Kirkus Reviews QR Code
ALFRED HITCHCOCK by Patrick McGilligan Kirkus Star


A Life in Darkness and Light

by Patrick McGilligan

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-06-039322-X

The Master of Suspense finally gets an authoritative life.

From his subtitle to his closing remarks, McGilligan (Clint: The Life and Legend, 2002, etc.) makes no secret of his agenda: to correct the excesses of Donald Spoto’s notorious The Dark Side of Genius, which presents a Hitchcock whose deepest creative energies were driven by fear, lust, and sadism. McGilligan’s Hitchcock, though not above hitting on actresses from Joan Fontaine to Brigitte Auber, is a devoted family man, generous to his relatives, generally kind to his associates (very few examples of his well-known proclivity for practical jokes on display here), level-headed in most of his business decisions, and always the consummate professional. From the short stories he published for his engineering firm’s trade magazine around 1920—material on which McGilligan is especially illuminating—to the trademark cinematic motifs (absurd MacGuffins, dominating mothers, staircases, light-footed shifts from comedy to melodrama) he recycled from film to film, Hitchcock comes across as inveterately playful, determined not so much to exorcise his private demons as to give audiences a shiveringly good time. Most of the colleagues who worked on the early British films from The Pleasure Garden (1925) to Jamaica Inn (1939) are no longer available to interviewers, but McGilligan, who has spoken with everyone available, taps as well into a torrent of Hitchcock scholarship, supplemented by explorations of numerous archives. His research is staggering, though often vaguely or incompletely documented. Apart from providing one-stop shopping for information on masterpieces from The 39 Steps to Psycho, he provides fascinating new insights on the origin of the sobriquet “Master of Suspense,” the identity of the first Hitchcock blond, even such a forgettable film as Torn Curtain, from Hitchcock’s abortive attempt to rope Vladimir Nabokov into writing the screenplay to the actual screenwriters’ race to remove their names from the finished film’s credits.

Master-ful. (32 pages b&w photos, not seen)