While the likes of Clint Eastwood and Arnold Schwarzenegger have been spotted smoking cigars on screen, one famous face was known for smoking stogies behind the camera instead.
Known as the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock directed over 50 feature films and is established as one of the best and most influential filmmakers in history. As well as making films, Hitchcock loved a good smoke, and smoked cigars for all of his adult life.
Born in Essex in 1899, Hitchcock was the youngest of three children and grew up in the flat above his father’s greengrocer shop.
Hitchcock only started creative writing after the war, when he worked for The Henley Telegraph as an editor. From there, he started work in the advertising department, where he wrote and drew graphics for adverts.
Introduction to Filmmaking
A fan of the cinema, Hitchcock heard that Paramount Pictures were opening a new studio in London, and he sent drawings and title cards for a film they were producing. Impressed by his work, Paramount hired Hitchcock, and he began work designing title cards for films.
In 1922, after three years of producing title cards, Paramount closed their London studio, and Hitchcock began work as an assistant director at Gainsborough Pictures. Here he worked on a number of films before directing The Pleasure Garden in 1925.
Hitchcock first gained commercial success with a film of his own in 1927, with the release of his thriller The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog. His 1929 film, Blackmail, became the first successful talkie film in Europe. He continued to have great success as a director throughout the 1920s and 30s, with his commercially and critically acclaimed films catching the eye of Hollywood executives.
Move to Hollywood
Moving to Hollywood in 1939, Hitchcock began directing films with producer David O. Selznick. Together they made a number of films, including Rebecca (1940) which won Best Picture at the 13th Academy Awards.
While returning to the UK to work during the war, Hitchcock remained based in Hollywood writing and directing films for the rest of his life.
Master of Suspense
Hitchcock reached the peak of his directorial greatness during the 1950s and 60s, when he released films such as Dial M for Murder (1954), Rear Window (1954), To Catch a Thief (1955), Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959), Psycho (1960) and The Birds (1963). These films all established Hitchcock within the thriller genre, leading to him being deemed the Master of Suspense.
Hitchcock’s style was revolutionary, and at the time, unconventional. He had a distinctive style, now known as the ‘Hitchcockian style’, that has inspired many directors. Throughout his career, Hitchcock directed 53 films and was nominated for 46 Academy Awards – winning six.
Hitchcock and Cigars
Hitchcock was often spotted with a cigar in hand, with a bowler hat and cigar becoming something of a trademark look for the director. His smoke of choice was Montecristo cigars, and he is said to have been loyal to this brand.
During the Second World War, Hitchcock sent Montecristo cigars from Hollywood to his friends in the UK, as they were not available in England at that time.