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Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies [Kindle Edition]

Donald Spoto
3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $17.99
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

“The trouble today is that we don’t torture women enough.”
—Alfred Hitchcock

It is remarkable how infrequently, over a period of more than fifty years, Alfred Hitchcock spoke about the beautiful, legendary and talented actresses he directed. And when he did, his remarks were mostly indifferent and often hostile. But his leading ladies greatly enriched his films, even as many of them achieved international stardom precisely because of their work for Hitchcock—among the dozens of women were Madeleine Carroll, Joan Fontaine, Grace Kelly and Tippi Hedren. Yet he maintained a stony, insistent silence about the quality of their performances and their contributions to his art.

Spellbound by Beauty—the final volume in master biographer Donald Spoto’s Hitchcock trilogy that began with The Art of Alfred Hitchcock and continued with The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock—is the fascinating, complex and finally tragic story of the great moviemaker and his female stars, the unusual ideas of sex and romance that inform his films and the Hollywood dreams that often became nightmares.

Rich with fresh revelations based on previously undisclosed tapes, new interviews, private correspondence and personal papers made available only to the author, this thoughtful, compassionate yet explosive portrait details Hitchcock’s outbursts of cruelty, the shocking humor and the odd amalgam of adoration and contempt that time and again characterized Hitchcock’s obsessive relationships with women—and that also, paradoxically, fed his genius.

He insisted, for example, that Madeleine Carroll submit herself to painful physical demands during the making of The 39 Steps. He harbored a poignantly unrequited love for Ingrid Bergman. He meticulously and deliberately constructed Grace Kelly’s image. Finally, he stalked, harassed and abused Tippi Hedren. His treatment of his daughter, Pat, was certainly unusual, while his strange marriage to his sometime collaborator Alma Reville was a union that (according to Hitchcock himself) was forever chaste after one incident.

Spellbound by Beauty offers important insights into the life of a brilliant, powerful, eccentric and tortured artist, and it corrects a major gap in movie history by paying tribute at last to those extraordinarily talented actresses who gave so much to his films.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this enthralling third installment of his Hitchcock trilogy (after The Dark Side of Genius and The Art of Alfred Hitchcock), Spoto paints a portrait of a man as talented as he was troubled. Spoto examines each film in terms of its leading lady, but focuses especially on the three cool blondes with whom Hitchcock was famously obsessed: Ingrid Bergman (Spellbound, Notorious and Under Capricorn), Grace Kelly (Dial M for Murder, Rear Window and To Catch a Thief) and Tippi Hedren (The Birds and Marnie). While Bergman never returned Hitchcock's romantic advances, the pair struck up a lasting friendship. With Kelly, Hitchcock felt he had molded the young actress into his ideal woman with just the right mix of elegance and sexuality. When Kelly left Hollywood, Hitchcock sought a replacement and found newcomer Tippi Hedren, whom he both fawned over and humiliated during their two films together. Relying on hours of personal interviews with both Hitchcock and his various players, Spoto shines an admiring yet unflinching light on one of the most celebrated directors in history. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Spoto’s third book about Hitchcock includes material he “felt obliged to withhold” from his widely praised biography, The Dark Side of Genius (1983), in deference to sources who told stories they didn’t want repeated while they were alive. It focuses on Hitchcock’s sometimes troubled, sometimes perverse, always manipulative relationships with his leading ladies. Some of its revelations are well-known among cinephiles, including Hitch’s fetish for blonds—so strong that even blond actresses had to have their hair lightened to fit the director’s ideal—and his attempts to play Svengali to young, beautiful blonds, especially Grace Kelly and Tippi Hedren, and subsequent frustration when they incompletely submitted to him. But Spoto also brings to light aspects of Hitchcock’s life and personality unsuspected and, some of it, unprintable in his lifetime, including overt and subtle sexual harassment dating as far back as Hitchcock’s earliest films, during the production of which he told dirty jokes and pretended to expose himself to actresses to provoke (and film) their shocked reactions. According to Spoto, Hitchcock’s perversity increased as he grew older, culminating in his twisted, tragicomic relationship with Hedren. The chapters on his behavior during the filming of The Birds and Marnie are riveting and deeply troubling, revealing an artist at once losing his touch and losing touch with reality. --Jack Helbig

Product Details

  • File Size: 1139 KB
  • Print Length: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Archetype; 1 edition (October 28, 2008)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001J2DAWS
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #214,621 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Hitch and the ladies January 8, 2009
For the record, Donald Spoto has already penned two books on legendary filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock.

Apparently he can't quite get off the subject, because he got around to writing a third -- "Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies," a seething little memoir about Hitch's assorted leading ladies and his reputed sexual obsessions with them. But he can't quite keep the vitriol out of his writing.

The women themselves are an intriguing bunch -- they range from cinematic legends such as Ingrid Bergman, Joan Fontaine, Grace Kelly and Marlene Dietrich to lesser-known actresses like Alida Valli, Margaret Lockwood and Teresa Wright. This exploration of these assorted actresses stretches from the very earliest movies of Hitchcock's fledgling career to his last few movies.

That, for the most part, is the good stuff.

Unfortunately Spoto clearly has some issues with Hitchcock himself. Not only does he lovingly pore over the accounts of Hitchcock's sex life, blonde fetish and crushes on his actresses, but also over any sexual jokes or pranks he played to get the required response from them. Oh horrors -- he brought a pumpkin pie to make someone look grossed-out on set.

And Spoto's obvious contempt for his subject explodes all over the pages with the birds. Spoto seems almost infuriated with Hitchcock for his crush on Tippi Hedren, and works hard to portray him as a revolting old pervert who wants to utterly control the beautiful women in his movies. And his rather lackluster last movies are portrayed as being the sole result of a man who got rejected and fell to pieces. Spoto must really have a crush on Hedren.
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99 of 123 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Vulture Strikes Again November 23, 2008
A vulture is a bird of prey that feeds on the flesh of dead animals. This brings to mind Donald Spoto whose third book on Alfred Hitchcock, "Spellbound by Beauty," is a shabby rehash of his second Hitch book, "The Dark Side of Genius," which itself is an exercise in sleaziness. Interestingly, Spoto's first Hitch book, "The Art of Alfred Hitchcock," is an enlightening critical analysis of Hitchcock's movies. And since Hitchcock was still alive when Spoto wrote it, he had only praise for the director.

(This is the same Donald Spoto to whom Hitchcock gave the rare privilege of watching him direct his last feature, "Family Plot." On the book jacket of "Spellbound" is a photo of Spoto with Hitchcock, who is smiling, unaware that that this writer that he has befriended would repay that kindness years later by savagely attacking him and his family.)

After Hitch died, Spoto's claws emerged and he wrote "The Dark Side of Genius," in which he construed every aspect of his subject's life in derogatory ways, using pseudo-psychology to paint a portrait of a mean-spirited serial lecher. The book has an abundance of gaffes, probably because many of those closest to Hitch suspected Spoto's motives and didn't speak to him. Ultimately, it is more fantasy than serious biography due to the author's fabrication of murky sexual motivations for virtually everything Hitch did - on screen and off. Like all artists, Hitch was human and had flaws but Spoto's portrait is simply not the man that his friends and colleagues knew.

Following publication of "Dark Side," friends like James Stewart (who said that he "never saw a dark side"), Cary Grant, Norman Lloyd and numerous others vehemently denied Spoto's horrendous portrait.
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Poor Journalism December 20, 2008
I have to agree in large part with Mr. Anez's review of this book, particularly regarding its mean-spiritedness dressed up in the guise of responsible journalism, as defined by Mr. Spoto of course.

One particular discrepancy stands out for me and it's related to the author's description of the alleged "make yourself sexually available" incident with Tippi Hedren: In "The Dark Side of Genius" this incident is stated as having taken place in "late Feburary" of 1964. "Alone with Hedren in her trailer after the day's work, he made an overt sexual proposition that she could neither ignore nor answer casually, as she could his previous gestures." In "Spellbound by Beauty" Hitchcock's and Hedren's relationship is stated to "have reached its breaking point in March 1964, near the end of production on the day Tippi was drenched with water for the closeups in the scene in which Connery saves her from an attempted suicide by drowning..." Regarding Hedren's recollection of the incident, Spoto states "Her memories are acute and indelible. 'We were ready for the scene when Hitch called me into his office on the set.' She then goes on to describe his request she be sexually available to him and her reaction to that statment.

So which is it, in February or March? Alone in Hedren's trailer at the end of the day or in Hitchcock's office on the set during the workday? Spoto, who claims to be a responsible journalist in presenting a less than flattering portrait of the director, makes no attempt to reconcile his previous account with his newest one. How is this disregard for reporting facts responsible and how, as a result, are we expected to accept any of his reporting as accurate and responsible?
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting info about Tippi Hedren
I mostly read towards the end of the book as I'm interested in Doris Day, Grace Kelly, and Tippi Hedren. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Tiffy
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I am enjoying it once it downloaded properly.
Published 7 months ago by QOHS622
4.0 out of 5 stars indeed, spellbinding
a great read with apparently some pretty solid info. yes, the title lives will be spellbound by the great Hitchcock, the truth behind his legend, and the fascinating... Read more
Published 7 months ago by johnnyjohnny
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 8 months ago by Brooks
4.0 out of 5 stars Hitchcock's obsession
I know Donald Spoto. I interviewed him years ago in Manhattan. He was writing his first book abut Hitchcock which was terrific.

This one was good. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Thelma A. Norton
1.0 out of 5 stars The Trouble With Spoto
This is actually what one might expect from Spoto. His "biography" writing (if one can could call it that) is always wrapped around his own pet theories. Read more
Published 21 months ago by ANDE
4.0 out of 5 stars Not Controversial
Wow, the controversy raised in these reviews really seems totally misplaced. Spoto's "Spellbound by Beauty" is meant for a wide audience--and does not begin to match the more... Read more
Published 23 months ago by jcappy
3.0 out of 5 stars Gossipy and enjoyable
This book was a surprise. It's lightweight and filled with juicy, repeatable anecdotes movie fans will love. Read more
Published on February 22, 2013 by Noneofyourbiz
5.0 out of 5 stars Genius or madman?
Both. I found very interesting facts that I didn't know about Hitch (as he asked people to call him and "drop the cock"). Read more
Published on January 25, 2013 by Judy
4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing Book
Hitchcock's obsessions were both fascinating as they related to his films and disturbing. This book highlights both aspects exceedingly well. Read more
Published on November 11, 2012 by SteveC
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