Alfred Hitchcock was the most well-known director to the general public, by virtue of both his many thrillers and his appearances on television in his own series from the mid-'50s through the early '60s. Probably more than any other filmmaker, his name evokes instant expectations on the part of audiences: at least two or three great chills (and a few more good ones), some striking black comedy, and an eccentric characterization or two in every one of the director's movies.
Originally trained at a technical school, Hitchcock gravitated to movies through art courses and advertising, and by the mid-'20s he was making his first films. He had his first major success in 1926 with The Lodger, a thriller loosely based on Jack the Ripper. While he worked in a multitude of genres over the next six years, he found his greatest acceptance working with thrillers. His early work with these, including Blackmail (1929) and Murder (1930), seem primitive by modern standards, but have many of the essential elements of Hitchcock's subsequent successes, even if they are presented in technically rudimentary terms. Hitchcock came to international attention in the mid- to late '30s with The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), The 39 Steps (1935), and, most notably, The Lady Vanishes (1938). By the end of the 1930s, having gone as far as the British film industry could take him, he signed a contract with David O. Selznick and came to America.