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UNIT 2 READING

Name: _______________________________________________________________________ Date:


__________________________

Alfred Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock (1899–1980) is one of the most


famous directors in film history. His movies have a
unique style, and many of his ideas have influenced
and inspired other directors.

The “MacGuffin”

A MacGuffin can be a person, a place, or a thing – a


destination that a character is desperate to reach, for
example, or a priceless object that he or she is
searching for. What it does is drive the action in a
story. However, the most important characteristic of a
MacGuffin is that it’s not actually an important part of
the plot. Instead, it’s simply a tool used to make the
characters of the story behave in a certain way. Hitchcock believed the audience shouldn’t really
care about the MacGuffin at all.

The MacGuffin technique is not a new concept. In fact, a MacGuffin appears in the medieval
stories about the English knight King Arthur. However, the technique only gained its name in the
twentieth century, thanks to the writer Angus MacPhail, who worked with Hitchcock. The director
went on to use this technique in many of his movies, including The 39 Steps (1935), Vertigo
(1958), and Psycho (1960).

Like many of Hitchcock’s storytelling techniques, the MacGuffin has become popular and has been
used by several other successful directors. During an interview in 2004, George Lucas claimed that
the robot R2-D2 acts as a MacGuffin in his 1977 film Star Wars IV: A New Hope. Lucas liked what
Hitchcock had done with this technique, but he also felt that we should care about the MacGuffin
almost as much as the principal characters on screen.

Director cameos

Hitchcock famously played “cameo” roles in 39 of his 52 movies. What he does is appear briefly
on screen at some point during the movie. In North by Northwest, for example, he appears in a
street scene at the start of the movie, whereas in the 1945 movie Spellbound, he is seen walking
out of a hotel elevator, carrying a violin case. His most unusual cameo might be in Lifeboat: as the
movie is set on a boat, there were few opportunities for cameo appearances, so Hitchcock is seen
in a newspaper promotion for a weight-loss product!

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Personal Best B2  Richmond 2018
UNIT 2 READING

Fans loved looking out for these appearances and Hitchcock realized that this was beginning to
distract them from the plot of the movie itself. After this, he ensured that his cameo always took
place in the first half hour of the movie. Other directors who have made cameo appearances in
their movies include Quentin Tarantino and Peter Jackson.

Movie-going

Interestingly, Hitchcock also influenced the way people watched movies in the theater. Before the
release of Psycho in 1960, movies in the theater did not always have fixed start times. Audience
members turned up at a time that suited them and watched the movie from whichever point it
was currently at. What Hitchcock wanted was for people to watch the whole movie from start to
finish. He asked staff not to let anyone who arrived late for the movie into the theater and begged
audiences not to give away the conclusion of his shocking thriller. It was a controversial decision,
but the movie became incredibly successful as a result and people lined up to watch it. Of course,
these days this is what we expect when we go to the movies and it’s difficult for us to imagine
paying to watch a movie in any other way.

1 Look at the headings in the text and read the first paragraph. What kind of text do you think
this will be?

a a persuasive article about a popular director ☐


b a factual description of a director’s influence ☐
c a biography of a famous film director ☐
(1 point)

2 Read the text. Are the sentences true (T) or false (F)?

1 A number of different things can be used as a MacGuffin. _______


2 The MacGuffin technique has been used in stories since the twentieth century. _______
3 Alfred Hitchcock believed the audience shouldn’t feel strongly about a MacGuffin. _______
4 George Lucas decided not to use a MacGuffin technique in his 1977 movie. _______
5 Hitchcock appears in a cameo role in every movie he directed. _______
6 Hitchcock’s cameos were extremely popular with his audiences. _______
7 All of Hitchcock’s cameos occur within the first 30 minutes of the movie. _______
8 Before 1960, audiences didn’t necessarily know when a movie at the theater would start. _______

(8 points)

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UNIT 2 READING
3 Read the text. Complete the sentences with the words in the box. There is one word you don’t need.

convenient different ending main strangest unusual valuable

1 The style of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies is very ________________________ from that of other directors.
9 A MacGuffin could be a particular destination or a ________________________ item.
10 George Lucas believes a MacGuffin is as important as a movie’s ________________________ characters.
11 The ________________________ cameo Hitchcock made was in the movie Lifeboat.
12 People used to arrive at the theater at whatever time was ________________________ for them.
13 Hitchcock asked audiences not to share the ________________________ of Psycho.

(6 points)

4 Read the text. Look at the sentences from the text. In which three sentences is the clause with what
the subject? Check () the correct options.

1 What it does is drive the action in a story. ☐


2 Lucas liked what Hitchcock had done with this technique … ☐
3 What he does is appear briefly on screen at some point during the movie. ☐
4 What Hitchcock wanted was for people to watch the whole movie from start to finish. ☐
5 Of course, these days this is what we expect when we go to the movies … ☐
(5 points)

(Total possible score: 20)

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Personal Best B2  Richmond 2018