Film director Alfred Hitchcock, the self-styled ‘Master of Suspense’, is unquestionably now the most written-about of all movie directors, with Orson Welles perhaps coming a close-ish second though he had a substantial acting career too. Both have also been depicted, fictionally, in books and in the movies – Danny Huston recently played Welles in Fade to Black (2006), a murder mystery set in late 1940s Italy from Davide Ferraio’s novel. Hitchcock of course appeared made cameos in his own films and has also been portrayed in fictional form in several movies, probably none better that Robert Lepage’s Le Confessionnal (1995), set during the filming of I Confess (1953) in Canada. But its in literature that the director has appeared most frequently.
This struck me while taking part in an inter-blog collaboration with Patrick at his At the Scene of the Crime blog where he has reviewed The Alfred Hitchcock Murder Case (1986) by George Baxt with a few rebuttals from me thrown in. You see, Patrick had a bit of a bad first experience with Baxt and I’ve been trying to convince him that it may be worth persevering with this particular author. I recommend you pop over to his site and read his review right away – you’ll find here here.
I’ve blogged on George Baxt before but his celebrity sleuth series, of which this was the second, got me thinking about other fictional instances of Hitchcock – he appears for instance in The Vertigo Murders (2002) by J. Madison Davis (and Dan Aulier), which unlike Baxt’s book was authorised by the director’s estate. Hitckcock also appeared as himself in a long series of YA books featuring the ‘Three Investigators’. I remember thoroughly enjoying these as a kid but can now recall very little about them – in total there were 43 books published between 1964 and 1987 – for further details, see the Wikipedia page here.
A thinly disguised version of Hitchcock is also to be found in the second of the Evadne Mount mysteries by Gilbert Adair, A Mysterious Affair of Style though the protrait here is considerably less flattering than the one drawn by Davis. The latter’s book is set in the 1950s and Baxt’s in the 20s and 30s, Adair’s in the 40s while the Investigators books belong mainly to the 1960s and 70s – so we do get a parade of Hitckcock’s entire career here, chronologically speaking.
Hitchcock licensed his name, profile sketch and siganture for use in a variety of publishing ventures, from the mystery magazine digest that stills bears his name (see the official website here) to several dozen short story anthologies – he had little or nothing to do with any of these apart from take the money.
The fiction books with Hitchcock are all amusing but I think Welles has a role in better books, from a fictional standpoint. On screen Welles, of course more famous and prolific as an actor than a director, and appears as both actor and director in his portrayals. Vincent D’Onofrio also had a rather nice cameo as Welles the auteur in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood (1994), in which Johnny Depp played the famously talentless actor-director. The best portrayal so far though has probably been Christian McKay’s almost uncanny impersonation in Me and Orson Welles (2008), which is more about Welles as stage actor/impresario before going off to make movies. IMDb has a list of over three dozen protrayals and can be found here. But Welles has also appeared in some novels, like Theodore Roszak’s post-modern classic, Flicker (1991) which is certainly worth looking out for and is probably the most notable book of the bunch referenced here.