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Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light

by Patrick McGilligan

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382557,973 (3.99)15
"In a career that spanned six decades and more than sixty films, Alfred Hitchcock was the dominate figure in the first century of cinema. His films - from The 39 Steps to The Birds, from Rear Window to Vertigo from Notorious to Psycho - set new standards for cinematic invention and storytelling elan. He was both visionary artist and consummate entertainer and became the most widely recognized director who ever lived."."In the decades since his death, the public image of Hitchcock has crystallized into a series of iconic images: the macabre Englishman, the sexual obsessive, the Master of Suspense. But this new biography - the first in a quarter-century - draws on prodigious new research to restore Hitchcock the man, in all his three-dimensional glory. Here is the comprehensive film craftsman, forever pushing forward the boundaries of his art. Here is the passionate collaborator, who cheekily referred to actors as 'cattle' but invigorated the careers of Cary Grant, James Stewart, Ingrid Bergman, and Grace Kelly. Here is the insatiable provocateur, testing the limits of his audience with his cocktails of sex and violence. And here, too, is the private man, dedicated romantic, constant trickster, impotent voyeur, devoted husband, a man who sacrificed his life again and again for his work."."Like the best Hitchcock films, Patrick McGilligan's life of Hitchcock is a drama full of fresh revelation, graced by a central love story, dark humor, and cliff-hanging suspense, a definitive portrait of the most creative, and least understood, figure in film history."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)
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3.5 stars

Alfred Hitchcock was born in 1899 and died in 1980. He went from Great Britain to Hollywood and over six decades, starting with silent films in the 1920s up to only months before he died, he was working on movies, over 50 in total. He usually had two going at a time.

This is a very long book (over 800 pages). I was expecting more biography, but really, it was a very detailed account of behind-the-scenes of many of his movies, with a bit of biography thrown in here and there. There were definitely some interesting tidbits, though, enough that I’m rating it “good” (I was tempted to go with “ok”, but by the end I realized, I actually did think it was good, despite not being what I expected).

I’m sure real Hitchcock afficionados would love all the detail. Of course, the movies I’ve seen, or at least knew about, held more interest for me, as well as some that starred super-well-known actors (Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Marlene Dietrich, Grace Kelly...). It does make me want to go out and watch more (some again, since I don’t really remember); I already looked up some clips of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” intros that he did (also something I’d love to watch some of, again – if only I ever made time to watch movies or tv!). ( )
  LibraryCin | Dec 29, 2019 |
If you want the nuts and bolts of Hitchcock's personal life and what he had for breakfast...you have come to the wrong book. This is a fabulous book, however, for following his movie career from film to film and follwoing his growth as a filmaker. How he built his movie making family is the focus here more so than his home life...except to the extent that they intersected. Just how important his wife was in his work life is fascinating..she was involved in filmaking before he was. From stories about his loving to work with Peter Lorre except that Lorre's drug addiction got in the way to his notorious manipulation of his leading ladies to the evolution of each movie script before glittering to the screen. A delightful read for movie junkies. ( )
  KurtWombat | Sep 15, 2019 |
Fascinating man - boring book. I couldn't finish it. ( )
  BookConcierge | Feb 26, 2016 |
An exhaustive study of the great director's life and work. If you ever wanted to know everything there is to know about Hitchcock, this is the source to use. I found the first part of the book, covering his silent (for the most part) English films pretty slow, since I have seen only a few of these works. The book picked up for me after his move to California and to the talkies. Having seen most of his American movies, I found the book informative and fascinating in its portrayal of Hitchcock's interactions with Cary Grant, James Stewart and the leading ladies he took such pleasure in "creating." The author is anxious to correct the depiction of Hitchock as a somewhat sadistic sexual predator, especially in the case of Tippi Hedren, created by Donald Spoto in the popular 1983 biography, "The Dark Side of Genius." McGilligan feels this is a misrepresentation and backs up his belief with many interviews, including talks and transcripts of talks with the leading ladies themselves.

As in many biographies, it is very sad to read of the last years of someone so renowned in his time, especially after the French director Truffaut's lionization of Hitchcock with the directors of the French New Wave. His years after his beloved wife's stroke are difficult to read about and seem to have been a very desolate end for someone so famous and accomplished. ( )
1 vote kishields | Dec 8, 2013 |
McGilligan's biography of the master of suspense is an intense, engaging, and obsessively thorough work that is a pleasure to read and seems poised to spark new discussions about the nature of the man behind the camera.

The book is HUGE, with the primary text spanning 750 pages that read very slowly, but the story is so enthralling that it is worth the effort. The research and detail is exhaustive, with every film explored in some amount of detail and accompanied with copious quotes and observations from those involved in each production, including Hitch himself.

McGilligan's voice is straightforward but inviting, and the details of Hitchcock's life frequently don't need to be amplified by ramped-up language in order to keep the audience's attention. The story pushes forward with the momentum of a Hitchcockian plot, and McGilligan never truly allows himself to take things too seriously, attempting to inject the director's humor at various points.

If there is a weakness here, it's in its indecisiveness in terms of controversy. McGilligan clearly posits this work in opposition to Donald Spoto's much more unforgiving biography, The Dark Side of Genius, and though our author strives to paint Hitch in a brighter light, he often remains frustratingly neutral at points of contention. This obviously will inspire debate, but it would be nice to see McGilligan take sides at these moments, since the biography tends to lean much more towards admiration than cynicism.

In the end, the story's arc, like that of Hitchcock's life, wanes a bit, and by the time it ends, the book has proven to be such a tour de force that the last 100 pages come off frustratingly flat. But despite that, this is truly a meticulously-researched and well-written biography worthy of the attention of anyone interested in Hitchcock, film, or biography.
1 vote dczapka | Apr 15, 2008 |
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"In a career that spanned six decades and more than sixty films, Alfred Hitchcock was the dominate figure in the first century of cinema. His films - from The 39 Steps to The Birds, from Rear Window to Vertigo from Notorious to Psycho - set new standards for cinematic invention and storytelling elan. He was both visionary artist and consummate entertainer and became the most widely recognized director who ever lived."."In the decades since his death, the public image of Hitchcock has crystallized into a series of iconic images: the macabre Englishman, the sexual obsessive, the Master of Suspense. But this new biography - the first in a quarter-century - draws on prodigious new research to restore Hitchcock the man, in all his three-dimensional glory. Here is the comprehensive film craftsman, forever pushing forward the boundaries of his art. Here is the passionate collaborator, who cheekily referred to actors as 'cattle' but invigorated the careers of Cary Grant, James Stewart, Ingrid Bergman, and Grace Kelly. Here is the insatiable provocateur, testing the limits of his audience with his cocktails of sex and violence. And here, too, is the private man, dedicated romantic, constant trickster, impotent voyeur, devoted husband, a man who sacrificed his life again and again for his work."."Like the best Hitchcock films, Patrick McGilligan's life of Hitchcock is a drama full of fresh revelation, graced by a central love story, dark humor, and cliff-hanging suspense, a definitive portrait of the most creative, and least understood, figure in film history."--BOOK JACKET.

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