Alma Hitchcock: The Woman Behind the Man (2004) by Pat Hitchcock O'Connell & Laurent Bouzereau
Alfred Hitchcock's films are a testament to his perfectionism and autonomy, yet there was one person whose advice he valued above all others - his wife, Alma. What was her impact on one of the most creative collaborations in film history? Her daughter Pat Hitchcock O'Connell finds out. She traces her mother's life from her early career as film editor, to actress, to her ongoing input to the scripting, casting and direction of her husband's movies. The resulting account of Alma's life is intimate and touching, like a breezy tour through a family album.
The daughter of Alfred and Alma Hitchcock offers an illuminating portrait of the relationship between her parents, describing growing up in Hollywood, Alma's remarkable contributions to her father's work, and behind-the-scenes anecdotes of the film world, accompanied by rare personal photographs and testimonies from family and friends.
All Alfred Hitchcock needed to produce his psychological thrillers was the love of a good woman, according to this pleasant but superficial memoir of the famed director and his wife, by their daughter. O'Connell traces her mother's life from her early career as a film editor, scenarist and silent-movie actress to her ongoing collaboration on the scripting, casting and direction of her husband's movies. She structures her narrative around a breezy filmography of her father's movies, notes the development of Hitchcock trademarks like the "MacGuffin," and regales readers with Hollywood anecdotes (Carole Lombard once brought cows onto the set after Hitchcock likened actors to cattle) and homespun reminiscences of her avowedly normal childhood. O'Connell is at pains to highlight her mother's every contribution to her father's oeuvre, and produces many quite lengthy testimonials from relatives, actors, friends, long-term care providers and Hitchcock himself to vouch for her warm personality, impeccable manners, superb cooking, gracious hostessing and influence on Hitchcock's creative process. Alma does seem like a lovely and highly intelligent woman, but despite her daughter's best efforts she is overshadowed by her husband, whose quirks and achievements make him the more vivid character even in the unrevealing and protective portrait of him sketched in the book. O'Connell's account of Alma's life is sometimes touching, like a breezy tour through a family album, but its public significance for all but the most obsessive Hitchcock fans remains elusive.
— Publishers Weekly
So much has been written about Alfred Hitchcock that no aspect of his career hasn't been explored. Some remain underexplored, however, such as the role that his wife of 54 years played in his career. Starting out as a 16-year-old film editor, Alma Hitchcock began her movie career before Alfred began his. She contributed significantly to his films at every stage of production and received screenplay credit for several of his classics. The couple's daughter Pat, who has small on-screen roles in several of her father's films, recounts the making of the Hitchcock oeuvre, but the personal anecdotes she tells--stories of her parents' vacations and friendships, examples of her father's notorious practical jokes--will most delight Hitchcockians, few of whom, however, will go so far as to try out the recipes with which she concludes the book. She can be accused of overstating her mother's cinematic importance, but readers will likely wind up agreeing with critic Charles Champlin, who wrote, "The Hitchcock touch had four hands, and two were Alma's."
— American Library Association