|170 cm (5′ 7”)
| August 13,
|Apr 29, 1980 (age 80)
|Emma Jane Hitchcock
|$6 Million (Approx.)
Does Alfred Hitchcock Dead or Alive?
As per our current Database, Alfred Hitchcock died on Apr 29, 1980 (age 80).
|170 cm (5′ 7”)
When he was about five years old, his father sent him to the police station to be locked up for five minutes for behaving poorly, hence his lifelong fear of the police.
Hitchcock was born on 13 August 1899 in the flat above his parents’ leased grocer’s shop at 517 High Road, Leytonstone, on the outskirts of east London (then part of Essex), the youngest of three children: William Daniel (1890–1943), Ellen Kathleen (“Nellie”) (1892–1979), and Alfred Joseph (1899-1980). His parents, Emma Jane Hitchcock, née Whelan (1863–1942), and William Edgar Hitchcock (1862–1914), were both Roman Catholics, with partial roots in Ireland; William was a greengrocer as his father had been.
When he was six, the family moved to Limehouse and leased two stores at 130 and 175 Salmon Lane, which they ran as a fish-and-chips shop and fishmongers’ respectively; they lived above the former. It seems that Hitchcock was seven when he attended his first school, the Howrah House Convent in Poplar, which he entered in 1907. According to Patrick McGilligan, he stayed at Howrah House for at most two years. He also attended a convent school, the Wode Street School “for the daughters of gentlemen and little boys”, run by the Faithful Companions of Jesus; briefly attended a primary school near his home; and was for a very short time, when he was nine, a boarder at Salesian College in Battersea.
The family moved again when he was 11, this time to Stepney, and on 5 October 1910 Hitchcock was sent to St Ignatius College in Stamford Hill, Tottenham (now in the London Borough of Haringey), a Jesuit grammar school with a reputation for discipline. The priests used a hard rubber cane on the boys, always at the end of the day, so the boys had to sit through classes anticipating the punishment once they knew they’d been written up for it. He said it was here that he developed his sense of fear. The school register lists his year of birth as 1900 rather than 1899; Spoto writes that it seems he was deliberately enrolled as a 10-year-old, perhaps because he was a year behind with his schooling.
Hitchcock told his parents that he wanted to be an engineer, and on 25 July 1913, he left St Ignatius and enrolled in night classes at the London County Council School of Engineering and Navigation in Poplar. In a book-length interview in 1962, he told François Truffaut that he had studied “mechanics, electricity, acoustics, and navigation”. Then on 12 December 1914 his father, who had been suffering from emphysema and kidney disease, died at the age of 52. To support himself and his mother—his older siblings had left home by then—Hitchcock took a job, for 15 shillings a week (£73 in 2017), as a technical clerk at the Henley Telegraph and Cable Company in Blomfield Street near London Wall. He kept up his night classes, this time in art history, painting, economics, and political science. His older brother ran the family shops, while he and his mother continued to live in Salmon Lane.
Hitchcock was too young to enlist when the First World War broke out in July 1914, and when he reached the required age of 18 in 1917, he received a C3 classification (“free from serious organic disease, able to stand service conditions in garrisons at home … only suitable for sedentary work”). He joined a cadet regiment of the Royal Engineers and took part in theoretical briefings, weekend drills, and exercises. John Russell Taylor wrote that, in one session of practical exercises in Hyde Park, Hitchcock was required to wear puttees. He could never master wrapping them around his legs, and they repeatedly fell down around his ankles.
After the war, Hitchcock began dabbling in creative writing. In June 1919 he became a founding editor and business manager of Henley’s in-house publication, The Henley Telegraph (sixpence a copy), to which he submitted several short stories. Henley’s promoted him to the advertising department, where he wrote copy and drew graphics for advertisements for electric cable. He apparently loved the job and would stay late at the office to examine the proofs; he told Truffaut that this was his “first step toward cinema”. He enjoyed watching films, especially American cinema, and from the age of 16 read the trade papers; he watched Charlie Chaplin, D. W. Griffith and Buster Keaton, and particularly liked Fritz Lang’s Der müde Tod (1921).
While still at Henley’s, he read in a trade paper that Famous Players-Lasky, the production arm of Paramount Pictures, was opening a studio in London. They were planning to film The Sorrows of Satan by Marie Corelli, so he produced some drawings for the title cards and sent his work to the studio. They hired him, and in 1919 he began working for Islington Studios in Poole Street, Hoxton, as a title-card designer.
Donald Spoto writes that most of the staff were Americans with strict job specifications, but the English workers were encouraged to try their hand at anything, which meant that Hitchcock gained experience as a co-writer, art director and production manager on at least 18 silent films. The Times wrote in February 1922 about the studio’s “special art title department under the supervision of Mr. A. J. Hitchcock”. His work there included Number 13 (1922), also known as Mrs. Peabody, cancelled because of financial problems—the few finished scenes are lost—and Always Tell Your Wife (1923), which he and Seymour Hicks finished together when Hicks was about to give up on it. Hicks wrote later about being helped by “a fat youth who was in charge of the property room … [n]one other than Alfred Hitchcock”.
When Paramount pulled out of London in 1922, Hitchcock was hired as an assistant director by a new firm run in the same location by Michael Balcon, later known as Gainsborough Pictures. Hitchcock worked on Woman to Woman (1923) with the director Graham Cutts, designing the set, writing the script and producing. He said: “It was the first film that I had really got my hands onto.” The editor and “script girl” on Woman to Woman was Alma Reville, his future wife. He also worked as an assistant to Cutts on The White Shadow (1924), The Passionate Adventure (1924), The Blackguard (1925), and The Prude’s Fall (1925). The Blackguard was produced at the Babelsberg Studios in Potsdam, where Hitchcock watched part of the making of F. W. Murnau’s film The Last Laugh (1924). He was impressed with Murnau’s work and later used many of his techniques for the set design in his own productions.
On 2 December 1926, Hitchcock married the English-American screenwriter Alma Reville (1899–1982) at the Brompton Oratory in South Kensington. The couple honeymooned in Paris, Lake Como and St. Moritz, before returning to London to live in a leased flat on the top two floors of 153 Cromwell Road, Kensington. Reville, who was born just hours after Hitchcock, converted from Protestantism to Catholicism, apparently at the insistence of Hitchcock’s mother; she was baptised on 31 May 1927 and confirmed at Westminster Cathedral by Cardinal Francis Bourne on 5 June.
Released in January 1927, The Lodger was a commercial and critical success in the UK. Hitchcock told Truffaut that the film was the first of his to be influenced by the Expressionist techniques he had witnessed in Germany: “In truth, you might almost say that The Lodger was my first picture.” He made his first cameo appearance in the film because an extra was needed, and was depicted sitting in a newsroom. A second appearance, standing in a crowd as the leading man is arrested, is in doubt.
In 1928, when they learned that she was pregnant, the Hitchcocks purchased “Winter’s Grace”, a Tudor farmhouse set in 11 acres on Stroud Lane, Shamley Green, Surrey, for £2,500. Their daughter and only child, Patricia Alma Hitchcock, was born on 7 July that year.
In 1933 Hitchcock was once again working for Michael Balcon at Gaumont-British. His first film for the company, The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), was a success; his second, The 39 Steps (1935), was acclaimed in the UK and made Hitchcock a star in the US. It also established the quintessential English “Hitchcock blonde” (Madeleine Carroll) as the template for his succession of ice-cold, elegant leading ladies. Screenwriter Robert Towne remarked, “It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that all contemporary escapist entertainment begins with The 39 Steps”. This film was one of the first to introduce the “MacGuffin” plot device, a term coined by the English screenwriter Angus MacPhail. The MacGuffin is an item or goal the protagonist is pursuing, one that otherwise has no narrative value; in The 39 Steps, the MacGuffin is a stolen set of design plans.
Hitchcock released two spy thrillers in 1936. Sabotage was loosely based on Joseph Conrad’s novel, The Secret Agent (1907), about a woman who discovers that her husband is a terrorist, and Secret Agent, based on two stories in Ashenden: Or the British Agent (1928) by W. Somerset Maugham.
David O. Selznick signed Hitchcock to a seven-year contract beginning in March 1939, and the Hitchcocks moved to Hollywood. In June that year Life magazine called him the “greatest master of melodrama in screen history”. The working arrangements with Selznick were less than ideal. Selznick suffered from constant financial problems, and Hitchcock was often unhappy about Selznick’s creative control over his films. In a later interview, Hitchcock said: “[Selznick] was the Big Producer. … Producer was king. The most flattering thing Mr. Selznick ever said about me—and it shows you the amount of control—he said I was the ‘only director’ he’d ‘trust with a film’.” At the same time, Selznick complained about Hitchcock’s “goddamn jigsaw cutting”, which meant that the producer had to follow Hitchcock’s vision of the finished product.
In September 1940 the Hitchcocks bought the 200-acre (0.81 km) Cornwall Ranch near Scotts Valley, California, in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Their primary residence was an English-style home in Bel Air, purchased in 1942. Hitchcock’s films were diverse during this period, ranging from the romantic comedy Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941) to the bleak film noir Shadow of a Doubt (1943).
Saboteur (1942) is the first of two films that Hitchcock made for Universal during the decade. Hitchcock was forced by Universal Studios to use Universal contract player Robert Cummings and Priscilla Lane, a freelancer who signed a one-picture deal with Universal, both known for their work in comedies and light dramas. Breaking with Hollywood conventions of the time, Hitchcock did extensive location filming, especially in New York City, and depicted a confrontation between a suspected saboteur (Cummings) and a real saboteur (Norman Lloyd) atop the Statue of Liberty. He also directed Have You Heard? (1942), a photographic dramatisation for Life magazine of the dangers of rumours during wartime. In 1943 he wrote a mystery story for Look magazine, “The Murder of Monty Woolley”, a sequence of captioned photographs inviting the reader to find clues to the murderer’s identity; Hitchcock cast the performers as themselves, such as Woolley, Doris Merrick, and make-up man Guy Pearce.
Working at 20th Century Fox, Hitchcock approached John Steinbeck with an idea for a film, which recorded the experiences of the survivors of a German U-boat attack. Steinbeck then began work on the script which would become the film Lifeboat (1944). However, Steinbeck was unhappy with the film and asked that his name be removed from the credits, to no avail. The idea was rewritten as a short story by Harry Sylvester and published in Collier’s in 1943. The action sequences were shot in a small boat in the studio water tank. The locale posed problems for Hitchcock’s traditional cameo appearance. That was solved by having Hitchcock’s image appear in a newspaper that William Bendix is reading in the boat, showing the director in a before-and-after advertisement for “Reduco-Obesity Slayer”. He told Truffaut in 1962:
Hitchcock returned to the UK for an extended visit in late 1943 and early 1944. While there he made two short propaganda films, Bon Voyage (1944) and Aventure Malgache (1944), for the Ministry of Information. In June and July 1945 Hitchcock served as “treatment advisor” on a Holocaust documentary that used Allied Forces footage of the liberation of Nazi concentration camps. The film was assembled in London and produced by Sidney Bernstein of the Ministry of Information, who brought Hitchcock (a friend of his) on board. It was originally intended to be broadcast to the Germans, but the British government deemed it too traumatic to be shown to a shocked post-war population. Instead, it was transferred in 1952 from the British War Office film vaults to London’s Imperial War Museum and remained unreleased until 1985, when an edited version was broadcast as an episode of PBS Frontline, under the title the Imperial War Museum had given it: Memory of the Camps. The full-length version of the film, German Concentration Camps Factual Survey, was restored in 2014 by scholars at the Imperial War Museum.
Notorious (1946) followed Spellbound. Hitchcock told François Truffaut that Selznick had sold him, Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant, and the screenplay by Ben Hecht, to RKO Radio Pictures as a “package” for $500,000 (equivalent to $6,555,461 in 2019) because of cost overruns on Selznick’s Duel in the Sun (1946). Notorious stars Bergman and Grant, both Hitchcock regulars, and features a plot about Nazis, uranium and South America. His prescient use of uranium as a plot device led to him being briefly placed under surveillance by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. According to McGilligan, in or around March 1945 Hitchcock and Ben Hecht consulted Robert Millikan of the California Institute of Technology about the development of a uranium bomb. Selznick complained that the notion was “science fiction”, only to be confronted by the news of the detonation of two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan in August 1945.
The Wrong Man (1957), Hitchcock’s final film for Warner Bros., is a low-key black-and-white production based on a real-life case of mistaken identity reported in Life magazine in 1953. This was the only film of Hitchcock to star Henry Fonda, playing a Stork Club musician mistaken for a liquor store thief, who is arrested and tried for robbery while his wife (Vera Miles) emotionally collapses under the strain. Hitchcock told Truffaut that his lifelong fear of the police attracted him to the subject and was embedded in many scenes.
From 1955 to 1965, Hitchcock was the host of the television series Alfred Hitchcock Presents. With his droll delivery, gallows humour and iconic image, the series made Hitchcock a celebrity. The title-sequence of the show pictured a minimalist caricature of his profile (he drew it himself; it is composed of only nine strokes), which his real silhouette then filled. The series theme tune was Funeral March of a Marionette by the French composer Charles Gounod (1818–1893).
In 1955 Hitchcock became a United States citizen. The same year, his third Grace Kelly film, To Catch a Thief, was released; it is set in the French Riviera, and pairs Kelly with Cary Grant. Grant plays retired thief John Robie, who becomes the prime suspect for a spate of robberies in the Riviera. A thrill-seeking American heiress played by Kelly surmises his true identity and tries to seduce him. “Despite the obvious age disparity between Grant and Kelly and a lightweight plot, the witty script (loaded with double entendres) and the good-natured acting proved a commercial success.” It was Hitchcock’s last film with Kelly. She married Prince Rainier of Monaco in 1956, and ended her film career. Hitchcock then remade his own 1934 film The Man Who Knew Too Much in 1956. This time, the film starred James Stewart and Doris Day, who sang the theme song “Que Sera, Sera”, which won the Oscar for Best Original Song and became a big hit for her. They play a couple whose son is kidnapped to prevent them from interfering with an assassination. As in the 1934 film, the climax takes place at the Royal Albert Hall, London.
Hitchcock was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame on 8 February 1960 with two stars: one for television and a second for his motion pictures. In 1978 John Russell Taylor described him as “the most universally recognizable person in the world” and “a straightforward middle-class Englishman who just happened to be an artistic genius”. In 2002 MovieMaker named him the most influential director of all time, and a 2007 The Daily Telegraph critics’ poll ranked him Britain’s greatest director. David Gritten, the newspaper’s film critic, wrote: “Unquestionably the greatest filmmaker to emerge from these islands, Hitchcock did more than any director to shape modern cinema, which would be utterly different without him. His flair was for narrative, cruelly withholding crucial information (from his characters and from us) and engaging the emotions of the audience like no one else.”
His introductions always included some sort of wry humour, such as the description of a recent multi-person execution hampered by having only one electric chair, while two are shown with a sign “Two chairs—no waiting!” He directed 18 episodes of the series, which aired from 1955 to 1965. It became The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in 1962, and NBC broadcast the final episode on 10 May 1965. In the 1980s, a new version of Alfred Hitchcock Presents was produced for television, making use of Hitchcock’s original introductions in a colourised form.
On 13 August 1962, Hitchcock’s 63rd birthday, the French director François Truffaut began a 50-hour interview of Hitchcock, filmed over eight days at Universal Studios, during which Hitchcock agreed to answer 500 questions. It took four years to transcribe the tapes and organise the images; it was published as a book in 1967, which Truffaut nicknamed the “Hitchbook”. The audio tapes were used as the basis of a documentary in 2015. Truffaut sought the interview because it was clear to him that Hitchcock was not simply the mass-market entertainer the American media made him out to be. It was obvious from his films, Truffaut wrote, that Hitchcock had “given more thought to the potential of his art than any of his colleagues”. He compared the interview to “Oedipus’ consultation of the oracle”.
The film scholar Peter William Evans writes that The Birds (1963) and Marnie (1964) are regarded as “undisputed masterpieces”. Hitchcock had intended to film Marnie first, and in March 1962 it was announced that Grace Kelly, Princess Grace of Monaco since 1956, would come out of retirement to star in it. When Kelly asked Hitchcock to postpone Marnie until 1963 or 1964, he recruited Evan Hunter, author of The Blackboard Jungle (1954), to develop a screenplay based on a Daphne du Maurier short story, “The Birds” (1952), which Hitchcock had republished in his My Favorites in Suspense (1959). He hired Tippi Hedren to play the lead role. It was her first role; she had been a model in New York when Hitchcock saw her, in October 1961, in an NBC television ad for Sego, a diet drink: “I signed her because she is a classic beauty. Movies don’t have them any more. Grace Kelly was the last.” He insisted, without explanation, that her first name be written in single quotation marks: ‘Tippi’.
In June 1962, Grace Kelly announced that she had decided against appearing in Marnie (1964). Hedren had signed an exclusive seven-year, $500-a-week contract with Hitchcock in October 1961, and he decided to cast her in the lead role opposite Sean Connery. In 2016, describing Hedren’s performance as “one of the greatest in the history of cinema”, Richard Brody called the film a “story of sexual violence” inflicted on the character played by Hedren: “The film is, to put it simply, sick, and it’s so because Hitchcock was sick. He suffered all his life from furious sexual desire, suffered from the lack of its gratification, suffered from the inability to transform fantasy into reality, and then went ahead and did so virtually, by way of his art.” A 1964 New York Times film review called it Hitchcock’s “most disappointing film in years”, citing Hedren’s and Connery’s lack of experience, an amateurish script and “glaringly fake cardboard backdrops”.
Having refused a CBE in 1962, Hitchcock was appointed a Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE) in the 1980 New Year Honours. He was too ill to travel to London—he had a pacemaker and was being given cortisone injections for his arthritis—so on 3 January 1980 the British consul general presented him with the papers at Universal Studios. Asked by a reporter after the ceremony why it had taken the Queen so long, Hitchcock quipped, “I suppose it was a matter of carelessness.” Cary Grant, Janet Leigh, and others attended a luncheon afterwards.
Hitchcock became known for having remarked that “actors are cattle”. During the filming of Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941), Carole Lombard brought three cows onto the set wearing the name tags of Lombard, Robert Montgomery, and Gene Raymond, the stars of the film, to surprise him. In an episode of The Dick Cavett Show, originally broadcast on June 8, 1972, Dick Cavett stated as fact that Hitchcock had once called actors cattle. Hitchcock responded by saying that, at one time, he had been accused of calling actors cattle. “I said that I would never say such an unfeeling, rude thing about actors at all. What I probably said, was that all actors should be treated like cattle…In a nice way of course.” He then described Carole Lombard’s joke, with a smile.
Describing himself as a well-behaved boy—his father called him his “little lamb without a spot”—Hitchcock said he could not remember ever having had a playmate. One of his favourite stories for interviewers was about his father sending him to the local police station with a note when he was five; the policeman looked at the note and locked him in a cell for a few minutes, saying, “This is what we do to naughty boys.” The experience left him, he said, with a lifelong fear of policemen; in 1973 he told Tom Snyder that he was “scared stiff of anything … to do with the law” and wouldn’t even drive a car in case he got a parking ticket.
Hitchcock’s portrayal of women has been the subject of much scholarly debate. Bidisha wrote in The Guardian in 2010: “There’s the vamp, the tramp, the snitch, the witch, the slink, the double-crosser and, best of all, the demon mommy. Don’t worry, they all get punished in the end.” In a widely cited essay in 1975, Laura Mulvey introduced the idea of the male gaze; the view of the spectator in Hitchcock’s films, she argued, is that of the heterosexual male protagonist. “The female characters in his films reflected the same qualities over and over again”, Roger Ebert wrote in 1996. “They were blonde. They were icy and remote. They were imprisoned in costumes that subtly combined fashion with fetishism. They mesmerised the men, who often had physical or psychological handicaps. Sooner or later, every Hitchcock woman was humiliated.”
Reville became her husband’s closest collaborator; Charles Champlin wrote in 1982: “The Hitchcock touch had four hands, and two were Alma’s.” When Hitchcock accepted the AFI Life Achievement Award in 1979, he said he wanted to mention “four people who have given me the most affection, appreciation and encouragement, and constant collaboration. The first of the four is a film editor, the second is a scriptwriter, the third is the mother of my daughter, Pat, and the fourth is as fine a cook as ever performed miracles in a domestic kitchen. And their names are Alma Reville.” Reville wrote or co-wrote on many of Hitchcock’s films, including Shadow of a Doubt, Suspicion and The 39 Steps.
He won two Golden Globes, eight Laurel Awards, and five lifetime achievement awards, including the first BAFTA Academy Fellowship Award and, in 1979, an AFI Life Achievement Award. He was nominated five times for an Academy Award for Best Director. Rebecca, nominated for 11 Oscars, won the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1940; another Hitchcock film, Foreign Correspondent, was also nominated that year. By 2018, eight of his films had been selected for preservation by the US National Film Registry: Rebecca (1940; inducted 2018), Shadow of a Doubt (1943; inducted 1991), Notorious (1946; inducted 2006), Rear Window (1954; inducted 1997), Vertigo (1958; inducted 1989), North by Northwest (1959; inducted 1995), Psycho (1960; inducted 1992), and The Birds (1963; inducted 2016).
His last public appearance was on 16 March 1980, when he introduced the next year’s winner of the American Film Institute award. He died of kidney failure the following month, on 29 April, in his Bel Air home. Donald Spoto, one of Hitchcock’s biographers, wrote that Hitchcock had declined to see a priest, but according to Jesuit priest Mark Henninger, he and another priest, Tom Sullivan, celebrated Mass at the filmmaker’s home, and Sullivan heard his confession. Hitchcock was survived by his wife and daughter. His funeral was held at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Beverly Hills on 30 April, after which his body was cremated. His remains were scattered over the Pacific Ocean on 10 May 1980.
Vertigo contains a camera technique developed by Irmin Roberts, commonly referred to as a dolly zoom, that has been copied many times by filmmakers. The film premiered at the San Sebastián International Film Festival, where Hitchcock won a Silver Seashell. Vertigo is considered a classic, but it attracted some negative reviews and poor box-office receipts at the time, and it was the last collaboration between Stewart and Hitchcock. In the 2002 Sight & Sound polls, it ranked just behind Citizen Kane (1941); ten years later, in the same magazine, critics chose it as the best film ever made.
In 2012 Hitchcock was selected by artist Sir Peter Blake, author of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover, to appear in a new version of the cover, along with other British cultural figures, and he was featured that year in a BBC Radio 4 series, The New Elizabethans, as someone “whose actions during the reign of Elizabeth II have had a significant impact on lives in these islands and given the age its character”. In June 2013 nine restored versions of Hitchcock’s early silent films, including The Pleasure Garden (1925), were shown at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Harvey Theatre; known as “The Hitchcock 9”, the travelling tribute was organised by the British Film Institute.
Currently, Alfred Hitchcock is 122 years, 9 months and 4 days old. Alfred Hitchcock will celebrate 123rd birthday on a Saturday 13th of August 2022.
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