Spellbound by Beauty
Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies
By Donald Spoto
Crown Archetype, Hardcover, 9780307351302, 352pp.
Publication Date: October 28, 2008
List Price: $25.95*
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“The trouble today is that we don’t torture women enough.”
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 Hitchcock—among 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 Beauty—the final volume in master biographer Donald Spoto’s Hitchcock trilogy that began with The Art of Alfred Hitchcock and continued with The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock—is 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 women—and 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 Beauty offers 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.
DONALD SPOTO is the author of 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, Marlene Dietrich, and most recently Grace Kelly.
“Mr. Spoto has enjoyed extraordinary access to Hitchcock’s players over a long period of time, and he has assembled a cavalcade of chatty firsthand impressions.”
—The New York Times
“What was behind [Hitchcock’s] talent for turning perverse thematic elements such as voyeurism, bondage and murder fantasies into mainstream entertainment? According to Spellbound by Beauty…it was partly derived from a sexually repressed outcast’s Svengali-like compulsion to manipulate and mistreat a long line of unattainable icy blondes.”
"Fascinating . . . probes an even darker side of Hitchcock."
"[Spoto] informs Spellbound by Beauty with his profound knowledge of his subject, years of sound reporting, highly polished prose, and sensible analysis."
"Expert insights into Hitchcock’s films."
"You will never look at a Hitchcock movie the same."
“[F]ocuses on Hitchcock’s sometimes troubled, sometimes perverse, always manipulative relationships with his leading ladies….The chapters on his behavior during the filming of The Birds and Marnie are riveting and deeply troubling, revealing an artist at once losing his touch and losing touch with reality.”
—Booklist, starred review
Praise for Donald Spoto
THE ART OF ALFRED HITCHCOCK
“I am gratified by what Donald Spoto says about my work, and I am impressed by the wit and grace of his writing.”
“Exceptionally thoughtful. Spoto’s total familiarity with the films is manifest throughout. He ably demonstrates that Hitchcock was not only a master of
suspense but an artist of the first rank as well.”
“Combines engaging analysis with wit and scholarship.”
THE DARK SIDE OF GENIUS: THE LIFE OF ALFRED HITCHCOCK
“Absolutely compulsory reading. A serious and intelligent account, both credible and reasonable.”
—New York Times
“A vivid and perceptive portrait. Hitchcock has been well served by
a knowledgeable and revealing biography.”
“With unblinking objectivity and insight, Spoto gives a balanced account of a man who shaped his fears and repressions into a powerful and popular art.”
“Sensational in its revelations—but at the same time, a biography of unassailable integrity. I could not put it down.”