Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Life in Darkness and Light: A Talk on Alfred Hitchcock and the Art of Writing Film History and Biography by Patrick McGilligan, journalist and biographer.

McGilligan's new biography of Hitchcock, Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light, is the first to appear in over 20 years, so McGilligan spent about 15 minutes reading from it. He chose a passage describing the clash between Raymond Chandler, the second writer on Strangers on a Train, and Hitchcock. Chandler did not appreciate Hitchcock's visual narration so he wanted to spell out everything in dialogue, which lead to his firing.

If you've read the Hitchcock is a perv book, aka The Dark Side of Genius by Donald Spoto, you'll find McGilligan's book like a splash of cold water. At least one of Spoto's perv stories is false, and Hitch's personal life was actually quite normal.

Regarding the split with Saul Bass, Hitch's art director, McGilligan said that the shower scene, as we see it, in Psycho was a collaboration between Hitch, his wife, and Bass. Bass may have designed the storyboards, but it was unfair for him to claim complete credit for that scene.

Per McGilligan, the split with Bernard Herrmann was a result of the production company's wishes. Hitch was also displeased with Herrmann's excessive reuse of musical material in successive films. (Since Herrmann was notorious for repeating measures within a score, too, we have a case of ontogeny recapitulating phylogeny.) McGilligan's book devotes a chapter to Hitchcock and music.

McGilligan's best anecdote was about researching Hitch's impotence. McGilligan went to Hitch's doctor to ask him about it, and the doctor replied, "It never came up."


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