Cineaste (2003) - Can Hitchcock Be Saved from Hitchcock Studies?
- article: Can Hitchcock Be Saved from Hitchcock Studies?
- author(s): John Belton
- journal: Cineaste (2003)
- issue: volume 28, issue 4, pages 16-21
- journal ISSN: 0009-7004
- publisher: Cineaste Publishers
- keywords: "A Long Hard Look at Psycho" - by Raymond Durgnat, "Footsteps in the Fog" - by Jeff Kraft and Aaron Leventhal, Hitchcock's America (1999) edited by Jonathan Freedman & Richard H. Millington, "Hitchcock's Films Revisited" - by Robin Wood, "Hitchcock's Films" - by Robin Wood, "The Art of Looking in Hitchcock's Rear Window" - by Stefan Sharff, "The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock" - by Donald Spoto, "The Encyclopedia of Alfred Hitchcock" - by Thomas M. Leitch, "The Hitchcock Murders" - by Peter Conrad, "The Man Who Knew Hitchcock: A Hollywood Memoir" - by Herbert Coleman, "Vertigo: The Making of a Hitchcock Classic" - by Dan Auiler, "Writing with Hitchcock" - by Steven DeRosa, Aaron Leventhal, Alfred Hitchcock Presents (TV), Alfred Hitchcock, American Film (1983) - Fear of spying, Angus MacPhail, Anthony Perkins, Bernard Herrmann, Bodega Bay, California, Cahiers du Cinéma, Cary Grant, Charles Barr, Cornell Woolrich, Dan Auiler, David Bordwell, Dial M for Murder (1954), Diane Baker, Donald Spoto, Edith Head, Ernest B. Wehmeyer, Evan Hunter, Family Plot (1976), Farley Granger, Feature films, Film (International), Film (Productions), Film criticism, Film directors, Film theory, Filming locations for The Birds (1963) - Tides Restaurant, Filming locations for Vertigo (1958) - McKittrick Hotel, Gainsborough Pictures, George Tomasini, Grace Kelly, H.G. Wells, Henry Bumstead, Herbert Coleman, Howard Smit, James Stewart, Jay Presson Allen, Jeff Kraft, John Belton, John Michael Hayes, Joseph Stefano, Ken Mogg, Kim Novak, Louis Alexandre Raimon, Mariette Hartley, Marnie (1964), Maxwell Anderson, McDonald Avenue, Santa Rosa, California, Michael Balcon, Michael Powell, Monographs, Montgomery Street, San Francisco, California, Motion picture directors & producers, Motion pictures, New York City, North by Northwest (1959), Oeuvre, Paramount Pictures, Patricia Hitchcock, Peter Bogdanovich, Peter Conrad, Psycho (1960), Raymond Bellour, Raymond Durgnat, Rear Window (1954), Rebecca (1940), Robert Burks, Robert E. Kapsis, Robert Walker, Robin Wood, Roger O. Thornhill, Rope (1948), Samuel A. Taylor, San Francisco, California, Santa Rosa, California, Sean Connery, Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Source studies, Stefan Sharff, Stephen DeRosa, Stephen Rebello, Steven DeRosa, Strangers on a Train (1951), Suspicion (1941), The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (TV), The Birds (1963), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), The Trouble with Harry (1955), The Wrong Man (1956), Thomas Leitch, Thomas M. Leitch, Til-Two Bar, Santa Rosa, California, Tippi Hedren, To Catch a Thief (1955), Tony Lee Moral, Topaz (1969), Universal Studios, Vertigo (1958), Winston Graham
As Robert Kapsis has noted in Hitchcock: The Making of a Reputation, Alfred Hitchcock always courted the press. From the early years in England working for Michael Balcon at Gainsborough to his final years in Hollywood working for Lew Wasserman at Universal, Hitchcock attempted to produce and direct critical response to himself and to his work. One of Hitchcock's favorite screenwriters, Charles Bennett, told stories of Hitchcock spending his entire weekly salary on elaborate (self-) promotional parties for London's film critics back in the early 1930s. Hitchcock remained actively engaged in the publicity for and promotion of his films throughout his career, personally conducting national press tours.
It is possible, in other words, to trace the 'Hitchcock Industry,' the proliferation of essays, articles, trade press, and academic press books on Hitchcock, back to Hitch cock himself and his attempt to control his construction as a celebrity-entertainer-artist in the media. But Hitchcock has been dead for twenty-three years now. At the time of his death, according to Jane Sloan's Alfred Hitchcock: A Guide to References and Sources (1995), there were already over 540 articles and books on Hitchcock, including a handful of essays by Hitchcock himself, numerous interviews with him, and other pieces 'spawned' by the director's efforts at generating publicity. We can, perhaps, 'blame' Hitchcock for some of this material.
But he is not to be held entirely responsible for what happened after his death. From then (April 28, 1980) to his centennial in 1999, more than sixty-four new books and 371 new critical essays were published. Given that the 'Hitchcock Industry' really took off during the 100th anniversary of his birth (1999), one could guess that another twenty-or-so books had been published since then, not to mention scores of new articles. At any rate, a quick count of books on Hitchcock currently available for sale on Amazon.com indicates eighty-seven new and old book titles.
Books on Hitchcock sell. For the past twenty-five years, since the heyday of high auteurism, university and trade presses have taken a beating on studies of film directors. But Hitchcock, partly because of his status as a cultural icon and partly because college film courses are regularly devoted to his work, has endured as a subject for popular biographies and scholarly monographs. Robin Wood's book, Hitchcock's Films, subsequently retitled Hitchcock's Films Revisited, is perhaps the best example of Hitchcock's enduring popularity. Originally published (in a green cover edition) by Zwemmer in 1965, it was reissued in 1969 (in a yellow cover edition that included a chapter on Torn Curtain). A third edition came out in 1977 with a "Retrospective" on the earlier editions. In 1989, Columbia University Press reprinted it along with about 200 pages of new material. That edition was revised yet again in 2002 with a new forty-page preface and a new essay on Marnie.
Wood's book holds a very special place in English-language scholarship on Hitchcock, being not only one of the first such books but also one of the best. At the same time, its various revisions document crucial shifts in films studies as a discipline and provide an important portrait of Hitchcock's role, as a figure of study, in the development of critical paradigms from early auteurism, to psychoanalysis, feminism, semiotics (of a sort), and queer studies.
There are various ways of accounting for the proliferation of books and essays on Hitchcock. The most obvious explanation would seem to be that Hitchcock's oeuvre merits such attent...
Books Reviewed in This Article
- Vertigo by Charles Barr. London: British Film Institute (Distributed in the U.S. by University of California Press), 2002.96 pp., illus. Paperback: $12.95.
- The Analysis of Film by Raymond Bellour. Edited by Constance Penley. Bloomington and Indianapolis, IN: Indiana University Press, 2002. 328 pp., illus. Hardcover: $49.95 and Paperback: $19.95.
- The Hollywood I Knew: A Memoir, 1916-1988 by Herbert Coleman. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2003. 416 pp., illus. Hardcover: $39.95.
- The Hitchcock Murders by Peter Conrad. London: Faber and Faber, 2002, 368 pp., illus. Hardcover: $25.00 and Paperback: $15.00.
- Writing with Hitchcock: The Collaboration of Alfred Hitchcock and John Michael Hayes by Stephen DeRosa. London: Faber and Faber, 2001. 326 pp., illus. Paperback: $15.00.
- A Long Hard Look at Psycho by Raymond Durgnat. London: British Film Institute (Distributed in the U.S. by University of California Press), 2002.250 pp., illus. Hardcover: $65.00 and Paperback: $19.95.
- Footsteps in the Fog: Alfred Hitchcock's San Francisco by Jeff Kraft and Aaron Leventhal. Introduction by Patricia Hitchcock O'Connell. Santa Monica, CA: Santa Monica Press, 2002. 288 pp., illus. Paperback: $24.95.
- The Encyclopedia of Alfred Hitchcock by Thomas Leitch. Foreword by Gene D. Phillips. New York: Checkmark Books (a division of Facts on File, Inc.), 2002. 432 pp., illus. Hardcover: $60.00 and Paperback: $19.95.
- Hitchcock and the Making of Marnie by Tony Lee Moral. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2002.245 pp., illus. Hardcover: $29.95.
- Hitchcock's Films Revisited (Revised Edition) by Robin Wood. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002. 448 pp., illus. Paperback: $23.50.