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Hitchcock at Work (2000) by Bill Krohn

author Bill Krohn
publisher Phaidon Press (2000)
ISBN 0714839531 (hardback)
ISBN 0714843334 (paperback)
links LibraryThing

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This is a comprehensive, behind-the-scenes examination of the work of "The Master of Suspense", director Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980). It examines all of the director's career, from the early films made in the UK in the 1920s and 1930s, to his move to Hollywood where he became co-producer as well as director of his films.

Film expert Bill Krohn looks beyond the usual anecdotal sources about Hitchcock, paying attention to the director's personal papers and the archives of the film studios he worked for - shooting schedules, budgets, memos, letters, storyboards and transcripts of discussions with key collaborators. The result is a reassessment of the working methods of the director, one which explodes many of the myths - often promulgated by Hitchcock himself - that have warped previous criticism. Krohn shows that there is more to Hitchcock than the control freak of legend who eliminated any chance factors by preplanning every shot of his films and refusing to shoot on location or allow his actors to improvise.

In fact, chaos was a frequent collaborator in his productions, one he often seemed to invite. The famous storyboards that he used to map out his films were only a starting point and he frequently relied on on-the-spot inspiration when filming a scene. (Krohn even reveals that one of the most famous - and most often reproduced - sets of sketches, for the crop-dusting scene in "North by Northwest", are fakes which Hitchcock had produced afterwards for publicity purposes). Equally, in both the British and Hollywood phases of his career, Hitchcock was a pioneer of location shooting, and he experimented with improvisation in certain films. By interpreting each film anew through the study of its production rather than imposing an all-encompassing theory about Hitchcock, this study allows us to see the director's genius as a whole, to appreciate that he did not create his films to a formula, but undertook each one as a new adventure.


Considering the wealth of Alfred Hitchcock books produced recently, it's good that Krohn (Hollywood correspondent for the influential "Cahiers du cinema") finds the director's oeuvre inexhaustible. First published last year in France, where it won the Prix de la Critique, this book refutes the director's mythology. Krohn argues that the enigmatic director, once quoted as saying that once the screenplay was finished the actual making of the film bored him, was more open to improvisation and less a slave to the script and storyboard than his public image allowed. Focusing on the Hollywood years, Krohn examines each of the major films and details the progression of the filming, from casting to titling, adding interesting commentary gleaned from Hitchcock's papers. Although the thesis is a bit overstated, the sumptuous photographs alone make this a necessary addition to film libraries. A very readable treatment for scholars and popular audiences and a fine study for film collections.
— Library Journal