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Brooklyn Daily Eagle (13/Aug/2008) - Titanic Almost His

(c) Brooklyn Daily Eagle (13/Aug/2008)

On This Day in History: August 13

"Titanic" Almost His

LONDON, ENGLAND — On August 13, 1899 Alfred Joseph Hitchcock, film director and master of suspense, was born in London, England, the son of a wholesale and retail fruit and vegetable dealer.

After studies at Saint Ignatius College (Jesuits) in London, he attended the School of Engineering and Navigation where the draftsmanship studies there led to a design and layout position in the advertising department of a firm that made electrical cables. In the days of silent films, titles were shown in the film to supply the dialogue and oftentimes in the background there were drawn illustrations. It was through his title production at the British movie studios that in 1925 he came to direct his first British motion picture, The Pleasure Garden. Among his early successes in England were The 39 Steps (’35) and The Lady Vanishes (’40).

Only a devoted buff of Hitchcock’s films might know that he once directed a musical. It was in 1933 and Hitchcock always called it the “lowest ebb in my career.” The film was Waltzes From Vienna (British title), or Strauss’ Great Waltz (American title) and the leading lady was the great British musical film star Jessie Matthews. It has its moments, but not the type of Hitchcock moments movie goers came to know as in his next film The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), which he refilmed in 1956.

After moving to the United States, his later films included Rebecca (’40), Strangers on a Train (’51), Rear Window (’54), Psycho (’60), The Birds (’64) and Frenzy (’72).

When Alfred Hitchcock first came to America, he came close to directing a film for David O. Selznik about the Titanic. Selznik wanted to buy a huge ship named the Leviathan that was in the shipwrecker’s yard, have it towed someplace and sink it for realism in the filming. The asking price for the ship was $848,000, and that was too steep for Selznik. Pessimist Hitchcock visualized the cameras grinding away as the ship was sunk when suddenly the electricity to the cameras went off. Unfortunately, Hitchcock never had his chance to film his vision of this great tragedy.

In addition to making films, Hitchcock edited several collections of short stories and produced two television series, “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” (’59-’62) and “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour” (’63-’65), on which he served as host. As a director, Hitchcock was noted for his witty urbanity, his impeccable but daring cinematic technique, and his penchant for the macabre and the suspenseful. Hitchcock had a running joke of being seen somewhere in each of his films. Hitchcock died on April 29, 1980 in Beverly Hills, CA.