Sir Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980) is, undisputedly, one of the great filmmakers of all-time. “Hitch" is universally accepted as the “Master of Suspense" in the same way Fred Astaire is known as the movie's greatest dancer or Marilyn Monroe is the screen's greatest sex symbol.
Hitch made cameo appearances in 39 of his 52 surviving films (sadly, his second film The Mountain Eagle is lost). Hitch's cameos became his "signature" on his movies, in much the same way as an artist signs his paintings.
In his earliest films, the “Hitchcock cameo" could occur at any time in the film, but as his career went along and as he gained greater fame, he tried to make his cameos earlier in the films. He knew all the fans were preoccupied looking for the Hitchcock cameo, so he'd make them earlier to limit their distraction from the actual film. The earliest Hitchcock cameo occurs in The Birds (1963), where Hitch is seen two seconds into the film. Hitch's latest cameo occurs in Suspicion (1941), where he appears 46 minutes and 54 seconds into the film. Hitch's longest-ever cameo lasts a whopping 19 seconds, in Blackmail (1929).
Interestingly, in three Hitchcock films, Hitch makes two appearances, instead of the usual one. These three "double Hitchcock cameos" occur in:
The Lodger (1926)- (his first film, a silent)- Hitch first appears seated in a newsroom, then later as a bystander when the lodger is lynched by a crowd.
Rope (1948)- walking along the street after the main titles, then later his profile drawing is seen as a flashing neon sign advertisting "Reducto."
Under Capricorn (1949)- at the governor's reception, then later on the streets of government house.
In his earliest films, Hitch often made his cameos as a part of a crowd. For some odd reason, he often liked to make his cameos carrying a musical instrument. Why he loved this particular schtick, I have no idea. Hitch made a cameo in every one of his features after Rebecca (1940), his first American film. Here is a partial list of the beloved “Alfred Hitchcock Cameos.”
Blackmail (1929)- being pestered by a small boy as he tries to read on a train.
The 39 Steps (1935)- passing by in the street with screenwriter Charles Bennett.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941)- passing Mr. Smith in the street.
Saboteur (1942)- standing in front of a shop selling cut-rate drugs.
Lifeboat (1944)- seen in "before and after" pictures in a newspaper advertisement.
Spellbound (1945)- leaving a crowded elevator carrying a violin case and smoking a cigar.
Notorious (1946)- drinking champagne at a party.
Strangers on a Train (1951)- boarding a train carrying a double bass.
Dial M for Murder (1954)- seated at a table in a photograph of a class reunion.
The Trouble with Harry (1955)- walking past a parked car at an art exhibition.
To Catch a Thief (1955)- sitting on a bus next to Cary Grant (John Robie), who looks at him.
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)- in a crowd watching acrobats.
Vertigo (1958)- walks past a shipyard carrying a horn case.
North by Northwest (1959)- seen just missing a bus, the doors close in his face.
Psycho (1960)- standing in the street wearing a hat.
The Birds (1963)- exiting a pet shop with two small dogs.
Marnie (1964)- stepping out into a hotel corridor.
Torn Curtain (1966)- holding a baby in the lobby of a hotel.
Family Plot (1976)- (Hitch's final film) silhouetted in the glass-paned door of a registrar of births & deaths, he is talking to another man and gesticulating.
*Hitch actually made a "cameo appearance" on his television series too. In a 1958 episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents called “Dip in the Pool,” Hitch "appears" on the cover of a magazine being read by the star of the episode, Philip Bourneuf.
[Ed. note: Today is the 115th anniversary of Alfred Hitchcock's birth. He was born on August 13th, 1899, in Leytonstone, now part of London, England.]