Of all the Alfred Hitchcock trademarks, perhaps the director’s cameo is the most playful. His unmistakable countenance appeared in 39 of his 53 films.
For the Master of Suspense, the walk-on was a matter of utility – at least initially. As he told François Truffaut, “we had to fill the screen.” In all likelihood, he’s being a bit cheeky with this explanation. Surely some joy was taken in figuring out where and when to put himself, especially as it became a trend in his American pictures.
“Later on it became a superstition and eventually a gag,” Hitch notes. “…by now it’s a rather troublesome gag and I’m very careful to show up in the first five minutes so as to let people look at the rest of the movie with no further distraction.”
So now, without further distraction, here is a compilation of 11 of what I consider to be the most notable and/or interesting Hitchcock cameos in chronological order.
Here, Hitch appears twice. The first cameo is at a desk in the newsroom about three minutes into the flick. The second is toward the end in a mob scene.
One of the most amusing early cameos finds Hitch bothered by a kid as he tries to read on the London Underground. This particular outing lasts about 20 seconds or so and is just over 10 minutes into the film.
Hitch would make his presence felt in his first American film and would subsequently appear, one way or another, in the rest of his movies. For this one, he actually appears toward the end of the picture.
One of the most innovative Hitchcock cameos finds the director as the before and after shots in a newspaper advertisement for Reduco Obesity Slayer. This is notable because of the confined set and because it reflects the director’s real-life weight loss.
In this cameo, Hitchcock is a particularly thirst party guest at a big party at a mansion. This pushes Claude Rains to have to restock the bar.
Hitch makes another appearance in a confined set film. This time, he appears just after the director’s credit as a man walking down the street holding a newspaper.
This particularly clever cameo has Hitch appear in a picture at a Cambridge Alumni Reunion dinner. He’s actually sitting at a table with the villain. Some have suggested that James Stewart is also sitting at the table across from the director.
Hitchcock is winding a clock in the apartment of a songwriter and seems to turn to the camera. Is he looking at the audience? Doubtful, but it’s fun to imagine him breaking the proverbial fourth wall.
One of the funniest cameos finds Hitch plopped next to Cary Grant on a bus. Notice the cage of birds.
This cameo is notable because it features Hitchcock introducing the picture as a true story. He wanted to put the focus on the narrative and didn’t want people mining through the movie to find his visage.
One of the most famous Hitch cameos has the director emerging from the pet store with two of his Sealyham terriers. Their names? Geoffrey and Stanley.
What’s your favourite Hitchcock cameo? Share your selections in the comments below.