When the Trustees of The American Film Institute established the Life Achievement Award in 1973, they specified that the filmmaker honored each year be chosen in terms of his total career contribution, the degree to which that contribution has fundamentally advanced the art of American film and withstood the test of time.
The AFI Trustees have voted the seventh Life Achievement Award to Alfred Hitchcock, who fulfills these qualifications superbly. During some fifty-seven years as a writer, director and producer, he has served film both memorably and uniquely. In his favorite genre, the suspense film, he has come to be regarded as a master almost without peer.
He early became known for his visual innovations, relying on his earlier training in draftsmanship. Perhaps more important was his innate sense of composition. Hitchcock has come to use the screen in a very painterly fashion. Film is a visual art, but Hitchcock is the most visual of directors.
From 1922 to 1939, he honed his gifts as writer, director or producer on thirty-three films in England. In 1940, he directed REBECCA, his first film in the United States. Starring Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine and Judith Anderson, the film won the Academy Award for best picture of the year. REBECCA also earned Hitchcock his first Academy Award nomination for best director.
Probably Hitchcock’s most famous film is the gothic thriller, PSYCHO. The film features Hitchcock at his most startling pitch and at the height of his most manipulative technique. The famous shower scene in which he expeditiously disposes of the co-star, Janet Leigh, is a masterpiece of economic and powerful editing pulling the audience irresistibly into the climate of the story. No one who has seen the film can step into a shower in a strange motel without that incredible scene running through his mind.
Each year the Life Achievement Award telecast has reached a wide audience. This is one of the purposes of the Institute: to provide the public with some insight into the art of motion pictures. Focusing on the work of a single creator, we can, by example, demonstrate the enormous power of film.
Alfred Hitchcock as artist, writer, director and producer richly deserves the Life Achievement Award. Let it serve as a token of the admiration and respect of his audiences as well as his colleagues.