My mother wanted a small patch of land with some cows and some chickens. Maybe Matt Dillon would drop by, sit on a porch chair and stretch out his legs as they chatted. Gunsmoke was one of her favorite TV shows of all time. She even called the key character, “My Matt.”

She also loved Alfred Hitchcock, in all his different incarnations. Once he was successful, his remote home was called “The Farm.” He once said, “All I need is a snug little house with a good kitchen.” Straight out of my mother’s mouth!

Hitch produced and/or directed many movies, and oversaw two versions of his own TV show. He had his own anthology magazine. He was “My Alfie” to my mother and she read those pulp magazines, and saw as many shows as possible.

How can I ever forget the time my mother – of all people – took me to see PSYCHO. The shower scene was dramatic enough – I thought the film showed RED blood – but a later scene terrified me. Not to spoil the movie for the one dozen people who have not seen it, but at one point, someone is walking into a basement with one hanging light bulb. By the crescendo in the music, and by the swaying of the light bulb, I knew SOMETHING was about to scare us. I was almost 15 years old, but I actually hid behind the seat in front of me! But I made a critical mistake and looked out just at the reveal! Now THAT was scary!!!

Hitchcock and my mother were born the same year, 1899. They were both born in England. Both loved drama, murder, and mystery. Both were Catholic. Both were fascinated by crime. Both became American citizens.

My mother loved to direct little productions, and played a couple of bit parts in community theater in her later years. If you watch the credits of Hitchcock’s early films closely enough, you will see wardrobe by Marianne. Just Marianne. No last name. I chuckle as I think how that could have been my mother!

alfieI was delighted to win a drawing on Goodreads for a copy of A BRIEF LIFE: ALFRED HITCHCOCK by Peter Ackroyd. Although it reads like a Reader’s Digest Condensed book, or a cut and paste from Wikipedia, it really is a perfect introduction to Hitch. Maybe I’ll get a bigger tome at a later date, but for now, A Brief Life is “just right.”

That isn’t to say it is perfect. As it gives a synopsis of Hitchcock’s films, a couple of the snippets are just that – too short. As if they were a roll of film with the ending cut off and left on the editing room floor. Or during a Wikipedia cut and paste, not all the original articles made it to the final copy.

What is left, however, is mostly satisfying. The title, after all, is A BRIEF LIFE. And that doesn’t apply to Hitch, who lived to be over 80. Quite remarkable for a man who carried so much weight. (He often used his corpulent profile to advantage.)

Hitchcock invented or adapted many different film techniques. The audience was treated to unique perspectives, and if a movie were to be studied in a class, plot hints and psychology abound. Overflow. Hitchcock said that “audiences should see his films at least twice simply because on the first occasion they are swallowed up in a delirium of images and scenes, surprises and disasters. He wanted them to look carefully at what was being projected on the screen. If the film were to be slowed down, for example, scene gradually dissolving into scene, they would become aware of the craft and care that fill every frame.”

At the same time, Hitch would relegate a hit or a miss as, “only a movie.” “I don’t give a damn what the film is about.” It only comes down to “How do you apply glue to the seats of the audience?”

One cool factoid I learned from this book is that John Williams scored Hitch’s last film, FAMILY PLOT. Williams is my favorite composer of all time, modern or classical.

My biggest complaint about this book, and it is a BIG complaint, is the fact this edition is one of those cheapo printing jobs. You know, the ones with literally rough edges. It is obvious to me that certain books with multiple printings get careless farther and farther along in their lives. Gilt pages from a first edition turn into jagged edges by the third or fourth printing. Damn hard to turn the pages. I am convinced the publishers fail to turn the manuscript around for one last KER-CHUNCK of the cutting knife to make the outside edge smooth.

Just one more slice.

That’s all I ask.



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