Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Hitchcock's Partner in Suspense Book Review

Hitchcock's Partner in Suspense
On May 2, a new book will be available from University Press of Kentucky. The 280 page tome is titled Hitchcock's Partner in Suspense: The Life of Screenwriter Charles Bennett. The book was edited by his son, John Charles Bennett. If the name doesn't ring a bell, his works do. Bennett worked with such legends as Cecil B. DeMille and Alfred Hitchcock; the latter formed a partnership with an adaptation of Bennett's play, Blackmail (1929), considered the first British sound film. Hitchcock and Bennett collaborated together for six additional motion pictures: The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), The 39 Steps (1935), Sabotage (1936), Secret Agent (1936), Young and Innocent (1937) and Foreign Correspondent (1940). Bennett's unpublished autobiography, along with comments and interviews, form the meat and potatoes of this book -- a feast for any Hitchcock scholar.

The "wrong man accused" device, the origin of the MacGuffin, and comments about the young child that was blown to pieces in the bomb blast in the film that movie audiences felt was too graphic -- even though the characters were motived by the devastating effects in Hitchcock's Sabotage. You also get an idea of Alfred Hitchcock as a person behind the camera, as Bennett recalled many moments in their life when the director played pranks, got jealous or upset at another person, and so on.

The book features a number of exclusives including an excerpt from Bennett's The Secret of the Loch, an excerpt from the play, Blackmail, his World War II service record, his work with Errol Flynn, his television work (including his contributions for Irwin Allen), and a reprint of the original climax for Night of the Demon (1958) is included. In short, anyone hoping to deeply explore Bennett's writing career can turn to this book and find a little of something. Looking for information about the 1942 classic, Reap the Wild Wind? Check. The obscure They Dare Not Love (1941)? Check. Hitchcock's television series? His contribution to Casino Royale (the 1954 Barry Nelson telecast)? Check. Well... Bennett made a brief mention why he never contributed, even though there were three separate attempts to be involved. 

Photographs are confined to the very back of the book. I suspect this growing trend is due to the faulty technology of converting the printed page to ebooks, which cannot format books with photos among the text without making some sort of error. There is an index which helps ease finding whatever you are looking for.

Unless you are a big Hitchcock scholar looking to explore the director's works deeper than 100 other books exploring Hitchcock's works (partial or whole), or have every book about Alfred Hitchcock ever published and want to add another to the growing library, this book might not be for everyone. But it certainly fills a gap that was sorely needed. And we can thank John Charles Bennett for that.

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