10 facts about… Alfred Hitchcock

A genius of horror and thriller cinema, Alfred Hitchcock is considered one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. He is revered as a movie mastermind for classic films such as The BirdsPsycho and Vertigo, but here are ten facts you may not know about the master of suspense…

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1) He spread fear around the world with his nail-biting, tension-building scenes but Hitchcock was a man plagued by phobias. Firstly, he had a lifelong fear of the police. Allegedly, his father had sent him to the police station when he was five with a letter asking the officer to lock him up for a few minutes as a punishment.

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2) Possibly his strangest fear was of… eggs. He once said in an interview: “I’m frightened of eggs, worse than frightened, they revolt me… Have you ever seen anything more revolting than an egg yolk breaking and spilling its yellow liquid? Blood is jolly, red. But egg yolk is yellow, revolting. I’ve never tasted it.”

3) Even though he had a cameo in all of his films – you may spot him walking past the hero on the street or failing to catch a bus – he was too anxious to watch his own work.

4) He loved practical jokes. Many of his tricks were harmless: at dinner parties he would put whoopee cushions under people’s seats and used food dye so guests were served with blue soup! But it could go far beyond simple teasing. He once bet a man working on his crew a week’s wages if he spent a night in a darkened studio set while chained to a camera. Just before the challenge began, Hitchcock offered him a laxative-laced brandy. The next morning, the humiliated man was discovered weeping having soiled himself.

5) In one of the more embarrassing goofs of the awards, Hitchcock never won an Oscar – despite being nominated for Best Director five times. So when he was presented with a lifetime achievement award in 1968, his acceptance speech was hotly anticipated. In what is still the shortest acceptance speech in history, he approached the microphone to his much-loved theme music and simply said, “Thank you”, before adding, “Thank you very much indeed.” He then walked off stage.

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Mount Rushmore features in the climax of Hitchcock’s North by Northwest | © Lynn_Bystrom

6) Walt Disney was not a fan. Hitchcock’s request to shoot a scene at Disneyland was rejected because he had made, in Disney’s words, “that disgusting movie”. He was referring to Psycho – now rated as one of the greatest films of all time.

7) Before Psycho was released, Hitchcock ordered his assistant Peggy Robertson to buy as many copies of the Robert Bloch novel as possible as he didn’t want anyone to know what happened in the story.

8) In the celebrated climax of North by Northwest, Roger O Thornhill (played by Cary Grant) is seen clambering over Mount Rushmore – a sculpture of four of America’s Presidents – while trying to escape the henchmen of the sinister Vandamm. Hitchcock originally wanted Thornhill to hide in the nostril of Abraham Lincoln, only to give himself away by sneezing. The scene was never shot as the National Park Service, who maintains the monument, said Lincoln’s nose was off-limits.

9) Wishing to protect his work, he bought the rights to five of his most famous films: Rear Window, Vertigo, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Rope and The Trouble with Harry. This meant they could not be screened after their initial run – and would not be shown in a cinema for 30 years.

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10) When accepting a lifetime achievement award in 1979, given by the American Film Institute, Hitchcock quipped with his friends that he must be about to die. At the age of 80, he died the next year.