Spellbound by Beauty

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2009-10-27
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press
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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 Hitchcockamong 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 Beautythe final volume in master biographer Donald Spoto's Hitchcock trilogy that began withThe Art of Alfred Hitchcockand continued withThe Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcockis 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 womenand 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 Beautyoffers 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.

Author Biography

DONALD SPOTO, who earned his Ph.D. from Fordham University, is the author of twenty-four books, including The Art of Alfred Hitchcock and The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock. His other bestselling biographies include the lives of Audrey Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman and Marlene Dietrich. He lives in Denmark.

From the Hardcover edition.


Chapter One  
Love in Handcuffs (1920-1926)  

For five years beginning in 1920, when he was twenty-one, Alfred Hitchcock worked in London for Famous Players-Lasky, the British production branch of Hollywood's Paramount Pictures. Most of the senior technical staff were Americans, imported to work on the two small stages, once a power station in the borough of Islington.  

Hitchcock's first job, illustrating the title cards of silent movies, gave him access to various jobs on an ad hoc basis: designer for this picture, or art director, co-writer or production manager for that one. Unlike the job specialization in the American movie industry, laborers hired by English studios were encouraged to perform multiple tasks, working wher-ever their talents could be exploited-hence the multitalented young Hitchcock became a jack-of-all-work on at least eighteen British silent movies. "All my early training was by Americans," he said years later, "and it was far superior to the British."  

In 1923, he was still putting in long hours and learning new, up-to-date production methods. That year, producer Michael Balcon took over the studio when Paramount withdrew; Balcon's goal was to sponsor entertainment for an international (especially an American) audience. Accordingly, Balcon had brought over Hollywood's Betty Compson to star in a picture called Woman to Woman, on which Hitchcock worked, as he said, as "general factotum. I wrote the script. I designed the sets, and I managed the production. It was the first film that I had really got my hands onto."

It was also the first of five films on which he worked for the studio's leading director, Graham Cutts, with whom he had an increasingly hostile relationship. The trouble was caused by Cutts's indiscreet extramarital liaisons, which Hitchcock considered unprofessional, as they invariably necessitated rearrangement of the production schedule. Additionally, Hitchcock may have envied Cutts his easy way with the ladies; in any case, he certainly wanted to supplant Cutts and to secure additional credits, the better to impress Balcon. "I was quite dogmatic," he said. "I would build a set and say to the director, 'Here's where it's shot from!' "  

Cutts resented Hitchcock's assertive style and said so, but Balcon was impressed with the younger man's talent and drive-especially after Cutts returned to London in early 1925, after filming The Blackguard in Berlin. While in Germany, Hitchcock had expeditiously resolved many logistical problems caused by Cutts's ineffective balancing act of work, wife and women on the side. Soon after, Balcon asked Hitchcock to direct a motion picture.  

"I had no intention of becoming a film director," Hitchcock always said of this time in his career. "I was very happy doing the scripts and the art direction. I hadn't thought of myself as a director"-which was evidently not the case. Working on productions six days weekly for almost five years, he was clearly keen for promotion: he was writing scripts, designing sets, working with editors, and was, to his chagrin, paid miserably in comparison with established directors. Eager to perform any task on a picture by dispatching quickly and effectively every challenging aspect of production, Hitchcock indeed, according to Balcon, "wanted to be a director, but it was not easy to get a young man launched in so important a job," because financiers and distributors were wary of promoting an assistant.  

And so Balcon turned to his foreign partners: "I had to arrange to have [Hitchcock direct his first two pictures] in Germany because of the resistance to his becoming a director" in London. With the screenwriter Eliot Stannard, the assistant director Alma Reville, and the cinematographer Gaetano di Ventimiglia, Hitchcock headed for exterior location shooting in northern Italy and then for studio work in Munich,

Excerpted from Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies by Donald Spoto
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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