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Financial Times (30/Apr/1980) - Sir Alfred Hitchcock



Sir Alfred Hitchcock


Sir Alfred Hitchcock, veteran genius of the mystery thriller and probably the greatest film director that Britain has produced, died yesterday at the age of 80. No-one lucky enough to have seen this witty, lugubrious showman's near-to-last public appearance when he was guest of honour at a recent all-star tribute from the American Film Institute, could forget the sight of that majestic po-faced presence taking the effusions of the might in his impassive stride, as the role call of his 33 feature films and countless technical innovations in the cinema was read out. He was in poor health then, but even at the last he was nursing his 54th movie project, a film about the George Blake spy case.

"Hitch" was born in Leyton-stone. London, in 1899. Educated at a strict Jesuit college —— from which many critics conjecture he drew his near-religious notions of guilt and punishment —— he moved into the film business as a title designed and directed his first feature. The Pleasure Garden in 1925. In 1926 he married one of his first professional collaborators, the film editor Alma Reville. and they remained together until his death.

Hitchcock's British period was his Spring of youthful inventiveness; a treasure trove of mischievous thrillers ranging from the revolutionary techniques of Blackmail. the first British talkie, to the teasing comedy and suspense of The Lady Vanishes.

In 1938 Hitchcock was lured to Hollywood by David O. Selznick to make Rebecca His first foray into American movie-making was an instant triumph, and he was soon turning out his special brand of atmospheric, cat-and-mouse thrillers; Foreign Correspondent, Suspicion, Shadow of a Doubt, Spellbound, Notorious.

The 1950s were Hitchcock's Golden Decade. He not only made three films whose grace, wit and resonant ambiguity far transcend the thumbnail category "thriller"— — Rear Window, Vertigo, and North by Northwest —— but he put his playful fingers into the beckoning pie of television and inaugurated bis very own series Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The jaunty signature tune and the mock-sinister Hitchcock silhouette —— like a giant balloon with teeth — —became icons of the age.

In 1960 Hitchcock added another cubit to his ever-growing stature with Psycho, his first unabashed "shocker," and a film whose ferocious resonances, part grand guignol, part Freudian parable, vibrate to this day. After a vivid '60s output that included The Birds, Marnie, Torn Curtain and Topaz, a dottily ingenious tribute to the Britain he remembered. His last film, mischievous and macabre to the last, was Family Plot.

In 1979 Hitchcock was knighted for his services to the cinema.