We all know that Alfred Hitchcock loved a cameo. You simply couldn’t stop the Master of Suspense from popping up in his own movies, whether in a speaking role or just wandering past on a dog walk. But this entire trend came about completely by chance, rather than out of some sort of grand plan.
The first Alfred Hitchcock cameo appeared in The Lodger, released in 1927. Five minutes into the film, which stands among Hitchcock’s best movies of the silent era, Hitchcock can be seen with his back to the camera as a man operating a telephone in a newspaper office. The director would later claim this was an accident and only happened because he had to step in when an extra failed to arrive for this bit-part.
“It was strictly utilitarian,” one of the best directors ever claimed in François Truffaut’s famous biography. “We had to fill the screen. Later on [cameos] became a superstition and eventually a gag,”
Brilliantly, Hitchcock himself began to hate the fact he was expected to appear in each of his new movies. By the time Truffaut’s biography hit shelves in 1967, the director had already grown tired of having to find a way to shoehorn himself into the background.
He said: “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 the people look at the rest of the movie with no further distraction.”
There’s no doubt that cameo-spotting became a sport in Hitchcock’s best movies, but there are some really fun appearances for those willing to look out for the director’s iconic silhouette. Of course, the most famous cameo is his dog-walking appearance in The Birds. That scene was memorably parodied in The Simpsons episode ‘A Streetcar Named Marge’, which contains more than a few nods to The Birds.
Personally, we love Hitch’s smartly concealed role as the model for a newspaper advert in Lifeboat. It’s one of the most imaginative ones for sure.
Of course, the revolving door of constant cameos has been taken up in recent years by the likes of Stephen King and Stan Lee, though both of those serial bit-players owe a massive debt to Hitchcock. He gave us some of the best horror movies of all time, but he also couldn’t resist the spotlight himself.
For more on the best of Hitchcock, find out why the most challenging Psycho shot didn’t involve any gore and learn about the time Alfred Hitchcock was banned from Disneyland. You can also check out our picks for the best thriller movies ever, featuring plenty of Hitch’s masterpieces.