'Psycho' Killer Alfred Hitchcock Biography Hits the Spot

By Joe, Virginia Kopas | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), March 19, 2017 | Go to article overview

'Psycho' Killer Alfred Hitchcock Biography Hits the Spot


Joe, Virginia Kopas, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


"ALFRED HITCHCOCK: A BRIEF LIFE"

By Peter Ackroyd

Nan Talese/Doubleday $26.95

Cue the violins and lock the bathroom door: Hitchcock is back.

In Peter Ackroyd's "Alfred Hitchcock: A Brief Life," readers not only revisit the groundbreaking cinematic thriller "Psycho" and its iconic shower scene that's arguably the granddaddy of all slasher films, they become equally mesmerized by the man who made horror, well, haute. Mr. Ackroyd's book is the perfect companion for those who didn't get enough of the director during Alfred Hitchcock Day on March 12.

To the uninitiated, Sir Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980) was an English film director and producer, often called the "Master of Suspense." His career spanned six decades and more than 60 films. Mr. Ackroyd, an acclaimed biographer, takes us behind the scenes to the sets of Hitchcock's unforgettable taut, twist-filled classics, such as "Notorious," "Rear Window," "Vertigo," "North by Northwest" and, of course, "Psycho."

Readers also visit the backlots of his 1955-65 eponymous television series. And we get plenty of cameo appearances from his stars, such as Grace Kelly, Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Shirley MacLaine and Clark Gable.

But most entertaining and informative is Mr. Hitchcock's own real-life story. Born in 1899 to a London greengrocer and housewife, Mr. Hitchcock himself said he was known as "a child who never cried." Odd that he would go on to make so many people scream.

Overweight, lonely and imaginative, the young Mr. Hitchcock spent his childhood daydreaming of adventure, and Mr. Ackroyd follows this fearful yet ambitious child from the floorboards above his father's market to the spotlight of international fame.

"Hitchcock: A Brief Life" is more melancholy than macabre. He is portrayed as a sad, solitary figure who once described himself as an "odd, misshapen corporeal presence. …

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