Director Alfred Hitchcock’s regular cameos in his films (he appears in 39 of the 52 he directed) are almost as well-known as his famous silhouette, but they didn’t start out that way. In Hitchcock, the book-length interview by Francois Truffaut, Hitchcock reveals his appearances’ origins were pragmatic rather than vain:

Francois Truffaut: Did you do it [the director’s first cameo in his fifth film, The Lodger] as a gag? Was it superstition? Or was it simply that there weren’t enough extras?

Alfred Hitchcock: It was strictly utilitarian; we had to fill the screen. Later on it became a superstition and eventually a gag. But by now it’s a rather troublesome gag, and I’m very careful to show up in the first five minutes so as to let the people look at the rest of the movie with no further distraction.

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Amusingly, two of Hitchcock’s final half dozen films following his 1962 chat with Truffaut break this stated rule (both the little-regarded Topaz and his last movie, Family Plot have cameos around the half-hour mark), but you can save yourself the trouble of the hunt by watching this handy cut of every Hitchcock cameo in his 54-year directing career.

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