All About Alfred Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock is undeniably one of the world’s most famous and influential directors of all time. From Birds to Psycho to Vertigo, it is hard to find someone who hasn’t seen at least one of ‘The Master of Suspense’s films. As we approach the anniversary of the legendary director’s death, nearly 40 years ago on April 29th 1980, we take a look back on all things Alfred Hitchcock.

He was celebrated throughout the cinematic world for his distinctly recognisable directorial style, with shots framed to maximise the feeling of unease within his viewers, creating a sense of fear, dread or anxiety in his innovative forms of film editing.

It was this iconic style that earned him his ‘Master of Suspense’ title and paved the way for Hitchcock’s pioneering evolution of the thriller genre.

Alfred Hitchcock

The Early Life of an Icon

Born to a William Hitchcock, a greengrocer in Leytonstone in 1899, Alfred Joseph Hitchcock was the second son and youngest of three children. Often found drawing and inventing games in his spare time, he was quiet and described as a bit of a loner – a trait that was mainly due to his size, which was large even as a child.

A story often told about Hitchcock’s upbringing, and the subsequent influence on his life and career is the story of Hitchcock’s time spent in prison.

When he was five years old, Hitchcock’s very strict, Catholic father punished the young boy for being naughty by sending him to the local police station with a note, asking the officers to lock him away for several minutes. This was Hitchcock’s only brush with the law, thanks to a deep-seated fear of authority because of this very moment.

After graduating from London County Council School of Engineering and Navigation, with fantastic draftsmanship skills under his belt, Hitchcock took a job at Henley Telegraph Company as an estimator for their manufacture of electric cable.

With a job he saw as mind-numbing, Hitchcock used his free time to attend the cinema (often by himself0, read cinema trade papers and take drawing classes at London University. This creative side shone through in Henley’s Social Club magazine, where his short stories with twist endings and caricatures were published. These published works got Hitchcock promoted to the advertising department, as a creative advertising illustrator.

The Birth of a Director

Hitchcock’s first endeavour into film was a job as a title card designer (the text in silent movies that explains actions or shows dialogue) for Famous Players-Lasky (which later became Paramount). He used this job to get his foot in the door for screenwriting, assistant director, set designer and all other aspects of filmmaking.

After a few failed attempts at directing while at Famous Players-Lasky, during which he met his future wife, Alma, Hitchcock scored a hit with The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog in 1927. The film was a major success in the United Kingdom and is regarded as the first ‘Hitchcockian’ film, heavily influenced by expressionist techniques that Hitchcock witnessed while directing The Pleasure Garden in Germany in 1926.

The 1930s saw Hitchcock make film after film, with many becoming a success both on home soil and across the Atlantic in America. His 1938 film The Lady Vanishes, won the New York Critics’ Award for Best Film, which helped catch the attention of American film producer and studio owner David O. Selznick, who extended a contract offer of three motion picture films. Hitchcock accepted and moved his now wife Alma, and ten-year-old daughter Patricia, to Hollywood.

Alfred Hitchcock and David O. Selznick

Iconic Films

Hitchcock was one of the first directors to which the ‘auteur theory was applied, a theory which stresses the artistic authority of the director in the filmmaking process. Such artistry is what contributed to so many of Hitchcock’s films being regarded with such icon status.

Perhaps the most well-known film from Hitchcock didn’t come until later in his career, Psycho, released in 1960, was the most shocking film of its time. With twists and disturbing themes that thrilled moviegoers across the world. The cheap budget ($800,000) gave Hitchcock motivation to be creative with his filming techniques, to such an extent that the now iconic shower scene, where the heroine is brutally murdered, is composed of more than 90 shots and 70 different angles. The scene is revered as one of the most thrilling pieces of work of all time.

Janet Leigh in Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock

Keeping with his later fashion of one-word titles and suspenseful thrillers, Hitchcock’s other most memorable films, which hold permanent places on the majority of ‘Top Films’ lists, includes Birds (1963), where a town is attacked by menacing flocks of birds, and Vertigo (1958), a story of obsession, manipulation and fear and a cycle of madness and lies.

The endless list of classics produced by the Master of Suspense is one of the many reasons he is considered to be one of, if not the, best directors of all time.

Hidden Gems

Not to be ignored are Hitchcock’s lesser known films, iconic in their own right, but often overshadowed by is creative giants. Early works such as Notorious (1946), Spellbound (1945) and The 39 Steps (1935) all have their place in film history for their technical ingenuity.

With more than 50 feature films under his belt throughout his career, there is a plethora of hidden and niche Hitchcock films that document his development to the style he was admired for.

Aesthetic

Often cited as a pioneer and auteur, Hitchcock’s filming style is what places him in the director’s hall of fame, with signature filming techniques and styles that help identify any of his films as distinctly Hitchcockian.

He appears as a cameo in 39 of his films, often with no lines and as a brief background character in early scenes. The tradition began When filming his first major success, The Lodger (1927), when there weren’t enough extras to fill the newsroom in the opening scene.

Alfred Hitchock's cameo in Rear Window

Certain camera angles and techniques have become associated with the director’s feature films, as he creates a feel of voyeurism for the audience, with point of view shots and roving tracking to guide the audience to the subject at hand.

Hitchcock also gained a reputation for using ‘icy blondes’ as his chosen heroines, from Grace Kelly to Janet Leigh to Ingrid Bergman. He once said that blondes are thought to be innocent and glamorous – the perfect recipe for a victim. The icy attitude was for added suspense, and to confuse the audience with their lack of empathy for the poor femme fatale.

He was also noted for his rigorous planning of his productions, with every detail of every scene meticulously storyboarded, with every camera angle, sound effect and movement accounted for and unchanged throughout the filming process.

Personal Life

Hitchcock met his wife, Alma, while working at his first studio, Famous Players-Lasky. She worked on continuity and editing for several of his early works and the two were married in 1926 and she became his chief collaborator on all films. Alma took a backseat to the limelight as she did not want the public attention that came with her husband’s rise to fame.

The couple welcomed their first and only child, a girl named Patricia, in 1928, and the entire family moved to Hollywood when David O. Selznick offered Hitchcock a three-film contract in March 1939.

hitchcock behind the scenes

Awards, Honours and Death

Being one of the most well-noted directors in history comes with a string of awards and honours across a lifetime of hard work and dedication to the industry. Along with innumerable Oscar, Golden Globes and BAFTA nominations and awards, Hitchcock also received five lifetime achievement awards, eight Laurel Awards and has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Hitchcock became Sir Alfred Hitchcock after being knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in the 1980 New Year Honours.

In the first few months after his knighthood, Hitchcock worked on a script for a new spy thriller, The Short Night, but the project never came to fruition due to the director’s rapidly declining health. In April of 1980, he passed away in his home of renal failure at 80 years old.

The Hitchcock Floor at Arthouse Hotel

Arthouse Hotel, close to Liverpool’s city centre and just minutes walk to the vibrant and ever-growing nightlife, pay special homage to Hitchcock’s legacy and the impact he left on the cinematic world with an entire floor dedicated to his most iconic films.

Choose from eight Hitchcock themed rooms, sleeping between four and six guests, and indulge in the luxury of a bygone era of cinema.

Spellbound room at Arthouse Hotel

Experience an elegant take on Bates Motel in Pyscho, or indulge in Notorious, there’s glamour in Suspicion and dark decadence in The Birds.

Be enchanted in Spellbound or experience life on the run in Stage Fright, there’s also the mystifying magnetism of Vertigo and a 1920s vibe in Easy Virtue.

There’s stylish accommodation for everyone whatever your favourite Hitchcock film, and with an amazing location in the heart of cultural Liverpool, there is no better place for group accommodation that the Arthouse Hotel.

Call on 0151 601 8801 or email info@signatureliving.co.uk to book your stay at Liverpool’s best movie theme hotel.

Behind The Scenes of The Sound of Music

Discover the best behind the scenes photographs from The Sound of Music along with heartwarming, hilarious facts.

The Sound of Music (1965) is undoubtedly one of the best-loved and most timeless movies of all time.

And at Liverpool’s Arthouse Hotel, we’ve captured the very essence of the classic with our fabulous Sound of Music themed hotel room.

Join us on this nostalgic look back at the film that truly brought the hills alive with the Sound of Music!

Julie Andrews almost wasn’t Maria von Trapp

Though we can’t imagine anyone else twirling over the mountains, the truth behind the scenes is that Julie Andrews very nearly missed out on bringing Maria von Trapp to life.

Whilst director Robert Wise affirmed that his heart was set on Andrews, it has been reported that Shirley Jones, Doris Day, and Anne Bancroft were considered for the part.

And despite Wise’s eagerness, Andrews herself almost turned the part down. The young star worried that the role would be too similar to Mary Poppins (1964)

There “should have” been a romance…

It’s safe to say that the sparks between Christopher Plummer and Julie Andrews on-screen may not have required too much acting after all!

Both Andrews and Plummer confessed to having a soft spot for each other while filming The Sound of Music, with Plummer describing working with Julie Andrews as like “being hit over the head with a big Valentine’s Day card”.

The flirtatious pair remain close friends to this day and insist that their feelings never amounted to anything more than a friendship. Whether that’s true or not, their connection has certainly lasted the decades.

Plummer told ABC News:

“We should have ended up together. We should have had a huge smashing affair. But there was no time because she had her children with her, it was most inconvenient”.

Kim Karath didn’t really climb the mountain

The adorable Kym Karath wasn’t actually sat on the Captain’s shoulders for the infamous mountain scene.

Plummer found Karath too heavy to carry and requested a stunt double while climbing the mountain.

Ironically, Plummer had put on weight during filming himself – the director’s even had to alter his clothes!

Christopher Plummer wasn’t exactly a fan

In fact, Christopher Plummer’s weight again whilst filming wasn’t for the reason you may think.

Though we suspect there was plenty of fun on set, Plummer was unhappy with various aspects of the film, particularly being asked to sing “Edelweiss”.

Plummer admitted that he indulged in plenty of comfort eating and excessive drinking during this period, and was even drunk when they filmed the music festival scene.

Though the film went on to become iconic, Plummer recalls disliking filming so much that he would refer to the movie as “The Sound of Mucus”.

Meanwhile, Julie Andrews was a fan of her wardobe

Unsurprisingly, showcasing the Sound of Music wedding dress definitely wasn’t a chore.

In fact, the stunning dress chosen for Maria von Trapp’s big day was a hit with Julie Andrews herself.

The classic gown was designed by Dorothy Jacobs, a renowned costume designer at the time.

Equipped with visible water stains, the iconic dress later sold at auction for $23,040.

“That dress was exquisite,” Andrews recalled.

Filming began tucked up in bed

On their first day of filming, Julie Andrews and the children shot the bedroom scene, in which Andrews sang the timeless “My Favourite Things”.

We can’t think of a better way to spend the working day!

Mary Poppins may have made an appearance or two

Disney’s Mary Poppins (1964) hadn’t been released when filming for The Sound of Music began.

Julie Andrews would keep the children entertained with renditions of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” on set, yet they hadn’t heard the song before.

Later becoming one of the most memorable songs of all time, the children had assumed that Andrews thought up the song herself just for them!

Dinner was served in style

While films don’t always use real place settings and food for meal scenes, The Sound of Music definitely did.

When the children are first introduced to Maria over dinner, real place settings and food filled the table!

The Sound of Music cast found themselves in deep water!

The Sound of Music cast may not have anticipated being hosed down time and time again, but that was what happened!

The tuneful bunch had to be hosed down in order to maintain looking the soaking wet look from falling into the water.

Julie Andrews and Kym Karath also landed themselves in deep water with the boat scene. On the second take, the boat tipped, sending Andrews one way into the water and Karath the other.

Andrews was responsible for catching Karath (who couldn’t swim) but on this occasion, Heather Menzies-Urich (Louisa) had to take control!

The Sound of Music was chosen to boost morale

 

One of the most unlikely facts about The Sound of Music links back to the Cold War.

The same way that The Sound of Music was awarded an impressive five Oscars, the BBC were busy building a nuclear bunker.

In an era filled with Cold War anxieties and paranoia, it’s easy to see why this slightly bizarre decision was being made!

Television execs picked the uplifting musical to be broadcast as part of 100 days of television showings if a nuclear strike should hit.#

Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer just couldn’t stop laughing

This scene may look seriously heartfelt, but behind the scenes this particular duo were in fits of laughter.

Behind the camera, the famous kiss between Maria and the Captain in the gazebo was a far cry from intense…

Both Andrews and Plummer couldn’t seem to shake the giggles as they sang close to each other’s faces.

Andrews recalls:

“Chris and I were standing very close. We were face to face, about an inch away from each other, looking into each others eyes. We were just getting to the point where we would say ‘I love you’ or we’d start kissing… and then those old arc lights would let out a loud ‘raspberry!’ It was like a comment on our scene! Well, Chris and I would start laughing. We couldn’t help it. Then we’d go back to the scene again, and those lights would start groaning at us again! Our giggling got even worse. In fact it got to the point where we couldn’t get through the scene!”

Director Robert Wise found himself with little choice but to film the scene in silhouette, concealing the laughter behind that passionate kiss!

Why not treat yourself or someone special to a stay in our Sound of Music themed hotel room? We’re sure it’ll become one of your favourite things in no time.

Our spacious rooms are equipped with everything you could need for an unforgettable group stay in Liverpool, in the heart of the city’s best sights and vibrant nightlife scene.

To enquire further, you can speak to our team today on 0151 601 8801.