Alfred Hitchcock is best known as the director of films
like The Birds, Vertigo, Rear Window and of course,
Psycho. The scene in which Norman Bates tears off the
shower curtain rods and ends Janet Leigh's run from the
police, leaving her in the similar state to the fabric
shower curtain, is one of the most famous in cinema
history. This article will talk a little about the
career of this director, and why his films are popular
Hitchcock started his career making
silent films in England. These were, for the most part,
not very extraordinary pictures and are only seen today
due to his fame. It wasn't until the release of his
movie "The Lady Vanishes" that he began to get attention
for his ability to tell stories in an effective manner.
His British period also included "The 39 Steps" and "The
Man Who Knew Too Much", a film that was later remade
starring James Steward and Doris Day.
From the success of these pictures, Hitchcock was
employed by mega-producer David O. Selznick, the Harvey
Weinstien of his era, to come to America and make films
for Hollywood. His first film in the States, Rebecca,
did little at the box office, but soon he was making
films like Strangers on a Train, Rear Window and To
Catch a Thief.
Hitchcock had something most directors aren't lucky
enough to achieve. Due to the distinctive nature of his
films and the TV show he regularly hosted, he became a
household name, and his face is instantly recognizable
among those over a certain age. This kind of fame came
with a price, however, as he was seen by many critics to
be a "populist" director rather than making art films.
For example, he never won an Academy Award for
directing. This opinion of his work could not be further
from the esteem it's currently held in by critics around
the world. However, critics such as Ray Carney and David
Thomson point out that his films have a certain level of
hollowness to them. While they're certainly very
exciting and emotionally manipulating pictures, this
manipulation also has a narcissistic quality, and
perhaps points to the social awkwardness Hitchcock felt.
Hitchcock's later films are regarded as not being as
effective as his earlier hits. As he grew older, his
behavior became stranger, and it's widely assumed that
at one stage he propositioned Tippi Hendren, the star of
The Birds and Marnie who Hitchcock found on a television
commercial. While Hendren has the look of a leading
lady, there can be little doubt she was not at the high
level of most professional actors.
But this was never Hitchcock's concern. He has
famously been quoted as saying that actors should be
treated as cattle, and plans his films out before
shooting even begins on his films. This level of strict
control is the reason his films are so engaging and
virtuosic, but perhaps also show the reason why some
find the films to be emotionally hollow.