Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Schaffer, Byron L., -1990

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Theatre Arts


Hitchcock; Alfred; 1899-; Motion pictures--United States--History


British-born director Alfred Hitchcock, most commonly referred to as the "Master of Suspense" has made thirty-one American films. Each of his films has received both criticism and acclaim from critics and commentators, scholars and the general public. This thesis examines Hitchcock’s American career as observed by many members of the press, revealing the growth and development of his career as perceived by his critics. Employing the historical-critical method, the thesis focuses on seven films directed over a period of thirty-two years. These films are Rebecca (1940), Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Notorious (1946), Rear Window (1954), North by Northwest (1959), Psycho (1960), and Frenzy (1972). Each film is designated as its own chapter and contains a compendium of the film's printed criticism which is treated on two levels: (a) an over-view is presented of the published reactions to the film during the year of the film's commercial release, and (b) a "retrospective" analysis of the film is presented by both those critics who re—evaluated their original opinions, and new, later commentators. Both are offered contrapuntually with the printed opinions of the director. This thesis reveals four major critical trends indigenous to Hitchcock's films and examines each as applied to specific films: to wit, (a) each of the films was criticized or praised predicated upon critic's fiction-film plot preferences and was generally ignored technically, aesthetically, and cinematically by these early critics. This is revealed to be in sharp contrast to the later critics who examined these three considerations in some depth. (b) Hitchcock's cinematic sense of humor, utilized as counterpoint to suspense, was criticized as a detraction and this dramatic device went largely unappreciated until very recently. (c) Hitchcock's American films suffered constant unfavorable comparison with his early British films. The critics responsible for perpetrating these comparisons are re­vealed as unconvincing. (d) The films were criticized with enormous ambiguity in terms of their morality. We find serious problems, such as adultery, largely ignored. Of utmost important to the researcher is the revelation of the wide divergence of opinions between Hitchcock' early critics and his later ones, based on an examination of these four themes.


Includes bibliographical references.


iii, 124 pages




Northern Illinois University

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