Alfred Hitchcock died on April 29, 1980. With his works, he masterfully “gets on our nerves” even today.
Films, whether intentional or not, are always a reflection of the society, culture and geopolitical situation in which they are made. The bad guy is sometimes the (Nazi) German, sometimes the (Communist) Soviet, sometimes the (terrorist) Arab. And if it doesn’t crystallize from the image of the enemy when a film comes from, the hairstyle of the main character usually helps. Of course – just because of the technical conditions – the films of Alfred Hitchock (1899-1980) can also be seen from which era they come. Nevertheless, the strips of the master of suspense seem strangely out of time.
Many of Hitchcock’s works defy the ravages of time better than many other films, which are commonly referred to as masterpieces or cult classics, but from today’s perspective seem very antiquated. But when James Stewart fears for Grace Kelly in tearing tension in “The Window to the Court” (1954) or the violin staccato in “Psycho” (1960) saws on the nerves, it has not failed to have an effect for 66 or 60 years. The standing ovation from the hair on the back of the neck is the best proof of timeless excitement. Here are some extraordinary facts about a truly extraordinary mind.
Master of self-promotion
Alfred Hitchcock has shaped the history of cinema in many ways, whether in style or content. For example, he is credited with coining the term “MacGuffin,” meaning an insignificant object that triggers or drives the plot. And the twist in “Psycho” (here literally a twist, the turning of a chair) was unprecedented.
But the filmmaker, who was born in Leytonstone, England in 1899, was also a master at directing himself. At the age of 28, he was already aware of the importance of self-marketing. As one of the first filmmakers ever, he founded his own company (Hitchcock Baker Productions) in the 1930s, which did publicity for and with him.
Master of the Oscar snubs
“Rebecca” (1941), “The Lifeboat” (1945), “I’ll Fight For You” (1946), “The Window To The Yard” (1955) and “Psycho” (1961) – Hitchock was five times for the Oscar as best director nomination. Unbelievable, but true, he never won it. How angry he must have been about this fact became abundantly clear in 1968.
When he was presented with the special prize (Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award) at the Academy Awards, he acknowledged this with polite but clearly eaten five words. “Thank you”, and after a pause: “Very much indeed.” Only shortly before his death in 1980 was he made Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II – 17 years earlier he had refused this honor himself.
Censorship Bypass Master
Hitchcock was one of those perfectionist filmmakers who wanted to see every facet of the film in their own hands, from start to finish. Of course, it didn’t sit well with him at all that his artistic freedom was put under pseudo-moral shackles by the so-called Hays Code (guidelines for US films) from 1930 to the 1960s.
But of course the wily rascal found more and less obvious methods to get one over on the censorship guardians of morals. The most famous example is the sex scene between Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint at the end of “The Invisible Third”. From the still allowed kiss of the two, Hitchcock cut to a train roaring into a tunnel – it doesn’t take Sigmund Freud to know what train and tunnel symbolized at that moment…
Master of masters
Hitchcock was responsible for more than 50 films from the silent film era until 1976 (his last film: “Family Grave”). To date, he is the director with the most films in the “imdb.com” (Internet Movie Database) website’s top 250. Eight of his films have made it into the renowned list of the best, more than any other filmmaker.
Martin Scorsese (77), Steven Spielberg (73), Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999) or Christopher Nolan (49) all currently have seven stripes in them. Given his age, the latter could have the best chance of matching or, God forbid, surpassing Hitchcock. That would probably still be a thorn in the side of the exceptional director, even 40 years after his death.