Opening the Paratext: the Hitchcock trailer as assertion of authorship

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle

180 Downloads (Pure)


As a filmmaker who frequently enjoyed unusual artistic control over his output, Alfred Hitchcock was known for appearances not merely in his films but also in their trailers. But while the studios understood that Hitchcock’s appeal was a key part of his films' selling points, his role in such content was, for the most part, a corollary to the task of having to sell a motion picture. As the director's influence began to grow and his own sense of authorship began concomitantly to develop, in these trailers (filmic paratexts), Hitchcock, as this article argues, increasingly makes the case for his artistic intentions, mirroring the ambiguous and excessive style of his contemporaneous filmmaking in such promotional material. In so doing, Hitchcock promotes ostensibly ‘closed texts’ not open to interpretation while offering the potential for polysemantic renderings of such texts – opening the paratext. In this way, the trailer serves as both promotional product and critical (self-)appraisal, suggesting in the textual and paratextual construction of the Hitchcock trailer an intersection of the materialism of the commercial package and the abstraction of artistic ambition.

© 2018, The Author(s). This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages22
Specialist publicationOpen Screens
PublisherBritish Association of Film, Television and Screen Studies
Publication statusPublished - 28 Dec 2018

Cite this