Alfred Hitchcock, one of history's most famous directors, made such classics as Psycho, Rear Window, and Vertigo during his 50-year career (just check out our list of the best Hitchcock films for more). He also wrote a few screenplays you may have heard of. Despite his longevity and consistent excellence, Hitchcock never won a Best Director Academy Award, though he was nominated five times. On set, he was known as a controlling man with a macabre sense of humor who created carefully detailed sets and inspired his actors' performances with odd acts of manipulation and cruelty.
The son of a devoutly Catholic greengrocer, Hitchcock grew up fearing authority. This gave the Master of Suspense a perfectionist work ethic, which is responsible for some of the strange stories of Alfred Hitchcock included here. The director used his fears to expose those of the audience, addressing everything from being attacked by vicious birds to getting spied on by a neighbor or attacked by a lunatic at a motel. Even while playing with his audience's fears, Hitchcock had a coy smile on his face. In fact, the annals of Alfred Hitchcock quotes include a comment made to Ingrid Bergman: “It’s only a movie.”
Alfred Hitchcock had a thing for blonde leading ladies, including Tippi Hedren, the star of 1963's The Birds and 1964's Marnie. He developed an odd obsession with her, and wanted to control everything about her life. While filming The Birds, he locked Hedren in a room with a bunch of angry live birds, some of which were tied to her body. She eventually collapsed in a crying fit and had to be carried off set, and required a week of bed rest. Hitchcock also sent Hedren's daughter, Melanie Griffith, a wax doll that resembled her mother and was nestled in a small coffin.
According to Hedren, this happened because she rejected Hitchcock's sexual advances. When he made things difficult, she threatened to stop working with him, at which point he told her he'd ruin her career if she did. She eventually extricated him from her life, to the detriment to her career.
Hitchcock had similar obsession with other leading ladies, including Grace Kelly, though claimed he was celibate, having only had sex once, with his wife, Alma. Some might say he terrorized Hedren as he did his other actors, for the sake of improving their performances.
“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.”
Hitchcock loved perverse jokes and cruel pranks. He was known to use blue food coloring in dinner guests' meals, once crammed a horse in an actor's tiny dressing room for fun, and spiked a crew member's drink with a laxative after chaining him to a piece of film equipment.
Many of his pranks were employed to get actors into character, such as when he coaxed an uneasy and shy performance from Joan Fontaine in 1940's Rebecca by saying the cast and crew hated her. He was also known to make jokes like, “Call me Hitch. Hold the cock,” and referred to Anthony Perkins as Master Bates on the Psycho set.
Homosexuality is associated with crime, violence, and villainy in many of Hitchcock's films. Gay antagonists, and lots of subtext, can be found in 1948's Rope and 1951's Strangers On A Train. In the 1950s, homosexuality was still seen as a mental disorder by mainstream society.
Hitchcock used the uneasiness surrounding homosexuality to build tension in several films, including a housekeeper's strange behaviors in Rebecca and Norman Bates's cross dressing practices in Psycho.