92 of 94 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional biography
Exhaustive, rich and incredibly detailed, this is sure to please the film enthusiast who enjoys scholarly film biographies. The text is over 700 pages and each film of Hitchcock's career is covered in detail, with particular attention to his relationships with his collaborators (screenwriters, costumers, musicians, actors, etc.). Hitckcock's creative genius was unique -...
Published on December 1, 2003 by Phillip O.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars All encompassing look at the life of Hitchcock
I would recommend this book for:
- Fans of Hitchcock movies, or at least people familiar with the movies and the actors/actresses from the decades of Hitchcock's body of work.
- Fans of very detailed, microscopic biographies. Make no mistake, this one takes awhile to get through and would be much more rewarding for film aficionados and fans of the great...
Published 13 months ago by J. Kehoe
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92 of 94 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional biography,
Exhaustive, rich and incredibly detailed, this is sure to please the film enthusiast who enjoys scholarly film biographies. The text is over 700 pages and each film of Hitchcock's career is covered in detail, with particular attention to his relationships with his collaborators (screenwriters, costumers, musicians, actors, etc.). Hitckcock's creative genius was unique - he could visualize his film down to the most minute detail before the cameras even rolled (indeed after the script was completed he felt that filming the work was the most boring aspect of it). Script conferences were lengthy and detailed and Hitchcock's mulling and proscrastination often drove many screenwriters to distraction. Those who perservered however, earned respect and dedication from Hitchcock. Despite the book's meticulous attention to detail (some readers might find the analysis of Hitchcock's contract details with David Selznick exasperating), the personal character of Hitchcock shines through. He was a devoted family man, faithful and respectful of his wife Alma Reville, whose opinion he valued above all others when it came to criticism of his work. But he was also a passive admirer of beautiful actresses, often becoming obsessive with them, with sometimes devastating results. He was also a highly sensitive man and despite his own tendency to be unforgiving when crossed and boorish on the set, he was easily hurt by comments about his weight, habits, etc. And he loved animals and would not watch a film that depicted cruelty to animals (one of his favorite films was "Benji".) A lover of life, travel, good food and wine but most of all his work, his life is shown here as an exuberant one and not as dark as depicted in Donald Spoto's earlier biography. A wonderful read and highly recommended!
52 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Hitch bio? Well, this is THE bio.,
As with John Ford, Orson Welles and a few other monument-like auteurs, one wonders if there is anything else to add when library shelves already groan under the weight of books about these great directors. In the case of Alfred Hitchcock, a proverbial household name, the challenge for a writer seems to double. And yet McGilligan as he did with Fritz Lang, Jack Nicholson and Clint Eastwood has pulled it off. In addition to seamlessly blending new research with a compelling narrative, this biography allows the reader to rediscover the familiar. McGilligan humanizes the director in the best way. Hitchcock is neither the repressed almost deviant sadist that Donald Spoto painted back in his controversial bio nor a droll, almost Santa Claus-like teller of ripping yarns, as mytholgized in Time-Life articles, but a highly talented man, a flawed, but essentially decent husband and father, and a complex artist caught between serving the demands of mainstream Hollywood and fulfilling his creative instincts. This is a big book, but it reads as briskly as one of Hitch's best films. Essential for any serious film book library.
36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the Most Definitive Biographies of Hitchcock,
The American Film Institute chose four of Alfred Hitchcock's masterpieces --- Psycho, North by Northwest, Vertigo and Rear Window --- for its list of the top 100 American films of the century. In a narrower category --- the top 100 thrillers --- Hitch ran away from the crowd with nine selections. He was, in his way, the Beatles of filmmaking.
Patrick McGilligan, whose previous biographies on cinematic legends include Fritz Lang, George Cukor, James Cagney and Clint Eastwood, has compiled another masterwork of research and insight. He concentrates on Hitchcock as an adult rather than trying to analyze what might have happened in his younger days to account for his "twisted genius." For example, much has been written about the way Hitchcock depicts women in his films (e.g., his predilection for "icy blondes"). "Hitchcock's male heroes generally do all right," writes McGilligan. "His women must kill or die, be humiliated, or endure a frustrating romance with an important hero on the run. One way or another the beautiful women always suffered." Yet he remained devoted to his wife, Alma, until his dying day.
Hitchcock began his career at a time when everything was open in film. He was a master of both sides of the camera, bringing out the best from his performers as well as developing new filming techniques, whether for the sake of art or to keep the accountants happy. He loved to "tinker" and figure out how to make an image on a storyboard into reality.
McGilligan draws a fascinating picture of the movie industry, pitting artiste against tyrannical studio mogul; the battles between Hitchcock and David O. Selznick are at once amusing, picayune and frustrating.
ALFRED HITCHCOCK --- the first biography on the writer, director and producer in nearly 25 years --- offers plenty of "back story" for each Hitchcock project, beginning with the silent film The Lodger in 1926. Hitchcock handled the transition to "talkies" very well, but he never forgot that sound was not always necessary to set the mood. In fact, McGilligan notes, "In nearly every Hitchcock film to come, the most celebrated sequences . . . might as well be silent. If there was sound, it was music, natural noise or screaming. (He loathed "cued music" that merely confirms what you can see.") If there was dialogue, it was unimportant --- even unintelligible.
The author also puts Hitchcock's movies in perspective with other films and mores of the changing eras. Hitchcock was always battling with the censors as he tried to push the envelope in terms of explicitness, while at the same time trying to maintain a degree of subtlety. He also had to contend with political sensitivities of certain movies made during wartime (such as Lifeboat) and the "cold war" years. All of these pieces go into forming the "Hitchcockian" puzzle.
McGilligan portrays Hitchcock's work habits, his devotion to family and his loyalty to writers and crew members, and relationships (and in some cases impatience) with certain actors to paint a sympathetic portrait, refuting many of the less-than-flattering allegations about Hitchcock in earlier books.
While many "psycho-biographies" have been written about the master of the macabre, the tsar of terror, the thane of thrillers, trying to explain what happened in his life that led him to weave such terrifying (and terrific) tales, McGilligan's ALFRED HITCHCOCK, with its in-depth research and easy going narrative, will no doubt be among the most definitive.
--- Reviewed by Ron Kaplan
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sir Alfred Hitchcock; The Master of Suspense is Examined!,
Alfred Joseph Hitchcock was enigmatic, complex, artistic, sexually impotent and a potent force in 20th ca. film, From his days as Paramount-Famous Players in his native London this cockney genius spun his web of mystery, suspense, high fashion,
laughter and the peculiarities of humanity with wit, charm,
beauty and a superb storytelling sense. Hitchcock is my favorite director; in this insightful new biography my McGilligan the master of suspense's career is carefully delineated.
McGilligan will give the reader the details on all of "Hitch's
films including fascinating behind the scene anecdotes of such stars in the Hitchcock heaven as Cary Grant, James Stewart, Grace Kelly and Tippi Hedren.
This past year I've read several biographies of Hitchcok. The reader will want to put this one next to Donald Spoto's work. In fact, I prefer this one to Spoto's biography which tends to put Hitch on the psychiatric couch.
If you want the best one volume biography of Sir Alfred this is the book you should purchase.
The biography is well researched, written and includes several candid photos from Hitchcock's long and distinguished career.
I recommend this volume to everyone from general reader to one who like myself snatches up everything about one of the masters of the medium. Excellent!
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Analysis,
This review is from: Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light (Kindle Edition)
Thoroughly loved this mixture of the personal and the public life of this movie genius. I really appreciated the in-depth look at Hitchcock's filming techniques. Brought home the innovation, and imaginative pioneering he brought to his work and the industry. Hitchcock is revealed as a complex and at times unsettling character, but ultimately very human, and perhaps all the more remarkable for his achievements. The early biographical material on the silent movie era will be unfamiliar ground to current generations but important in gaining a full picture of where Hitchcock cut his filmic teeth.
My only disappointment with this Kindle edition is no photographs or pictures. The book is incomplete as a result and if the 'real' book included illustrations Kindle ought to have indicated this serious omission and reduced the price considerably.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best entry into the world of Hitch bios,
McGilligan's Alfred Hitchcock : A Life in Darkness and Light is not a "tell all the dirty secrets" biography, but rather a serious attempt to examine the man and his life, filling in the pieces through interviews, letters and published writings. That very much works in its favor. While other bios have often focused on the "dark" side of the Master of Suspense, painting a portrait of a disturbed man, McGilligan's work is more measured. We see the darkness, but we also see the light. There are some "tell all" moments that show Hitchcock's strange/dark side, but they don't come across as too gossipy.
The pacing is a bit off - the initial chapters, for instance, spend far too much time dealing with a handful of short stories he wrote for publication prior to his film career - but the writing is good, and more detail is gone into on the state of Hitchcock's life during each individual film than any other bio. It's a really strong look into his life AND his films.
For film lovers, the looks at how Hitch handled direction and his inventiveness are especially a joy to read. You get a very strong insight into how the master worked, which made me appreciate his films all the more.
This bio is very long, but also very comprehensive. Highly reocmmended.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sometimes difficult, but never a monster,
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I always liked hearing a story my dad told of when he saw "The Birds" in the theater. A young man strutted in with *two* girls, one under each arm, and sat in front of him and my uncle. At one tense point in the movie when the hero picks up a rock, intending to throw it at some birds, the cool young man suddenly lost it, leaping up yelling "Don't do it!" while the two embarrassed girls shrank as low as possible in their seats. We would laugh at that as kids, that a grownup would get so caught up in a movie. But having recently watched it with my kids I could see how easy it was to be pulled into the frightening world of the Master of Suspense, and my kids are still talking - over a month later - of how much fun it was to watch "The Birds."
Alfred Hitchcock started in the era of silent movies. He once lamented the advent of talking pictures, saying it ruined a good story. But he was always innovating and challenging himself, whether it was through intricate camera shots or complex plot twists. He had a fascination for the dark and macabre, and appreciated stories that shocked and surprised. Such themes filled his movies, usually with a touch of his English wit and humor. And yet, there was another side to the man who frightened so many. He was a loving husband and father, was generous with friends and relatives, and loved watching plays and films, including anything by Walt Disney. And he had a soft spot for animals.
Much has been written about Alfred Hitchcock, but Patrick McGilligan's biography is an outstanding addition. He provides a balanced portrayal of the famous director, often pointing out inaccuracies in Donald Spoto's "Dark Side of Genius." But he doesn't shy away from showing Hitchcock's crude side, from the dirty jokes he often told to his penchant for pushing the limits of censorship. He tells of how difficult and demanding Hitch could be to work with, as well as the admiration and awe held by many in the business - a long list that is a veritable "who's who" of the Hollywood elite. It is a story told largely through the lens of the director's camera, and chronicles the films he made. And it's a long story - 750 pages before the notes - that took me several months to read. Yet it was interesting and compelling in spite of having only seen a few of the movies.
While my knowledge of Hitchcock was limited mostly to the scary stories collected in his name that I read as a child, I gained a much greater appreciation for his movie making genius from this book. I'm not much of a film buff but I look forward to watching more of his films, after re-reading McGilligan's account of each, of course.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An epic,
This is clearly meant to be a definitive biography of Alfred Hitchcock, one that answers some of the nastier published works out there, and it does have a lot to say about one of the world's great filmmakers. The level of detail is fairly astounding - the author has something to say about just about everyone who ever met the man - and he covers all of his films thoroughly. Unlike Hitchcock, however, Mr. McGilligan is not expert at pacing. The book never becomes a chore, but it is not always the most entertaining book.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nicely detailed biography,
Avoiding the psychoanalytic approach of Donald Spoto's biography of Hitchcock, McGilligan's book is a breath of fresh air; he eschews most of Spoto's speculations about Hitch's private life and focuses, instead, on the process of creating great art. While McGilligan makes his own observations about Hitch's private life and how it intersected with his art. With access to numerous sources, McGilligan's book focuses on Hitch's life, its impact on his art but without resorting to cheap psychological analysis as a means to "explain" it.
What's surprising is that McGilligan manages to come up with a number of fresh observations (and a fair amount of recycled ones as well)about Hitch's impact on cinema, the importance of his films and his artistry. McGilligan isn't afraid to point out Hitch's own character flaws. He also focuses as much on Hitchcock's innovations as a film director as well as the peers that Hitch borrowed from in his quest to make "pure cinema".
Packed with marvelously pictures (on slick photo paper no less)and observations by Hitch's many collaborators, A Life in Darkness and Light manages to be fair balanced without resorting sensationalistic shocks. For those looking for skeletons in Hitch's closet, you'll be disappointed for the most part. If you're looking for key observations and a better understanding of one of the most influential film director's from Hollywood's Golden Age of cinema, you'll be pleasantly surprised and entertained.
A Life in Darkness and Light manages to be both biography and appreciation and while walking that fine line means it's not a perfect book, it does provide readers with keen insights into the man, the importance his wife Alma played as a collaborator and his art. I'd recommend Light for both long time Hitchcock fans and those coming to Hitch's art for the first time.
13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Much more fair balanced than either Spoto or Taylor's books,
By A Customer
The third biography of Hitchcock focuses as much on Hitchcock and his work as it does the surrounding circumstances that informed it. What's really outstanding about this biography is the new bits of information and the careful research. I read Donald Spoto's book on Hitchcock 15 years ago and, while I found it informative, I also found it focused on Hitch's character flaws at the expense of providing a well rounded view of the person. This National Enquirer approach to Hitchcock look much of the credibility away from Spoto's book in my mind.
In contrast, there's more information and fair balanced analysis than in John Russell Taylor's offical biography. Like Taylor's book is, like Spoto's, well researched, this biography has the advantage of additional scholarship and sources willing to share new information and insights on Hitchcock.
We get to see short stories that Hitch wrote when he was young, a number of interesting onset observations about the various films Hitchcock made and a shred analysis of Hitchcock's relationship between his leading men and ladies. In fact, I don't think any book has done such a great job of pointing out the reasons why Grant and Hitchcock broke off their collaborations in the 40's.
Likewise, there are tidbits about both Rope and Strangers on a Train that I had never known (for example, Farley Granger who is one of the leads in both films was gay. That's not important except when you realize that Hitchcock cast against sexual orientation in Strangers having the straight Robert Walker play the homosexual killer and Granger the straight hero of the film).
There's also a discussion about the casting decisions for various Hitchcock films, who he had in mind for various roles (some of which turned him down). For example, Grant was originally the actor that Hitchcock had in mind for "Rope" rather than Jimmy Stewart. While Grant wanted to do Vertigo desperately and Hitchcock ultimately got his first choice, Jimmy Stewart.
There's also quite a bit of information on the various films Hitchcock consulted on but never took credit for and a detailed analysis of the relationships between the best writers he worked with (John Michael Hayes, Ernest Lehman, Joseph Stefano, Ben Hect)and why their various working relationships splintered and fell apart.
If you like this book on Hitchcock check out the author's other two biographies on two overlooked directors (both of whom Hitch admired)Friz Lang and George Cukor.
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Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light by Patrick Mcgilligan