However, Hitchcock did not start out as a brilliant director, but instead started from the very bottom of the business. As a young man Hitchcock was raised and lived in England with his parents. When a new Paramount studio opened he rushed to get a job there having had interest in film making for quite a bit of time. He was employed at Paramount as a "title designer" for silent films meaning he wrote out the lines that are displayed after each shot in the film. From that job he worked his way up through the business to assistant director and directed a small film that was never finished or released. Hitchcock's directorial debut took place in 1925 with the release of the film "The Pleasure Garden". His breakthrough film came just a year later with "The Lodger", a film that came to be an ideal example of a classic Hitchcock plot. The general idea of the plot is an innocent man is accused of a crime he did not commit and through a web of mystery, danger, action, and of course love he must find the true criminal. This plot came to be used in many of Hitchcock's films throughout his career both silent and "talkie". It was not long before Hitchcock came to be known as the "Master of Suspense". He was said to have "not only mastered the art of making films but he also mastered the task of taming his own raging imagination".
The first Alfred Hitchcock film I am going to address is his and England's first "talkie" which is the dramatization "Blackmail". This film, released in 1929, was originally shot as a silent and some people say it should have remained as a silent. Nonetheless, it was a tremendous breakthrough for both Hitchcock and the British film industry for their first movie with sound. However, there were a few problems with this transition to sound.
Anna Ondra who played the main female character Alice had a very thick Eastern European accent that came to be impossible to decipher on the film. This had never been a problem for her prior to "Blackmail" because she had only starred in silent films. This was a topic we addressed in class and we learned that a lot of European actors/actresses were out of work with the invention of sound movies because of thick accents. However, in "Blackmail" there was a solution Ondra's voice was dubbed over by an English actress named Joan Barry. By doing this voice-over the film could remain a "talkie" and they would not have to re-film. The film also was still using the synchronized sound so it was not as perfect as later techniques of putting sound to film.
The film is about a young woman, Alice, who makes a bad character judgement about a stranger she meets. She is invited to the studio of a sketchy looking artist who would like her to pose for him, or so she thinks that is his intention. His true intention, however, is to sleep with her. Ultimately she has to fight off his unwanted attention and goes as far as killing him, in true Hitchcock fashion, with a knife. This murder lands her in a spiral of intrigue as she is caught between her boyfriend who is an investigating detective and a person who is blackmailing her. Alice wants to turn herself in, but if she did that she'd have to explain why she had put herself in such a position.
Within this film is the typical Hitchcock story that the character wants to tell the police what has happened but they just can not do it. They know they'd never be believed so they must set out to defend themselves. This occurs in "The 39 Steps", a film that will be focused on following this film, as well....