I love Alfred Hitchcock. Over the years I’ve grown to love other film directors too, and my list of all-time favorite films might only include one or two Hitchcock movies, but he was my first real love in films. I imagine that’s true for many people; his flamboyant visual style, emphasis on entertainment, and command of the tools of filmmaking means that his movies hold up rather well, even for modern audiences. Compared to the work of a contemporary like John Ford, whose masterpieces today provoke laughter & derision from many audiences, Hitchcock is timeless.
He’s also someone I got obsessed with in high school. I can’t remember how, but I started to get really into films sometime in the early 1990s, when I was in Junior High & High School. And my interest in Hitchcock started even earlier than that! I have a vivid memory of waiting in line to get on the raft to Tom Sawyer’s Island in Disneyland while my dad explained the plot of Rear Window to me. Maybe not appropriate for a ten year old, but the central idea stuck with me.
Now I’m 39 years old, and about to turn 40. Perhaps a cliche time to look back and start taking stock of your life, but sometimes cliches can be useful. I also find myself at a professional crossroads, where my day business (Alternate Histories) is doing fine, but not as well as I’d like. To be blunt, I’m not sure I can make a career and a life out of it. So what next? The more I think about it, the more I’m drawn to writing critically about things I love.
The idea came to me when I was looking at this famous image of Hitchcock standing in front of pillar of scripts to his films, a towering pile of work with Hitch adding 1966’s Torn Curtain to the top of the pile. I had been thinking about starting a project to get me back into writing, and the idea popped into my head: how many Hitchcock feature films are available?
Starting in 1925 and ending in 1976 (the year I was born!), Alfred Hitchcock directed 53 feature films in his lifetime (not counting his work on a few British anthologies, TV shows, some World War II short films, and German-language versions of some of his early films). Surprisingly, only one of these films, 1926’s The Mountain Eagle is lost; all of the others are preserved and available to watch. 52 films. 52 weeks. It was perfect.
But is that enough?
For while I love the minutiae of film criticism and scholarly work, I also love personal examination and memoirs. Or should I say I enjoy reading them, not writing them. Part of my reticence is because I already go to therapy once a week, so maybe the idea of writing more about myself on a weekly basis is exhausting. Another issue is that I struggle with my own feelings of inadequacy, so at my low points I can’t understand why anyone would give a shit about anything I’d have to say, let alone my own FEELINGS, ugh.
And the final reason is that I’m scared. I don’t even like talking about myself, much less digging deep and writing about what I find there. So I’m hoping that with this framework, by also writing about someone whose work I love and admire, it’ll help me open up.
Alfred Hitchcock was a genius, a man ahead of his time and blessed with an unequalled ability to visualize an entire picture before it was ever shot. He was, by all accounts, also an incredibly insecure man who struggled with feelings of inadequacy for his entire life. I’m hoping to learn more about Hitchcock while also examining some of those feelings inside myself.
So bear with me. This might work. It might not. But I’m gonna give it a try, and I hope you’ll come along.