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The Twelve Lives of Alfred Hitchcock
Cover of The Twelve Lives of Alfred Hitchcock
The Twelve Lives of Alfred Hitchcock
An Anatomy of the Master of Suspense
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A fresh, innovative biography of the twentieth century's most iconic filmmaker. In The Twelve Lives of Alfred Hitchcock, Edward White explores the Hitchcock phenomenon—what defines it, how it was...
A fresh, innovative biography of the twentieth century's most iconic filmmaker. In The Twelve Lives of Alfred Hitchcock, Edward White explores the Hitchcock phenomenon—what defines it, how it was...
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  • A fresh, innovative biography of the twentieth century's most iconic filmmaker.

    In The Twelve Lives of Alfred Hitchcock, Edward White explores the Hitchcock phenomenon—what defines it, how it was invented, what it reveals about the man at its core, and how its legacy continues to shape our cultural world.

    The book's twelve chapters illuminate different aspects of Hitchcock's life and work: "The Boy Who Couldn't Grow Up"; "The Murderer"; "The Auteur"; "The Womanizer"; "The Fat Man"; "The Dandy"; "The Family Man"; "The Voyeur"; "The Entertainer"; "The Pioneer"; "The Londoner"; "The Man of God." Each of these angles reveals something fundamental about the man he was and the mythological creature he has become, presenting not just the life Hitchcock lived but also the various versions of himself that he projected, and those projected on his behalf.

    From Hitchcock's early work in England to his most celebrated films, White astutely analyzes Hitchcock's oeuvre and provides new interpretations. He also delves into Hitchcock's ideas about gender; his complicated relationships with "his women"—not only Grace Kelly and Tippi Hedren but also his female audiences—as well as leading men such as Cary Grant, and writes movingly of Hitchcock's devotion to his wife and lifelong companion, Alma, who made vital contributions to numerous classic Hitchcock films, and burnished his mythology. And White is trenchant in his assessment of the Hitchcock persona, so carefully created that Hitchcock became not only a figurehead for his own industry but nothing less than a cultural icon.

    Ultimately, White's portrayal illuminates a vital truth: Hitchcock was more than a Hollywood titan; he was the definitive modern artist, and his significance reaches far beyond the confines of cinema.

About the Author-

  • Edward White is the author of The Tastemaker: Carl Van Vechten and the Birth of Modern America, and has written for publications including the Paris Review. He lives in England.

Reviews-

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from February 1, 2021

    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.--Peter Thornell, Hingham P.L., MA

    Copyright 2021 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    February 15, 2021
    A fresh assessment of the legendary director. Following The Tastemaker, his outstanding biography of Carl Van Vechten, White takes on another titanic figure in the arts. The author plumbs Hitchcock's films and TV shows to reinforce his view that he was a man of many contradictions, "usually complex, often troubling, but always vital." White breaks down his subject's psyche into 12 "lives," beginning with "The Boy Who Couldn't Grow Up," which delves into his childhood trauma, "dread of authority," and the "lifelong fascination with cruelty and violence that fueled his creativity." In "The Murderer," White posits that to "crack the Hitchcock code there's no better place to start than at the grisly end," as he leads us down a bloody path that runs from The Lodger to Psycho. The author reveals Hitchcock's ability to promote his brand and create a "personal mythology." In "The Womanizer," White explores Hitchcock's complex, contradictory relationships with women as a "creator and controller," best seen in Vertigo, and his dependence on his wife, Alma. Discussing Shadow of a Doubt, "a point of continuity between the two halves of his career" gives White the opportunity to point out that the "most insistent theme of his work is a seemingly happy home cruelly torn asunder." Examining Rear Window, which the director considered his "most cinematic" film, the author notes now "Hitchcock knew the power one could command by looking--and by denying others the opportunity to look." It was the success of his two TV shows that helped create the "Entertainer," and "The Pioneer" neatly shows how "each of his works is in deep conversation with the rest." Hitchcock "The Londoner"--White is especially good on the director's early English films--and the Catholic "Man of God" complete the 12 lives. Although the author doesn't uncover much groundbreaking information, he presents the man and his films in a readable, entertaining package. An incisive literary autopsy of the Master of Suspense.

    COPYRIGHT(2021) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    March 1, 2021
    Proving the truth of the well-known axiom, this biocritical study of Hitchcock confirms that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In 12 chapters, White explores 12 versions of film director Alfred Hitchcock: "the murderer," "the auteur," and "the family man," among them. Hitchcock, of course, was none of these people and all of them: a famously idiosyncratic man who concealed enough mysteries to keep biographers writing for decades. There probably will never be a definitive book about Hitchcock (like his movies, he is open to infinite interpretations), but this one adds much to our understanding of the man and his movies. The approach is certainly intriguing, the writing is engaging, and the author provides us with a wealth of new insights into Hitchcock. White engages in some fine detective work, too, trying to get to the truth behind some of the most intriguing Hitchcock legends, including an oft-told origin story that might be more fiction than fact. A solid entry in the voluminous literature of Alfred Hitchcock.

    COPYRIGHT(2021) Booklist, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    April 12, 2021
    White (The Tastemaker) suggests legendary director Alfred Hitchcock had more lives than a cat in this sweeping biography. In his coverage of Hitchcock’s 60-plus-year career, White examines 12 “lives” that shaped what he terms the “Hitchcock brand” (as opposed to the familiar “Hitchcock touch”). “The Boy Who Couldn’t Grow Up” recalls Hitchcock’s childhood traumas of abandonment and punishment (from his experience at school) as the basis for the distress and fear he portrayed in his films. “The Murderer” discusses “voyeurism, guilt, enchanting blondes” and covers Hitchcock’s desire to reframe the slasher genre. The core of “The Auteur” follows Hitchcock’s films from “conception to projection,” detailing conflicts with collaborators, while “The Womanizer” tackles what critics have called “full-on misogyny” on-screen. Inside stories behind the director’s classic films abound, as with an anecdote about Evan Hunter, who wrote the screenplay for The Birds to little credit; after telling a child he wrote it, the child responded, “No, you didn’t... Alfred Hitchcock did.” Hitchcock fans will be enamored of this canny, full portrait of an artist with a singular vision.

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An Anatomy of the Master of Suspense
Edward White
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