This document launched a legendary film career, among the greatest in film history
Alfred Hitchcock’s career was unparalleled in film history, and he was the best-known director to the general public for decades. Known as the Master of Suspense, he directed scores of feature films in a career spanning six decades, did cameo roles in most of his films, and hosted and produced his popular...
Alfred Hitchcock’s career was unparalleled in film history, and he was the best-known director to the general public for decades. Known as the Master of Suspense, he directed scores of feature films in a career spanning six decades, did cameo roles in most of his films, and hosted and produced his popular television anthology “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”. His scenes are some of the most memorable and terrifying ones in cinema history. The acknowledged master of the genre he virtually invented, Hitchcock was also a brilliant technician who deftly blended sex, suspense and humor.
These very technical skills came as no accident. Born in 1899, he attended a technical school as a teenager. Hitchcock then spent the first years of his young career as a draftsman, advertising designer, and writer. An interest in photography led to him working in London’s film industry, where in 1919 he got his first job as a title card designer for silent movies for Paramount’s Famous Players-Lasky studio in London. There he learned scripting, editing and art direction, and rose to assistant director in 1922. That year he started to direct an unfinished film that had been tentatively entitled Mrs. Peabody.
His first completed film as director, and the first attributed to him, was “The Pleasure Garden” in 1925. This was an Anglo-German production filmed in Germany and Italy. This experience, plus a stint at Germany’s UFA studios as an assistant director, help account for the Expressionistic character of his films, both in their visual schemes and thematic concerns. His second film, “The Lodger” (1926), was his breakthrough film; it was a prototypical example of the classic Hitchcock plot: an innocent protagonist is falsely accused of a crime and becomes involved in a web of intrigue.
Though Hitchcock’s official debut film “The Pleasure Garden” was filmed in Germany at the Emelka Studios in Munich, the film was actually produced by a British firm, Gainsborough Pictures. The film’s Producer was Michael Balcon at Gainsborough, and it was Balcon that selected Hitchcock to direct the film. The credit for discovering Hitchcock thus goes to him. The film was released in Germany in November 1925, but was not shown to the press in Britain until 1926 and released there until January 1927.
Informal arrangements no longer being satisfactory with Hitchcock now directing a Gainsborough film for release, Balcon wanted to have Hitchcock under contract. Gainsborough waited until the film “The Pleasure Garden” was in the process of release in Germany in November 1925 and then entered into a contract with Hitchcock – his first film directors contract. Gainsborough’s attorney prepared it, and on November 10 sent the studio a letter with a copy of the agreement “between the Company and Mr. Hitchcock for sealing.”
Contract signed, 3 pages, London, November 1925, between Gainsborough Pictures Limited and “Alfred Joseph Hitchcock of 11 Campion Road Putney in the County of London, Film Director” in which the Company employed Hitchcock to act as “Director, Scenarist, Art Director and Technician” until March 31, 1927. Hitchcock’s duties were “the writing of scenarios for cinematograph films, the designing of sets, for the production of films…and as and when required direction of films to be produced by the Company.” Hitchcock’s pay for this was £150 for each scenario and £30 per week for all his other duties, but the Company guaranteed him at least £750 per year. The contract precluded Hitchcock from directing films for other companies while the agreement with Gainsborough remained in effect. The contract is signed and sealed by Gainsborough executives and by Hitchcock. The attorney’s letter is also present and comes with the contract.
In the end, Hitchcock would direct 53 films, included some of the greatest ever made. Of the 53, six films were for Gainsborough: The Pleasure Garden (1925), The Mountain Eagle (1926, The Lodger (1927), Downhill (1928, Easy Virtue (1928), and The Lady Vanishes in 1938.
Among the important pieces relating to film history that we have ever carried.
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