A director so talented and there’s even a national day to celebrate his impact on the filming industry and the methods of his truly amazing talent. Visit Liverpool on the 12th of March and celebrate National Alfred Hitchcock Day at Arthouse hotel.
We looked into the reasons Hitchcock is still such a celebrated talent today.
A master of suspense
It’s one thing to create realistic gory scenes, or play on the fears and insecurities of your audience but without suspense or a connection to the characters, it’s all just for show.
After watching any of Hitchcock’s creations his audience is left with a sense of foreboding, and terror that doesn’t stop when the movie does.
It is Hitchcock’s method is to imply terror rather than portray it. In turn, we, the audience, fill in the details he intentionally left out with our imagination.
As with modern day films of today, the less we see the more we are scared. Blair Witch, Paranormal Activity and even found footage sci-fi/horror Cloverfield, keep us hooked by shielding us from the very thing that is terrifying the cast.
It’s not many directors who were able to achieve this level of audience captivation without exhibiting something for them to be scared by. This is where the talents of Hitchcock’s casting and filming techniques come into play.
Father of modern filmmaking
Using unique camera angles and motion technique was a pioneering move from Hitchcock that gave audiences a sense of being inside the movie.
In Vertigo the audience shares a paralysing sense of fear experienced by the main character through the use of a camera trick called the “Dolly technique”. The camera stays focused on one point and zooms out whilst physically moving towards the focus at the same time.
Simplicity is often the best policy when it comes to filming and Hitchcock’s uncomplicated use of lighting in Suspicion is ingenious.
Simply by placing a light in the glass of milk, Cary Grant is bringing to Joan Fontaine, the audience’s eye is drawn to the glass. Without explicitly saying so, or even implying with action, the audience comes to suspects the milk is poisoned.
These are just a few of the ways in which Hitchcock created his own visual dialect, one that was instantly understood and admired by his audience.
Those memorable leading ladies
It is said that Hitchcock picked his leading ladies out of Freudian interest, whilst he himself believed his choices were made for the effect of the film.
Hitchcock felt that blondes made the best victims because they were like fresh snow that showed up the blood more effectively. A lot of sceptics say that Hitchcock modelled the leading roles around his own mother and then went on to punish them in his films.
Joan Fontaine appeared in two of Hitchcock’s movies, one of which she won an Oscar for. Surprisingly Joan Fontaine was the only actor to ever win an academy award for their work with Hitchcock.
Grace Kelly was Hitchcock’s most elegant leading lady, after becoming Princess of Monaco, Hitchcock tried time and again to get her to portray another of his lead roles. Hitchcock’s well-known foot fetish even saw him spend half an hour directing close ups of Grace Kelly’s shoes without ever using the footage.
Ingrid Bergman was one actress whose work with Hitchcock is among the most celebrated in her career. She affectionately referred to Hitchcock as an “adorable genius” something I’m sure other leading ladies of his would heavily dispute. Not the genius but certainly the adorable.
Tippi Hendren, in particular, has recounted stories of Hitchcock’s maniacal methodology when attempting to provoke emotional responses from his actors. According to Tippi, she recalls Hitchcock surprising her with live birds that were meant to be mechanical in the chilling attic scene from The Birds.
Tippi even alluded to Hitchcock making advances towards her during filming and said he punished her as a result with other cruel or callous methods, all said to be done in the name of the film.
Hitchcock certainly showed his leading ladies a great deal of attention, whether praise, affection or simply by tormenting them. It seems whatever his relationship was with each actress it paid off by producing some of the most memorable film footage of all time.
37 clever cameos
Ever the showman Hitchcock couldn’t help but appear in scenes of his movies. A great way to spend National Alfred Hitchcock Day would be to sit and try and spot each of his 37 cameos.
We’ve listed a few here to get you going;
The Birds – Hitchcock exits the pet shop in the opening scenes with two dogs, both of which are his own.
Psycho – Hitchcock appears outside an office under a Stetson-style cowboy hat.
Rear Window – Hitchcock can be seen winding a clock in the background of one apartment being spied into.
Spellbound – spot the director coming out of a lift holding a violin case.
Lifeboat – he even shows up on the back of a newspaper ad in a before and after shot for weight loss.
Why did Hitchcock enjoy appearing in his movies so?
It seems that his intentions were mixed. Whilst in some movies he appears moments before a particular action or plot scene, sometimes his cameo is merely for kicks. An example can be found in his intention to appear as a deaf-mute in Notorious who gets slapped for signing something lude to a pretty girl but was never used being banned by producers.
Other times his appearance in movies or trailers was to increase audience awareness of his creation. His movie trailers were done with a particular creative genius that mocked his audience at the same time as endearing them to him.
Hitchcock knew how to engage people’s interest. By showcasing himself, he quickly ensured he was the most recognised director of his time. So much so that just a profile shot of Hitchcock today is enough to recognise the great man.
Manipulating marketing methods
Today the power of social media and advertising has reached new heights. Back in Hitchcock’s day, however, there wasn’t the ability to engage the masses with a clever Facebook campaign or viral video release.
Hitchcock took matters into his own hands and utilised his ability to manipulate the audience with clever suggestion and implication.
Psycho, for example, was screened at theatres with a strict rule from the director preventing late seating. This stopped anybody entering showing once it had started, resulting in creating an uninterrupted atmosphere for the seated audience and a feeling of suspense for those too late to watch. The queues that formed at ticket booths also gave the impression that this was a must-see movie.
Another fabulous trick Hitchcock adopted was mocking his audience’s usual choice of summer holiday in a trailer for North by Northwest. Hitchcock playfully offered an alternative holiday based on the route of his character in the movie he takes his audience on a tour across the country. His use of dry humour to added punch to his delivery and showed his audience how witty his new movie was sure to be. The trailer endeared his audience with his playfulness, and again manipulated their response to his movie.
Because Hitchcock’s audience could relate to him, they found it easier to then relate to his work. In turn, because Hitchcock’s characters are said to be based upon his own inner characters, his audience relate to each character as well.
Hitchcock employed much more than what we can physically see on screen to make his movie great, a master of his craft and why we celebrate National Alfred Hitchcock Day on the 12th of March each year.
Stay with us on Alfred Hitchcock day
Book your stay in one of our Hitchcock themed suites at Arthouse hotel, and step into our luxury Liverpool hotel rooms that are representations of the marvellous movies made by the master of suspense.