At what age did Alfred Hitchcock die?

His name makes the hearts of movie fans beat faster - and faster. Because his thrillers still instill fear. Alfred Hitchcock died 40 years ago, and 100 years ago he entered the film business.

"You never know the end," said Alfred Hitchcock shortly before his death. And added that you have to die to know exactly what will happen afterwards. "Although Catholics have their hopes there." On the morning of April 29, 1980, 40 years ago, the time had come.

The specialist in murder and manslaughter in the cinema took his last breath in real life in Los Angeles. The credits showed the director as a rich man; Hitchcock's multimillion-dollar fortune included stakes in oil and gas wells, 66 boxes of fine wines, and 2,250 head of cattle on his farms.

"I prefer to watch"

Flashback: The son of a greengrocer was probably born with a sense for business. Born in the East End of London on August 13, 1899, the young Alfred tended to keep other people apart rather than to keep them for himself. Classmates described him as a lonely, fat boy "who smiled at you and looked at you as if he could see right through you". Hitchcock never had anything to do with any form of physical movement.

"My kind of sport is above the neck," he used to say. "I prefer to watch."

And so Hitchcock haunted London like a film set, attended theater performances and the Scotland Yard Police Museum, devoured detective stories - or studied maps and timetables. As a young man there was still a certain aimlessness about him. Until he ended up in the advertising department of his first employer, the Henley Telegraph and Cable Company. One of his first tasks was to illustrate a brochure about the benefits of electric lighting in public buildings.

Hitchcock wrote "Church Lights" on the cover and drew two candles for it. "I left everything else in the deepest darkness," the filmmaker later recalled. "That should suggest that candles alone are not enough to illuminate a church." Humor, a keen sense of timing and the importance of light and shadow: this is where Hitchcock's genius flashed. And suddenly everything came together: in 1920, 100 years ago, he came to film. In a city that used to be a hotspot for European cinema culture.

The later director learned his craft from scratch. And developed an enormous ambition. Just a few years later he was looking over the shoulder of greats like Ernst Lubitsch and Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau in Berlin. The man with the distinctive double chin made a name for himself. One of his early works, "The Mountain Eagle", was judged by the critics in 1926 that Hitchcock had turned out to be "a skilful and sometimes brilliant director". His preferred subject: human abysses.

"Master of Suspense"

Guilt and fear, shame and sex - according to his biographer Donald Spoto, the "master of suspense" did not need scripts for these recurring motifs. In the end, Hitchcock drew from the dark side of the Catholic milieu, with whose rigid morals he grew up in mostly Anglican England. The filmmaker remained true to his themes - even after moving to Hollywood in 1939.

In the USA, between the late 1940s and mid 1960s, Hitchcock's best-known works were created, starting with "Die Rote Lola" with Marlene Dietrich and going to "To Catch a Thief" with Grace Kelly and Cary Grant to "Psycho" with Anthony Perkins as a creepy sex offender. Of course, there is a shadow over this time. In 1962, the manic perfectionist Hitchcock went too far in "The Birds". Again and again he exposed his leading actress Tippi Hedren to attacks from trained birds. The actress suffered a breakdown.

Decades later, Hedren said the filming was "ugly, brutal and ruthless". In the next film, "Marnie", she was humiliated again by Hitchcock and, moreover, sexually molested. According to his biographer Spoto, this was a unique personal low point in the director's career, whose cinematic legacy is still up-to-date today.