HITCHCOCK ON HITCHCOCK: SELECTED WRITINGS AND INTERVIEWS, Edited by Sidney Gottlieb
1995 – University of California Press – 339 pages
There is certainly no dearth of written material on the the life and films of Alfred Hitchcock. In the mid-1990’s, Professor Sidney Gottlieb had the bright idea of publishing a book by Alfred Hitchcock. Gottlieb gathered together a collection of magazine articles, interviews, and speeches given by Hitchcock over the course of his career. The end result is very rewarding, if occasionally uneven or repetitious.
In his introduction Sidney Gottlieb addresses the question of authorship. These articles were all published under Hitchcock’s byline, but that does not mean he is responsible for writing every word. It was very common in the days of the studio system for pieces to be written for the director and submitted to the press in order to generate publicity. It is also a well-known fact that for several years in the late 50’s through mid-60’s James Allerdice wrote almost all of Hitchcock’s speeches for him. The end result is that some of these pieces might not have been penned by Alfred Hitchcock, although he would certainly have endorsed them.
Sidney Gottlieb curates the pieces by subject, with sections on actors, film production, technique, etc. The pieces are chronological within each individual section, with short introductions to each section penned by Gottlieb. It is certainly possible to find a distinct Hitchcock voice running through most of these pieces. In a piece written while he was still a young director working in Britain in the 1930’s he talks about his desire to obtain major stars for his leading roles. He describes movie stars as “the jam around the pill” which will help the audience swallow his plot.
One can also see how he tailors his voice to his audience. At one end of the spectrum are one-off pieces written for British film magazines, injected with his typical wry humor. But we also get pieces like a 1966 interview for American Cinematographer magazine, in which Hitchcock delves into very specific technical detail about the lighting and design of Torn Curtain.
One minor drawback to this material is that it is front-loaded. There are far more pieces from the 1930’s than there are from the 50’s and 60’s. There is also some repetition, as he narrates various versions of the same stories or ideas. One recurring theme which he mentions in three different articles written in the 30’s is the desire for an all-powerful producer-director, who would have total control of a film. He actually cites David O. Selznick as an example of an ideal candidate for such a person. Rather ironic, considering that Selznick’s very control would be giving Hitchcock major headaches in a few short years.
Sidney Gottlieb went to great length to find and assemble this collection, and while it may be a bit much for the casual fan, for any scholar of Hitchcock this is an essential work, and comes highly recommended.