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Alma Hitchcock: The Woman Behind the Man Paperback – July 6, 2004

3.2 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

All Alfred Hitchcock needed to produce his psychological thrillers was the love of a good woman, according to this pleasant but superficial memoir of the famed director and his wife, by their daughter. O'Connell traces her mother's life from her early career as a film editor, scenarist and silent-movie actress to her ongoing collaboration on the scripting, casting and direction of her husband's movies. She structures her narrative around a breezy filmography of her father's movies, notes the development of Hitchcock trademarks like the "MacGuffin," and regales readers with Hollywood anecdotes (Carole Lombard once brought cows onto the set after Hitchcock likened actors to cattle) and homespun reminiscences of her avowedly normal childhood. O'Connell is at pains to highlight her mother's every contribution to her father's oeuvre, and produces many quite lengthy testimonials from relatives, actors, friends, long-term care providers and Hitchcock himself to vouch for her warm personality, impeccable manners, superb cooking, gracious hostessing and influence on Hitchcock's creative process. Alma does seem like a lovely and highly intelligent woman, but despite her daughter's best efforts she is overshadowed by her husband, whose quirks and achievements make him the more vivid character even in the unrevealing and protective portrait of him sketched in the book. O'Connell's account of Alma's life is sometimes touching, like a breezy tour through a family album, but its public significance for all but the most obsessive Hitchcock fans remains elusive. Photos.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

So much has been written about Alfred Hitchcock that no aspect of his career hasn't been explored. Some remain underexplored, however, such as the role that his wife of 54 years played in his career. Starting out as a 16-year-old film editor, Alma Hitchcock began her movie career before Alfred began his. She contributed significantly to his films at every stage of production and received screenplay credit for several of his classics. The couple's daughter Pat, who has small on-screen roles in several of her father's films, recounts the making of the Hitchcock oeuvre, but the personal anecdotes she tells--stories of her parents' vacations and friendships, examples of her father's notorious practical jokes--will most delight Hitchcockians, few of whom, however, will go so far as to try out the recipes with which she concludes the book. She can be accused of overstating her mother's cinematic importance, but readers will likely wind up agreeing with critic Charles Champlin, who wrote, "The Hitchcock touch had four hands, and two were Alma's." 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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley Trade (July 6, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425196194
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425196199
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.8 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #607,317 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I have been a Hitchcock fan for years and have always been intrigued by the quiet, petite woman beside the giant behemoth of a man. Now I know her story thanks to this intimate memoir written by the Hitchcocks' only child Pat Hitchcock O'Connell. Pat delves deep into the recesses of her memory, it seems, to bring the reader the details of life in the Hitchcock home. Alma was a remarkable woman, very instrumental in the production of all of her husband's films and a wonderful homemaker to boot. She was a little spitfire of energy, but also quite reserved. She put "Hitch" in his place when he acted up and she was always there by his side when he needed her--which was always! The photos and Alma's recipes and menus in teh back of the book add another level of intimacy to this memoir, practically bringing the reader into the family fold and the Hitchcok world. Alma was quite the successful gourmet cook--as her husband's corpulence proved! While it seemed Pat included a bit too many interviews with friends and family, it just only served to confirm Alma's enormous influence and presence in the Hitchcock legacy.
I highly recommend this book to ALL HITCHCOCK FANS and to all who love to read a good family biography! Thank you, Ms. Hitchcock O'Connell for this long-awaited glimpse into your family life.
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Format: Paperback
I feel bad saying anything critical about this book, since it's obviously written with love and care. But. . .it's also a testament to an important truth: even if you have a fascinating family, even if you have good stories to tell about them, even if you have an interesting (though not fully convincing) premise -- it's all for naught if you can't write. And Ms. O'Connell, bless her, really cannot. There are so many significant grammar errors, disorganized and under-developed paragraphs, confusing transitions, and badly-identified quotations that at times I simply could not follow the text. Even when the meaning was clear, the errors were such a distraction that I couldn't finish.

And why do so few of the photos have captions? It would be helpful to have some names, dates, places, contexts.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In skmming through the other customer reveiews for this book, it seems that they split between the typically gushing five-star reviews and the typicallly dismissive one-star reviews that are the bane of this website. Folks in both camps... please learn how to be sensible. You're not helping anybody by being shutter-eyed.

That said, maybe this review will provide some actual perspective on the book. Pat Hitchcock O'Connell's aims with her memoir are to chronicle her mother's contributions not only to Alfred Hitchcock's films, but to the emerging medium of film itself.

Is she successful in these aims? Well, not, not really. The book is not insightful enough to become truly noteworthy; too many of the passages are merely reflections, as opposed to examinations. But neither does she totally fail. After reaing the book, it is impossible to not feel as though Alma was, indeed, a tremendous part of what we now think of as the Hitchcock legacy. We may not find out as much about her contributions as we would like, but this book does seem once and for all the establish Alma as a vital element in Alfred's films.

Another problem: the book is way too breezy. When the making of a seminal masterpiece like "Rear Window" is covered in a mere page or two, something has gone wrong. I suspect that much of this is due to O'Connel's lack of any real knowledge of what went on collaboratively between alma and Alfred.

This breeziness is also something of a virtue, as well. It makes a relatively swift journey from the beginning of the Hitchcocks' careers through to their deaths, and that approach may not be terribly detailed, but it is easy to digest, in the same way that a suite from a musical is easy to digest when compared to the whole score.
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By A Customer on September 30, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I really enjoyed reading this biography because I have been a huge fan of Alfred Hitchcock for years and have always wondered what his family life was like. Who better to tell us than his and Alma's one and only daughter. While it was interesting to read about the film stuff in this book, I am so happy she did not go into analyzing them because ultimately I don't see this as a critical film book. As a family memoir and biography, this worked for me. While I would never try them, I loved reading through the menus and recipes in the back of the book because it gives you and extra special peek into the Hitchcock daily life. Alma was a wonderful woman, feisty like nothing else, a huge contributor to his films and others, and obviously a wonderful mother. Pat Hitchcock did a great job bringing us into her childhood and family life.
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By A Customer on August 19, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I have been eager for someone to write a bio of Alma Hitchcock who is said to have been an even greater cinematographer than her husband. When I saw her daughter had a bio coming out I rushed to get it.
I can't tell you how disappointed I am. The writing is terrible. The book is extremely disorganized. The author is obviously uncomfortable referring to her parents as Alma and Hitch rather than Mama and Daddy so she constantly switches back and forth. Worse than that she praises and affirms her mother's choice to be "modest" and not claim for herself the MAJOR role Alma played in nearly all Hitch's films once they met. Pat praises Alma's choice to emphasize being mother, wife, cook when the reality is still that Alma never gave up her career and actually codirected a number of "his" films - a fact she gives passing reference to.
Also in spite of the fact that the rumors that he was, at the least, difficult to live with abound, she paints an idyllic picture of family life with virtually few ripples. She is not a good story teller. Having just finished reading "An affair to Remember" (Hepburn and Tracy)and being nearly wiped out by the emotion of it, I found this one is as far opposite as one could get. I guess it will fall to someone else to write honoring and analysing rather than simply refering to the amazing art of Alma Reville Hitchcock.
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