Books: Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light

Patrick Mcgilligan examines the life of the famous director Alfred Hitchcock through this book. This book is not based on first person interviews with the prolific director. Instead, it is based on published works by others like Francois Truffaut, studio memos and other articles. Patrick divides Hitchcock’s life into six phases.

In the first phase, the author examines the formative years of the director in London. We learn how Hitchcock acquired the story telling capabilities and intrigue for criminals in this phase. In the second phase, he enters the world of movies in England. Here, he starts as a production designer and becomes a film director eventually. He also meets his wife, Alma Hitchcock, in this phase. This is also the phase where European cinema and locations begin to enthrall Hitchcock. During the third phase, Hitchcock moves to Hollywood along with his family. Being a newcomer, the life is not great to Hitchcock. He struggles as he is nearly enslaved by the contract with the studio.

In the fourth phase, Hitchcock and his friend starts a new studio which operates in both America and London. After a few films, they fold up operations. In the fifth phase, he signs up with Paramount studios. By this time, Hitchcock has a new agent and has become financially well off because of the many wise decisions taken by his new agent. In the final and sixth phase, the author examines the aura of a director who is well known in the world and the decay of creativity due to old age and loss of dear ones.

The book reveals a lot of interesting facts about the director. Hitchcock was focused on the effects. The logic can take the backseat as long as the audience is mesmerized. It was also important for the director to outguess his audience; in a way to shock them. During the major part of his career, the director always worked on two projects at a time. When one project goes to floor for shooting, he was busy working on the next one. The author also explains how this was possible.The director always treated his technical crew dearly. He always shared his love for wine, food and dirty jokes with them. In fact, Hitchcock and his wife invited key people for dinner parties thereby stamping them as the inner circle or the privileged ones.

There is always ambiguities and controversies behind the script. For Hitchcock, the script evolves over multiple drafts and multiple writers. The director’s wife played a major role in the evolution of the script. As a result, who is the real scriptwriter? But the scripts are so detailed with camera angles, it becomes easy to direct. You will find the enigmatic director dosing off to sleep while a scene is being canned. Yet, he knows which scene had to be shot again. There are many interesting instances of how Hitchcock fought the production code revealing a calculating and cunning mind.

The reader also experiences melancholy towards the last part of the book. It is at this stage Hitchcock gets lonely as old age and death catches up with dear ones. Also, the changing equations of the film industry makes Hitchcock a relic of the past.

If you are a movie buff, this book for you. If you love the movies of Hitchcock, this is definitely for you.

Tags: Books,Patrick Mcgilligan,Alfred Hitchcock


  1. love his movies- psycho, the man who knew too much, birds,... all classics

  2. But Hitchcock is my favorite

  3. Very nice post. I always like to watch his movies.

  4. @Harish - Watch "North By Northwest", "Dial M for Murder", "Vertigo" and "To Catch a Thief" . These have been blatantly reproduced in many Indian movies. "The Rope" and "The Rear Window" are also good films.

    @Tomz - I agree. I was watching the "To Catch a Thief" recently and was amazed by the lighting done while filming this movie. And I came across this book and wanted to know more about him!

    @Babli - Yes, they are immensely enjoyable


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