Today's Alfred Hitchcock's birthday. But between all the international invasions, record breaking sports events, and alleged love childs of politicians, no one seems to be giving the Master of Suspense any love. Here are 4 things everyone ought to know about Hitch.
1. He had lots of phobias (including eggs and jail cells!)
Hitchcock had a lot of fears. The most unusual of these phobias was probably his fear of breakfast foods. More specifically: chicken eggs. The oozy yellow yolks, specifically, freaked him out. He once said,
I'm frightened of eggs, worse than frightened, they revolt me. That white round thing without any holes . . . 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."
His daughter, though, said that he was known to enjoy a good soufflÃ©. Oddly enough, Hitchcock also disliked police, most likely due to a childhood encounter he had with them.
His dad thought it would be good to teach him a lesson and sent him down to the local police station with a note in hand. He gave the note to the cop on duty, who read it and promptly locked little Hitch in the jail cell for 10 minutes. Later in life, he said the reason he never learned to drive was because he was so afraid of being pulled over by a policeman. But this may not have been true "“ other accounts say that he drove his daughter to school and church on numerous occasions.
2. He was one of the first to make cameo appearances
Sir Hitchcock has 52 major films that have survived (one of his silent films from 1927 has been lost) and he makes cameo appearances in 37 of them. They are always extremely tiny parts "“ sometimes he's even just in crowd shot. Even in Lifeboat, which took place entirely on, yes, a lifeboat, he manages to show up: he appears in a newspaper ad for a weight loss product. Hitchcock struggled with his weight all of his life and had recently dropped quite a few pounds, so he used an older picture as the "before" shot and a current picture as the "after" shot. Lifeboat, by the way, holds the record for the smallest movie set ever.
Other directors that now pop up in their own films include Peter Jackson, Eli Roth, M. Night Shyamalan and Edgar Wright. Of course, there are lots of other directors who give themselves large parts in their own films, not just cameos: Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Clint Eastwood, Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith, to name a few. Eventually, Hitchcock tried to get his cameos out of the way as early in the movie as possible "“ he felt that when viewers spent too much of the film trying to spot him in the background, it took away from the movie experience.
3. He popularized the MacGuffin
You might not know what the MacGuffin is by name, but you certainly know it: it's something used in a plot that helps to advance the story, but doesn't really matter for any other reason than to advance the story. For instance, Harrison Ford once told David Letterman that all of the objects in the Indiana Jones movies are basically MacGuffins. Yeah, they might have been searching for the Crystal Skull in the most recent one, but it doesn't really matter what they were searching for. All the object did was advance the storyline and allow Indiana Jones to have some adventures. The objects Harrison Ford mentioned were the Holy Grail in the last movie and the Sankara Stones in Temple of Doom. Sometimes, though, we don't even know what the MacGuffin is "“ like in Pulp Fiction, the MacGuffin is the unknown contents of the briefcase. We don't even know what's in there, but it's central to the whole storyline.
Anyway, Hitch used the concept in his 1935 film The 39 Steps and used the term, which may have been coined by a friend of his. "MacGuffin" has been common industry lingo ever since.
4. He tried to hide Cary Grant in Lincoln's Nose
Lots of Hitchcock's films feature famous landmarks, although not always in the way he would have liked to use them. In North by Northwest, the climactic scene happens on Mount Rushmore. He wanted Cary Grant to hide out in Lincoln's nose, but have his pursuants discover him when he sneezes. Park officials refused to let this scene be filmed, finding it disrespectful. Supposedly, though, someone asked Hitch how he would feel if the situation was reversed and Lincoln was having a sneezing fit in the nostril of a giant likeness of Cary Grant. Apparently this made sense to him and he gave up trying to have the sneezing scene shot. Other appearances by landmarks are scattered throughout his movies - in The Man Who Knew Too Much, the climatic scene takes place at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Vertigo involves a scene at the Golden Gate Bridge and an important moment at Mission San Juan Bautista. Blackmail features the dome of the British Museum. Saboteur revolves around the Boulder Dam (which is now the Hoover Dam), Rockefeller Center and the Statue of Liberty.
If you haven't figured it out, we absolutely love Alfred Hitchcock in my house. In fact, he is probably the reason I like horror movies with a darkly wry sense of humor, We have movie posters of Rear Window and Vertigo framed in our living room. My husband is researching getting some sort of a Hitchcock-related tattoo. Yeah, we have a problem. Got any great Hitchcock facts that need to be shared, or Hitchcock obsessive behavior you'd like to own up to? We'd love to hear it in the comments below.