Hitchcock was born on 13 August 1899 in Leytonstone, London, the second son and youngest of three children of William Hitchcock (1862-1914), a greengrocer and poulterer, and Emma Jane Hitchcock (née Whelan; 1863-1942). He was named after his father's brother, Alfred. His family was mostly Roman Catholic, with his mother and paternal grandmother being of Irish extraction. Hitchcock was sent to the Jesuit Classic school St. Ignatius College in Enfield, London. He often described his childhood as being very lonely and sheltered, a situation compounded by his obesity.

On numerous occasions, Hitchcock said he was sent by his father to the local police station with a note asking the officer to lock him away for ten minutes as punishment for behaving badly. This idea of being harshly treated or wrongfully accused is frequently reflected in Hitchcock's films.

Hitchcock's mother would often make him address her while standing at the foot of her bed, especially if he behaved badly, forcing him to stand there for hours. These experiences would later be used for the portrayal of the character of Norman Bates in his movie Psycho.

Hitchcock's father died when he was 14. In the same year, Hitchcock left St Ignatius to study at the London County Council School of Engineering and Navigation in Poplar, London.  After graduating, he became a draftsman and advertising designer with a cable company.

During this period, Hitchcock became intrigued by photography and started working in film production in London, working as a title-card designer for the London branch of what would become Paramount Pictures. In 1920, he received a full-time position at Islington Studios with its American owner, Famous Players-Lasky and their British successor, Gainsborough Pictures, designing the titles for silent movies. His rise from title designer to film director took five years, and by the end of the 1930s, Hitchcock had become one of the most famous filmmakers in England.
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