The Twelve Lives of Alfred Hitchcock: An Anatomy of the Master of Suspense

Norton. Apr. 2021. 336p. ISBN 9781324002390. $28.95. FILM
Alfred Hitchcock (1899–1980) has been the subject of dozens of books in the last 20 years, but White (The Tastemaker) distinguishes his work with an inspired approach. Bypassing a traditional narrative, this necessary and perceptive study of the filmmaker and his cinematic impact is framed in 12 separate portraits, each focusing on a particular aspect of Hitchcock’s character. Crafting detailed but highly readable studies of, for example, the innovator, the frightened youth, and the dark-edged jester, White offers a kind of anatomical overlay, where each trait infuses the next with even more subtext. This is especially true of an early chapter presenting recently resurfaced stories about Hitchcock’s alleged harassment and abuse of women in his professional life such as Tippi Hedren. This section, which gives readers a sense of the director’s need for creative control, provides a fascinating contrast to later chapters that deal with his weight troubles, his lack of concern over analysis of his films, and the posthumous, living mythology associated with the name Hitchcock.
VERDICT An absorbing, thoughtful, and balanced look at a master of his medium.
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