Happy Birthday, Mr. Hitchcock
August 13, marks the 111th anniversary of Alfred Hitchcock’s birth. His movies have become enduring classics, and
many remain as surprising as when they were when first released. The book Hitchcock’s
Music by Jack Sullivan, examines the use and importance of music in
Hitchcock’s films. Sullivan describes
Hitchcock as a maestro, creating films which were orchestrated much in the same
way as music.
are carefully matched to their soundtracks, although the genres and styles of
music did not always evoke the same emotions throughout. While a film score like the one in Rear Window served as a “paean to
popular music” and often came from a clear source like the composer or a radio,
sometimes, as was the case in Rebecca,
the score was an omnipresent force that revealed the many dark emotions of its
also marks the 50th anniversary of the release of Psycho, a Hitchcock film whose score
impacted its reception in ways unlike those of Rear Window and Rebecca. Writing
in the Wall Street Journal to mark
that anniversary, Sullivan explains that Bernard Herrmann’s score is what
ensured the film became the success it did.
The transformation from nearly scoreless film to one filled with the
second highest amount of music of all of Hitchcock’s films also transformed a
film that Hitchcock felt was lacking and not working into one that strongly
affects its viewers.
Both the Hitchcock
films themselves and the masterful use of music Sullivan details continue to
serve as inspiration for other creative projects. The 39
Steps, which Hitchcock directed in 1935, was transformed into a play which
ran in London and New York.
Today’s artists also work to pay homage to the vision of the blend of
music and cinema. Not least of these
artists is Lady Gaga; Hitchcock allusions appear throughout her work, including
the lyrics and video of her smash singles “Bad Romance” and “Paparazzi”
respectively, and many of her videos are of lengths and production values akin
to short films.
offers even more insights into Hitchcock’s use of music throughout his works in
Hitchcock’s Music, a perfect
companion for celebrating his birthday today.