Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock, KBE was an English filmmaker and producer. He pioneered many techniques in the suspense and psychological thriller genres. After a successful career in his native United Kingdom in both silent films and early talkies, Hitchcock moved to Hollywood. In 1956 he became an American citizen while remaining a British subject.
Over a career spanning more than half a century, Hitchcock fashioned for himself a distinctive and recognizable directorial style. Viewers are made to identify with the camera which moves in a way meant to mimic a person’s gaze and which forces viewers to engage in a form of voyeurism. He framed shots to manipulate the feelings of the audience and maximize anxiety, fear, or empathy, and used innovative film editing to demonstrate the point of view of the characters. His stories frequently feature fugitives on the run from the law alongside “icy blonde” female characters. Many of Hitchcock’s films have twist endings and thrilling plots featuring depictions of violence, murder and crime, although many of the mysteries function as decoys or “MacGuffins” meant only to serve thematic elements in the film and the extremely complex psychological examinations of the characters. Hitchcock’s films also borrow many themes from psychoanalysis and feature strong sexual undertones. Through his cameo appearances in his own films, interviews, trailers, and the television program Alfred Hitchcock Presents, he became an iconic cultural figure.
Hitchcock directed more than fifty feature films in a career spanning six decades. Often regarded as the greatest British filmmaker, he came first in a 2007 poll of film critics in Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper, which said: “Unquestionably the greatest filmmaker to emerge from these islands, Hitchcock did more than any director to shape modern cinema, which would be utterly different without him. His flair was for narrative, cruelly withholding crucial information and engaging the emotions of the audience like no one else.” MovieMaker has hailed him as the most influential filmmaker of all time, and he is widely regarded as one of cinema’s most significant artists.
Hitchcock was born on 13 August 1899 in Leytonstone, London, the second son and youngest of three children of William Hitchcock, a greengrocer and poulterer, and Emma Jane Hitchcock. He was named after his father’s brother, Alfred. His family was mostly Roman Catholic, with his mother and paternal grandmother being of Irish extraction. Hitchcock was sent to the Jesuit Classic school St Ignatius’ College in Stamford Hill, London. He often described his childhood as being very lonely and sheltered, a situation compounded by his obesity.