So Much More Than Just “The Master of Suspense”

“Dialogue should simply be a sound among other sounds, just something that comes out of the mouths of people whose eyes tell the story in visual terms.”

– Alfred Hitchcock

– – – – – – –

Saturday, the 13th of August was Alfred Hitchcock’s birthday. Although he passed on to that Great Drive-In Theater in the Sky in 1980, his far reaching impact on the culture and cinema remains.

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A few years back I happen to find a really terrific bio – Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Life by Patrick McGilligan. The author has written several biographies on other Hollywood legends including Clint Eastwood, Robert Altman, James Cagney, and most recently a young Orson Welles. If they’re anywhere near as good as this one I have several wonderful Hollywood stories to look forward to reading.

As for his Hitchcock biography, McGilligan covers everything from family and early childhood to significant details on each and every one of Hitchcock’s films. And there are sooooo many great films, including Psycho, Lifeboat, Vertigo, Notorious, North by Northwest, Strangers on a Train, The Birds, an unusually funny The Trouble With Harry, and my favorite Rear Window.

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Sure, the book gives all kinds of terrific behind the scenes details about Hitchcock, his life and his films. But what I was pleasantly surprised to find was that his work was a lifelong partnership with his wife Alma. There really was this huge contribution Alma Reville made to her husband’s success. Alma’s advice and collaboration contributed greatly to making Hitchcock the legendary director he has become.

Hitchcock, though he was the man behind the camera, really was the king of self promotion, the master of making himself the star of his movies as much as any actor. He did love life and he loved to have fun. Hitchcock added to his public persona with so many ‘quotable quotes:’

“Give them pleasure. The same pleasure they have when they wake up from a nightmare.”

“The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.”

“There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.”

“Suspense is like a woman. The more left to the imagination, the more the excitement.”

“Revenge is sweet and not fattening.”

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Alfred Hitchcock is not only a Pop Culture icon on a par with Marilyn Monroe and Elvis, he is for me a mentor. His stories and characters, however much pushed into the ‘thriller’ category, still reach deep into my being. I relate to the fears, insecurities, and struggles of the characters. I love the protagonists and their weaknesses, finding some kind of strength that only raises it’s head when they’re pushed beyond their limits.

Hitchcock films, like all storytelling, often get me to think, and maybe understand some things about myself. They are more than just entertainment. There’s a subconscious self-evaluation going on as I relate to a character. Have I got what it takes to push through a ridiculously crazy situation that in it’s own way is anything near to what’s presented in the movie? Would I hang in there when things get rough, and see it to the end?

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Maybe it’s silly to say that an Alfred Hitchcock film makes me a better man. That some mystery-thriller from 60 years ago can have any kind of maturing affect on me.

But they do. For me, all storytelling does.

And the life of the man, Alfred Hitchcock, and his collaboration with Alma that helped create such an amazing body of work, inspires me in my relationship with my wife. It reminds me that our relationship, the challenges we face together, and our ‘life’s work’ will leave a legacy behind. I hope it’s a good one.

– – – – – – –

“I beg permission to mention by name only four people who have given me the most affection, appreciation, and encouragement, and constant collaboration. The first of the four is a film editor, the second is a scriptwriter, the third is the mother of my daughter Pat [Patricia Hitchcock], and the fourth is as fine a cook as ever performed miracles in a domestic kitchen. And their names are Alma Reville.”

– Alfred Hitchcock, when accepting the American Film Institute Life Achievement award

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About VocareMentor

Walk with the wise and become wise - Prov. 13:20 A lot of my blog comes out of the way I grew up. My parents divorced when I was 6 years old and I didn’t see much of my father. I had no understanding of how the lack of his presence in my life affected every choice I made as I grew up. Much of my adult life has been attempting to sort things out and catch up. Thus, what you’ll find on my blog are musings, thoughts, wisdom and ideas from history and pop culture. Themes: mentors, father/son, male/female, self-discovery, courage, stepping up, friendship and more.
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16 Responses to So Much More Than Just “The Master of Suspense”

  1. Ahh, one of my favorites! All the best people are born in August, I should have known. 🙂

    This is a great post, thanks, I enjoyed reading.

  2. A good and timely post. AH is one of my favorite filmmakers. My first date with the woman would would eventually marry me was to the theater to see Psycho. It should have been a warning—for her! So far we have had 48 years of marriage and many a laugh about that night. Thanks for the memory.
    Ω

  3. mistermuse says:

    Excellent post! I’ve never seen a BAD Hitchcock film (though I thought THE BIRDS was overrated). Other than that, every one I’ve seen is worth watching again….and, in most cases, again and again.

  4. VocareMentor says:

    Thank you. Glad you enjoyed the post. But I have to admit I like The Birds. A good combination of thrills, and humor. One of my favorite exchanges:
    Cathy Brenner: He has a client now who shot his wife in the head six times. Six times! Can you imagine it? I mean, even twice would be overdoing it, don’t you think?
    Melanie Daniels: [to Mitch] Why did he shoot her?
    Mitch Brenner: He was watching a ball game on television.
    Melanie Daniels: What?
    Mitch Brenner: His wife changed the channel.

  5. I was just thinking of Hitchcock the other day in regards to him being a master of making us realize that sometimes we can’t but help but cross paths with those of ill or malicious intent. Just trying to keep your nose clean in this world isn’t going to save you. Are you prepared?

    “There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.” Hitchcock is able to shift his suspense of anticipation to the viewer’s psyche after the film has ended. When I leave the theater, will I find myself in a North by Northwest kind of situation? When I get home, do I need to be careful not to fall in a Rear Window crisis?

    I wouldn’t say that it is silly to posit Alfred made you a better man. Wisdom in a human world is a complicated thing. Keeping on the right side of things is trickier than it seems. Hitchcock was one of those who passed along a way of looking at the world and our place in this world as we really are (helpless as a man in a wheelchair with his leg in a cast? and just how helpless is that, really?). A way of looking at the world that is still grounded in being human, humane while being civilized.

    • VocareMentor says:

      I think Hitchcock’s “way of looking at the world” was very much grounded in an everyday reality that we all could relate to. I can relate so much more to his movies and characters than most of today’s slasher/thriller films.

      • I guess in a (weird) way, one could say Norman Bates and the birds made sense, we could actually see how the dynamics of the world could produce such “terrors”

  6. dunelight says:

    The Trouble With Harry…oh, what a great fall film. Netflix just doesn’t stock as many films as they used to.

    North by Northwest..time for a rewatch … so many good ones.

  7. filmsCine says:

    A great tribute to Hitchcock and his partnership with his wife. They created great things together. My favourite Hitchcock film is Vertigo. I also love Psycho and Rope.

    • VocareMentor says:

      Yes, McGilligan’s bio on Hitchcock goes into a lot of the way the two worked together. They were a great team. Alma didn’t mind being in the background, and oh, how Alfred Hitchcock loved the attention he deservingly received for the films. – Thank you for your kind words.

  8. CRKMusic says:

    I love this post! Currently studying Hitchcock as my core study in A Level Film. This post has been extremely inspiring! 🙂

  9. Pingback: So Much More Than Just “The Master of Suspense” — VocareMentor.com – CRKmusic

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