As a celebrated creator of the unexpected, Alfred Hitchcock cultivated his own mystique off-screen, too.
But the picture of the director as a lecherous and sadistic sexual predator in a BBC drama broadcast on Wednesday is unrecognisable, according to a number of his leading ladies.
The drama is based on the experiences of Tippi Hedren, who starred in The Birds and Marnie.
According to The Girl, the BBC Two drama in which Hedren is portrayed by Sienna Miller, Hitchcock subjected the former model to sexual harassment and physical abuse, including threatening her with broken glass. In one scene, the director lunges at Hedren and his attempt to kiss the actress borders on assault.
Her rejection, the drama alleges, was avenged by Hitchcock ordering a propman to send a dummy bird crashing through a phone booth on set, shattering the unsuspecting Hedren with glass.
But this version of events is disputed by Tony Lee Moral, the author of three books on Alfred Hitchcock, including one on the making of The Birds.
He interviewed former leading ladies and others who worked with the director.
Eve Marie Saint, who starred in North by Northwest, told him: "There were six of us Hitchcock blondes, and it's like we all were married to the man at one time or another and we all have a different take on him.
"Each actress was at a different stage of their life, we were different ages, some married, some not. My experience with Hitch was one of utter respect, warmth, friendliness and humour, and North by Northwest was a glorious time in my life.
"Hitchcock was a gentleman, he was funny, he was so attentive to me, with the character, and he cared about everything my character, Eve Kendall, wore. He had an eye for the specifics of the character."
Doris Day, who starred in The Man Who Knew Too Much with Jimmy Stewart, was equally unstinting in her praise.
"He was just Hitchcock - wonderful, a great director and a good friend. I loved working with him," she said.
Kim Novak, the star of Vertigo, also defended the director. "Hitchcock is one of the great directors and one to be studied," she said. "He was a perfectionist, he didn't make any short cuts."
Others to defend Hitchcock included Virginia Darcy, who was the set hairdresser during the filming of The Birds and Marnie.
"You had to take Hitch with a pinch of salt," she said. "Tippi was an innocent from New York. I don't think she could handle herself then.
"She had never done a movie in her life, never been around a studio, never knew a director, she only knew guys who were photographers."
The BBC version has also come under fire from Nora Brown, the widow of Jim Brown, an American who was assistant director on both The Birds and Marnie.
Brown, who died last year, agreed to be interviewed by Gwyneth Hughes, who wrote the screenplay for The Girl, on the understanding that it would be an affectionate portrayal of Hitchcock.
Brown said her husband had nothing but admiration and respect for Hitchcock.
"He understood his clever Cockney sense of humour and thought the man a genius," she said.
"If he was here today, I doubt that he would have any negative comments. He would be saddened by the image portrayed of his friend and mentor."