Fact! All of the pictures directed by Alfred Hitchcock take place in the same universe – the Hitchcock Cinematic Universe. These are the links we’ve found so far. Subscribe to the podcast to keep up to date with new additions to the HCU.
(Note: The HCU contains spoilers.)
The Hitchcock Cinematic Universe Timeline
1819 – In Jamaica Inn (released in 1939, but set in 1819), we meet Sir Humphrey, who lives in an enormous mansion that he’s forced to abandon by the end of the movie. Luckily, that mansion then becomes the infamous Manderley from Rebecca. After Sir Humphrey abandons his servants, many of them no doubt headed over to Austria to join the Count’s staff in Waltzes from Vienna.
1831 – In Under Capricorn, we meet Henrietta, who has both mental health challenges and a love of horses. In this, she is much like her descendant Marnie, from Marnie. We also meet Millie, a conniving housekeeper who is almost certainly the great-great-(great?)-grandmother of Mrs Danvers from Rebecca.
1850s – In Waltzes from Vienna (released in 1934, but covering events from the 1850s), we see Johann Strauss Jr and his girlfriend Resi overcome the odds to be together. This won’t last, but we’ll see their descendants later on. Resi’s family tree will go on to include Willi, the German from Lifeboat. Strauss’s lineage reaches out to the similarly musically talented Jo Drayton from the second The Man Who Knew Too Much. And, of course, Harry Hornblower, who appears in The Skin Game and later The Trouble With Harry is a descendant of the Strausses (as can be seen from the fact he looks identical to Johann Strauss Sr). Most of the Count’s staff are refugees from Cornwall in England, former servants to Sir Humphrey from Jamaica Inn.
1916 – The General from Secret Agent (released in 1936, but covering events from 1916) seemingly died, but his body was recovered and revived. The deranged General then re-emerged as Abbott in The Man Who Knew Too Much
1927 – The inept policeman in The Lodger almost certainly failed to capture the actual serial killer at the end of the film and instead arrested an innocent man. This gave The Avenger the opportunity to move on from London, where we will eventually see him again as Uncle Charlie in Shadow of a Doubt.
1928 – One of the severe-looking women dressing Betty in Champagne is, in fact, a youthful Mrs Danvers from Rebecca. Betty also doesn’t stick with any of the awful men in the movie. Instead she eventually moves into the apartment block we see in Rear Window, where she is known as Miss Torso.
1930 – Terrible lawyer and deadbeat dad, Bentham from Juno and the Paycock was actually a moonlighting Charles Hornblower from The Skin Game. No wonder he fled back to his wealthy family. Captain Boyle, the titular ‘Paycock’, bounces back from Juno leaving him by changing his name to Ted Markham and starting a theatre company with his new wife in Murder!
1930 – After clearing Diana of murder in Murder!, Sir John changes his name to Stephen Fisher and by 1940 starts the group of Nazi sympathisers revealed in Foreign Correspondent. Diana, meanwhile, moves to the USA where she opens a motel with her son, Norman, as seen in Psycho. Ted Markham, previously known as Captain Boyle from Juno and the Paycock, gets a taste for the life of a sidekick, going on to work for the Hillcrists in The Skin Game. The kittens that annoyed Sir John grow up to be the pets and cuisine of Fred and Emily in Rich and Strange. Finally, the ghost of the original victim, Edna, haunts the theatre where it will later land the finishing blow on Jonathan in Stage Fright.
1931 – Hornblower from The Skin Game, a descendant of Johann Strauss (see Waltzes from Vienna) eventually gets out of the feud with Hillcrist and moves to Vermont, where a quarter of a century later, he discovers the very dead Harry in The Trouble With Harry. His son, Charles, had already got into trouble posing as a lawyer named Bentham in Juno and the Paycock. This explains why Captain Boyle from the same movie was so keen to work for the Hillcrists (under the alias of Dawker). The feud goes on. Meanwhile, at least one woman from either the Hillcrist or Hornblower family is tricked into marrying Mr Rutland from Marnie, establishing his fortune.
1932 – Fred and Emily from Rich and Strange have a pet cat and a cat they later eat. Both cats were first seen as kittens in Murder!. They deal with a nosy busybody, Elsie, who reappears forty years later in Frenzy, as nosy busybody hotel owner, Elsie. The con artist ‘Princess’ who Fred falls in love with next shows up as the titular Rebecca in Rebecca. Their trip back to London took far longer than anybody realised, as they were picked up alongside the people from Lifeboat.
1934 – The conspirators (including a revived General from Secret Agent) who are trying to start wars via an assassination in The Man Who Knew Too Much also get muddled up with The 39 Steps and spread their ideas to the Nazis in Foreign Correspondent. The assassins are trapped in a time loop that sees them trying to assassinate dignitaries every night for the rest of eternity. We only get one other glimpse, though in 1956. Meanwhile, Betty, the young girl who was kidnapped, grows up to become the second Mrs de Winter in Rebecca.
1936 – The daughter and grand-daughter of the bird shop owner in Sabotage moved to San Francisco and opened a shop there, which, of course, is where we see Melanie buy the birds at the beginning of The Birds.
1940 – The Nazis in Foreign Correspondent (primarily the group led by Sir John from Murder!, who got many of their ideas from the conspirators in The Man Who Knew Too Much) responsible for the kidnapping of Van Meer continued to wield trouble on American soil in Saboteur, which features a model who starts a singing career using the stage name Jo Conway, as seen in a later version of The Man Who Knew Too Much. The Foreign Correspondent folk who crash-land their plane at the end of the movie are picked up four years later by the same people who rescue the folk from Lifeboat. The plane was shot down, in fact, by Richard, the RAF veteran who shows up later in Frenzy. To make the ages work, Richard had to have been a baby at the time, which explains why he shot down a plane from his own side. Don’t make infants fly planes in wartime. Or, indeed, ever.
1940 – Meanwhile, Dr Baker who diagnosed the titular Rebecca (first seen grifting Fred in Rich and Strange) from Rebecca with cancer moves to the USA where he runs a mental institution as seen in Spellbound. The second Mrs de Winter (aka the young girl from The Man Who Knew Too Much) left her awful husband after the events of Rebecca, only to hook up with the equally terrible Johnny in Suspicion a year later. She clearly has appalling taste in men. Perhaps this is what happens when you are kidnapped by Peter Lorre and friends. Rebecca, we will later learn, has a sister named Mrs Paradine, who appears in The Paradine Case. Furthermore, Mrs Danvers who tormented the second Mrs de Winter so badly, was first seen back in Champagne. She is also a descendant of Millie from Under Capricorn. And, of course, Manderley, the mansion in which most of the events of Rebecca take place was originally owned by Sir Humphrey back in Jamaica Inn.
1941 – The wife in Suspicion was previously the second Mrs de Winter in Rebecca. She’s falling into a terrible pattern of marrying awful men. Johnnie moves into advertising after this marriage fails, reinventing himself as Roger O Thornhill, who we see in North By Northwest.
1941 – The marriage in Suspicion, of course, is brought undone by the same legal technicality that brought Mr and Mrs Smith undone in Mr and Mrs Smith. Sadly, the Smiths’ marriage recovers, only to fall further into darkness when they become murderer and murder victim, respectively, in Rear Window.
1942 – The little girl from Saboteur grows up to be Melanie, the main character in The Birds. Meanwhile, the rancher managed to escape to South America and the film Notorious, where he continued to aid Nazis. Barry eventually started writing mysteries under the alias Mark Halliday (from Dial M For Murder).
1943 – Uncle Charlie from Shadow of a Doubt is killed on a train. But his ghost remains behind, compelling other train-goers to commit murder as in Strangers on a Train. Who were Uncle Charlie’s victims (not counting those he killed a decade and a half earlier in London, as seen in The Lodger)? Well, there are plenty of widows in the Hitchcock Cinematic Universe. Take your pick.
1944 – The folk from Lifeboat (including Willi, the German doing most of the rowing, who can trace his family tree back to Johann Strauss Jr’s girlfriend, Resi, from Waltzes from Vienna) aren’t the only ones rescued at the end of the movie. Also getting picked up are the plane crash survivors from the end of Foreign Correspondent, who have been drifting for four years and Fred and Emily from Rich and Strange, who have been drifting for twelve. Just about everybody is sent to the Spellbound mental institution.
1944 – RAF Sgt. John Dougall from Bon Voyage is flown from Nazi-occupied France to the safety of England by Richard, from Frenzy, who is one of the RAF’s legendary baby pilots. The old Gestapo trick of ‘shooting one of your own people to show that you’re not one of them’ was discussed in the debriefing here and passed on to Eve Kendall in North By Northwest.
1945 – In Spellbound, we are introduced to a mental institution. This mental institution is where a lot of people from Hitchcock’s movies end up, including Manny’s wife from The Wrong Man, Norman Bates from Psycho and Constance from Lifeboat. Who runs the institution? The doctor from Rebecca, who later eludes justice to prosecute The Paradine Case. Dr McKenna, who we will later see in The Man Who Knew Too Much also works here.
1946 – At the end of Notorious, Alicia teams up with Carol from Foreign Correspondent to continue to battle post-WW2 Nazis. Both of them had fathers who helped Nazis and are now determined to continue to redeem their family’s honour. They fail to capture one of those Nazis, Professor Lindt, however, who moves back to Germany, and eventually East Berlin, where he’s tricked into revealing Communist missile secrets by Michael Armstrong in Torn Curtain.
1947 – When John Ballantyne from Spellbound fully recovers his memory he realises he was a happilyish married English barrister named Anthony Keane in The Paradine Case. No wonder he was so confused during that movie. He also should probably have recognised Dr Murchison from the same movie, who has apparently eluded justice and become a prosecutor back in England.
1948 – Phillip, from Rope gets a great lawyer and manages to pin the entire crime on Brandon. Under witness protection, he gets a new identity of Guy Haines, establishing himself as a successful tennis player. Only to find that, three years later, he gets embroiled in another crazy murder scheme in Strangers on a Train.
1950– Jonathan from Stage Fright loses his head at the end of the movie, as a safety curtain in the theatre falls on him. What triggered that safety curtain? The ghost of Edna from Murder! who has haunted the theatre for two decades. After a brief romance with Ordinary Smith, Eve moves on to another man with a middle ‘O’ initial, Roger O. Thornhill from North By Northwest, where she becomes his fifth (?) wife.
1951 – Bruno’s mother from Strangers on a Train was the same rich woman who threw a party full of Nazi sympathisers in Saboteur, back in 1942. The tendency to discuss murder on this train can be traced back to the evil spirit of Uncle Charlie who was killed by that train eight years earlier in Shadow of a Doubt. Guy, the tennis player (previously known as Phillip from Rope) with whom Bruno discussed the murder plots, regularly played pro tennis against Tony from Dial M For Murder. Bruno, himself, first appeared 22 years earlier, as a small child annoying Alfred Hitchcock in Blackmail.
1953 – Following the events of I Confess, Father Logan moves to San Francisco, where he just happens to work in the church where people keep falling to their death from a bell tower, as seen in Vertigo. He does not tell anybody about any of this.
1954 – Margot from Dial M For Murder swiftly moved on from Tony (who, in his tennis days, played against Guy from Strangers on a Train) at the end of the movie, changing her name but keeping her money and hooking up with LB in Rear Window. She’s also moved on from Mark Halliday, perhaps having discovered that his antics when he was better known as Barry Kane from Saboteur. Meanwhile, everybody involved in convicting her (judge, jury, prosecutor) also wrongly convict Manny in The Wrong Man two years later.
1954 – In Rear Window, the neighbour (who has long since discarded the very obvious alias of ‘David Smith’ from Mr and Mrs Smith) disappears to dispose of his wife’s body. Where does he take it? Perhaps to the same swamp that Norman Bates uses in Psycho. Quite the coincidence, since the sisters in that same apartment block were, in fact, Marion and Lila from Psycho. Miss Torso, from the same building, was first seen as Betty back in Champagne. Lisa, meanwhile, is better known as Margot from Dial M For Murder , who has kept her money but changed her name as she’s looked to move on with her life.
1955 – In The Trouble With Harry, we meet Sam Marlowe. He marries Jennifer Rogers at the end of the movie. Alas, within five years, he’s divorced her and has taken on a new surname (Loomis), job (hardware store owner) and girlfriend (the doomed Marion Crane in Psycho). We first met The Captain (a Hornblower and descendant of Johann Strauss (see Waltzes from Vienna)), of course, way back in 1931 during The Skin Game.
1956 – In The Wrong Man, Manny (wrongly convicted by the same judge, jury and prosecutor who convicted Margot from Dial M For Murder) puts his wife into a mental institution. This is the same mental institution we first saw back in 1945 in Spellbound, which is where Dr McKenna from The Man Who Knew Too Much briefly worked. Meanwhile, those assassins from The Man Who Knew Too Much are still going. We get another look at them, as they kidnap the son of the model from Saboteur, who is now a successful singer – unsurprisingly, given that she is a descendant of the Strauss family (see Waltzes from Vienna).
1959 – In North By Northwest, we finally discover that the man we have seen previously as Senator Morton in Strangers on a Train,, a Rebecca-diagnosing doctor in Rebecca, in charge of a mental institution in Spellbound, and a prosecutor in The Paradine Case, is a spy, The Professor. He was deep undercover in all those other movies. He’ll later go on to recruit physicist Michael Armstrong for cold war spying duties in Torn Curtain. Roger O. Thornhill is, of course, a new alias of Johnnie from Suspicion. After the movie, he takes on yet another wife, this time Eve from Stage Fright, who has a thing for men with the middle initial O. She may have shot him, but that was just an old Gestapo trip she learned from Bon Voyage.
1960 – In Psycho, Norman Bates practices taxidermy on birds. This is just the start of his mad experimentation, which leads to the events of The Birds. And is his mother Diana from Murder!? And was she murdered by Uncle Charlie from Shadow of a Doubt?
1962 – Who was responsible for The Birds going crazy? Was it bird-tamperer Norman Bates from Psycho? Or was it a sickness started by radioactive Cuban birds infected by Soviet missiles during the Cuban missile crisis, as seen in Topaz (released in 1969, but set in 1962). We may never know. We do know, however, that the birds purchased by Melanie at the beginning of the movie were bought from a pet store owned by the daughter and grand-daughter of the bird shop owner in Sabotage. We also know that the spying and missile shenanigans in Topaz led to the necessity of further spying and anti-missile shenanigans in Torn Curtain, a few years later.
1963 – The wealth of the Rutlands in Marnie was explained by them marrying heiresses every other generation. Presumably winning the heart of one of those those Hillcrists or Hornblowers from The Skin Game was enough to set up the elder Mr Rutland. The unscrupulous Lil, meanwhile, got a chance to demonstrate her lack of morals thirteen years later under the alias Fran, in Family Plot. Marnie, herself, is a descendant of Henrietta from Under Capricorn, and more specifically, the baby daughter from The Manxman.
1966 – In Torn Curtain we meet Michael Armstrong, a physicist secretly recruited by the Professor from North By Northwest . He needs to undo all the missile spying antics of Topaz l by sneaking behind the entire curtain and tricking Professor Lindt (formerly one of the Notorious crew) into giving him secret equations.
1972 – Richard, from Frenzy, shot down the plane at the end of Foreign Correspondent. Silly to shoot down one of your own country’s planes but that’s what happens when you put a baby in the pilot’s seat. On a more helpful front, he also flew Dougall to safety in Bon Voyage. Good baby pilot! He and his girlfriend also have to deal with nosy hotel owner Elsie, who we first saw forty years earlier, snooping around Fred and Emily from Rich and Strange.
1976 – Mrs Rainbird, who got things started in Family Plot was secretly the scandalous divorcee Larita from Easy Virtue almost fifty years earlier. The jewellery store that the kidnapper/diamond thieves – one of whom is a grown-up Lil from Marnie – open contains the necklace that was stolen back in Number 17.