There lies The Hitch

Srijan Gupta19 Sep 2013

Sir Alfred Hitchcock is one mighty man in the prestigious books of Hollywood. Through this article, Srijan Gupta brings to forefront some interesting information from the life of this legend.

The most celebrated filmmaker of suspense and psychological thriller genre was actually afraid to watch his movies. Sir Alfred Hitchcock, in one of his interviews in 1963, expressed his astonishment that he had no idea how the audience tolerates his films. But we always loved to get scared, we always loved to experience the Hitchcockian treatment, we always loved his films and him; and all of the above we still do, let alone tolerating.

Born as a Brit in Essex in 13th of August 1899, the auteur is considered to be the greatest Brit filmmaker of all time. I couldn't agree more, yes, even keeping the Danny Boyles and Charles Chaplins in mind. He started off as a title-designer and his transition from being a title-designer to becoming a film director took five years.

It was around 1920 that he joined the film industry as a designer for title and sets (as he was a very skilled artist) and it was around this time only when he met his future wife Alma Reville, who was younger to Hitchcock by exactly and only a day. Precisely, the year was around 1923. But it seems that The Hitch knew about Alma's arrival beforehand, for he had written a short story in the publication 'The Henley Telegraph' called 'Fedora' which was the shortest and the most enigmatic one of his many, and there he gave a detailed description of his future wife whom he had not met yet! Anyway, after meeting in 1923, they finally got married in 1926. In the later years the two of them worked together in many a projects but Hitch never discussed his collaboration with Alma in public as the lady was never really fond of the limelight. It seems that he was ever committed to his wife and was grateful that he had her as his partner for life.

To get an idea of his feelings towards his spouse, it would be apt to quote his own words. When he was accepting his AFI Lifetime Achievement Award, he gave a speech. I can't help but quote a part from it; he said, '....Had the beautiful Ms. Reville [his wife Alma Reville] not accepted a lifetime contract without options as Mrs. Alfred Hitchcock some 53 years ago, Mr. Alfred Hitchcock might be in this room tonight, not at this table but as one of the slower waiters on the floor.'

But men are supposed to be men, and they have their shares of flings. Hitchcock too had his with the blonde diva Tippi Hedren. Yes, he was always fond of (or perhaps obsessed with) blondes. Interestingly she was his finding and the fact that's even more interesting was Hitch took her under his personal contract. She made her debut with the classic 'The Birds' and delivered the performance of her lifetime in 'Marnie' in 1964 (where she portrayed the title character) alongside Sean 'Bond' Connery who later said in an interview that she was always underrated. While filming 'Marnie', Hitch and Tippi had major fallout, the reason of it according to her was Hitch's unsuccessful sexual advancements towards Tippi. This eventually resulted her oust from the contract. Later on she said 'Hitchcock ruined my career...' as Hitch had the power to reject or approve any acting offer she received, thanks to the contract.

Tippi made all these allegations against Hitchcock of him being possessive about her post his demise and even a feature called 'The Girl' was made based on the relationship of the two in the year 2012 (starring Sienna Miller as 'Tippi' and Toby Jones as 'Hitchcock'). The film turned out to be controversial as many who worked with Hitchcock (which includes some of his leading actresses who were, obviously, blondes and assistant directors) refuted Hedren's take on him, and surprisingly even, Hedren gave Hitchcock a warm tribute when he was being honored with the AFI Lifetime Achievement Award by The American Film Institute in 1979 and was even present at his funeral. When she was asked about her strikingly contrasting take on him after so many years, she said 'He ruined my career, but he didn't ruin my life. That time of my life was over. I still admire the man for who he was.' In connection to this I really can't resist myself from quoting her once again '[on Hitchcock] To be the object of somebody's obsession is a really awful when u can't return it.' After Hitchcock, Hedren even worked with greats like Chaplin but astonishingly her career never really took off.

However, let's get back on track. As a child, Hitchcock was sent to the local police station with a letter from his father. The desk sergeant read the letter and immediately locked the boy up for ten minutes. After that, the sergeant let young Alfred go, explaining, "This is what happens to people who do bad things." Hitchcock had a morbid fear of police from that day on. He also cited this phobia as the reason he never learned to drive (as a person who doesn't drive can never be pulled over and given a ticket). It was also cited as the reason for the recurring "wrong man" themes in his films. And yes, who can forget the 'MacGuffin'? But let's not talk about it today, I promise to come back with the film-making prowess of the maestro sometime in near future. After all, the ovophobic, obese auteur who can express the desire to treat his actors like 'cattle' is way too interesting to let go so easily.

I guess many of us Hitchcock fans still wonder why he never won an Oscar (though he won the Irving Thalberg Memorial Award at the 1967 Academy Awards to which he simply said 'Thank you') in spite of quite a few (five, to be precise) nominations and sadly, that will be forever a mystery. I guess it's the same reason why Christopher Nolan didn't win one yet. Now please don't ask me the reason because though I can feel it, I am not backed with such a strong vocabulary to express that frustration.

Tags: Alfred HitchcockTributeFeature

The author works as a Radio Jockey and Producer with an FM station based in Kolkata. He is also a professional on-stage emcee/anchor and voice-over artist. By qualification, he’s an electrical engineer (so-called). Being an amateur musician and singer-songwriter, he dreamt of being a rockstar but he realized that he cannot compose songs, even if he does, the tunes are crappy. All of a sudden, he found his true passion, the passion for movies. Since then he started writing scripts and making shorts & docu-films. He dreams about making his own feature someday, soon.

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