While we lost the amazing Les Paul today, let’s focus on birthdays (especially since others have given homage to the master just recently). It seems more positive, somehow. Born in 1899, Alfred Hitchcock would have been 110 today.
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.