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Dial B for Birthday

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Showering with a Psycho? Pecked to death by lovebirds? Sending your wife on vacation -- in three different suitcases? Jack Meyer Presents: Happy Birthday, Mr. Hitchcock!

Sir Alfred Hitchcock directed over 50 films throughout his lifetime. August 13 marks the birthday of this virtuoso director. To honor Mr. Hitchcock, the man who inspired my adoration of film, I would like to recount my peculiar relationship with the Master of Suspense.

One Christmas, I discovered three rectangular-shaped presents under the tree. Santa brought me Psycho, Rear Window and The Birds? That's correct: instead of buying me an age appropriate film (say Toy Story), my mother decided I was ready for classic Hollywood thrillers. And, boy, was she right!

I remember sitting on the old, green, leather couch mesmerized from start to finish (a state I would later experience while watching the films of Ingmar Bergman). I was immersed by Mr. Hitchcock's technically brilliant montages, spellbound by Bernard Herrmann's bravura scores and taken by the stunning beauty of his cool blondes (my personal favorite -- Grace Kelly).

I recall gasping in horror when Lila Crane discovered the corpse of Mrs. Bates in Psycho, physically jumping off the couch when Lisa Freemont confronted the murderer Lars Thorwald in Rear Window and cowering behind a pillow when the schoolchildren were pecked to death by the crazed schoolyard Birds. Naturally, I watched these films over and over until my thirst for fright was appeased.

Mr. Hitchcock, a ubiquitous presence to post-war American audiences, was born on August 13, 1899 in Essex, England. His first introduction to cinema began with work as a title card designer for a London based production company in the 1910s. In the 1920s, Mr. Hitchcock moved to Germany where directors Fritz Lang and F.W. Murnau crafted avant-garde films; they would prove to be influential inspirations to the young director-to-be.

Mr. Hitchcock returned to his native England to direct several enjoyable and entertaining features, such as The 39 Steps (1935) and The Lady Vanishes (1938). However, it was his time in America when Mr. Hitchcock directed his greatest films -- some to become timeless classics of cinematic history.

Three of Mr. Hitchcock's notable films include: Rear Window (1954), Vertigo (1958) and North by Northwest (1959).

In Rear Window, Mr. Hitchcock captures the essence of midcentury bohemian Chelsea from a single perspective: the rear window of L.B. Jefferies' apartment. Jefferies, played by Jimmy Stewart, is a wheelchair-bound photographer with plenty of time to spy on his neighbors -- one of whom may be a murderer. The fabulous Grace Kelly stars as Lisa Freemont, Jeff's glamorous Park Avenue girlfriend whose idea of takeout is lobster dinner from 21. Initially skeptical of Jeff's suspicions, Lisa is eventually convinced and assists Jeff in this tense, delicious thriller. Set to a thrilling jazz score by Franz Waxman, and featuring marvelous costumes from Hollywood's greatest costume designer Edith Head, Rear Window is Mr. Hitchcock at his finest.

Vertigo, arguably Mr. Hitchcock's darkest film, follows retired detective Scotty Ferguson (Jimmy Stewart) as he trails the enigmatic Madeline (Kim Novak) through the dizzying streets of San Francisco. The kaleidoscopic landscape of the city externalizes Scotty's internal feelings of vertigo and obsession with Madeline. Hitchcock's twisted valentine to Fog City includes a breathtaking score by Bernard Herrmann and powerful performances by Stewart and Novak. "No, Scotty, no!"

North by Northwest trails cool, sophisticated Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant), a man wrongly accused of murder, frantically fleeing police and villains alike in this ambitious caper. Eva Marie Saint plays Eve Kendall, the sexy double agent who cannot be trusted. Thornhill finds himself in the eerily desolate cornfields of Illinois, only to encounter a deadly, bullet spraying crop duster. Thornhill and Kendall are forced to climb down the façade of Mount Rushmore at the conclusion of Hitchcock's homage to double agent espionage.

John Carpenter, Wes Craven and M. Night Shyamalan owe a tip of the hat to Sir Alfred Hitchcock, the man who revolutionized the American cinematic thriller. Check out the end-of-summer-season rates at the Bates Motel and enjoy your shower!