“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
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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.
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.
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.”
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?
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.
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“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