Hitchcock, Sir Alfred

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Hitchcock, Sir Alfred

Sir Alfred Hitchcock, 1899–1980, English-American film director, writer, and producer, b. London. Hitchcock began his career as a director in 1925 and became prominent with The 39 Steps (1935) and The Lady Vanishes (1938). In 1940 he began working in the United States. In his suspense thrillers, Hitchcock unsettled audiences both through the use of intense set pieces and the suggestion that normality as usually defined masks humanity's true and much darker nature. Hitchcock's style is so distinctive that any filmmaker working in the suspense genre invariably risks comparison to him. His best films include Strangers on a Train (1951), in which a tennis player is invited by a fellow rail passenger to trade murders; Rear Window (1954), a thriller about voyeurism; Vertigo (1958), an obsessive romance in which a woman uncannily resembles the dead beloved; North by Northwest (1959), in which a advertising executive is chased across the United States by foreign agents as a result of a mistaken identity; and Psycho (1960), a work that has had enormous influence on film and cultural history in which a mother-obsessed transvestite murders a beautiful thief. His other films include Rebecca (1940), Notorious (1946), The Birds (1963), Frenzy (1972), and Family Plot (1977). Hitchcock had two successful television series (1955–62 and 1963–65) and was one of the best known directors of his time, often appearing in humorous cameo appearances in his own films. He was knighted in 1980.

See F. Truffaut, Hitchcock (rev. ed. 1985); biographies by J. R. Taylor (1978) and D. Spoto (1983); studies by R. Durgnat (1974), D. Spoto (1976, repr. 1992), P. Conrad (2001), and D. Thomson (2009).

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