Birth of Alfred Hitchcock

Birth of Alfred Hitchcock

US #3226 features special die-cutting on Hitchcock’s famous caricature in the upper-left corner.

Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock was born on August 13, 1899, in Leytonstone, Essex, England.

The son of a greengrocer, Hitchcock was a well-behaved child who did well in school – usually in the top five of his class.  He attended St. Ignatius College and studied engineering at the University of London. 

Sierra Leone #2062 pictures scenes from several Hitchcock films.

After his father died, Hitchcock took a job as a technical clerk but took night classes in art history, painting, economics, and political science as well.  He was too young to enlist at the start of World War I, but when he was old enough, he joined a cadet regiment of the Royal Engineers. 

After the war, Hitchcock began experimenting with creative writing.  He helped found The Henley Telegraph and was soon promoted to the company’s advertising department.  He later recalled that his time there was his “first step toward cinema.” 

Hitchcock’s first job in the movie industry was designing title cards for silent films.  His first talent was for silent films, but he expanded to “talkies” when they came along.  Blackmail (1929) was the first English film with sound.  Hitchcock began his career directing fast-paced melodramas, but it wasn’t until The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) that he gained international popularity.    

US #3226 – Classic First Day Cover.

In 1939, Hitchcock moved to America and took up residence in Hollywood.  His premier American movie, Rebecca (1940), won an Academy Award for best picture.  Some of the actors he worked with included up-and-coming stars, Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman.  Hitchcock even collaborated with famous artist Salvador Dalí on a dream sequence for his film Spellbound.

US #3226 – Mystic First Day Cover.

Hitchcock’s career really took off in the 1950s. Some of his filming techniques were unheard of at the time, but well received.  He often used the camera angle to mimic a person’s gaze, giving audiences a feeling of uneasiness.  Hitchcock also mastered adjusting the camera to maximize the audience’s anxiety and fear.  These techniques laid the groundwork for other films in the genre, and some are still used today.  Without Hitchcock, suspense and psychological thrillers wouldn’t be nearly as frightening.

Great Britain #1119-23 includes a stamp honoring Hitchcock.

The “Master of Suspense” brought terror into American homes – and audiences loved it.  For a director known for his horror films, Alfred also enjoyed sharing his playfully morbid sense of humor with an audience uncertain if it should laugh.  Audiences accustomed to light-hearted variety shows and middle-class dramas were introduced to taut thrillers that featured some of the best-known actors of the day.  Frequently, the villains appeared to succeed in their mischief.  But Alfred always came back to explain how the villains had actually received the justice they deserved.

Hitchcock had a devoted team of writers that he consulted with for each of his films.  The concept for each story came directly from Hitchcock, but writers worked out the actual details.  Hitchcock’s writers often lamented his “strict attention to detail and a preference for telling the story through visual rather than verbal means,” but admitted this encouraged them to do their absolute best work.

US #4414o from the Early TV Memories sheet.

Several television shows during the 1950s and 1960s, including Alfred Hitchcock Presents, increased his popularity.  These shows were shorter, more television-friendly versions of the suspenseful stories that made him famous.  He began each episode with a joke and closed episodes assuring his viewers that all criminals had been arrested.

US #4414o – Fleetwood First Day Cover.

Over the course of his 60-year career, Hitchcock directed more than 50 feature films.  Some of his most famous films were PsychoRear Window, The Birds and Strangers on a Train.  Interestingly enough, Hitchcock made cameo appearances in some of his films.  Unless the audience was looking for him, he often went unnoticed in these small roles.  Through the years, he became as popular as those who starred in his suspenseful movies. 

US #4414o – Silk Cachet First Day Cover.

In 1979, Hitchcock received the AFI’s Life Achievement Award.  And in 1980, Queen Elizabeth II gave Hitchcock the title “Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.”  This title is one of the three highest a person can be given.  It’s no surprise that a poll in Britain’s Daily Telegraphonce named Hitchcock, “Unquestionably the greatest filmmaker to emerge from these isles.  Hitchcock did more than any director to shape modern cinema.”

Item #9A1123 – Great Britain First Day Cover.

Hitchcock died on April 29, 1980, in Bel Air California at the age of 80.

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7 responses to "Birth of Alfred Hitchcock"

7 thoughts on “Birth of Alfred Hitchcock”

  1. AS ALWAYS, THESE STORIES ARE GREAT—WHAT A WAY TO START THE DAY AS READING THIS AS THE FIRST THING I READ. THANK YOU FOR THE ENLIGHTMENT.

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  2. I have enjoyed these famous films many times over the years. British film and television are usually of very high quality,worth repeat viewing.

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  3. Wonderful article. Hitchcock was once asked why he did use a lot of visually violent mayhem in his films. He explained that an exploding bomb did not create suspense. Watching someone set a timer on a bomb, place it under a table in a crowded restaurant, and then have the audience watch as the timer clock ticked away usually put them on the edge of their seats, even if they had seen the movie several times. Having watched most of his films I can only say that he nailed that one.

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  4. I have enjoyed many of his films and feel that they are superior to most of the more recent suspense films. A truly great director. Thank you Mystic for today’s article.

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  5. Like Bob Hope, Alfred Hitchcock had a silhouette that was easy to recognize. Never a fan of suspense films, I still enjoyed and admired Hitchcock and his work. I was stationed in California near where the Birds was filmed. Never could go there without thinking of those birds. I will close with his expression, Goooood Evenink!

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  6. This man was a genius at his movies I remember seeing at least two of his films and they spooked me good I still see scene from them in my mind almost 50 years past enjoyed them. Thanks for the great article.

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