The invention of motion picture cameras and the development of film producing companies played a significant role in the need for the leading individuals like film directors. In collaboration with producers, script writers, and the cast, film directors are primarily responsible for ensuring that the sound, visual and technical aspects of the movie are accomplished and polished from the actual idea to the final product. Film directors guide the whole team on how to deliver their responsibilities and are also in charge of identifying and selecting the required cast members and the individuals responsible for the design production and creativity of the film. Alfred Hitchcock is one of the renowned film directors during the early years of film production, and many referred to him as the ‘master of suspense.’ In this research paper, we shall concentrate on Alfred’s life, career and take a closer look at some of the skills and techniques he used in producing some of the films he worked on. Moreover, we shall take a look at some of the achievements, his success, and awards received.
Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifestyle
Born in Leytonstone, England 13th August 1899, Alfred was half English and half Irish just like his parents Emma Jane and William Hitchcock. The youngest in his family, Alfred had two older siblings, William and Eileen. Having born in a strong Catholic background, Alfred attended the St. Ignatius College. According to the Grade Saver (1999), Alfred was very discreet about his childhood but was open about an incident with his father, where he sent him to the police station and was locked up for up to ten minutes then released. After releasing him, the policeman in charge said to Alfred that, that was what happened to people who did bad things. From then he developed a phobia for the men in uniform which is linked to his inability to drive primarily to avoid being pulled over. Despite, this experience, Alfred affirmed that he had a normal upbringing.
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He married Alma Reville who was a key asset in Alfred’s film career since their relationship first began when they collaborated in accomplishing the movie ‘Always Tell Your Wife.’ They had a daughter whom they named Patricia Hitchcock who was born in 1928 July 7th. Together with his wife, Alfred had a chance to involve his daughter in Pat in the movies he had produced which included Psycho, Strangers on a Train and Stage Fright. Alfred was announced dead on April 29th, 1980 in Bel Air, Los Angeles due to a renal failure in his sleep.
Alfred’s career was developed from the time he attended the London County Council School of Engineering and Navigation, where he studied Engineering. He was later employed at an Electric Cable Company where he was an electronic technician and advertising designer for the same company. His skills in designing earned him a job at an American studio that was based in London – Famous Players- Lasky where he was assigned as a title – designer. It was during this period that he developed an interest in screenplay, script and screen writing and would practice during his free times. Consequently, Alfred became proficient and exquisite at his job as a technician and creative individual in film production. His initial stages in filming involved drawing of the sets which he was extremely good at according to Mark Duguid (n.d.) He then grew and developed more of what was required and expected of him as a director in film production during those years. As mentioned earlier, among his first films to direct included the ‘Always Tell Your Wife,’ ‘Number 13,’ ‘The Pleasure Garden,’ and ‘The Lodger.’ Despite various challenges that he faced during the production of the named films, like the inability to accomplish some of them for one reason to another, Alfred never gave up anyway but ensured that he focused on what was ahead of him. For instance, Alfred had to transform a studio responsible for the production of Number 13 film which was not finished because of its closure into a sound film. As highlighted by the IMDb (1990) Alfred’s fame and career recognition by many other film companies commenced when he moved to Hollywood and worked under David O. Selznick. Alfred Hitchcock was nicknamed ‘master of suspense,’ due to his creativity in playing with the psychology of his audiences. Todd McCarthy (2014) also identifies Alfred as a master of pure cinema who ensured that he met the film production demands of that time especially box-office. Among his most significant films during his career included the ‘Daphne du Maurier’ of 1940 because it was among his first projects in Hollywood. On the contrary, all the works he did play a significant role in his career since each had a defined impact in one or more ways.
Achievements and Awards
His career highlights included the awards in which he received from the American Film Institute - AFI Life Achievement Award in 1979 which he mentioned that it was all through the help, support, collaboration and encouragement of his editor, scriptwriter, and wife Alma Reville. In 1967, Alfred Joseph Hitchcock was also awarded the Irving Thalberg Memorial Award at the Academy awards. He was also recognized for the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award in 1972 which is mostly given to the most outstanding contributors to the entertainment industry. In 1971, Alfred received the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Fellowship award which also recognizes the outstanding arts and creativity in moving images. 1968 saw Alfred Hitchcock receive the DGA Lifetime Achievement Award, Edgar Grand Master Award in 1973, Raven Award in 1960, Golden Globe Award for Television Achievement in 1958 and the Jussi Award for the Best Foreign Filmmaker in 1984. All the awards that he received were recognizing and appreciating his good works and excellent contributions in the film industry during his tenure.
It is out of his uniqueness and excellent delivery in his job that Alfred managed to stay on the top of his game during his era. Moreover, as observed earlier, he was nicknamed ‘master of suspense’ basically because of the techniques in which he applied during production. According to Stephen Whitty (2010), Hitchcock technique on the film ‘Psycho’ was fascinating and was a turning point both in his career and the film industry because he broke many of the Hollywood rules while producing and directing that movie. From the points of thrilling his audiences and the aspect of revealing Alfred’s ability to think and work out of the box, the film was beyond the standards of Hollywood according to most analysts. On the other hand, the language, diction and sense of humor that was elaborated in the movie highly placed its edition of the film. Whitty (2010) highlights the camera techniques that Alfred uses in his films which involve capturing his characters in two shots while they are facing each other as matching profiles. Furthermore, un-anticipated mirrors are used to enhance reflections which not only surprises his casts and crew but the audiences and critiques. While some resonate that it probably was a way of teasing its multiple personalities some suggested that it was a trick to bring out the secret selves that are always covered in some closet. On the other hand, the solutions to the challenges and issues that are highlighted in the movie are not entirely resolved which not only leaves the audience hanging but also mocks their quest to find out what happened. For instance, in the case where Lila was snooping around, she found an album in Norman’s closet, but the director made sure that his audience was cut out before looking at what was inside the book was revealed.
Vertigo was also one of Alfred’s works which elaborated most of his skills and techniques in film production. In Vertigo, most of the time the audience is left to make a choice on what the movie is all about. The director ensures that the public is in charge of the moral of the story which in many cases, it contributed to wrong options and sometimes valid opinions on what the director intended to bring out. On the other hand, Alfred made use of the green theme which no analyst has been able to figure out its symbolism through the movie despite the conversation of two characters on trees while in the forest, as the oldest living things. Alfred makes use of close up shots particularly in the introduction which captures detail aspects of whatever he desires to show case. He also concentrates on the camera techniques which he zooms and takes various angles of shots on different scenes. Most of his techniques supported his expertise and experience that was highly rewarded.
Alfred Hitchcock made a name for himself in the film industry and entertainment world as he slowly but steadily advanced in his career. His productions like ‘Psycho’ and ‘Vertigo’ highlighted most of his techniques and skills that differentiated him from the rest of the directors. His ability to bend some of the Hollywood film rules were some of the reasons that contributed to his uniqueness. Suspense, intrigue and psychological thrill were among his common skills used.
Belton, A. (2016, July 13). Film Analysis: Vertigo by Alfred Hitchcock . Retrieved July 16, 2017, from Reel Rundown: https://reelrundown.com/movies/Film-Analysis-Vertigo-by-Alfred-Hitchcock
Duguid, M. (n.d.). Hitchcock's Style. Retrieved June 25, 2017, from http://www.screenonline.org.uk/tours/hitch/tour1.html
GrAdeSaver. (1999). Bibliography of Alfred Hitchcock . Retrieved July 16, 2017, from Grade Saver: http://www.gradesaver.com/author/alfred-hitchcock
IMDb. (1990). Alfred Hitchcock . Retrieved July 16, 2017, from imbd.com: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000033/bio
McCarthy, T. (2014, November 10). Alfred Hitchcock Dies Of Natural Causes At Bel-Air Home. Retrieved June 25, 2017, from http://variety.com/1980/film/news/alfred-hitchcock-dies-of-natural-causes-at-bel-air-home-1201344342/
Whitty, S. (2010, October 31). A ‘Psycho’ analysis: Alfred Hitchcock’s spookiest movie brought with it the end of Hollywood innocence . Retrieved July 16, 2017, from New Jersey On-line: http://www.nj.com/entertainment/movies/index.ssf/2010/10/a_psycho_analysis_alfred_hitchcocks_spookiest_movie_brought_with_it_the_end_of_hollywood_innocence.html