It's the story of Hitchcock the professional that McGilligan has chosen to emphasize. What anchors this biography is tale after tale of "the farsighted preparation and hard, hard work" that went into making those 53 great, good and indifferent films. Hitchcock may have been a glutton for rich food and fine wine, as we learn, but he had an even larger appetite for infinite detail in getting a film ready to shoot: months of scriptwriting and revision, laying out shot sequences, planning sets, costumes and camera angles.
Director Hitchcock is in a class by himself. His legendary films, including Rear Window, The 39 Steps and Notorious, coupled with his TV show, Alfred Hitchock Presents, aired his singular brand of evil and salvation. In this enthralling, scholarly and candid appraisal of the artist, McGilligan, a biographer of James Cagney and Jack Nicholson, neatly reveals the man behind the camera. A quiet Catholic boy from London's East End, Hitchcock (1899- 1980) began as a production designer on silent films and eventually became Britain's premier movie director. David Selznick tapped him for Hollywood, and although their relationship was stormy, it spelled success. Hitchcock, who claimed, "I'm not interested in logic, I'm interested in effect," quickly redefined the medium. He told his stories visually, invented innovative camera angles and reveled in suspense tales. Always, he was aided by his wife, Alma, an invaluable partner on every project. A Hitchcock film "characteristically mingled light with darkness," possibly because its creator was so conflicted. Hitchcock adored gossip, dirty jokes and icy blondes, though, sexually impotent, he could not consummate his desire; his voyeurism instead played out on screen. He relished the occasional cruelty, but it did not obscure his genius or his generosity. He worked tirelessly for the British war effort, though America was committed to neutrality until Pearl Harbor, and was deeply loyal to old friends. McGilligan has crafted an inside look at this unique director and the studio machinations that sustained him. Film buffs will relish how power and creativity play out in Hollywood. The rest will learn how obsession can produce art. 32-page b&w photo insert not seen by PW. Agent, Gloria Loomis. (Oct.) Forecast: There are loads of books available on Hitchcock, but the market may be ripe for a new one; nothing groundbreaking has come along in the past four or so years. Taschen is publishing the heavily illustrated Alfred Hitchcock by Paul Duncan in November, which, paired with McGilligan's book, could make a smart display. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
In this ambitious biography, McGilligan (Fritz Lang: The Nature of the Beast) notes that Alfred Hitchcock was not only a master of suspense but also "the ultimate magician of the cinema." Drawing on original interviews with the director's friends and associates, as well as documents from Hitchcock's archives, he uses contradiction as a theme throughout. While Hitchcock maintained a professional atmosphere on the set, for instance, he was famously aloof toward actors ("cattle") and could be petty and vindictive to loyal collaborators. Hitchcock was also devoted to his longtime wife and trusted critic, Alma Reville, yet he enjoyed voyeurism and propositioned, then sexually harassed, actress Tippi Hedren. The films themselves, including Hitchcock's best-remembered entries from his personal "golden age" of the 1950s, are also addressed, but primarily through details and anecdotes. Those looking for more analysis of themes and motifs, then, should seek out Fran ois Truffaut's interviews (Hitchcock) and Robin Wood's eccentric but informative Hitchcock's Films Revisited. McGilligan's is a more balanced portrait than Donald Spoto's The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock, and it offers broader coverage of the director's productive late period than can be found in John Russell Taylor's Hitch: The Life and Times of Alfred Hitchcock. For large public and academic film collections.-Stephen Rees, Levittown Regional Lib., PA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
The Master of Suspense finally gets an authoritative life. From his subtitle to his closing remarks, McGilligan (Clint: The Life and Legend, 2002, etc.) makes no secret of his agenda: to correct the excesses of Donald Spoto’s notorious The Dark Side of Genius, which presents a Hitchcock whose deepest creative energies were driven by fear, lust, and sadism. McGilligan’s Hitchcock, though not above hitting on actresses from Joan Fontaine to Brigitte Auber, is a devoted family man, generous to his relatives, generally kind to his associates (very few examples of his well-known proclivity for practical jokes on display here), level-headed in most of his business decisions, and always the consummate professional. From the short stories he published for his engineering firm’s trade magazine around 1920material on which McGilligan is especially illuminatingto the trademark cinematic motifs (absurd MacGuffins, dominating mothers, staircases, light-footed shifts from comedy to melodrama) he recycled from film to film, Hitchcock comes across as inveterately playful, determined not so much to exorcise his private demons as to give audiences a shiveringly good time. Most of the colleagues who worked on the early British films from The Pleasure Garden (1925) to Jamaica Inn (1939) are no longer available to interviewers, but McGilligan, who has spoken with everyone available, taps as well into a torrent of Hitchcock scholarship, supplemented by explorations of numerous archives. His research is staggering, though often vaguely or incompletely documented. Apart from providing one-stop shopping for information on masterpieces from The 39 Steps to Psycho, he provides fascinating new insightson the origin of the sobriquet "Master of Suspense," the identity of the first Hitchcock blond, even such a forgettable film as Torn Curtain, from Hitchcock’s abortive attempt to rope Vladimir Nabokov into writing the screenplay to the actual screenwriters’ race to remove their names from the finished film’s credits. Master-ful. (32 pages b&w photos, not seen) Agent: Gloria Loomis/Watkins Loomis