To honour 40 years since the death of Sir Alfred Hitchcock, local historian Gary Lewis tells the story of how his interest in the late director spawned a business offering guided tours in Leytonstone
Good evening (as Leytonstone’s favourite son himself would say). My name is Gary Lewis, I’m a local historian, public speaker and tour guide on the subject of the late, great film director Sir Alfred Hitchcock.
Hitchcock was born on 13 August 1899 in Leytonstone. Known as the Master of Suspense, he directed over 50 feature films before receiving an American Film Institute Life Achievement Award. He made his directorial debut with the silent film The Pleasure Garden in 1925. His first successful film, The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927), helped to shape the thriller genre, while his 1929 film, Blackmail, was the first British ‘talkie’. He died in California on 29 April 1980.
I’ve been a resident of Leytonstone for the past 41 years, but my fascination with Hitchcock really began when I was a teenager in the late 1970s. One Sunday night, I stayed up late to watch Psycho on TV. I remember jumping out of my chair at the shower scene, and the screeching violins have stayed with me to this day. After that, I was hooked.
Fast forward to October 2015, I was forced to take early retirement from London Underground as a Tube driver due to ill health. For the next year, I wondered where to turn for my next career move. Inspiration struck in September 2016 when I joined the Alfred Hitchcock of Leytonstone Society. At a meeting of the society in early 2018, I proposed presenting a slide show on the early life of Hitchcock, entitled ‘Hitchcock’s Leytonstone’. They enthusiastically agreed, and in May 2018, I gave my first talk at The Birds pub in Leytonstone. Three more talks followed and soon I was hired by local groups, keen to hear about Hitchcock’s roots. On 4 September 2019, I gave my biggest talk yet to over 100 people for the Leyton and Leytonstone Historical Society.
Having developed my illustrated talk on the early life of Alfred Hitchcock, the next logical step was to start a guided tour entitled ‘Walking in the Footsteps of Hitchcock’. On 29 September 2019, as part of Leytonstone Loves Film, I guided 60 people from all over the world – including six from Mexico, two ladies from Greece and a couple from Romania – on my first 90-minute tour.
Sadly, on 11 November 2019, I parted company with the Alfred Hitchcock of Leytonstone Society. I felt it was time to move on and I saw this as a golden opportunity to start my own business. On 12 January this year, the dream became a reality and Hitchcock Talks and Tours was born. As for the future, my talks and tours are generating interest not only from local residents and local clubs but from all over the globe. I look forward to bringing Hitchcock’s Leytonstone to the world!