Alfred Hitchcock: Spellbound By Beauty
HBO Film’s is producing “The Girl,” a film based on the real life relationship between Alfred Hitchcock and Tippi Hedren.
Alfred Hitchcock made over 50 motion pictures and is the most written about filmmaker in the history of cinema. And now Hollywood is making movies on the making of Hitchcock’s movies. Stephen Rebello’s excellent 1990 book Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho is being made into a film with Anthony Hopkins playing the famed director. HBO Films is producing The Girl, inspired by Donald Spoto’s 2008 book Spellbound By Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and his Leading Ladies, with special emphasis on Hitchcock’s infamous obsessive relationship with actress Tippi Hedren during the making of The Birds (1963) and Marnie (1964).
I have a great deal of respect for Donald Spoto as both a writer and researcher. His 1983 book The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock is not only the best book ever written on the master of suspense but very possibly the greatest book written on any filmmaker. The book is filled with lots of great behind the scenes information on the making of each of Hitchcock’s films but while Spoto used his book to praise Hitch as a filmmaker he also seemed to use it to paint a portrait as Hitchcock the man as sick and perverted.
Spellbound By Beauty is a homage to the great actresses that appeared in Hitchcock’s films from Madeleine Carroll to Joan Fontaine, from Ingrid Bergman to Grace Kelly. The book deals in length with what Spoto considers Hitchcock’s unhealthy and obsessive nature with the woman in his movies, especially Tippi Hedren, who’s career he set out to destroy when she would not give into his sexual advances.
It is pretty much common knowledge that Hitchcock was obsessed and cruel with Hedren. No less a person than Cary Grant, who visited the set of The Birds, stated that Hitch was mean towards Hedren. However, in Spellbound By Beauty, Spoto claims that Hitchcock made unwanted sexual advances towards actress Diane Baker on the set of Marnie, which made the young actress fearful of coming to work each day. Now, I’ve read over 20 books on Hitchcock and his films and in no other book is anything mentioned in regards to bad feelings between the director and Baker. If Hitchcock had made such advances towards Baker, why in nearly 50 years is Spoto the only biographer to know about it? I just don’t buy it.
Let’s face it, just like anything else, sex sells books and Spoto creates a much juicer read if he has Hitchcock trying to sleep with every actress he ever worked with and not just Tippi Hedren. I guess, if the book and film creates enough interest to get people to watch Marnie, one of Hitchcock’s greatest and underrated films, then Spoto and the filmmakers have achieved something worthwhile.
The Girl stars Tobey Jones as Alfred Hitchcock and Sienna Miller as Tippi Hedren and debuts October 20, 2012 on HBO.
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