Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light

Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light

by Patrick McGilligan

Paperback(First Paperback Edition)

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Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light by Patrick McGilligan

Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light is the definitive biography of the Master of Suspense and the most widely recognized film director of all time.

In a career that spanned six decades and produced more than 60 films – including The 39 Steps, Vertigo, Psycho, and The Birds – Alfred Hitchcock set new standards for cinematic invention and storytelling. Acclaimed biographer Patrick McGilligan re-examines his life and extraordinary work, challenging perceptions of Hitchcock as the “macabre Englishman” and sexual obsessive, and reveals instead the ingenious craftsman, trickster, provocateur, and romantic.

With insights into his relationships with Hollywood legends – such as Cary Grant, James Stewart, Ingrid Bergman, and Grace Kelly – as well as his 54-year marriage to Alma Reville and his inspirations in the thriller genre, the book is full of the same dark humor, cliffhanger suspense, and revelations that are synonymous with one of the most famous and misunderstood figures in cinema.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060988272
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/14/2004
Edition description: First Paperback Edition
Pages: 864
Sales rank: 499,270
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.78(d)

About the Author

Patrick McGilligan’s biographies include the acclaimed Oscar Micheaux: The Great and Only; the Edgar-nominated Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light; Fritz Lang: The Nature of the Beast; and George Cukor: A Double Life. The author of several New York Times Notable Books, he has also penned biographies of Clint Eastwood, Jack Nicholson, Robert Altman, and James Cagney, along with the oral history Tender Comrades: A Backstory of the Hollywood Blacklist (with Paul Buhle). McGilligan lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Read an Excerpt

Alfred Hitchcock
A Life in Darkness and Light

Chapter One


He might saw a woman in half, as one of his favorite real-life murderers did. Or, with a wave of his wand, scare a swarm of birds out from under his English gentleman's hat.

All of his tricks were in a single trunk plastered with travel stickers -- his life, as it were. There were umbrellas, door keys, tiepins, rings and bracelets, a glass of poison, a ticking bomb, long kitchen knives and a host of other glittering stuff. Sometimes it seemed that he juggled only a handful of items with endless hypnotic variation. But just when you thought he'd shown you all he had, he reached into the deep bottom of the trunk and found something there to mesmerize you afresh.

Alfred Joseph Hitchcock was the ultimate magician of the cinema, an illusionist as pleased by his own mastery as he was by his audiences' reactions. He perfected a mask of jovial sangfroid, but he couldn't have been happier when the audience collectively sighed, laughed, screamed -- or wet their seats.

His name was as English as trifle. The "Alfred" stood in honor of his father's brother. The "Joseph" was a nod to the Irish Catholicism of his mother -- the name of the carpenter of Nazareth and husband of Mary.

The "Hitch" was a derivative of Richard, Coeur de Lion, most popular of the Angevin kings. "Richard" was popular throughout the kingdom in variants, among them Dick, Rick, and Hick; the initial R was commonly nicked into H. The "Cock" meant "little" or "son of," as in "son of Richard," or "son of Hitch."

Little Hitch.

He shortened the name for friends and introductions. "It's Hitch," he drawled, relishing the trap about to be sprung, "without the cock." As he made a game of identity in his wrong-man movies, Alfred Hitchcock made a game of his identity in life.

Few directors forged their careers as resolutely, as self-consciously, as Alfred Joseph Hitchcock. Starting from boyhood, he was drawn slowly but steadily toward his métier -- just as steadily as his family moved along East End suburbs, down the river Lea, in the last years of the nineteenth century, toward the greater opportunity of central London.

Leytonstone, where Alfred Joseph Hitchcock was born, was north of the Thames and south of beautiful Epping Forest, where Tennyson lived when he wrote "Locksley Hall." A hamlet attached to Leyton (Lea Town), Leytonstone (Leyton's Town) was once the fiefdom of rich merchants who built grand houses on estates that bordered country meadows and marshlands. Eventually the rich moved away, abandoning their mansions and estates to make way for vast numbers of cheap houses built by greedy developers for the nineteenth-century explosion of city workers. By the turn of the twentieth, the area was thriving commercially, booming with shops, churches, and schools, and fast losing its rural character. The population of Leytonstone doubled twice after the 1861 census.

Like Stratford, where Hitchcock's father, William, was born, and West Ham, home of his mother, Emma Jane Whelan, Leytonstone was part of the outer London county of Essex. The Essex boomtowns owed their existence largely to the Great Eastern Railway Line, which offered cheap "workmen's fares" to central London (about six miles from the Leyton station), and proximity to the river Lea. Down the Lea a tremendous variety of agricultural goods traveled through a series of locks leading to Regent's Canal, en route to the docks and warehouses of the Thames. The Hitchcocks owed their livelihood to the worker boom, the railway, the boats, and the river Lea.

William Hitchcock was born in 1862 to Joseph Hitchcock, a "master greengrocer" in Stratford. Part of West Ham, Stratford was separated from Bow in Middlesex by the Lea, over which stretched the Bow Bridge, the first stone bridge built in England. Joseph Hitchcock was already among the second generation of Hitchcocks to thrive in greengrocering. Besides William, Joseph Hitchcock had at least six other sons and daughters: Mary (known as Polly), Charlie, Alfred, Ellen, Emma, and John.

Polly, the eldest, married a man named Howe, and bore two children. Charles, the eldest son, fathered five, including Teresa and Mary, Hitchcock's cherished older cousins, whom he treated as aunts. Charles's son John, a Catholic priest, was known to all as Father John; he served as head of the parish of Our Lady and St. Thomas of Canterbury in Harrow, from 1929 to 1944, and is remembered there for doubling the size of the church and erecting a modern school.

Of the director's namesake, William's brother Alfred, not much is known, except that he was a bulwark of the family business. Alfred was to run a fish shop on busy Tower Bridge Road, immediately south of the Thames, and spearhead the London side of operations.

Ellen married a man from Cork and died giving birth to their third child. Her husband became legendary in the family as the first relation to emigrate to America, while the daughter who survived Ellen's death, also named Ellen, briefly moved in with the Leytonstone branch when the future director was a young boy.

Through shipping and intermarriage the Hitchcocks were well aware of the wider world, especially outposts of the United Kingdom. When she was just twenty years old, Emma left in 1899 for South Africa to marry James Arthur Rhodes. Taken off the boat in Durban harbor in a large wicker basket (like the kind that figures into the climax of Torn Curtain), Emma was then carried to safe ground on the backs of Zulu warriors. Like other Hitchcocks, Aunt Emma was a devout Catholic; she attended Mass for much of her life via rickshaw. The longest-lived and the farthest-flung, intrepid Aunt Emma became a favorite of young Alfred Hitchcock.

The baby of the original brood, John Fitzpatrick, had a pair of devilish eyes that twinkled in an angelic face. The burgeoning family fortune bought him education at the Douai School for Boys in Woolhampton ...

Alfred Hitchcock
A Life in Darkness and Light
. Copyright © by Patrick McGilligan. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
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Frankly color ruined the mystery story and dialogue disappeared for sound effects and visuals
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I answer questions akked in the question den