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The Observer (20/Mar/2005) - Review: It's Only a Movie, Alfred Hitchcock

(c) The Observer (20/Mar/2005)

Psycho analysis

Charlotte Chandler stiches a web of quotes together in her revealing biography of Alfred Hitchcock, It's Only a Movie, says Lindsay Pfeffer

The essence of an individual may best be distilled through the eyes of others. Charlotte Chandler takes this notion to heart in her biography of Alfred Hitchcock, which is focused not only on interviews with her subject, but conversations with family members, colleagues and companions. Ingrid Bergman and Laurence Olivier are just two of the contributors, along with his wife, Alma, and his daughter, Pat.

The life of the self-declared 'frightmare' expert is told through a web of quotes and points of view, artfully stitched together in a way that brings his genuine nature to light. Hitchcock's relentless discontent with his physical appearance - 'If I had been given the choice in life, I would have looked like Cary Grant' - is particularly intriguing. Chandler skilfully contrasts the film-maker's self-critical but insightful and witty character with his stern professional side, which was concerned with satisfying his creative visions at the expense of disregarding his actors' frustrations.

He typically made an effort to console his anxious performers with the title phrase, 'It's only a movie', but it was not an axiom he lived by. Chandler reveals the contradictions in a life infatuated with horror, yet never without the presence of a loving family and an admiring Hollywood crowd.