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Today in History, August 13th

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Old 08-14-06, 10:44 AM
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Cool Today in History, August 13th

HITCHCOCK BORN:
August 13, 1899


Alfred Hitchcock, the macabre master of moviemaking, is born in London on August
13, 1899. His innovative directing techniques and mastery of suspense made him
one of the most popular and influential filmmakers of the 20th century.Born the
son of a grocer, Hitchcock attended St. Ignatius College, a Jesuit school in
London where he studied engineering, and took art courses at the University of
London. In 1920, he began to work in the silent-film industry, writing and
illustrating title cards. Determined to become a filmmaker himself, he rose to
the positions of art director, scriptwriter, and assistant director. In 1925, he
directed his first film, The Pleasure Garden. With The Lodger (1926), the story
of a man wrongly suspected of being Jack the Ripper, Hitchcock began making the
suspense dramas with which he was to become identified.His Blackmail (1929) was
Britain's first widely successful talking feature, and Hitchcock used sound
effectively and imaginatively. During the 1930s, he gained international fame
with immensely popular thrillers such as The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), The
39 Steps (1935), and The Lady Vanishes (1938). In 1939, he left England for
Hollywood, lured by its superior technical facilities. His first American film
was Rebecca (1940), a drama starring Laurence Olivier that won an Academy Award
for Best Picture and further cemented Hitchcock's reputation.Hitchcock remained
in Hollywood and directed a string of memorable thrillers in the 1940s,
including Suspicion (1941), Shadow of a Doubt (1943), and Notorious (1946). By
the 1940s, he was serving as his own producer, thereby ensuring greater artistic
control over his films. The psychologically complex and technically innovative
films that followed are regarded as his most brilliant. These masterpieces of
moviemaking, which starred some of the leading actors and actresses of
Hollywood, include Strangers on a Train (1951), Dial M for Murder (1954), Rear
Window (1954), To Catch a Thief (1954), Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest
(1959), Psycho (1960), and The Birds (1963). In these meticulously orchestrated
films, protagonists descend out of everyday life into tense and nightmarish
situations where nothing is as it seems. To build and maintain suspense,
Hitchcock employed unusual camera angles, elaborate editing techniques, dynamic
soundtrack music, and touches of wry humor and the macabre.With his courtly
manner, pear-shaped figure, and farcical drawl, Hitchcock became a celebrity in
his own right, and in the 1950s and 1960s he produced and hosted two mystery
series on television, "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" and "The Alfred Hitchcock
Hour." He also made cameos in most of his films, and movie fans stayed alert to
catch his fleeting, often humorous appearances on the screen.Although he never
won an Oscar for his film direction, he received the prestigious Irving Thalberg
Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1967. In 1980, he
was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II of his native Britain, even though he had
long been a naturalized U.S. citizen. Hitchcock died later that year, having
directed nearly 60 films in his long career.
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