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Beating the Odds

The Genius of Luck

Alfred Hitchcock turned bad luck into genius.

Born on Friday the 13th, “The Master of Suspense” channeled his childhood experiences into masterpieces of the silver screen. He found positives in what most people see as negatives.

“Luck is everything,” Hitchcock said. “My good luck in life was to be a really frightened person. I’m fortunate to be a coward, to have a low threshold of fear, because a hero couldn’t make a good suspense film.”

This year, Friday the 13th and Albert Einstein’s birthday fall one day before the other, a perfect summary of Hitchcock. He combined fear and brilliance as well as anyone.

“The only way to get rid of my fears is to make films about them,” he said.

When Hitchcock was about five, his father put him in jail for five minutes as a punishment. Obesity complicated things. Hitchcock used the loneliness and fear as inspiration, filling his films with anxiety and suspicion.

“I think my mother scared me when I was 3 months old,” he said. “You see, she said ‘BOO.’ It gave me the hiccups. And she apparently was very satisfied.”

Hitchcock’s classic movie “Psycho” shows the degree to which he turned bad luck into good. Paramount studios did not want to make the movie. A limited budget demanded tough decisions. Hitchcock offered to put in his own money, and to re-arrange his own take.

It all worked. “Psycho” ranks 18th on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 greatest movies. Hitchcock was wrong when he said he was a coward. By believing in “Psycho” when few others did, he gave the world a piece of genius.

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