Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock, KBE (13 August 1899 – 29 April 1980) was an English film director and producer, widely regarded as one of the most influential filmmakers in the history of cinema. Known as “the Master of Suspense”, he directed over 50 feature films[a] in a career spanning six decades, becoming as well known as any of his actors thanks to his many interviews, his cameo roles in most of his films, and his hosting of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955–1965).
Born on the outskirts of London, Hitchcock entered the film industry in 1919 as a title card designer after training as a technical clerk and copy writer for a telegraph-cable company. He made his directorial debut with The Pleasure Garden (1925). His first successful film, The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927), helped to shape the thriller genre, while his 1929 film, Blackmail, was the first British “talkie”. Two of his 1930s thrillers, The 39 Steps (1935) and The Lady Vanishes (1938), are ranked among the greatest British films of the 20th century.
By 1939 Hitchcock was a filmmaker of international importance, and film producer David O. Selznick persuaded him to move to Hollywood. A string of successful films followed, including Rebecca (1940), Foreign Correspondent (1940), Shadow of a Doubt (1943), and The Paradine Case (1947); Rebecca was nominated for 11 Oscars and won the Academy Award for Best Picture. His fifty-three films have grossed over US$223.3 million worldwide and garnered a total of 46 Oscar nominations and 6 wins.
The “Hitchcockian” style includes the use of camera movement to mimic a person’s gaze, thereby turning viewers into voyeurs, and framing shots to maximise anxiety and fear. The film critic Robin Wood wrote that the meaning of a Hitchcock film “is there in the method, in the progression from shot to shot. A Hitchcock film is an organism, with the whole implied in every detail and every detail related to the whole.” By 1960 Hitchcock had directed four films often ranked among the greatest of all time: Rear Window (1954), Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959), and Psycho (1960). In 2012 Vertigo replaced Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane (1941) as the British Film Institute’s greatest film ever made. By 2016 seven of his films had been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry,[b] including his personal favourite, Shadow of a Doubt (1943).[c] He received the AFI Life Achievement Award in 1979 and was knighted in December that year, four months before he died.