Alfred Hitchcock remains the giant against whom all other thriller directors are measured. From North By Northwest to The Birds, Rear Window to Psycho to Vertigo, Hitchcock produced a number of films which became both box office and critical successes. One of his greatest attributes was his ability to find fascinating stories, and many authors were brought to prominence by Hitchcock’s adaptations of their stories. On many occasions, early in his career, he not only directed his films but wrote the screenplays. In addition to his movies, he had a successful magazine, for which he would regularly write editorials; a series of anthologies (edited by the people in charge of daily operation of the magazine) where he would write introductions for the chosen stories, and a television series for which he would provide framing commentary on episodes. The television show was so successful that it spawned a revival in the 1980s using colorized footage from the original show for its framing segments.
A popular Easter egg in his movies were his cameos. In one way or another he appeared in most – not all – of the films he directed. In many of his earliest silent films he had no screen time, but as his career progressed and his prominence rose, it became something that the audience expected… and Hitchcock recognized the value of remaining on good terms with his audience. His one concession was that, after the general public started watching for the appearances, he shifted his cameos to the beginning of his films and making them more prominent. This decision was made so that viewers watching for his cameo would see it and then direct their attention to the plot of the film. He didn’t want viewers distracted by a playful game for the bulk of a movie’s run time.
If you’re curious, a Hitchcock website has amassed stills showing all of his known cameos.
The television show that Hitchcock introduced bore his name, and he directed from one to three episodes every season. Unlike his movies, Hitchcock did not insert himself into the half-hour television episodes, even the episodes he directed. Except one.
1958’s “Dip in the Pool”, based on a short story by Roald Dahl, featured a scene where one character is reading a magazine… and the director decided to use one of his own magazines, which in the early days all featured him on the cover, for the reading material in a style similar to the advertisement cameo in the movie Lifeboat… and it was likely a nod to the director’s sense of humor, as “Dip in the Pool” takes place on a cruise ship.
Question of the night: What’s your favorite Hitchcock film or television series episode?