Thursday, January 10, 2008

New Book, "Spellbound By Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies" Peers into Hitch's Private Life

As Ken Mogg mentions in his January 12 MacGuffin blog post, it seems that "Spellbound by Beauty," due out in June, will continue the themes -- including what Ken refers to as the "Hitchcock-as-repressed-homosexual line" -- that Donald Spoto introduced in an unauthorized biography 25 years ago. Ken writes: "For Spoto's sake, I do hope that his new book recovers some of the credibility his 'The Life of Alfred Hitchcock: The Dark Side of Genius' (1983) cost him in some quarters - though the tone of his new book sounds as outspoken, or intransigent, as ever."

Ken is referring Spoto's theory that Alfred Hitchcock was a repressed homosexual who acted out his sublimated fantasies in sadistic ways. That may be true, I guess. Then again, it may not. Spoto has been accused, sometimes by the very sources he interviewed, of resorting to innuendo, half-truth and even outright fabrication to support his claims. That Spoto himself is a leading Hitchcock scholar (his book "The Art of Alfred Hitchcock" (1976) is a standard reference work) makes him especially culpable.

If Hitchcock did have "repressed homosexual" tendencies, such a revelation wouldn't be scandalous. But "Dark Side" cast aspersions on Hitch so deeply that many average movie buffs I meet assume that Hitch was as weird and sadistic as the book dishonestly leads one to believe. John Russell Taylor, author of the only authorized biography of Hitchcock, reviewed Spoto's biography and refuted its claims with well-informed perspective.

Ever since "Dark Side" came out, scholars, academics (and aficionados like me) have had to separate fact from fabrication - just to move on to an intelligent discussion of Hitch's life and films. Before I left the Jehovah's Witnesses, my interest in Hitchcock prompted other members of that religion to question my morality and "spiritual health." What business did I have, they felt, concentrating my intellectual energies on the work and life of a man who was clearly a sicko? Never mind that my personal interests were none of their damn business. Their perception of Hitch was based on hearsay, most of it generated by the half-truths found in "Dark Side." Although few people have actually read that book, its claims have become public currency. Such is the damage that Spoto has inflicted.

Apparently, "Spellbound by Beauty" might twist the knife even more. Of course, we won't know for sure until June, when the book hits the shelves. I hope it turns out to be more accurate than his first biography. The memory of Mr. Hitchcock deserves better.

Print this post

No comments: