It seems appropriate to begin a collection about the children in Alfred Hitchcock’s films by revisiting Hitchcock’s own childhood for clues to how he envisions children and childhood. Alfred Hitchcock once intoned: “Fear isn’t so difficult to understand. After all, weren’t we all frightened as children?”—a sentiment that quietly wafts, like a fading perfume, through many of Hitchcock’s films. Francois Truffaut’s 1961 extended interview with Alfred Hitchcock begins with the now infamous story of Hitchcock’s father, William, sending the young Alfred to the police station. Alfred gave an officer a piece of paper and the officer then locked him in a jail cell for a few minutes. The officer told Alfred “this is what we do to naughty boys.”1 While the story has often been challenged, and Hitchcock himself often changed the details, his sister always claimed the story was true. Hitchcock claimed that this unusual experience unfortunately resulted in him developing a lifelong fear of the police.2 As an adult, this fear prohibited him from such ordinary activities as driving because he was so terrified of being pulled over that he could not bring himself to risk it (a fear he masterfully visualized in Psycho when Janet Leigh is pulled over). Another traumatic childhood event that left its mark on Hitchcock occurred when he awoke from a nap to find his parents had briefly left the home and only the maid was there to watch over him.
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- Palgrave Macmillan US