Alfred Hitchcock was the son of East End greengrocer William Hitchcock and his wife, Emma Jane; his parents were both of half English and half Irish ancestry. Raised as a strict Catholic and attending Saint Ignatius College, a school run by Jesuits, Hitch had very much of a regular upbringing.
A devout Catholic who attended church regularly throughout his life, Hitchcock was the son of greengrocers William and Emma Hitchcock and grew up with his older siblings, William and Ellen Kathleen in Leytonstone, part of London’s East End.
In 1920, Hitch learned that Lasky were to open a studio in London and managed to secure a job as a title designer. He designed the titles for all the movies made at the studio for the next two years.
He had previously had experience of directing when he was asked to complete the 1923 film ‘Always Tell Your Wife’ after the original director fell ill. He was then asked to direct ‘Number 13’ but before it could be finished the studio closed its London branch.
Instead his directorial debut was ‘The Pleasure Garden’ in 1925. During the 1930s, Hitchcock made picture after picture and invented the term “MacGuffin” to illustrate that the object the villains were after needed no explanation; it was just something used to drive the story.
Hitchcock felt he didn’t need to bore the audience with details; it didn’t matter where the MacGuffin came from, just who was after it. The term is still used in contemporary filmmaking. As the onset of World War II loomed over Europe, Hitchcock emigrated to the U.S. to direct Rebecca (1940).
While the film won an Oscar, Hitchcock did not win for Best Director (and never would, although he would receive honorary Oscars.)
Hitchcock’s success earned him both followers and critics. Some of his critics argued his films lacked substance but his admirers argued that the truth was the opposite and instead Hitchcock was ‘an all-round specialist’.
In 1979, Hitchcock was recognised by the British establishment and was knighted by the Queen. Hitchcock was known for engaging the audience with suspense, accusing the wrong man of something, and portraying a fear of authority.
He also threw in comic relief, portrayed villains as charming, used unusual camera angles, and preferred classic blondes for his leading ladies, his leads (both male and female) portrayed poise, intelligence, underlying passion, and glamour.
Alfred Hitchcock and his family led a quiet and unostentatious life, preferring the comforts of home to the Hollywood milieu around them. In the last year of his life, Hitchcock received the American Film Institute’s lifetime achievement award and was knighted in England.
During his career, he created over fifty feature films in a career that saw not only the development of Hitchcock’s own distinctive directorial style, but also landmark innovations in cinema.
Hitchcock collected many professional accolades including two Golden Globes, eight Laurel Awards, and five lifetime achievement awards.
Alfred Hitchcock died on April 29, 1980 a man dubbed as the master of suspense, his legacy lives on.