Hitch steamed into the ’50s with Strangers On A Train (1951), a wickedly sadistic criss-cross murder thriller, part-written by Raymond Chandler.
The irascible writer once called Hitchcock a “fat bastard”; Hitch couldn’t handle that, apparently trying to remove Chandler’s script credit (he couldn’t) and never working with the crime writer again.
But the film’s star, Farley Granger, provided a nicer insight into Hitch’s avoidance of on-set aggravation.
“He’d have a little snooze every now and then in his chair, and I’d say, ‘What’s the matter Hitch, are you bored?’ And he’d say, ‘Oh no, but you know I’ve done all this.’”
Hitch’s pre-planning was thorough. He didn’t need deviations on the day. Actors were there to do a job and he’d let them get on with it, joking they should be “treated like cattle”.
At any rate, Hitch was on a roll until 1963, setting up deals with various studios that gave him more control as well as bigger budgets, bigger stars, bigger hits.
He also began to be referred to as the “Master of Suspense”, thanks to Warners’ publicity, a radio show and the Alfred Hitchcock Presents television series.
It felt binding, though. “If I should make a film of another sort,” Hitch said, “people would come out asking, ‘Where was the suspense?’”
It was there in four of his finest films, which defined his decade: Rear Window (1954), Vertigo (1958), North By Northwest (1959) and Psycho (1960).
In each, Hitch was an innovator.