HITCH: The Life and Times of Alfred Hitchcock by John Russell Taylor
Kirkus Star

HITCH: The Life and Times of Alfred Hitchcock

Email this review


A straightforward middle-class Englishman who just happened to be an artistic genius"" -- that's pretty much how Taylor sees Hitchcock in this richly detailed but somewhat bland and spotty biography, written with the bemused cooperation of the Master himself. The details are especially irresistible as Taylor jogs through Hitchcock's little-known beginnings in second-rate British cinema: a title-card designer for silent films who stumbled into directing and was lucky enough to fall in with some superior visiting talents from America. And there are appealing peeks into the apparently serene, unglamorous home life of a ""model Catholic husband and father"" with colleague-wife Alma, actress daughter Pat, and grandchildren. But, though Taylor writes briskly and knowingly enough to keep the film-after-film parade from becoming a drone, his approach to the work is a bit haphazard; some films seem to get less than their due (The Lad), Vanishes), some get more (Vertigo), and an intriguing magazine piece on the making of Family Plot is reprinted as a substitute for a chapter, without the follow-ups needed to keep the record complete. As for critical analysis, Taylor misses few of the technical achievements, takes notice of (but pooh-poohs) the French critics' religious interpretations, and tries to reconcile the psycho-sexual anxiety in the films with Hitch, a ""model of sexual rectitude"": he sees Hitchcock as ""the great exponent of male sadism"" (no misogynist in real life, however), stresses his neurotic fearfulness, but shies away from personal probes into this ghoulishly humorous man whose fantasy life ""seems to be beautifully, totally taken care of by film."" In his somewhat ambivalent and fitful stabs at interpretation, then, Taylor lacks the consistency or vigor of other, more passionate critics. But, assuming that Hitchcock himself (a notorious joker) is a reliable source, this is a likable, reasonably well focused closeup of a one-of-a-kind filmmaker at work, at home, and apparently at utter peace with himself.

Pub Date: Nov. 30th, 1978
Publisher: Pantheon