Will the real Alfred Hitchcock please stand up?

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.

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9 Responses to Will the real Alfred Hitchcock please stand up?

  1. J F Norris says:

    The cover illustration for THE VERTIGO MURDERS say that the author is Dan Auiler. You have a different author in your review. I saw this book at a Half Price Books joint several months ago and passed on it. I figured it was something I could find at the Chicago Public Library if I ever wanted to read it. Have you read it? If so, worthwhile?

    I have a copy of the latest Hitchcock riff lined up on hold at the library. What You See in the Dark by Manuel Munoz. It’s taking forever for them to send it to the branch closest to where I work. It uses the filming of Psycho in Bakersfield, CA as a background for a thriller novel. Hitchcock and Janet Leigh are referenceed but they never really appear and aren’t directly named.

    • Hello John, thanks very much for pointing that inconsistency out – it does appear that there are at least two variant covers for the book out there.

      I’ve replaced the cover image because I think it’s potentially a misnomer – I thought Aulier, who has written a pretty good on the making of VERTIGO and a slightly scrappy scrapbook/compendium of Hitchcock materials that is full of fascinating things, didn’t write the book but was a consultant and Davis was the author – I haven’t read it though and was relying on what a friend told me about it.

  2. Patrick says:

    I have not heard of all these films and books, despite being a fan of both Hitchcock *and* Welles. Does this call for another library hunt? I think so!

  3. TomCat says:

    You’ve been trying to convince… wait a minute! You are the instigator of this cross-blog collaboration? Does this mean that one of these days you’ll turn up on my doorstep, clutching a copy of your favorite Julian Symons novel, trying to make me see the error of my ways?

    • TomCat, you’ve seen right through my cunning plan!! Actually, this was Patrick’s idea, which is why it appears on his blog and not mine. In some ways it was probably a bit unfortunate that we didn’t disagree more about the merits of Baxt’s Hitchcock book – I just liked it a bit more that he did but Patrick is a very smart cookie after all so it was very hard not to be swayed by his arguments – maybe you could end up making me see the error of my ways …

    • Patrick says:

      Yes, I accept full responsibility for the idea behind this crossover… No disguising the fact, really, as I contacted Sergio via the comments on “A Queer Kind of Death”.

  4. Pingback: MURDER ON THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD (1977) by Stuart M. Kaminsky | Tipping My Fedora

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