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Sight and Sound (2014) - Hitchcock's Partner in Suspense




The Life of Screenwriter Charles Bennett Edited by John Charles Bennett, University Press of Kentucky, 328pp, $40, ISBN 9780813144498

Charles Bennett's writing career lasted more than six decades. His collaboration with Alfred Hitchcock spanned just one, but it is no real surprise that this provides the book's title, cover image and obvious selling point. There is, however, much more to it than Hitchcock, who appears in only one other illustration among nearly 50, and is the focus of only two of the 18 chapters of Bennett's lively memoir -- which was left unpublished at his death in 1995, and now edited and extended by his son John Charles.

Before Hitchcock, there was decorated service in World War 1, and a busy career in England as actor and playwright. Later, there was a stream of film and television credits, mostly on Hollywood scripts, but also taking in Europe, and film and TV direction. Bennett writes entertainingly about the writing culture at the big studios, about his admittance to Hollywood's elite British colony, about de Mille and Errol Flynn, about his WW2 activities as propagandist and low-key spy -- and about his unlikely return to Hollywood's inner sanctum at the age of 90, when contracted to script a new version, never produced, of his 1928 play Blackmail.

No Blackmail remake could have challenged the enduring status of the 1929 film. Bennett's play had given Hitchcock ideal material in the transition from silent to sound; a decade later his script for Foreign Correspondent did the same in the adjustment from Britain to Hollywood. In between came the run of six thrillers, starting with Th...

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