(Haus Publishers, 192 pages, $24.95)
By Quentin Falk
After Donald Spoto, John Russell Taylor, Raymond Durgnat and Patrick McGilligan’s gargantuan biographies of the Master of Suspense, it’s a pleasure to welcome Quentin Falk’s zippy and fast-paced “shorter Hitchcock,” which clocks in under 200 pages. Part of the recent and commendable tendency toward brevity and succinctness in the biography field, Falk’s approach picks and chooses freely and deftly from the myriad sources available, and only adds new material in the form of interviews with some of the ancient technicians and actors who worked on Hitchcock’s 1972 British homecoming movie Frenzy. That said, Falk’s command of the materials is impressive, drawing connections and rehashing controversies in brisk, film-buffy and reader-friendly prose, to deliver a tightly compressed tour through the life and work of the owner of the most recognizable silhouette in film. All the bases are covered: from Hitch’s fascination with icy blondes—and his near-obsession with Ingrid Bergman, Vera Miles and Tippi Hedren—to his delight in resolving technical challenges, his celebrated stylistic dexterity and ceaseless innovation, and his very English fondness for ribaldry. In between, there is a fair ration of good gossip and a sound knowledge of film history from Elstree Studios and Germany’s UFA to Paramount and Universal. Included is his fractious relationship with producer David O. Selznick and his financially rewarding partnership with his agent Lew Wasserman, as well as his peaceful domestic life with his wife and most important collaborator, Alma. As is usual with biographers of Hitch, Falk is firmer and more nuanced in his grasp of the early English films. The section on his American career, commencing in 1940 with Rebecca, defers to the now widely accepted belief that only in industrial Hollywood was the director able, in the fullest sense, to become the Hitchcock we still venerate. All in all, an excellent short-form introduction to the life and work of a film legend.
Review written by John Patterson.