Movies directed by Alfred Hitchcock, the filmmaker who was born on this day, Aug. 13, in 1899, are known for making audiences scream. In real life, however, he often made people scream for a different reason: laughter.
When Hitchcock died in 1980, TIME’s Richard Schickel summarized his persona as that of “the solemn-faced fat man with a stately pace and a sepulchral voice improbably making outrageous puns and ghoulish observations about the tales he told.” Here are just a few examples of the Hitchcock wisdom and wit, whether he was discussing his films or his favorite foods, as his words appeared in the pages of TIME during his life:
“Such ice cream I would not trade for a steak & kidney pudding, a boiled silversmith with carrots & dumplings, or a Kentish chicken pudding. In fact, I like it.”
In 1937, Hitchcock—described by TIME back then as “famed, fat, English”—came to the U.S. expecting not to like the food, but the ice cream convinced him it would all work out. The gourmand did later cut back a bit, dropping his weight from 292 lb. to 250 per TIME’s 1940 assessment, but joked that his foolproof weight loss method involved not just eating less, but also expending extra mental energy by spending all day thinking about the food one would not get to eat.
“Suspense can be introduced in a simple love story as well as the mystery or ‘whodunit’ picture. Make the audience suffer as much as possible.”
Hitchcock lectured Yale drama students in 1939, while he was on his way to California to make his first American movie, and shared that bit of wisdom.
“Nothing more revolts my sense of decency than an underground character being able to murder people to whom he has not been properly introduced.”
When the Film Society of Lincoln Center honored Hitchcock with a gala in 1974, he explained that one of his story-telling creeds was that even murderers had to follow certain rules. And that wasn’t the only notable quoting that went on that night: Monaco’s Princess Grace—a.k.a Grace Kelly, star of Rear Window—recalled that when she wore a tight gold dress as a costume in To Catch a Thief, the director joked that “there’s hills in them thar gold.”
“Man does not live by murder alone. He needs affection, approval, encouragement and, occasionally, a hearty meal.”
In 1979, when Hitchcock was honored by the American Film Institute, the festivities offered plenty of opportunity to talk about the master movie-maker, and to quote him too.
“It has been said that I called actors cattle. I would never say such a rude, insulting thing. What I probably said was that all actors should be treated like cattle.”
In 1972, when his film Frenzy was released, Hitchcock complained to TIME that he was always being misquoted by journalists. (A particular crime because his quotes were just so darned good.) At the time he was 72 years old but still as involved in filmmaking as ever, though he did notice that some things had changed since he got his start: In the same interview, he complained to TIME that “nobody has a sense of humor anymore.”
Luckily for the rest of us, he proved himself wrong.
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