Michael Sauter
October 03, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light

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Patrick McGilligan

We gave it a B+

At over 800 pages, McGilligan’s prodigiously researched work may be the most comprehensive Hitchcock bio to date, examining a singular career one meticulously reconstructed film shoot at a time. Here, in great detail, is the man who invented much of modern cinematic grammar and elevated suspense potboilers to art — while playing often cruel on-set pranks and naughtily flirting with (and sometimes overtly harassing) his gorgeous leading ladies. McGilligan falls a bit short in detailing the director’s domestic life and the inner demons Donald Spoto so controversially explored in his 1983 bio ”The Dark Side of Genius.” While McGilligan repeatedly refutes Spoto’s psychological theories, he rarely provides his own explanation for Hitch’s quirkier personality traits. The result is a hugely satisfying portrait of the artist, but a sketchier profile of the man.

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