The Myth of Alfred Hitchcock

Essay, 2005

10 Pages, Grade: 2,0


1) The product called “Alfred Hitchcock”

Starting out his professional career with nothing else than a knowledge of electronics, Alfred Hitchcock began his filming career very unusual. His father, having been dealing with poultry, fruits, and vegetables, sent him to the School of Engineering and Navigation[1], where Alfred Hitchcock started on a course which would prepare him to become an electrical engineer. Unfortunately, he had to quit his studies in order to support his family at home by working as a technical clerk in a cable-manufacturing company, but soon he rose from the lowly job to the advertising department. There, he was occupied with drawing advertisements. With regard to the further development of his professional expertise, this was the best thing that could have happened to him. Additionally, he attended an art course at the University of London. At the age of approximately 20 years, Alfred Hitchcock dreamed of being part of the film business. Thus, one day, when he heard about the fact that the American Paramount Famous Players-Lasky Company planned to establish a subsidiary in London, Hitchcock decided to develop film title cards for a film which was on the production schedule of this company. It was called ‘The Great Day’ and was screened in 1921.[2] In those days, these films were still silent films with no additional information given, neither spoken nor written. The success of these cards was amazing, for he was employed immediately by the Famous Players-Lasky Company. This was his first step into the filming industry.

Hitchcock’s talent to bring in new techniques into this branch revealed itself step by step. Over the years, he not only brought fresh air to the British film industry, but also and more importantly to Hollywood. Hitchcock topped this by finally becoming a citizen of the United States of America in 1955. Furthermore, American actors and actresses were already engaged quite early, and also Hitchcock employed several stars for his films like ‘The 39 Steps’ or ‘Secret Agent’, which had been produced in the 1930’s. These two films as well as ‘The Lady Vanishes’ will be the most focused ones in this essay, because the theme of spy organizations and sexually frustrated relationships between married and unmarried couples are most decisive for Hitchcock’s later thrillers, for whom he is so well known. Thus, this essay intends to reveal Hitchcock’s influence on American and European film-makings. Although films like ‘Psycho’ or ‘The Birds’ were produced in Hollywood, his British successes must not be neglected. On the contrary, Alfred Hitchcock’s early films made Hollywood aware of a great directing expert, the later master of suspense.

2) The Rise of the Movie Era

In order to get an overview over the beginnings of the cinema, one has to know at first that this genre of entertainment derived from screening theatre plays and operas, for example ‘Tonbilder’ by Oskar Messter, which was produced around 1900.[3] Thus, it is not surprising that the early beginnings of the cinema are rooted in Europe, providing outstanding playwrights such as Shakespeare, Schiller, or Molière. The first climax for Great Britain with regard to silent films was already around 1900, shortly after the new genre of entertainment had emerged. Later on, feature films centred different genres, such as drama and melodrama, comedy, and detective films. Other European countries followed Great Britain. French films, for example, dominated until 1911. The first biggest success of the Italian cinema was in 1910, and Denmark experienced a short prosperity time from 1909 to 1916. The whole epoch is called Expressionism and lasted from approximately 1910 to 1922. This was not only the time which brought the still-known figure of Charlie Chaplin to life, but also Alfred Hitchcock, the master of suspense, found his way into the film business, still being in his teen years by then. Besides, Germany did not reach the upper status of high-class cinema before the 1920’s. This might have been due to the problems after the First World War and its result the Germans had to cope with. Instead of feature films and comedies, the German films were characterised by war and propaganda material and belonged to the genre of drama. After the War, the German film industry decided on a new structure for this branch. Thus, strong cultural propaganda was politically demanded; these films should serve as a worldwide medium for the German culture, mainly concerning philosophy and art. In the following decades, the German expressionistic film was often described as being bizarre, because it dominantly created a gloomy atmosphere. One of the best examples might be ‘Nosferatu’, a film about vampires, produced in 1922 by F. W. Murnau, or Robert Wiene’s ‘The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari’, screened in 1919.[4] The fascination of the German films as well as the terrifying moments presented in them seemed to be a mirror of society.[5] Later on, the classic Weimar cinema made the silent films popular not only, but particularly abroad by following romantic traditions. Its best quality, however, was achieved by revealing an inner crisis about the cultural, social, and sexual identity of the particular author of these films. Yet, the most salient topics still were about women and family dramas; for instance, daughters were turned out of their homes by their fathers or, more generally spoken, the audience was interested in social rises and downfalls.[6]



[2] britmovie

[3] KINtop, p. 14

[4] KINtop, p. 10

[5] KINtop, p. 13

[6] KINtop, p. 76

Excerpt out of 10 pages


The Myth of Alfred Hitchcock
University of Applied Sciences Bingen
Seminar für Englische Philologie
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This essay deals with the transatlantic influence of Alfred Hitchcock, the so-called master of suspense. He not only shaped the early film in Europe and Hollywood, but also generated a new genre, namly thrillers. Among the outlined films within this essay are The 39 Steps, Secret Agent, and The Lady Vanishes, all of them were produced in the 1930's.
Myth, Alfred, Hitchcock, Seminar, Englische, Philologie
Quote paper
Nadja Winter (Author), 2005, The Myth of Alfred Hitchcock, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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