Common Knowledge: On account of being the rare film director who was also a huge global celebrity with his own publicity machine, and a great artist in addition to that, there are a lot of misconceptions people have about Hitchcock, the way he worked and even his own personality.
It's commonly believed that Hitchcock pre-planned all his films, that he story-boarded all the scenes in his films to the last detail and never improvised or changed his mind during production. As Bill Krohn's Hitchcock at Work reveals, while Hitchcock did in fact do a great deal of pre-planning, his films were not such a model of efficiency as he led everyone to believe. To begin with, Hitchcock shot all his films in sequence rather than out of narrative order. This was rare and exceptional in the Golden Age, and it meant that a surprisingly large number of his films went over-budget and over-schedule, which never became a problem for him because they were all hugely successful in the box-office and because Hitchcock managed to convince film journaliststhat there was nothing to see there.
A number of his movies went into production without a complete script, the remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much and Strangers on a Train and also Notorious, which was more or less made up as it went along. Likewise while Hitchcock did storyboard a large part of his scenes, he also winged it on many occasions. The famous crop-duster sequence in North By Northwest wasn't storyboarded at all, but after the film was finished, Hitchcock commissioned artists to create new storyboards based on the scene he shot for promotional purposes, to make it look like he planned the whole thing all along. And likewise many of the scenes in his films differed from how they were storyboarded.
Hitchcock also had a tendency to deflect or invent excuses to explain the reasons certain films didn't work. In the case of Suspicion, he said that the film's ending was rejected because audiences didn't want Cary Grant to be a villain and a Karma Houdini, implying that the studio originally approved a script with such an ending to begin withnote An impossibility given the nature of The Hays Code which pre-approved and vetoed all properties and scripts in the pre-production stage. In actual fact, the original ending of Suspicion ended much the way the film currently does, differing only in that preview audiences didn't find it as laughably funny as the one Hitchcock shotnote Hitchcock's real ending, had Joan Fontaine drinking the glass of milk she thought was poison only to survive and then hearing a commotion and barely stopping Cary Grant's character from committing suicide. Audiences found this ending a little too bizarre and out of nowhere.
Hitchcock once said that he regretted Foreign Correspondent inspiring a real-life assassination, described Rope as a failed experiment, as well as the ending of Stage Fright. Likewise he called Spellbound "just another manhunt wrapped in pseudo-psychology". He also didn't much care for the films he made with producer David O. Selznick, even if he was otherwise grateful to Selznick for bringing him to Hollywood.
Generally, he didn't like his movies which were commercial failures even when the films were personal projects. He didn't like Under Capricorn and regretted casting Joseph Cotten opposite Ingrid Bergman.
Of course, Hitchcock in general tended to agree with his interviewers. Interviews who praised Under Capricorn and Rope would get indulging responses from him, and those who smack-talked his early English films appealed to his vanitynote Since it proved in his eyes, the producers and the general reader) that he had improved as a director and his new American films were better than his old ones, which had the benefit of presenting him as commercially viable and adaptable.. As such when François Truffaut interviewed him, he mostly shared in the Frenchman's views of his early English and American films, while his interviews with other journalists and critics would have him give slightly different, more moderate views. For instance, he's a lot more supportive of his English films in Peter Bogdanovich's interview.
In the attic scene in The Birds, Hitchcock had crew guys hurling real gulls and crows at Tippi Hedren...for five straight days of shooting. As a result, she was plagued by dreams of flapping wings. The birds themselves had been fed whiskey to make them more aggressive. Needless to say, this was long before the No Animals Were Harmed certificates.
The story of Rebecca called for Joan Fontaine to be nervous around the other actors, so Hitchcock told her that no one else on set liked her. Laurence Olivier did hate her, repeatedly telling Hitch, "She can't act, old boy!". This was more because of Joan Fontaine's inexperience at the time than anything else. For Suspicion, for which she won an Oscar for Best Actress, he relied on her more. Fontaine enjoyed working with Hitchcock on the whole.
For Vertigo, Kim Novak was not his first choice, and most of the costumes were selected for Vera Miles (she appeared in The Wrong Man and played Marion Crane's sister later in Psycho). So Kim Novak's stiffness and discomfort as Madeleine emphasized by costumes for another actress actually helped her in that role.
Hitchcock was a notorious practical joker and was never tired of making jokes and shocking his cast and crew. When filming The 39 Steps he needed a shocked reaction from Madeline Carroll. He achieved this by pretending to pull his cock out.
Hitchcock's first film, a 1923 release called The White Shadow, was thought lost for more than 80 years—until its first three reels were found as part of a private collection in New Zealand.
1927's The Mountain Eagle is not known to survive in any form, despite exhaustive searches of film archives. Check your attic. In his interviews with Truffaut, Hitchcock was dismissive of the film, insisting that it was not a very good film and that the succeeding film, The Lodger was his first major work.
From the earliest British days to the middle of his American career, his wife Alma Reville served as script supervisor on his first film and played a key role in all his films, and Joan Harrison was another important producer and was in charge of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Screenwriter Angus MacPhail (who he credited for coining the McGuffin) had trouble with alcoholism and Hitchcock arranged him to work on The Wrong Man to help his friend out.
The famous Hitchcock team of The '50s: Robert Boyle was his preferred Production Designer, Robert Burks was his most common cinematographer, since Strangers on a Train, George Tomassini was his editor until he died after Marnie, Bernard Herrmann (who scored and orchestrated his films from The Trouble with Harry to Marnie) and Saul Bass (who designed the titles and posters between Vertigo to Psycho and likewise designed the storyboards for the shower scene in Psycho).
Several of the actors had Undying Loyalty to Hitchcock. A prime example of this is actor Norman Lloyd, who later went on to play Dr. Daniel Auschlander on St. Elsewhere and Dr. Isaac Mentnor on Seven Days, who worked for Hitchcock as an associate producer and director on Alfred Hitchcock Presents. At the time, Hitchcock was the only person willing to give him any type of gainful employment. Other than that, he had been blacklisted in the entertainment industry for refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee and identify suspected communists and as a result, had been branded as a communist himself.