By CBSNews.com producer David Morgan
A Star DirectorBorn in London in 1899, Hitchcock worked at several film jobs (title designer, art director, writer) until he directed his first complete film, the British/German coproduction "The Pleasure Garden" (1925). He also directed the first British sound film, "Blackmail" (left).
The Second Mrs. de WinterHitchcock was brought to the U.S. by producer David O. Selznick to direct "Rebecca," based on Daphne du Maurier's tale of a woman haunted by her new husband's memories of his first, dead wife. Joan Fontaine (whose character isn't even named in the film) must also contend with the deceased Rebecca's housekeeper (Judith Anderson). The film won the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1940.
Where You Least Expect ItHitchcock never made a horror film with a supernatural creature or alien; his monsters were ordinary people, which made their crimes even more horrible. After all, who would have suspected sweet Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotton) of being a serial killer of rich widows, in "Shadow of a Doubt" (1943)? Unfortunately for his niece (Teresa Wright), she does.
MacGuffinsWhen Hitchcock made a film, he realized the chase was the thing, not the thing being chased. He called the object that propelled the hapless hero through the plot, whether it's evidence of a crime ("Strangers on a Train," center), microfilm hidden in a statue ("North By Northwest," right), or whatever is in the head of Mr. Memory ("The 39 Steps," left), a "macguffin."
StoryboardPerhaps tied to his desire to not leave anything to chance, Hitchcock prepared his films meticulously, drawing storyboards for every shot. The influences of German silent films were evident in his skewed camera angles, such as in this drawing for the finale of "Saboteur" (1942), where the spy is hanging from the raised arm of the Statue of Liberty.
CameosHitchcock's desire to perform was sated by silent walk-ons in his films, which meant he didn't have to worry about memorizing lines. And yes, he actually did lose all that weight for the before-and-after diet ad in the newspaper in "Lifeboat," a clever way to do a walk-on in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
VoyeurismThe voyeurism of movie audiences was perfectly encapsulated in the mystery "Rear Window" (1954), in which a photographer (Jimmy Stewart) suspects a neighbor of murdering his wife. When girlfriend Grace Kelly discovers some evidence (the missing wife's ring) in the neighbor's apartment, the killer (Raymond Burr) catches the gaze of Stewart -- and us!
PhobiaThe tragic tale "Vertigo" (1958), perhaps Hitchcock's most critically lauded work, tells of a detective (Jimmy Stewart) afflicted with a fear of heights, whose investigation into a mysterious woman (Kim Novak) becomes an obsession when her double appears. Hitchcock's use of color was stunning in suggesting the hero's moods, nightmares and self-doubt, as he suspects his sanity has been pushed over the edge.
The Wrong GuyThe quintessential Hitchcock film, "North By Northwest" (1959) featured the classic Hitchcock hero: an innocent wrongly accused of a crime, who must evade police and assassins in order to uncover the truth. Madison Avenue executive Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) never dreamed he'd be chased by a cropduster airplane armed with a machine gun, after being mistaken for a secret agent.
The ShowmanHitchcock's instincts as a showman and self-promoter (he appeared in trailers for his films, often at "the scene of the crime") were bolstered by his TV series, "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," which debuted on CBS in 1955. With tongue-in-cheek humor he introduced tales of mystery, a few of which he directed himself.
PsychoThe driving, stabbing strings of composer Bernard Herrmann, a frequent Hitchcock collaborator, shared residence at the Bates Motel with Norman Bates (left) and his murderous mother Mrs. Bates (right) in "Psycho" (1960). The music perfectly captured the tortured psyche of a devoted son trying to cover the tracks of his murderous mother -- or perhaps not.
Femmes FatalesHitchcock had a particular appreciation for blonde actresses which bordered on the obsessive. His fascination with (clockwise, from top left) Madeleine Carroll, Grace Kelly, Kim Novak, Tippi Hedren, Janet Leigh and Eva Marie Saint) didn't stop him from being a stern (some have said sadistic) director, but they returned the challenge with great performances.
Shot By ShotHitchcock effectively built suspense shot by shot, bringing the characters (and audience) to increasing levels of tension ... and the payoff, as in this sequence from "The Birds" (1963), was unforgettable.
By CBSNews.com producer David Morgan