There’s no denying that Alfred Hitchcock has left an indelible mark on the entertainment industry. Known as the “Master of Suspense” with the ability to sell a movie by using his name alone, the man behind classics such as Psycho, The Birds and Rear Window was as unforgettable as his movies. His knack for employing a kind of psychological suspense in his films made him a master at storytelling and keeping audiences at the edge of their seats.
Hitchcock also went to great lengths to ensure his work was enjoyed the way he intended. Marketing materials for Psycho, for example, included the message, “We won’t allow you to cheat yourself. You must see PSYCHO from the very beginning. Therefore, do not expect to be admitted into the theatre after the start of each performance of the picture. We say no one — and we mean no one — not even the manager’s brother, the President of the United States, or the Queen of England (God bless her)!”
On this list are 10 incredible images that prove the man behind the legend was a true master of his craft.
10 Fearsome focus
“The only way to get rid of my fears is to make films about them.” – Alfred Hitchcock?
For a man best known for striking fear into the hearts of audiences the world over, Alfred Hitchcock had some very strange phobias. Some, like his fear of police, more understandable than others. After all, as a young man, Hitchcock was sent to the nearest police station as punishment for some naughty thing or another. Nothing, however, explains his fear of eggs.
“I’m frightened of eggs,” Hitchcock once told an interviewer. “That white round thing without any holes … have you ever seen anything more revolting than an egg yolk breaking and spilling its yellow liquid?”
Blood, he felt, was positively ‘jolly’ by comparison. Which, I think, explains a lot. Above is a rare picture of the highly focused director at the start of his award-winning career.
9 Go big
“There is nothing to winning, really. That is, if you happen to be blessed with a keen eye, an agile mind, and no scruples whatsoever.” – Alfred Hitchcock?
Rear Window is considered by many filmgoers, critics, and scholars to be one of Hitchcock’s best; one of the greatest films ever made. The movie received four Academy Award nominations and was shot entirely on one set which, at the time, was the largest indoor set ever built at Paramount studios. One of the unique features of the set was its massive drainage system, constructed to accommodate the rain sequence in the film. Which came in handy for the next picture on this list …
8 Haha, Hitchcock
“For me, suspense doesn’t have any value if it’s not balanced by humor.” – Alfred Hitchcock
Through his quirky characters, ironic situations, whimsical settings and a complex balance of laughs and tension, the “Master if Suspense” kept his audiences spellbound. Filmmakers who attempt to use Hitchcock’s techniques often overlook the undercurrent of facetious wit in the midst of the tension and horror.
7 Larger than life
“Revenge is sweet and not fattening.” – Alfred Hitchcock?
It’s not only his movie sets that were larger than life. The man himself was at his heaviest in the late 1930s when he weighed over 300 pounds. The picture here was taken in 1942 on the set of Shadow of a Doubt.
6 Come on closer
“Some of our most exquisite murders have been domestic, performed with tenderness in simple, homey places like the kitchen table.” – Alfred Hitchcock?
Dial M For Murder is Hitchcock’s only film to be entirely shot in 3-D. Because of the cumbersome 3-D camera process, Hitchcock commissioned the construction of an enormous, four-foot tall prop telephone and giant fake finger to be used for specific closeup shots.
5 Blonde ambition
“Blondes make the best victims. They’re like virgin snow that shows up the bloody footprints.” – Alfred Hitchcock?
The Master of Suspense had an obvious penchant (or obsession, according to some) for blonde heroines because, as he said, they are less suspicious than brunettes. When a blonde does something deceitful or unexpected, he pertained, it’s a greater shock than when a dark-haired girl does the same.
Some of his most famous blondes include Grace Kelly, Kim Novak (pictured here), Janet Leigh and Tippi Hendren. Hendren, in fact, was one of Hitchcock’s favorite icy blondes. She had a different take on his obsession, though. She even went as far as to call him a sexual predator, a man with a “very weird attitude towards women.”
4 Hands on
“I never said all actors are cattle; what I said was all actors should be treated like cattle.” – Alfred Hitchcock
But apparently, he did.
Kent Jones’ 2015 documentary film Hitchcock/Truffaut revealed some of the most infamous interviews Hitchcock and fellow director François Truffaut. “Actors are cattle,” Hitchcock tells Truffaut, underlining his reputation for giving them no scope but to fulfil his artistic vision. His hands-on approach with Janet Leigh is pictured above.
3 Murderous mischief
“The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.” – Alfred Hitchcock
Many view Strangers on a Train as a masterpiece of suspenseful storytelling, saying that Hitchcock’s brilliant use of mischief and misdirection makes Strangers on a Train one of his most memorable films.
And though it may sound innocuous, filming the carousel scene was, in truth, really dangerous. The operator had to crawl underneath the whirling carousel with the moving horses just inches from his head. “If the man had raised his head even slightly,” said Hitchcock, “it would have gone from being a suspense film into a horror film.”
It’s not clear whether this image was taken before or after this statement. Is Hitchcock contemplating or reflecting on the near-murder?
2 Game changer
“I have a perfect cure for a sore throat: cut it.” – Alfred Hitchcock
The iconic shower scene in Psycho is not only the central theme from which the entire movie hinges, it is also the entire reason Hitchcock made the movie. “It really was a game changer,” says filmmaker Alexandre O. Philippe, whose 2017 documentary 78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene explores Psycho and its signature scene in depth. The film, released in 1960, seemed to announce to the world that murder was now going to be an acceptable form of entertainment.
In the picture above, Hitchcock directs Leigh in the voyeuristic 45-second scene that required 78 camera set-ups, 52 edits and 7 days of shooting.
1 Creatures great and small
“Always make the audience suffer as much as possible.” – Alfred Hitchcock?
There’s an old saying in Hollywood: you are only as good as your last film. So, in true Hollywood style, it was only to be expected that Hitchcock would follow Psycho with an even greater triumph: The Birds. Also known as the technical marvel against which all creature films are to be measured.
In 1963, Hollywood animal trainer Ray Berwick trained 300 birds for this Hitchcock thriller. From suspending hunks of meat just below the camera lens to wiring shut a gull’s beak for safety reasons, the bird-wrangling crew pulled out all the stops under the watchful eye of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Hitchcock’s creative direction, as seen in this photo.