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Hitchcock's Partner in Suspense: The Life of Screenwriter Charles Bennett

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Overview

With a career that spanned from the silent era to the 1990s, British screenwriter Charles Bennett (1899—1995) lived an extraordinary life. His experiences as an actor, director, playwright, film and television writer, and novelist in both England and Hollywood left him with many amusing anecdotes, opinions about his craft, and impressions of the many famous people he knew. Among other things, Bennett was a decorated WWI hero, an eminent Shakespearean actor, and an Allied spy and propagandist during WWII, but he ...

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Hitchcock's Partner in Suspense: The Life of Screenwriter Charles Bennett

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Overview

With a career that spanned from the silent era to the 1990s, British screenwriter Charles Bennett (1899—1995) lived an extraordinary life. His experiences as an actor, director, playwright, film and television writer, and novelist in both England and Hollywood left him with many amusing anecdotes, opinions about his craft, and impressions of the many famous people he knew. Among other things, Bennett was a decorated WWI hero, an eminent Shakespearean actor, and an Allied spy and propagandist during WWII, but he is best remembered for his commercially and critically acclaimed collaborations with directors Sir Alfred Hitchcock and Cecil B. DeMille.

The fruitful partnership began after Hitchcock adapted Bennett's play Blackmail (1929) as the first British sound film. Their partnership produced six thrillers: The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), The 39 Steps (1935), Sabotage (1936), Secret Agent (1936), Young and Innocent (1937), and Foreign Correspondent (1940). In this witty and intriguing book, Bennett discusses how their collaboration created such famous motifs as the "wrong man accused" device and the MacGuffin. He also takes readers behind the scenes with the Master of Suspense, offering his thoughts on the director's work, sense of humor, and personal life.

Featuring an introduction and additional biographical material from Bennett's son, editor John Charles Bennett, Hitchcock's Partner in Suspense is a richly detailed narrative of a remarkable yet often-overlooked figure in film history.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
05/01/2014
It seems that every actor and director of note has written an autobiography. Ironically, there are far fewer accounts by screenwriters, but this new addition to the form is both welcome and long overdue. English screenwriter Charles Bennett (1899–1995) gained widespread notoriety for collaborating with Alfred Hitchcock on six of his early films, including The Man Who Knew Too Much and The 39 Steps. Bennett also wrote over 50 teleplays in the 1950s and had a long and fascinating career until his death. His son John discovered an unfinished memoir among his father's papers and as enjoyable as Bennett's original prose is, the editorial additions make this work especially informative. With excerpts from screenplays, clarifying interludes, and concluding chapters that create a fuller portrait of the life and work of Bennett, this volume pays tribute to both a pioneer of suspense filmmaking and a father. VERDICT This highly readable and entertaining memoir will certainly be of interest to Hitchcock fans, and it also casts an intriguing light on the life of a screenwriter.—Peter Thornell, Hingham P.L., MA
From the Publisher
"Well written and enlivened by a witty turn of phrase and almost routine understatement of what was, at times, an extraordinary life. Indispensable to Hitchcock enthusiasts for the light it sheds on Charles Bennett's extraordinary contribution to the director's legacy — Richard Allen, Author of Hitchcock's Romantic Irony" —

"In writing about his long life - and long career - Bennett brings alive Hollywood's unique culture, rich social life, and celebrated cast of characters, particularly those in the British colony. The train rides north to San Simeon, the mores and manners of the studio heads (according to Bennett, "born lucky morons"), the writers' sweat shops at Warner Bros. — do we ever tire of hearing how-it-was? Bennett also brings his keen eye to descriptions of war-torn Great Britain, especially the deprivations — and exuberance — of mid-decade. His work with Hitchcock may have been his best, but he deserves more attention than previously. And here, finally, he gets it."—Leonard Leff, author of Hemingway and His Conspirators" —

"The book provides a fascinating look inside one of Hollywood's most well-kept secrets and begs the question as to how someone this prolific and successful became so obscure." — Durango Herald

"Alfred Hitchcock was apparently an amusing, kindly, even-tempered person to work with and respected as a consummate artist. He was, however, less than generous in sharing the subsequent glory or blame....Enhanced by a remarkably candid coda, it is an intriguing and revealing story, a work of filial piety, the very title of which, Hitchcock's Partner in Suspense, lays claim to an equal place for his [Bennett's] father in the pantheon of world cinema." — Times Literary Supplement

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813144498
  • Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
  • Publication date: 5/2/2014
  • Series: Screen Classics
  • Pages: 328
  • Sales rank: 621,807
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Charles Bennett (1899-1995) was an actor, playwright, screenwriter, and director. His numerous screenwriting credits include the films listed above as well as Reap the Wild Wind (1942), Forever and a Day (1943), The Story of Dr. Wassell (1944), Where Danger Lives (1950), and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961).

John Charles Bennett teaches science at Saint Margaret's Episcopal School.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 4, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Interesting POV

    Bennett seems to take credit for everything Hitchcock. The title caught my interest - but is was a McGuffin.

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