Today, we’re celebrating Alfred Hitchcock on what would have been his 117th birthday. A wickedly innovative purveyor of fear and menace, this most celebrated of directors left behind a hypnotic, unsettling body of work that continues to haunt our dreams. For the occasion, we’re looking back on a selection of essays and videos that explore the Master of Suspense’s inexhaustible oeuvre.
- First, read David Cairns on Hitchcock’s 1939 spy thriller The 39 Steps, “the first Hitchcock film to really crank up the MacGuffin as plot motor.”
- Explore Hitchcock’s ocular obsession in this video essay by :: kogonada:
- Robin Wood explains how Hitchock’s first Hollywood assignment, the Oscar-winning Daphne du Maurier adaptation Rebecca, “opened whole new vistas of thematic and emotional expression, stimulating Hitchcock’s professional ambition and expanding his artistic aspirations. Had he remained in Britain, we would surely never have had Notorious, or Vertigo, or Marnie.”
- Next, read James Naremore on the history behind Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent. Also made during the director’s first year in Hollywood, the film “still generates the pure excitement and cinematic brio we expect of a Hitchcock thriller, but in 1940 it also managed to deliver an important wartime message to America.”
- Go behind the scenes of our restoration of Hitchcock’s 1934 thriller The Man Who Knew Too Much. And watch Guillermo del Toro explore the film’s diabolical mix of humor and horror.
- Geoffrey O’Brien calls The Lady Vanishes “the film that best exemplifies Alfred Hitchcock’s often-asserted desire to offer audiences not a slice of life but a slice of cake. Even Claude Chabrol and Eric Rohmer, in their pioneering study of Hitchcock, for once abandoned the search for hidden meanings and—though rating it ‘an excellent English film, an excellent Hitchcock film’—decided it was one that ‘requires little commentary.’ ”
- In this brief but delightful clip from The Illustrated Hitchcock, a 1972 television conversation with journalist Pia Lindström (Ingrid Bergman’s daughter), the director extols the pleasures of giving the audience a scare: