards for the Famous Players-Lasky Company. Within a few years he had become a scenario writer and an assistant director, and he directed his first film (The Pleasure Garden) in 1925. With The Lodger (1926), the story of a family who mistakenly suspect their roomer to be Jack the Ripper, Hitchcock began making the “thrillers” with which he was to become identified. His Blackmail (1929) was the first successful British talking picture. During the 1930s he directed such classic suspense films as The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), The Thirty-nine Steps (1935), Sabotage (1936), and The Lady Vanishes (1938). In 1939 Hitchcock left England for Hollywood, where his first film, Rebecca (1940), won an Academy Award for best picture.

During the next three decades Hitchcock usually made a film a year in the Hollywood motion-picture system. Among the important films he directed during the 1940s were Suspicion (1941), Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Lifeboat (1944), Spellbound (1945), and Rope (1948). He began functioning as his own producer in 1948, and he went on in the 1950s to make a series of big-budget suspense films starring some of the leading actors and actresses of Hollywood. These films include Strangers on a Train (1951), Dial M for Murder (1954), Rear Window (1954), To Catch a Thief (1954), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1955; a remake of the 1934 film), Vertigo (1958), and North by Northwest (1959). In the 1960s Hitchcock turned to making thrillers with new and original emphases, among them Psycho (1960), The Birds (1963), and Marnie (1964). His Torn Curtain (1966) and Topaz (1969) are conventional espionage stories, while in his last films, Frenzy (1972) and Family Plot (1976), he returned to his original themes. From the 1940s on Hitchcock usually made a fleeting, wordless appearance in a bit part in each of his films.

Hitchcock's films usually centre on either murder or espionage, with deception, mistaken identities, and chase sequences complicating and enlivening the plot. Wry touches of humour and occasional intrusions of the macabre complete this mixture of cinematic elements. Three main themes predominate in Hitchcock's films. The most common is that of the innocent man who is mistakenly suspected or accused of a crime and who must then track down the real perpetrator in order to clear himself. Examples of films having this theme include The Lodger, The Thirty-nine Steps, Saboteur, Strangers on a Train, I Confess, To Catch a Thief, The Wrong Man, North by Northwest, and Frenzy. The second theme is that of the guilty woman who enmeshes a male protagonist and ends up either destroying him or being saved by him; examples of this theme include Blackmail, Sabotage, Notorious, Rebecca, Vertigo, and Marnie. The third theme is that of the (frequently psychopathic) murderer whose identity is established during the working out of the plot; examples of this theme include Shadow of a Doubt, Rope, Rear Window, and Psycho. The psychopathic killer theme may sometimes be combined with the plot of the falsely accused innocent man, as in Frenzy.

Hitchcock's greatest gift was his mastery of the technical means to build and maintain suspense. To this end he used innovative camera viewpoints and movements, elaborate editing techniques, and effective soundtrack music. He had a sound grasp of human psychology, as manifested both in his credible treatment of everyday life and in the tense and nightmarish situations encountered in his more chilling films. His ability to convincingly evoke human menace, subterfuge, and fear gave his psychological thrillers great impact while maintaining their subtlety and believability.

Hitchcock produced several popular American television series in the 1950s and '60s, which he introduced and sometimes directed. His name also appeared on a series of mystery-story anthologies. He received the American Film Institute's Life Achievement Award in 1979 and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1980.


Copyright © 1994-2009 Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
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Quick Tip by . August 24, 2010
Understandably he's not for everyone, and without variety it'd be a boring world. But this man has entertained and educated me like no other.
review by . October 02, 2009
Hitchcock 1
"Alfred Hitchcock made murder into an art form.  His thrillers are the most profound and widely imitated in films, not only because of the ingenuity of the plotting but because of his remarkable understanding of violent passion.  Hitchcock reveled in the label of "Master of Suspense" but he was master of much more than that."          For me, this quotation from Neil Sinyard's 1985 book "Directors:  The All-Time …
review by . May 19, 2009
A History of Icky (Hitchcock's Influence On The Beloved Horror Genre)
Throughout the history of great Horror films, one has to actually stop & wonder where the true inspirations came from for the so-called "slasher" films. Who created the first slasher film? What thoughts must've ran through their heads when they sat down to write these grisly pieces of entertainment? To whom do we owe the greatest honor & respect?      Personally, I don't believe there is a single Director out there either living or dead who didn't owe a huge …
review by . May 27, 2009
Frenzy
     Alfred Hitchcock is most definitely one of my favorite directors of all time.  His movies although older are still relevant and brilliant.  Some of his earlier films can be rather drag but once he came into his own all of his films were on point.  He even remade one of his own films "The Man Who Knew Too Much" because he said that his first version in 1934 was "the work of an amateur".         I have seen plenty of Hitchcock …
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