- Author: Edward White
Book online «The Twelve Lives of Alfred Hitchcock Edward White (best way to read e books .TXT) 📖». Author Edward White
An Anatomy of the Master of Suspense
W.W. NORTON & COMPANY
Independent Publishers Since 1923
For public libraries and independent cinemas
1 THE BOY WHO COULDN’T GROW UP
2 THE MURDERER
3 THE AUTEUR
4 THE WOMANIZER
5 THE FAT MAN
6 THE DANDY
7 THE FAMILY MAN
8 THE VOYEUR
9 THE ENTERTAINER
10 THE PIONEER
11 THE LONDONER
12 THE MAN OF GOD
Alfred Hitchcock Filmography
In the spring of 1921, Alfred Hitchcock began his career in the movies. Some months earlier, he had read that the American production company Famous Players-Lasky was to open a branch in London, his hometown, and was looking to recruit designers of intertitles, the story and dialogue cards for silent films. Having spent the last couple of years designing print advertisements for W.T. Henley’s Telegraph Works Company, the movie-mad Hitchcock, barely into his twenties, had skills perfectly suited to the job.
The company’s first production was to be an adaptation of a novel, The Sorrows of Satan. Hitchcock obtained a copy of the book, and—with the assistance of some of his advertising colleagues—designed intertitles for the proposed film. Immediately, he faced a setback. When he submitted his designs, he was told The Sorrows of Satan had been scrapped. So, away he went—and returned with new designs for the production that had been announced in its stead. Impressed by the boy’s ingenuity, the bosses decided to try him out on a casual, freelance basis. The money wasn’t much, so he moonlighted, continuing his regular job alongside his film work, while slipping his manager a cut of the extra income in return for a blind eye. His first assignments went well enough that Famous Players-Lasky eventually offered him a full-time contract. It appears he left Henley’s on April 27, 1921. Electrical cabling’s loss was world cinema’s gain.
The story, told by Hitchcock himself, evinces so much of what would present itself over his sixty-year career in motion pictures. There is his buoyant ambition, his vivid visual imagination, his interest in telling stories with as few words as possible, a reliance on source material, and the use of others to achieve a Hitchcockian end. Perhaps more than anything, in telling the anecdote Hitchcock was depicting himself as he was wont to do: an outsider who navigated obstacles with talent, zeal, and cunning.
Within six years of starting his job at Famous Players-Lasky, the hustling novice was forging a legend. In 1927, Hitchcock became a sensation following the success of his first three films, The Pleasure Garden, The Mountain Eagle, and The Lodger.* But moviemaking was only half his genius. According to Hitchcock, on Christmas morning that year, several of his friends and family unwrapped a curious stocking filler: a tiny jigsaw puzzle of the wunderkind’s silhouette. The nine-stroke self-portrait—an exquisite Art Deco flourish—was typical Hitchcock, as was the decision to issue it as a Christmas present. From now on, Hitchcock’s physical self was to be a promotional tool and a work of art, a walking, talking logo for what critics once called “the Hitchcock touch” but what we might term “the Hitchcock brand,” a riveting fusion of his personal fame and mythology and the themes, aesthetics, and atmosphere of his movies. For the next half-century, Hitchcock’s persona was the active ingredient in the most celebrated of his fifty-three films,† the way Oscar Wilde’s was in his plays, and Andy Warhol’s was in his art. Hitchcock stands alone in the Hollywood canon: a director whose mythology eclipses the brilliance of his myriad classic movies.
Today, Hitchcock is cited as the representative figure of his medium. As the historian Paula Marantz Cohen says, Hitchcock’s career provides “an economical way of studying the entire history of cinema.” His work spans the silent era, talkies, black and white, color, and 3D; expressionism, film noir, and social realism; thrillers, screwball comedy, and horror; the cinema of Weimar Germany, the golden age of Hollywood, the rise of television, and the ferment of the sixties and seventies that gave us Kubrick, Spielberg, and Scorsese.
But the significance of Hitchcock stretches far beyond cinema. In many senses, Hitchcock was the emblematic artist of the twentieth century—not necessarily the most talented or the most accomplished, but one of vast influence, whose life and genre-straddling, multimedia work vividly illuminate key themes of Western culture from the Roaring Twenties to the Swinging Sixties. A story of Hitchcock is also a story of the emergence of the United States as a cultural behemoth; the insistent rise of feminism; the changing roles of sex, violence, and religion in popular culture; the pervasive influence of psychoanalysis; the growth of advertising and promotion as a cultural force; and the vanishing gap between art and entertainment. He and his work are cultural touchstones, seminal to cinema, television, art, literature, and advertising, as familiar to viewers of The Simpsons as to critics of the Venice Biennale. Anxiety, fear, paranoia, guilt, and shame are the emotional engines of his films; surveillance, conspiracy, distrust of authority, and sexual violence were among his most abiding preoccupations. On both counts, his work speaks with urgency to today’s audiences. In the 1960s, his films entered academia in the form of film studies; now, Hitchcock is a subject of inquiry in manifold disciplines: gender studies, queer studies, urban studies, fat studies, religious studies, criminal justice studies. While he lived, he could seem a man out of time, a Victorian relic in the thick of the twentieth century. But, decades after his death, this singular person lives among us in many guises.
This book offers twelve of those “lives,” twelve close-up portraits of Hitchcock, each from a different angle, each revealing something fundamental about the man, the public entity he crafted, and the mythological creature he has become. This is about the life Hitchcock lived, but also the various roles he performed and inhabited; the versions of himself that he projected, and those that the rest of us have projected on him. Among the dozen diverse incarnations,