Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies by Donald Spoto - review by Christopher Silvester

Christopher Silvester

The Birds

Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies

By

Hutchinson 229pp £20 order from our bookshop
 

When he introduced Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll to each other on the set of The 39 Steps, Alfred Hitchcock invited them to call him by his nickname: ‘Hitch, without the cock’. This was his way of putting actor and actress at ease, says Donald Spoto, but throughout his career Hitchcock used off-colour remarks not merely as playful banter but also to provoke a reaction.

At a photo session to promote one of his most forgettable films, Topaz (1969), Hitchcock asked the German actress Karin Dor, with a lascivious overtone, to put a male actor’s cigar in her mouth. When she demurred, he went further: ‘Come on, Karin, you know you’ve had it in your mouth before.’ 

Yet long before he was a dirty-minded old man, Hitchcock was a dirty-minded young man. As Spoto puts it, ‘his deliberate air of bourgeois respectability … contrasted with unexpected explosions of the crudest, rawest kind of language’. Was this harmless badinage or did it betoken something more sinister beneath the

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter