Alfred Hitchcock, A Life in Film (Movie Greats)

Alfred Hitchcock: The Taschen book of The Complete Films
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Few moviemakers who spend their time behind the cameras are so famous. Perhaps it's because Hitchcock also came in front of the camera. He had cameos in almost all of his movies of which he made fifty-three. More significantly, he hosted a TV anthology show called Alfred Hitchcock Presents where he made introductory and closing comments, often filled with self-deprecating and sometimes sponsor-deprecating hu Alfred Hitchcock is a director whose name and appearance are instantly recognizable. More significantly, he hosted a TV anthology show called Alfred Hitchcock Presents where he made introductory and closing comments, often filled with self-deprecating and sometimes sponsor-deprecating humor.

He was born in to a greengrocer in the outskirts of London. The family had several shops and were prosperous enough to afford good schools. Hitchcock's first break in the movies was in the silent era. He designed the intertitle cards at fledgling movie studios. His meticulous nature, willingness to put in extra hours, and ambition for more soon led him to directing and writing. He had his first big hit with The Lodger in He went to Hollywood in the s where he had a challenging time dealing with studio executives like David O. Selznick and with the Production Code. His movies often revolve around crime, psychology, and sex.

He pushed boundaries where he could and became quite adept at "playing the game" of negotiating with the studio bureaucracies and the Production Code censors. As a filmmaker, he meticulously planned movies, often having several successive screenwriters polish and refine scripts to the point where Hitchcock had every camera move and angle planned out ahead of time.

His hard work paid off as he eventually became a co-owner of Universal Studios and developed more, if not complete, freedom in making movies. He died in This biography goes into great detail about his life, focusing mostly on his film career. Like many other director biographies, this book goes from film to film, describing the pre-production phase, the shooting of the film, and the critical and box-office reception for the films.

The stories are interesting and fans of Hitchcock like me will have fun seeing the different ideas Hitchcock had for casting and for plot developments. His personal relationships with stars, studio executives, and writers is given in detail. Anecdotal evidence could show that Hitchcock was hard on his actresses, sometimes even abusively so in order to get the performances he wanted. This book tells the stories of when he did do that and when he didn't. He got along with some people quite well. The book also delves into his sexual obsessions though he hardly ever acted on , almost too often for my taste, though such obsessions clearly resonated in his movies.

McGilligan paints an honest picture of the man, not just a rehash of his public persona and famous anecdotes. Recommended, especially for Hitchcock fans. May 23, Justin rated it liked it Shelves: performing-arts-biography. Though well researched, at times McGilligan's lengthy biography suffers under his implicit motivation for writing the book: to amend the Hitchcock legacy, tarnished by Donald Spoto's "Dark Side of Genius" McGilligan begins and ends "Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light" with warnings to the reader of Spoto's specious claims claims, McGilligan notes, which have been refuted by people close to Hitchcock.

Yet, puzzlingly, McGilligan often quotes from Spoto's work directly when h Though well researched, at times McGilligan's lengthy biography suffers under his implicit motivation for writing the book: to amend the Hitchcock legacy, tarnished by Donald Spoto's "Dark Side of Genius" Yet, puzzlingly, McGilligan often quotes from Spoto's work directly when he is not criticizing it. Further, many times McGilligan pauses his narrative to ask his readers leading, speculative questions concerning Hitchcock, performing the precise thing he criticizes Spoto for.

In addition to this distracting, and unnecessary, psuedo-critical approach, McGilligan as a storyteller is underwhelming. I found that the most interesting parts of this book were taken from secondary sources which are heavily used. In particular, Francois Truffaut's "Hitchcock" which compiles interviews between the two directors , and John Russell Taylor's "Hitch: The Life and Work of Alfred Hitchcock," which appeared in the fifties and remains the only authorized biography of the Master.

Distracting, too, is McGilligan's exceptional use of footnotes. Though some of these provide interesting facts and detail, they become rote and many times are unnecessary. McGilligan's footnotes, coupled with his frequent fractured sentences that at times are unclear upon first reading them, "A Life in Darkness and Light" becomes cumbersome by its midpoint.

Perhaps the record in fact needed to be set straight after Spoto's book, but I question how much influence his work still had twenty years after its initial publication at the time McGilligan published his biography. With hundreds of books about Hitchcock available, it appears that McGilligan is more set on establishing his biography as the "definitive" book about Hitchcock as opposed to offering something new and revealing about an icon who still captures public imagination.

Jun 15, Kyle Sullivan rated it it was ok. I'm a Hitchcock fan and I could not read this book. McGilligan seemed more interested in detailing the limitations of Hitchcock's marriage, hygiene, and quirks of character than in discussing his films or how he came to be so important a director. Yes, you get all kinds of information about the background of British film at the time and the power plays going on and the hurt feelings and the rampant drinking and partying and negotiating for new contracts and control and on and on and on Oh, he was sort of influenced by German cinema and the Bauhaus Movement, but really, really wanted to work in Hollywood because of the superiority of their technical ability and bigger budgets I just got weary of it.

In this book, Hitchcock comes across as an untrustworthy, frightened, grasping, cruel, needy little worm who happened to have a knack for shooting somewhat interesting movies on the cheap and liked to play with the new toys the industry offered, but who really just stumbled into his classic projects almost by accident and only because he lined up with good writers who could make his storyboard ideas work.

No sense of why he set up images the way he did or became so obsessed with the "wrong man" scenario outside of the most banal suggestion he always liked to read about true murders and he had a successful background in art. I don't really recommend this book for anyone who truly loves the man's works; its main goal seems to be de-mystifying him like so many others have tried to do. It's almost like reading a book that says the only reason Michelangelo crafted his "David" is because he liked men's butts, thought Da Vinci was interesting and wanted to see what he could do for himself.

Plus it's written in a style that is so dry, you need to have a glass of water close by. I give it 2 stars because it does show how little attitudes and negotiations in the film industry have changed in the last 90 years.


That come close to making it a horror story. It's rare that I read a book more than once. Its even rarer that I re-read, in its entirety, a plus page book that I only finished just 14 months prior. Having become an even bigger alfred Hitchcock fan since I first read the book I was anxious to read it again From his childhood, to his earliest writing McGilligan take you there Better still, McGilligan explores many of the complex relationships Alfred Hitchcock had through the course of his life Though my affection for the book wandered at times, I still found great value in reading the book again Yet even if you are not a fan, as I was not back when I first read it, I highly recommend you patiently read through what Patrick McGilligan has to offer Dec 12, Nathan rated it it was ok Shelves: franklin-library.

McGilligan's is an unenviable task to say the least. Books about movies have always to contend with the simple disparity in mediums, and when a medium on one hand is being revolutionized by one of the single most innovative and influential forces in film history, a daunting job becomes herculean. The very premise of this book is much of its weakness; it flirts always with the line between dissection and disfiguring. Hitchcock's movies are great because they saw the lady in half; McGilligan shows McGilligan's is an unenviable task to say the least.

Hitchcock's movies are great because they saw the lady in half; McGilligan shows us where the mirrors are hidden. That can be deflating, at times.

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That not-so-minor quibble aside, McGilligan has certainly done his research. I had no previous knowledge of Hitchcock's personal life, and little idea of his directing style beyond the odd anecdote. His personality was his style, McGilligan shows us. Hitchcock's movies are brilliantly detailed largely because Hitchcock was obsessively dedicated to brilliant detail; he had the strange knack of manipulating the human actor to perfectly convey the fictitious character, cajoling, haranguing and psychoanalyzing.

This information was enlightening and always entertaining. I wish it had been a little more specific from film to film, but in general, this is a rare chance to see exactly how these classics came to be, how indeed they would never have been classics had another director been at the helm.

The book suffers a little from longwindedness. There's too much repetition brought on by the nature of its subject, and because of its subject little or no attention is paid to matters of style. The movies begin to run together, and that's a shame because at its best, the book inspires you to go watch the movies all over again.

And that really is the highest praise I can pay it. It is aware, perfectly and appropriately, of its subject and his greatness; its effect, above and beyond its rather commonplace merits as a book, is to send you back into a bloody shower stall, into a high rise apartment looking into the neighboring windows. A lucky subject for this book; it wouldn't have made it on its own. Patrick McGilligan has written what is undoubtedly one of the most authoritative and exhaustive biographies of Alfred Hitchcock available today.

Even though I was already a fan of his movies, I gained a much greater appreciation for them. Beyond just the director himself, this book is a fascinating exploration of movie-making, from the silent era to the golden years of Hollywood. Since this book was written quite recently, it also benefits from recently-discovered information and it in fact points out several mistakes or misrepresentations in earlier Hitchcock biographies.

The only real fault I can find with this book is that the author is quite obviously biased in favour of Hitchcock when discussing some questionable decisions or actions in his life. Entertaining biography This is a very balanced bio of Alfred Hitchcock.

E! True Hollywood Story: Alfred Hitchcock

I enjoyed it very much. Cary Grant.

First films

But beyond his most famous movies, I had no idea how long and how extensive Hitchcock's career was. Long ago I read a really dark bio of Hitchcock, very off-putting. This one is more centered, realistic, balanced. The good and bad.

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The author is telling the story of a long and busy life. The other author's bio was written, I th Entertaining biography This is a very balanced bio of Alfred Hitchcock. The other author's bio was written, I think, with an agenda. This one is more readable and more likely to be true. Mcgilligan quotes lot of people, many behind the scenes who worked with Hitchcock on the writing, casting and camera work. He reports the positive and negative things he did dealing with actors and people in his life. It's no whitewash. And he shows how funny and lovable Hitchcock could be.

He was a complicated, talented guy. If you like show business bios, this is a good choice. I'll get a complete review in shortly. But this has been exhaustive, fascinating, and something like a complete class on how to construct a plot and develop characters. Only read this book if you're interested in reading about Hitchcock and a plethora of writers and producers sitting around and working out plots ad nauseam. I am one of those types, so it was enjoyable to read, as well as educational.

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Review to follow soon. View 1 comment. A great read.. If you are a Hitchcock fan this is a must read. Tedious at first, but falls into a smooth rhythm. I really enjoyed reading this biography. I find it very interesting to read about the lives of other people and discover the reasons why they live the way they do. This book is one that provides the details and lets the reader decide what to make of the life.

Alfred Hitchcock is known as one of the world's most iconic directors. His reputation has been somewhat sullied by former actresses who were in his movies, and there is also his legendary status, which has, at times, interferred with the tr I really enjoyed reading this biography.

His reputation has been somewhat sullied by former actresses who were in his movies, and there is also his legendary status, which has, at times, interferred with the truth about this talented man. In my opinion, Patrick McGilligan's biography is as objective as a writer can be when writing about a subject that obviously fascinates them. Like all people, Hitchcock had his idiosyncrasies.

Unlike all directors, Hitchcock found himself butting heads against both the aging studio system of Hollywood and the censorship rules that were in force at the time. He fought against both of these antagonists most of his career. When he wasn't doing that, he was creating scripts and making movies. I was very suprised at how much Mrs.

Hitchcock was involved with the career of her husband. In fact, her help with scripts and her opinion were two things highly valued by Hitch, the name he was called throughout his life by those who knew him. I was also amazed at the depth of detail this book had concerning each of Hitchcock's movies. It is astonishing how much information was preserved and later gathered by the writer for this book. The Hitchcock story actually begins in England where a young man becomes a fledgling director in a world thousands of miles away from that mecca of movies, Hollywood.

In time, a seasoned veteran decides that his future lies in America, and he makes that pilgrimage to California, uprooting his wife and daughter and leaving behind his extended family. Following that is a history of each film--how the scripts evolved, how the actors were chosen, and the tidbits of movie history which make the stories behind those movies even more fascinating. For me, the best part was how my favorite Hitchcock movies, Psycho and The Birds, evolved. I feel these films were Hitchcock at his peak, a place he never seemed to climb to again.

And in the end, I discovered that he was human like the rest of us--needing validation and yet stymied by a Hollywood that refused to recognize his achievements during his most productive years. He died an ignoble ending after having given up on life, or so it appeared, at the end of Mr.

McGilligan's book. Yet, while he lived, he gave us his best in the world of make believe, and with that, has achieved immortality. I very much look forward to watching the rest of his movies. May 25, Rachel Pieters rated it liked it Shelves: memoir-or-biography , non-fiction. The biography itself was quite thorough. I gave up shortly after Alfred started making 'talkies', around the mark, and I had been 'watching along' with some mentioned in the book.

I saw two of his silent films The Pleasure Garden, The Lodger and one talkie Blackmail and took them for what they were at that time and enjoyed them all. The issue I had with the biography was that it was TOO detailed, and felt very dry at times, especially when it got into discussions about which actors were in which version of which movie compared to the stage play, etc.

I'm looking at you Murder! I felt like I was reading dry material for some later test, and I just got worn out and gave up. I wasn't enjoying myself anymore and the reading became a chore. I'll probably come back to it, and perhaps just skim those parts until it gets interesting again, but as good as it is, it's just a bit bogged down in facts.

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To be continued Dec 23, Raymond Urrutia rated it really liked it. Only for those who really want to take a deep dive into the Man, or have a real affinity for Film in general. Quite thorough in detailing the process of each of his films, and also in explaining a life kept quite separate from his public persona. One surprising element here is that no photos are included, but even without them, it's a well-researched and largely unslanted look at a master craftsman's lifetime.

Dec 20, Ian rated it really liked it Shelves: biography. A detailed and deep life of the famous Hitch. A long read of the man's life and his films. A long life and 53 movies. A great achievement. A man who knew and met everyone in the film business. Having said that, I still am not a great fan of his movies. Mar 08, Mansfield Public rated it really liked it. I expected this to be a dry chore, but was pleasantly surprised by how engaging I found it to be. It's very quick to get to the movies, and that was its focus throughout.

So, the book gave me what I wanted. Sep 07, Diana rated it really liked it. Meticulous and thorough. I loved McGilligan's bio of Fritz Lang, and this one was quite as good. I confess to skimming the last pages or so post Marnie era , because the best films had been covered. Jul 19, AGMaynard rated it liked it. Skimmed through quite a lot and paged through, as it is a dense tome. Thorough in its slog through filmography.

Blackmail (1929)

He was survived by his lifetime partner, assistant director and closest collaborator, Alma Reville, also known as "Lady Hitchcock," who died in See button at right. Article bookmarked Find your bookmarks in your Independent Minds section, under my profile Don't show me this message again. The Taylor screenplay included a scene, not in the original novel, where the heroine disguises herself as a prostitute and has to fend off a rapist. The fly in the ointment is the sole Nazi on board who insidiously asserts his influence on the survivors, allowing Hitchcock to examine all aspects of human nature as the protagonists do whatever they can to survive. Jack L.

Adjusts record on Hitchcock the man. Refocuses on Hitchcock the master craftsman. I would have given this book 5 stars but the truth is it didn't captivate me until we started talking about the s, s and his final days. Aug 29, Michael rated it it was amazing Shelves: biography , film. A real page turner!

Well written and entertaining. Jul 11, J. Green rated it really liked it Shelves: history-culture. At one tense point in the movie when the hero picks up a rock, intending to throw it at some birds, the cool young man suddenly lost it, leaping up yelling "Don't do it! We would laugh at that as kids, that a grownup would get so caught up in a movie.

But having recently watched it with my kids I could see how easy it was to be pulled into the frightening world of the Master of Suspense, and my kids are still talking - over a month later - of how much fun it was to watch "The Birds. He once lamented the advent of talking pictures, saying it ruined a good story. But he was always innovating and challenging himself, whether it was through intricate camera shots or complex plot twists.

He had a fascination for the dark and macabre, and appreciated stories that shocked and surprised. Such themes filled his movies, usually with a touch of his English wit and humor. And yet, there was another side to the man who frightened so many. He was a loving husband and father, was generous with friends and relatives, and loved watching plays and films, including anything by Walt Disney.

Onetime collaborator Raymond Chandler never accused by anyone of pushing substance over style once felt it necessary to knock Hitchcock's willingness "to sacrifice dramatic logic insofar as it exists for the sake of a camera effect," and regretted that he was not working for a director "who realizes that what is said and how it is said is more important than shooting it upside down through a glass of champagne. There is much to relish in this very big book, which at pages is plenty long enough, yet nevertheless feels somehow abridged, so busy was its subject for so many years.

Many of Hitchcock's films are dealt with cursorily, hardly at all, while some of the best are not given nearly their due, and that's obviously not the author's fault. And even given all his attempts, he still succeeded on a shocking number of occasions. In , when the American Film Institute generated a list of the best films of all time, Hitchcock was represented by four movies: Psycho , North by Northwest , Rear Window , and Vertigo.

Only Billy Wilder had as many, and only Steven Spielberg had more 5. And that's not going anywhere near the notorious implausibility of so many of Hitchcock's movies, which has always seemed to rankle non-Hitchcock fans no end, and has rankled true Hitchcock fans this one included not at all.

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One early critic of his work noted how unfortunate it is that Hitchcock, "a clever director, is allowed to produce and even to write his own films, though as a producer he has no sense of continuity and as a writer he has no sense of life. It's great fun to watch Hitchcock wrestle with The Wrong Man , his first and, alas, his final "true crime" movie: too boring in places to be entertaining, too sensational in others to be believable.

No wonder it was his last. On the matter of plausibility, Hitchcock was downright pseudo-philosophical: "Must a picture be logical, when life is not? And besides, how could he have found the time and the energy? In reading Alfred Hitchcock , it seems that his greatest creative battles were fought merely subverting the censors and getting his vision approved by the studio.

That he remained so consistent, for so long, delivering so many movies, of the highest aesthetic order, is nothing less than astonishing, even if you are a little skeptical of McGilligan's ultra-flattering remark: "[E]ven if he had quit in , he would still be remembered for remarkable achievements. Not content to merely praise Hitchcock's "persistence of vision," McGilligan must also defend Hitchcock the man, while evoking the persistence of that vision, lecturing us apropos Donald Spoto on how it is so much "easier to imagine a manipulative egoist and monster, a shriveled soul inside a grossly fat man, than to understand the practical artist who gave his life to film.

Who but "a manipulative egoist" could have created so much enthralling cinema? And who but "a shriveled soul" would have wanted to? Hitchcock the man deserves no excuse any more than Hitchcock the artist needs one. Or maybe you just don't believe Reggie Nalder, who played the assassin in the remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much , who was given this bit of acting direction from the Master of Suspense: Gaze at your victim as if you're gazing at a beautiful woman.

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All rights reserved. Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated. Powered by RebelMouse. Who but 'a manipulative egoist' could have created so much enthralling cinema?