Phantom Lady: Hollywood Producer Joan Harrison, the Forgotten Woman Behind Hitchcock

Chicago Review. Feb. 2020. 400p. ISBN 9781613733844. $30. FILM
British screenplay writer and producer Joan Harrison joins a growing number of women whose contributions to classic cinema are finally being brought to light. Hired in 1933 as Alfred Hitchcock’s secretary, Harrison helped the legendary director develop the tightly plotted, suspenseful stories for which he was known. She wrote the screenplays for his films Rebecca and Suspicion, and by the 1940s was a significant Hollywood presence, as a producer of films such as Phantom Lady. Later, she produced Alfred Hitchcock Presents, the director’s wildly popular foray into TV. With this carefully researched, candid portrait, Lane (Feminist Hollywood: From Born in Flames to Point Break and Magnolia) explores her subject’s rise to prominence during Hollywood’s glittering heyday. Harrison emerges as a woman ahead of her time—a female producer thriving in a male-dominated industry and earning respect from stars, directors, and executives. Comprehensive notes and a bibliography offer strong additional resources.
VERDICT Harrison’s story is a compelling one. This superbly written, absorbing biography of a woman succeeding on her own terms will resonate with fans of Hollywood stories, as well as those who appreciate celebrations of previously unsung women.
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