HITCHCOCK AND SELZNICK by Leonard J. Leff
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HITCHCOCK AND SELZNICK

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Highly readable confrontations between irresistible force David O. Selznik, hypermanic producer of Gone with the Wind, and his immovable but malleable British import, director Alfred Hitchcock. Joan Fontaine, star of the filmmakers' first collaboration, Rebecca, recalled that when ""Selznick entertained at a restaurant. . .he told everyone what to have, then went into the kitchen to tell the chef how to prepare it."" Famed for his nonstop memos. Benzedrine-addict Selznick tried to dominate every aspect of production on his quality-conscious pictures. Before Selznick beckoned from Hollywood, Hitchcock was famed for his brilliant little British thrillers. Ever inventive and seeking the Hitchcockian moment, movement, image, or layering of suspense, roly-poly Alfred saw Hollywood as the highway to more control over his pictures and the full release of his cleverness as a storyteller. But Selznick actually wanted a slave, and bound Hitchcock to a contract that manacled the suspense master as much as it ensured his income. In any event, it soon became clear to Selznick that Hitchcock himself needed a great deal of direction or else all sense of humanity and rounded characterization would be sacrificed to ""filmic moments"" (Hitchcock had contempt for ""plausible"" storytelling, and was quite willing to throw away logic in favor of riveting melodrama). Collaboration between the two began with three great hits--the spellbinding, novelettish Rebecca, the less spellbinding Spellbound, and the masterful Notorious--and died in the floppo The Paradise Case. Readers will never view Rebecca again without being aware of the enormous amount of dubbing going on to bolster Fontaine's amateurish reading--or without being aware again that the trembling amateur, derided by her peers in the picture, gave a deathless performance. Essential film history.

Pub Date: Nov. 30th, 1987
Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson