Friday 26 May 2017

Hitchcock cameos

I've been reading Hitchcock: The definitive study of Alfred Hitchcock by Fran├žois Truffaut, first published in 1967, a fascinating book, about which I will have more to say down the road.

While talking about The Lodger (1927), Truffaut raises the question of "personal appearances" and asks Hitchcock why he made them. Hitchcock answers:

"It was strictly utilitarian; we had to fill the screen. Later on it became a superstition and eventually a gag. But by now it's a rather troublesome gag, and I'm very careful to show up in the first five minutes so as to let the people look at the rest of the movie with no further distraction."
My favourite cameo, from North by Northwest. Alfred Hitchcock tries to catch a bus on Madison Avenue between 44th Street and 45th Street. Long before he ever went to the USA, Hitchcock's hobby was the study of Manhattan. He'd memorised every train timetable, as well as the location of all the major stores.
There are numerous lists of those personal appearances around. Some have him appearing in 36 films, most have 37, some (Wikipedia) have 40. The disputed films include Number 17, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Sabotage and Rebecca. (Why people argue over the Rebecca entry mystifies me, as the Hitchcock|Truffaut book contains a large photo of the moment. The earlier films have the problem of blurry B&W.) Here's my list:
  • The Lodger (1927) - At a desk in a newsroom and later in the crowd watching an arrest.
  • Easy Virtue (1928) - Walking past a tennis court, carrying a walking stick.
  • Blackmail (1929) - Being hassled by a small boy on a train.
  • Murder! (1930) - Walking past the house where the murder was committed.
  • The 39 Steps (1935) - Walking past and tossing litter, while the stars catch a bus.
  • Young and Innocent (1937) - Outside the courthouse, holding a camera.
  • The Lady Vanishes (1938) - In Victoria Station, smoking a cigarette.
  • Rebecca (1940) - Walking near the phone booth, just after George Sanders makes a call.
  • Foreign Correspondent (1940) - After Joel McCrea leaves his hotel, he's wearing a coat and hat, and reading a newspaper.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941) - Passing Robert Montgomery in front of his building.
  • Suspicion (1941) - Mailing a letter at the village postbox. And walking a horse across the screen at a hunt-meet.
  • Saboteur (1942) - Standing in front of Cut Rate Drugs in New York as the saboteur’s car stops.
  • Shadow of A Doubt (1943) - On the train to Santa Rosa, playing cards.
  • Lifeboat (1944) - In the “before” and “after” pictures in the newspaper ad for weight reduction.
  • Spellbound (1945) - Coming out of an elevator, carrying a violin case and smoking a cigarette.
  • Notorious (1946) - Drinking champagne.
  • The Paradine Case (1947) - Leaving the train, carrying a cello.
  • Rope (1948) - On a neon sign.
  • Under Capricorn (1949) - In the town square during a parade, wearing a blue coat and brown hat, in the first five minutes. Ten minutes later, he is one of three men on the steps of Government House.
  • Stage Fright (1950) - Turning to look at Jane Wyman in her disguise as Marlene Dietrich’s maid.
  • Strangers on A Train (1951) - Boarding a train with a double bass, early in the film.
  • I Confess (1953) - Crossing the top of a staircase after the opening credits.
  • Dial M for Murder (1954) - On the left side of the class-reunion photo.
  • Rear Window (1954) - Winding the clock in the songwriter’s apartment.
  • To Catch A Thief (1955) - Sitting to the left of Cary Grant on a bus.
  • The Trouble With Harry (1955) - Walking past the parked limousine of an old man who is looking at paintings.
  • The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) - Watching acrobats (his back to the camera) just before the murder.
  • The Wrong Man (1956) - Narrating the film’s prologue.
  • Vertigo (1958) - In a gray suit walking in the street.
  • North By Northwest (1959) - Missing a bus during the opening credits.
  • Psycho (1960) - Through Janet Leigh’s window as she returns to her office. He is wearing a cowboy hat.
  • The Birds (1963) - Leaving the pet shop with two white terriers.
  • Marnie (1964) - Entering from the left of the hotel corridor after Tippi Hedren passes by.
  • Torn Curtain (1966) - Sitting in the Hotel d’Angleterre lobby with a baby.
  • Topaz (1969) - Being pushed in a wheelchair.
  • Frenzy (1972) - In the centre of a crowd, wearing a bowler hat, three minutes into the film.
  • Family Plot (1976) - In silhouette through the door of the Registrar of Births and Deaths.
The following video assembles every cameo appearance listed above into a single clip.

First posted: 22 January 2013

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