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Alfred Joseph Hitchcock was born August 13, 1899, in Leytonstone, a suburb of London, England, to William Hitchcock, a greengrocer,

and Emma Jane (Whelan) Hitchcock. He was the youngest of three children; his brother William was born in 1890 and his sister Nellie in 1892. Alfred Hitchcock was raised in a lower middle-class cockney Catholic family that enforced a strict upbringing. Young Alfred's main interests included maps and timetables; in fact, at one point he memorized the schedules of most of England's train lines. Hitchcock attended a Jesuit day school for boys, but most of his adolescence was spent working to help support his family, particularly after his father died in 1914. Early the next year he found steady employment at the Henley Telegraph and Cable Company, allowing him to take night courses in economics, drawing, art history, and painting. His first job at Henley's was as a technical estimator specializing in electric cables. When his employers discovered he was taking art courses at the University of London, he was switched to the advertising department. There he began to draw, designing ads for electric cables. He was fascinated by the mystery fiction of Edgar Allan Poe and spent much time at the local cinema; American and German films particularly appealed to him. In 1920 Famous Players-Lasky (Paramount Pictures) opened a studio in London and hired Hitchcock immediately as a part-time title designer for their first project. He eventually designed the title card drawings and lettering styles for all the Famous Players-Lasky films produced in England, and quickly became a man of all trades around the studio. In 1924, Gainsborough Pictures, a newly formed British company headed by Michael Balcon, took over the facility, where Hitchcock was now employed as an assistant director. During an assignment in Germany, Hitchcock saw the filmmaker F.W. Murnau at work--an experience that made a lasting impression

on him. This was also an important time in Hitchcock's personal life, as he became engaged to the film editor Alma Reville, whom he had met at the studio in 1921. In 1925 Balcon gave Hitchcock his first feature film to direct, The Pleasure Garden. Hitchcock also directed a second film that year, The Mountain Eagle, and a third, The Lodger, the following year. By the end of 1926, he found himself "the most sought-after" British director, despite the fact that none of the three films he had made so far had actually been released. However, earlier that year, a special screening of The Lodger (significantly, his first "thriller") had been held exclusively for the press and film exhibitors. It was a huge success. Ecstatic trade reviews acclaimed The Lodger as possibly "the finest British production ever made" (Bioscope, September 16, 1926) and "one of the first real landmarks in the coming advance of British pictures" (Kinematograph, September 23, 1926). After the success of this trade show, the distributor decided to schedule release dates for all three of Hitchcock's completed films. In December of this busy year, Hitchcock and Alma were married. A daughter, Patricia, was born in 1928. The first Hitchcock film to be shown publicly was The Pleasure Garden, which opened in London on January 24, 1927. However, it was The Lodger, premiering just three weeks later on February 14, that audiences, aroused by the early rave reviews and commentaries, really wanted to see. Attracting huge crowds during its initial run, The Lodger marked "the first time in British film history," says Hitchcock biographer Donald Spoto, "that the director received an even greater press than his stars" (Spoto 1983). The Lodger was the first film in which Hitchcock made a cameo appearance, something that became a trademark of his films over the next fifty years.

Hitchcock's reputation as a thriller director evolved more slowly than his reputation as England's finest director. During his first decade of filmmaking, he worked in whatever genres were popular at the time in England, including theatrical adaptations (e.g. Easy Virtue, 1927; Juno and the Paycock, 1930; The Skin Game, 1931), romances (Rich and Strange, 1932), and even a musical (Waltzes from Vienna, 1933). While he made thrillers, including the aforementioned The Lodger and Blackmail (1929), that were among his most critically acclaimed films from this period, he also had great success with a number of nonthrillers, including The Ring (1927), a boxing melodrama based on an original story by Hitchcock, and Juno and the Paycock (1930), a surprisingly faithful adaptation of the Sean O'Casey play. In 1934 Hitchcock filmed The Man Who Knew Too Much, a spy thriller that represented a turning point in his career. It was the first in a series of six consecutive thrillers he made between 1934 and 1938, a group of films would come to be known as Hitchcock's "classic thriller sextet"; it was followed by The 39 Steps (1935), Secret Agent (1936), Sabotage (1936), Young and Innocent (1938), and The Lady Vanishes (1938). It is not clear, however, that the making of these films reflected Hitchcock's growing realization that the thriller genre best suited his temperament. Indeed, all six were made for the same company, Gaumont-British Picture Corporation, and used many of the same creative and technical personnel. These facts, as well as the subsequent variety of Hitchcock's Hollywood output of the 1940s, suggest that it was basically a question of studio economics and efficiency that led him to continue working in the thriller format from the mid- to late 1930s. Whatever the reasons, the "sextet" of thrillers worked in Hitchcock's favor, as his mastery of the genre led to unrivaled critical praise in Britain. By the late 1930s, the New York critics had also joined the Hitchcock bandwagon. Applauding him as a "master of shock and

suspense" (The New York Times) in such thrillers as The 39 Steps (1935) and The Lady Vanishes (1938), they concluded that his reputation as "England's greatest director" (The New York Times) and "one of the greatest directors in motion pictures" (New York Herald Tribune) was richly deserved. Impressed with his consummate craftsmanship in the comedy-thriller The Lady Vanishes, the New York film critics voted Hitchcock the best director of 1938. In March 1939, Hitchcock, Alma, and Pat sailed for America on the Queen Mary. He would reside in Los Angeles for most of the rest of his life, although he would not become a U.S. citizen until 1955. He had elected to sign a long-term contract with Selznick International, thus alienating his most ardent critical supporters, the British press, which would continue for years to malign Hitchcock's American work as being inferior to his output in Britain. He was welcomed warmly in America, however, as his first film for Selznick, Rebecca, was both a popular and a critical success, winning the Oscar for the best film of 1940. While Hitchcock continued to have his greatest popular and critical success in the 1940s making thrillers, such as Foreign Correspondent (1940), Suspicion (1941), Saboteur (1942), Shadow of a Doubt (1943), and Notorious (1946), he still attempted to step outside the genre on several occasions, with a screwball comedy (Mr. and Mrs. Smith, 1941), a costume drama (Under Capricorn, 1949), a war film (Lifeboat, 1944), and a theatrical adaptation (Rope, 1948). He also made a modest contribution to the British war effort with two short propaganda films shot in London with a refugee troupe of French actors: Bon Voyage and Aventure Malgache (1944). It was during this period that Hitchcock began his fruitful professional relationships with Cary Grant (in Suspicion) and James Stewart (in Rope), each of whom would star in several of the director's most critically acclaimed (and commercially successful) films, as well as with Ingrid Bergman (in Spellbound), his favorite

female star during the forties. Hitchcock returned briefly to England in 1940, when he tried but failed to persuade his mother to join him in America. She died in 1942, while Hitchcock was filming Shadow of a Doubt. His brother William died shortly afterwards. After the spectacular success of the spy thriller Notorious in 1946, Hitchcock hit a lull in his career. The last of his films made under Selznick, The Paradine Case (1947) disappointed both critics and fans. By that time, Hitchcock and a business associate and friend, Sidney Bernstein, had set up an independent production company, Transatlantic Pictures, which produced his next two films, Rope (1948) and Under Capricorn (1949). Neither film did particularly well at the box office or with the critics (though Rope, at least, provided an opportunity for an interesting technical experiment), and Hitchcock found the difficulties in running his own company unmanageable. However, he continued thenceforth to act as producer of all the films he directed. He enjoyed somewhat more success during his four-year stint at Warner Bros. (1949-53), especially with the release of Strangers on a Train (1951). Still, his filmmaking activities during this time were often punctuated by long stretches of relative inactivity. But beginning in 1952, Hitchcock entered the most productive period of his career. Between 1952 and 1960, Hitchcock completed three feature films for Warners, six for Paramount, and one for MGM. With the successful launching of his televison series in 1955, he also became the first Hollywood director to become a genuine TV star. Hitchcock's first major box office hit in the 50s was Rear Window (1954), starring James Stewart and Grace Kelly, who would replace Ingrid Bergman as Hitchcock's favorite leading actress.

What most reviewers found especially engaging about Rear Window was its clever blending of suspense, droll comedy, and romancequalities that critics were quick to point out had made Hitchcock's early works, such as The 39 Steps and The Lady Vanishes, so successful. The critical response to Rear Window helped revive and strengthen the view of Hitchcock as a master entertainer--a view reinforced by a number of his subsequent 50s films, such as To Catch A Thief (1955), the re-make of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), and North By Northwest (1959). A factor that may have worked to keep Hitchcock from gaining critical respect in America during the late 50s and early 60s was the enormous commercial success of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, the television show he hosted for ten years beginning in 1955. While it wasnt readily apparent to his fans, Hitchcocks involvement in the show was peripheral; he directed only twenty of the 370 teleplays produced by Shamley Productions in the decade, and offered only occasional suggestions to his associates, Joan Harrison and Norman Lloyd, who were the creative powers behind the show. What the TV show did for Hitchcock was make him an even bigger star. Indeed, the fact that he hosted the show, and that the episodes were made to evoke little Hitchcock movies, helped make him a household name all over the world. Many knew him as the host of a popular TV show and not for the films he directed. In a conversation with writer James Allardice in 1963, Hitchcock compared his own output to that of painter Paul Klee, whose works were also marked by a distinctive style. They may be all corpsethriller and suspense pictures, Hitchcock remarked, but there is a vast difference betweenwell say, Rebecca and Psycho and The Trouble with Harry and North by Northwest or The Birds. Look at the difference in all these pictures. Not one of them resembles another in any form except suspense. While Hitchcock had seemingly accepted the tag of thriller director,

he didnt accept that this in any way limited his ability to deal with real issues and concerns, things many American film critics felt were missing from his so-called escapist entertainments. Hitchcocks desire to appeal to both the sophisticated filmgoer and the general public that had made him a star shaped the making and marketing of his next film The Birds (1963). He had attempted to reshape his reputation with critics before, with such films as The Wrong Man (1956) and Vertigo (1958); however, whatever positive press they received at the time of release was at the expense of the support of the general movie-going public. With a number of his recent feature films (e.g., The Wrong Man, 1956; Vertigo, 1958; Psycho, 1960; and The Birds, 1963), Hitchcock had become increasingly preoccupied with undermining audience expectations of what constituted a Hitchcock film. Whether shooting in a spare, documentary style (The Wrong Man), killing the lead character off in the middle of the film (Psycho), or ending a film without a clear-cut resolution (Vertigo; The Birds), Hitchcock had been making daring, revolutionary choices for nearly a decade and within the Hollywood studio system. Some of the earliest reviewers to notice Hitchcock's artistry were several brilliant critics (including Franois Truffaut and Claude Chabrol, who would later make names for themselves as filmmakers) writing for the increasingly influential French publication Cahiers du Cinma. These critics launched a campaign in the mid-to-late 1950s to advance the view of Hitchcock as a cinematic genius. They believed him to be a master of cinematic form who articulated a distinctive moral vision of the human condition, which deepened during his years in America. Unlike most of the leading American critics of the time (there were a few notable exceptions), the French critics believed Hitchcock's Hollywood films surpassed those he made in England, and saw his career as a perfect vehicle for illustrating their conviction that great

cinematic art could flourish within the Hollywood studio system. Only when this theory of cinema became the dominant aesthetic discourse among journalistic and academic film critics in the United States in the late 60s and early 70s (helped along by critics such as Andrew Sarris, Peter Bogdanovich, and Vincent Canby), did Hitchcock's reputation as an artist improve in his adopted country. The growth of Hitchcock's artistic reputation was supported by other developments at the time. In the spring of 1968, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented him with the Irving G. Thalberg Award for a consistent high level of achievement by an individual producer. Hitchcock had been nominated four times for a directorial Oscar, but, as he frequently put it, he had always been the bridesmaid. The Directors Guild of America also honored Hitchcock that spring with the prestigious D. W. Griffith Award for his directorial achievements. Hitchcocks reputation received another boost when the English edition of Truffaut's influential book on Hitchcock was finally published in late 1967. A few weeks before the summer 1972 release of his next-to-last film, Frenzy (the first film he had shot in England in two decades), Hitchcock received an honorary doctorate from Columbia University. By the time of Frenzy's release, a significant number of influential American critics had come to accept the "new" view of Hitchcock as a great artist. Reflected in their reviews were many of the values that the new generation of critics now looked for: hidden meanings, personal vision, universality, reflexivity, and thematic and stylistic consistency and coherence. While these values could be successfully applied to many of his earlier works, Frenzy was the first recent work, following Torn Curtain (1966) and Topaz (1969) that critics held up as a shining example of Hitchcock as the "auteur." On January 3, 1980, Hitchcock received one of the highest honors his native country had to bestow: he was formally invested as a

Knight Commander of the British Empire. When Hitchcock died at home in Los Angeles at the age of 80, on April 29, 1980, he had accomplished professionally what he had always been attempting to achieve--world-wide respect as both a premier popular entertainer and a true artist of the cinema. Today, neither critics nor filmmakers can escape the Hitchcock influence. He is taught in every university filmmaking program, not only as a master of the thriller, but also as a genius of cinematic form. Hitchcock's reputation continues to flourish more than sixtyfive years after the release of his first film partly because of the great range of his work, but also because many of his films have been able to sustain a diversity of interpretations.

The set is the key.


The window is equivalent to a picture plane, a screen, a lens. Others have compared the apartment faade as a screen, and the window to a lens. The interior courtyard is an "inversion" of normative space that, like the later paintings of Mondrian, provide a vent into the private interior of the residents, whose lives are presented kaleidoscopically or panoramically. The courtyard is "panoptical" in the sense that Jeffries has idealized, almost unrestricted access. The single passage to the outside is a slit, an enfiladed entry. Compare the set to the cyclops cave (Odyssey), also to enfiladed enclosures of the Iron and Bronze Ages. The courtyard collects and merges the sounds from various apartments (cf. John Cheever's "The Giant Radio"). The courtyard functions as an anthology.

The extreme spatial restrictions of Rear Window - the film is seen from the perspective of a person bound to one spot and everything takes place within one huge set The tenants observed through the windows of their apartments are like a collection of butterflies in glass-covered cases - the director even puts this idea into the mouth of the photographer, "they can ... watch me like a bug under glass, if they want to." The tenants form a cross section of New Yorks colorful populace: a song writer composer, a young dancer keeping her figure in trim, a sculptress, a middle-aged spinster longing for male company, the passionate newlyweds, a childless couple doting over their little dog, a salesman and his invalid nagging wife, and the film"s protagonist, the magazine photographer L.B. Jeffries, Jeff, and his wealthy, fashion-conscious girlfriend - Lisa Fremont . There"s a heat wave going on, everybody keeps their windows open, but the tenants remain strangers to each other.

The suspense in the film is based on the irrefutable logic of terror. Hitchcock slowly awakens in the audience a stream of suspense Every episode or line appears to contain meanings and allusions. Miss Torso (Georgine Darcy), the nickname given to the shapely dancer, intimates mutilation, the central theme of the film. The little dog is killed because "it knew too much", a natural allusion to the film Hitchcock directed twice (The Man Who Knew Too Much, 1934 and 1956). Hitchcock even wrote an enigmatic article about his wife Alma entitled "The Woman Who Knew Too Much".8 Even the words of the songs heard in the background always relate ambiguously to the scene. Colours, too, contain meanings: for example, Miss Lonelyhearts (Judith Evelyn) is coded in green; her dresses are always different shades of emerald green and there are no other green clothes in the film. Hitchcock stresses the importance of pictorial and material expression, to which he totally subjects the narrative dialogue: "Dialogue should simply be a sound among other sounds, just something that comes out of the mouths of people whose eyes tell the story in visual terms. In Rear Window suspense and fear often develop alongside the love affairs; the scenes where Lisa and Jeff are kissing, the intimacy of the newlyweds behind the drawn blinds, the men fawning over Miss Torso, and the lovelorn Miss Lonelyhearts. Even the murderer is having an illicit love affair. The events in the lives of the tenants develop independently of the main story, but occasionally the climaxes of these separate stories are connected, as for example Miss Lonelyhearts" preparations for suicide at the same time as Lisa faces a dangerous situation in the murderer"s apartment. Hitchcock creates a feeling of terror through well chosen scenes just when the mind is most receptive, such as when a bloodcurdling scream from the yard interrupts Lisa displaying her enticing lingerie, the murderer cleaning the butcher"s knife and little saw against the sound of children playing, or when Lisa is kissing Jeff whilst his mind is preoccupied with the significance of the murder weapons. The murderer"s gardening hobby also belongs to this series of contradictions. The occasional background sound of a soprano practicing simultaneously lulls the audience into a benign sense of security as well as a premonition of fear from the higher notes. "Emotion is an essential ingredient of suspense,"12 writes Hitchcock. Jeff appears to create the story of the film in his own mind, as he interprets the meanings of the unrelated events he observes and almost directs how they will develop. The whole story might just be a dream or an illusion brought on by his immobility. He also cuts the film into montages by transferring his view (=

camera"s view = spectator"s view) from one window and episode to the next and in selecting the image frames and distances with his own eyes through the alternative optics of the telephoto camera and binoculars. Jeff is thus simultaneously both the film"s director and spectator and Rear Window in its entirety is a metaphor and study in making and viewing a film. The film tells the story of a murder and its exposure, but its central philosophical theme is actually the voyeurist gaze. The complicated relationship between the watcher and the watched All of the characters in Rear Window are described at one point or another in terms of their marital status and in terms of their relationships with the opposite sex. This represents a central theme in the film. The crime on which the plot pivots is the result of a failed marriage. The hero of the film, L.B. Jefferies, tosses the proposal of marriage around throughout the film despite his opposition to commitment.

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