Spellbound by Beauty

Spellbound by Beauty

Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies

Book - 2008
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"The trouble today is that we don't torture women enough."
--Alfred Hitchcock

It is remarkable how infrequently, over a period of more than fifty years, Alfred Hitchcock spoke about the beautiful, legendary and talented actresses he directed. And when he did, his remarks were mostly indifferent and often hostile. But his leading ladies greatly enriched his films, even as many of them achieved international stardom precisely because of their work for Hitchcock--among the dozens of women were Madeleine Carroll, Joan Fontaine, Grace Kelly and Tippi Hedren. Yet he maintained a stony, insistent silence about the quality of their performances and their contributions to his art.

Spellbound by Beauty --the final volume in master biographer Donald Spoto's Hitchcock trilogy that began with The Art of Alfred Hitchcock and continued with The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock --is the fascinating, complex and finally tragic story of the great moviemaker and his female stars, the unusual ideas of sex and romance that inform his films and the Hollywood dreams that often became nightmares.

Rich with fresh revelations based on previously undisclosed tapes, new interviews, private correspondence and personal papers made available only to the author, this thoughtful, compassionate yet explosive portrait details Hitchcock's outbursts of cruelty, the shocking humor and the odd amalgam of adoration and contempt that time and again characterized Hitchcock's obsessive relationships with women--and that also, paradoxically, fed his genius.

He insisted, for example, that Madeleine Carroll submit herself to painful physical demands during the making of The 39 Steps. He harbored a poignantly unrequited love for Ingrid Bergman. He meticulously and deliberately constructed Grace Kelly's image. Finally, he stalked, harassed and abused Tippi Hedren. His treatment of his daughter, Pat, was certainly unusual, while his strange marriage to his sometime collaborator Alma Reville was a union that (according to Hitchcock himself) was forever chaste after one incident.

Spellbound by Beauty offers important insights into the life of a brilliant, powerful, eccentric and tortured artist, and it corrects a major gap in movie history by paying tribute at last to those extraordinarily talented actresses who gave so much to his films.

From the Hardcover edition.
Publisher: New York : Harmony Books, [2008]
Edition: First edition.
Copyright Date: ©2008
ISBN: 9780307351302
Branch Call Number: 791.430233092 HITCH SPO
Characteristics: xxiii, 324 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm


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Mar 25, 2015

Hitchcock was one weird, sad, brilliant dude.

Sep 22, 2014

This is a portrait of an amazingly gifted but deeply troubled man who visited upon the people who mattered the most to him--the women of his life and films--both the best and the worst of himself.

Certainly actress Tippi Hedren could write the book, though with the publication of this one she may feel now that she doesn't have to. Many knew about her desperate struggle to survive Hitchcock's possessiveness and cruelties during the making of "The Birds" and, especially, "Marnie" but chose instead to look the other way, unwilling to confront the Great Man; Hedren was after all just another pretty model turned actress.

A compelling and very disturbing read, especially if your image of the beloved and much imitated Master of Suspense has been informed by all those witty, tongue-firmly-in-cheek introductions to each episode of his long-running television series "Alfred Hitchcock Presents."

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