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Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light Paperback – September 14, 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 864 pages
  • Publisher: It Books; Reprint edition (September 14, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060988274
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060988272
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 6.7 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (137 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #253,981 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The author of the useful George Cukor (1991) and Fritz Lang (1997), biographies of film directors less documented than Hitchcock, now turns to that perhaps most-written-about filmmaker of all. Of course, the last major biography (as opposed to various kinds of studies) came 20 years ago, and McGilligan's effort incorporates many significant findings made since. It also serves as a corrective to Donald Spoto's Dark Side of Genius (1983), which focused unduly on Hitchcock's baser qualities. McGilligan portrays Hitchcock as driven by his neuroses, but also as a devoted husband and father and a clear-headed businessman. Still, the gist of the volume focuses on its subject's inventive filmmaking in detailed accounts on the making of each of his 60 movies, with particular attention paid to the screenwriters, many of them relative tyros, with whom Hitchcock collaborated. McGilligan's valuable discoveries include short fiction by a 19-year-old Hitchcock; his insights, illumination on Hitchcock's flawed final films. So detailed and readable that it is hard to imagine another Hitchcock biography will be needed 20 years hence. Gordon Flagg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

It's OK but just too long.
Wayne M. Malin
Even though it was slow reading I very much found the book very interesting and informative..
patb
If you are a fan of Alfred Hitchcock films, this book is a must read.
Flfrostyfan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

92 of 94 people found the following review helpful By Phillip O. VINE VOICE on December 1, 2003
Format: Hardcover
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!
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52 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Lee Hill on January 6, 2004
Format: Hardcover
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.
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on November 16, 2003
Format: Hardcover
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.
Read more ›
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By C. M Mills TOP 1000 REVIEWER on October 24, 2003
Format: Hardcover
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!
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