Did you know that one of the best-known filmmakers in the world – Alfred Hitchcock – never won an Oscar?
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Over the course of 60 years, the English filmmaker directed over 50 feature films and became one of the most influential figures in the history of cinema. His mastery of thrillers earned him the nickname ‘master of suspense’. Some of the most terrifying and memorable scenes in cinema history – from the shower scene in Psycho to the petrol station attack in The Birds – belong to his films.
Here are a few facts about the stellar filmmaker that you should know:
1. His wife was his closest collaborator
Although he worked with many top talents in Hollywood, Hitchcock’s most trusted advisor was his wife, Alma Reville. She was a writer, script supervisor and assistant director on several of Hitchcock’s early films, and he came to value her opinion and feedback deeply, according to History.com. Reville was even reportedly responsible for persuading Hitchcock to use composer Bernard Herrmann’s famous string score for the shower murder scene in the film, Psycho.
2. He was a prankster
Hitchcock loved practical jokes. He would place whoopee cushions under coworkers’ chairs, and once held a dinner party where all the courses had been dyed blue with food colouring! In one prank that bordered on cruel, Hitchcock challenged one of his crewmembers to spend a whole night locked in handcuffs. He accepted the challenge, but only later realised the director had secretly given him a laxative before putting on the cuffs. Yikes!
3. Cameo master
Hitchcock made cameos in his films long before American comic book writer Stan Lee appeared in Marvel movies. The director made often humorous appearances in 39 of his movies, usually appearing in the background as a pedestrian. Spotting Hitchcock in the film became such a hit with his audience that he had to start placing his cameos in early scenes so it didn’t distract from the storyline. One of his most creative cameos came in the 1944 film Lifeboat, where Hitchcock can be seen in the ‘Before’ and ‘After’ photos of a newspaper ad for a weight loss product.
4. He worked with artists and literary figures
Whenever possible, Hitchcock enlisted the help of people from outside the film world so that they could bring in their unique perspectives. He hired poet Dorothy Parker, novelists Raymond Chandler and John Steinbeck, and even tried to get both authors Ernest Hemingway and Vladimir Nabokov to write for him. For dream sequences in his 1945 film Spellbound, Hitchcock sought the help of surrealist artist Salvador Dali to create complex scenes.
5. He never won an Oscar
Although Hitchcock’s films were beloved, and he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1980, he never won the Academy Award for Best Director. He was nominated five times, but remained “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” (in his own words). However, in 1967, Hitchcock received an honorary lifetime achievement award by the Oscars. His speech was graceful but loquacious – the director gave one of the shortest acceptance speeches in Oscar history: “Thank you… very much indeed.”