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Birth name Alfred Joseph Hitchcock
Born August 13, 1899
Leytonstone, London, England, UK
Died April 29, 1980, aged 80
Bel Air, Los Angeles, USA
Spouse(s) Alma Reville (married December 2, 1926) 1 child
Nominated: Best Director Nominations
1954 Rear Window
Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock, KBE (August 13, 1899 – April 29, 1980) was a highly influential film director and producer who pioneered many techniques in the suspense and thriller genres. He directed more than fifty feature films in a career spanning six decades, from the silent film era, through the invention of talkies, to the colour era. Hitchcock was among the most consistently successful and publicly recognizable directors in the world during his lifetime, and remains one of the best known and most popular directors of all time, famous for his expert and largely unrivalled control of pace and suspense throughout his movies.
Hitchcock was born and raised in Leytonstone, London, England. He began his directing career in the United Kingdom in 1922, but from 1939 he worked primarily in the United States and applied for U.S. citizenship in 1956. Hitchcock and his family lived in a mountaintop estate high above Scotts Valley, California, from 1940 to 1972. He died of renal failure in 1980.
Hitchcock's films draw heavily on both fear and fantasy, and are known for their droll humour. They often portray innocent people caught up in circumstances beyond their control or understanding.
Rebecca was the only one of his films to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, although four others were nominated. However, Hitchcock never won an Academy Award for Best Director. He was awarded the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for lifetime achievement in 1967, but never personally received an Academy Award of Merit.
Until the later part of his career, Hitchcock was far more popular with film audiences than with film critics, especially the elite British and American critics. In the late 1950s the French New Wave critics, especially Éric Rohmer, Claude Chabrol, and François Truffaut, were among the first to see and promote his films as artistic works. Hitchcock was one of the first directors to whom they applied their auteur theory, which stresses the artistic authority of the director in the film-making process.
Hitchcock's innovations and vision have influenced a great number of filmmakers, producers, and actors. His influence helped start a trend for film directors to control artistic aspects of their movies without answering to the movie's producer.
Hitchcock once commented, "The writer and I plan out the entire script down to the smallest detail, and when we're finished all that's left to do is to shoot the film. Actually, it's only when one enters the studio that one enters the area of compromise. Really, the novelist has the best casting since he doesn't have to cope with the actors and all the rest."
Hitchcock would storyboard each movie down to the finest detail. He was reported to have never even bothered looking through the viewfinder, since he didn't need to do so, though in publicity photos he was shown doing so. He also used this as an excuse to never have to change his films from his initial vision. If a studio asked him to change a film, he would claim that it was already shot in a single way, and that there were no alternate takes to consider. However, respected film critic Bill Krohn in his book Hitchcock At Work has questioned the popular notion of Hitchcock's reliance on storyboards. In his book, Krohn after researching script revisions of Hitchcock's most popular works, concludes that Hitchcock's reliance on storyboards has been exaggerated and argues that Hitchcock only storyboarded a few sequences and not each and every scene as most think. He also notes that this myth was largely perpetuated by Hitchcock himself.
Similarly much of Hitchcock's hatred of actors has been exaggerated. Hitchcock simply did not tolerate the method approach as he believed that actors should only concentrate on their performances and leave work on script and character to the directors and screenwriters. In a Sight and Sound interview, he stated that, ' the method actor is OK in the theatre because he has a free space to move about. But when it comes to cutting the face and what he sees and so forth, there must be some discipline'. During the making of Lifeboat, Walter Slezak, who played the German character, stated that Hitchcock knew the mechanics of acting better than anyone he knew. Several critics have observed that despite his reputation as a man who disliked actors, several actors who worked with him gave fine, often brilliant performances and these performances contribute to the film's success.
Regarding Hitchcock's sometimes less than pleasant relationship with actors, there was a persistent rumor that he had said that actors were cattle. Hitchcock later denied this, typically tongue-in-cheek, clarifying that he had only said that actors should be treated like cattle. Carole Lombard, tweaking Hitchcock and drumming up a little publicity, brought some cows along with her when she reported to the set of Mr. and Mrs. Smith. For Hitchcock, the actors, like the props, were part of the film's setting.
The first book devoted to the director is simply named Hitchcock. It is a document of a one-week interview by François Truffaut in 1967. (ISBN 0-671-60429-5)