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Book Name: The Dark Side Of Genius: The Life Of Alfred Hitchcock

Author: Donald Spoto

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Overall Rating: (3/5) View all reviews (total 5 reviews)

How is it possible to paint a portrait of an artist who left behind none of the notebooks and journals that provide most biographers with important personal details? After exhaustive researching and interviewing, Donald Spoto came to the conclusion that "Hitchcock's films were indeed his notebooks and journals ... [they] are astonishingly personal documents." This account of Alfred Hitchcock's life reads the mind of the man through the making of his films. Spoto argues powerfully and convincingly that movies likeNotorious,Rear Window,VertigoandPsychocan be appreciated not only as masterpieces of entertainment but also as subtle, revealing autobiography.--This text refers to an alternatePaperbackedition.


Why does Spoto insist on tabloid fiction?


I am sad to mention that like many works by Spoto; this book contains some highly questionable content. It is a very compelling book, but it is also a fabrication. Spoto is a very talented and engaging writer and I find it extremely frustrating that he has no scruples when it comes to fact versus his own pet theories. He is convincing because of his skill as a writer, but his pet theories are presented as fact. This is not an isolated indecent. Other Spoto biographies are guilty of the same sin (for example, his book on Laurence Olivier and his other Hitchcock biography, "Spellbound by Beauty"). If you want to read a compelling book about Alfred Hitchcock, there are many other more accurate books available. The one Spoto book that I would recommend is, "The Art of Alfred Hitchcock" (if you are into film theory and analysis). Biographies should be held to a higher standard. The truth cannot be sacrificed to support ones own agenda. People buy biographies hoping to learn about someone's life and not to learn about someone's theories about the person's life.

Awful, boring, fragmented, and utterly lousy

by Austin Somlo

The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock is a horribly written biography about the man himself. It is so wildly disjointed, incredibly fragmented, and surrounded by opinions, conjectures, and theories that don't collaborate well with facts. I am totally unable to follow the book because the author likes to jump around in the years of Alfred Hitchcock's life while feeding personal opinions about this or that. At the same time, there are more holes in the presentation of his background than a pound of Swiss cheese. What an awful book!

Scandal-Ridden Junk

by John P Bernat

Of course, in 2005 we're accustomed to knowing a lot more about celebrities than we really ought to. When this book was first published twenty years ago, this fixation had not quite gotten to where it is today.No - instead, on the heels of Spoto's "The Art of Alfred Hitchcock," which gave Spoto free access to the late director and to his archives, Spoto insists that knowing way too much information about Hitch's private life is essential, somehow, to understanding his art.To a certain extent, that's the case. But some of this stuff is simply gratiutous. How relevant to art is the "Marnie" incident with Tippi Hedren? What possible addition to an important body of knowledge does that story make?If you want gossip, it's here. If you want to gain some insight into our greatest director's artistic character, it's promised here but maybe not delivered.

The Champ

by Kevin Killian

Nearly 25 years later Donald Spoto's book on Hitchcock, which caused sch a stir when it appeared, is still the champ. You could read it for its salacious details, such as the real reason he wanted Madeleine Carroll in handcuffs. Or you could read it to see him organize Hitchcock's different films into categories, classifying them not only by way of theme but with reference to studio politics. Think of how different Hitchcock's "Warners" films are than his Selznick pictures, even with the understanding that the same auteur created them.Spoto is unable to make out what was really going through Hitchcock's head while making VERTIGO. Did he really want the insipid Vera Miles to play the part(s) of Judy and Madeline, and then grow impatient with Kim Novak largely because she was no Vera Miles (thank goodness). If he was so furious with Miles, why did he then cast her in THE WRONG MAN, where she's so dreadfully bland one forgets she's in the picture? (And later he used her in his longrunning TV series.) If, as Spoto says, Hitchcock had an erotic fetish for blondes, did it somehow turn itself off when confronted with Kim Novak, one of the most obsessable women in film? I don't believe it!However Spoto is spot on when it comes to Hitchcock's last passion, for the actress "Tippi" Hedren with whom he made his two best films. Another reviewer here dismisses Ms. Hedren as a "mediocre performer at best who should have been grateful for a great man's attention and adoration," but under Hitchcock's skilled direction, she was able to pull off quite capably two of the most intense and primal roles ever created in the American cinema. People might have been startled by her work at the time, but it just keeps looking better and better where some of the other performances he elicited aren't looking that good any more, for he could make good actors look bad (Olivier, Fonda, Clift, Paul Newman, etc)--like the cattle he thought of them as.Our views of Hitchcock will continue to evolve, but we will always be grateful to Donald Spoto for expressing a certain biographical turn with great elegance and, almost, wit.

I can provide no explanation for the low ratings -- this is a marvelous biography

by Robert Moore

I truly cannot explain why so many are giving this book low ratings. It is a critically acclaimed, deeply researched, well written biography. Nearly every aspect of Hitchcock's life and art is discussed, ably and literately. The only thing that I can think is that some people are upset that the book also explores the more disturbing aspects of Hitchcock's life, primarily his increasing obsession in the fifties and sixties with his leading ladies. These are disturbing to read about, but the problem is not Spoto's. Hitchcock was, like many highly creative individuals, a very complex, many-sided individual. Not everything about him was admirable and his weird, disturbing fixations on some of his leading actresses, in particular Tippi Hedren, can not be blamed on Spoto. As a biographer, he would have been remiss in not reporting this aspects of Hitchcock's life.As far as claims that the book was dull or poorly written, this says more about specific reviewers than the book itself. I found it fascinating, a real page turner, and read through it in only a few days.I will temper my review by pointing out that this is only one of the three major biographies of Hitchcock that one wanting to know more about Hitchcock should consider reading. If you want a superb but shorter biography, you could consider John Russell Taylor's HITCH: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF ALFRED HITCHCOCK. If you are willing to read a biography much longer than Spoto's, you could consider Patrick McGilligan's outstanding ALFRED HITCHCOCK: A LIFE IN DARKNESS AND LIGHT. But the Spoto is definitely an elite biography, completely undeserving of the ill-considered low ratings some are giving this. It is meticulously researched, well-written, and hugely informative. This book will remain on the short list of the most crucial studies of the life and films of Alfred Hitchcock, and deservedly so.

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