Hitchcock: The Making of a Reputation

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9780226424897: Hitchcock: The Making of a Reputation
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From the beginning of his career, Alfred Hitchcock wanted to be considered an artist. Although his thrillers were immensely popular, and Hitchcock himself courted reviewers, he was, for many years, regarded as no more than a master craftsman. By the 1960s, though, critics began calling him an artist of unique vision and gifts. What happened to make Hitchcock's reputation as a true innovator and singular talent?

Through a close examination of Hitchcock's personal papers, scripts, production notes, publicity files, correspondence, and hundreds of British and American reviews, Robert Kapsis here traces Hitchcock's changing critical fortunes. Vertigo, for instance, was considered a flawed film when first released; today it is viewed by many as the signal achievement of a great director. According to Kapsis, this dramatic change occurred because the making of the Hitchcock legend was not solely dependent on the quality of his films. Rather, his elevation to artist was caused by a successful blending of self-promotion, sponsorship by prominent members of the film community, and, most important, changes in critical theory which for the first time allowed for the idea of director as auteur.

Kapsis also examines the careers of several other filmmakers who, like Hitchcock, have managed to cross the line that separates craftsman from artist, and shows how Hitchcock's legacy and reputation shed light on the way contemporary reputations are made. In a chapter about Brian De Palma, the most reknowned thriller director since Hitchcock, Kapsis explores how Hitchcock's legacy has affected contemporary work in—and criticism of—the thriller genre.

Filled with fascinating anecdotes and intriguing excerpts, and augmented by interviews with Hitchcock's associates, this thoroughly documented and engagingly written book will appeal to scholars and film enthusiasts alike.

"Required reading for Hitchcock scholars...scrupulously researched, invaluable material for those who continue to ask: what made the master tick?"—Anthony Perkins

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From Publishers Weekly:

In his first book, Kapsis, who teaches sociology and film studies at Queens College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, offers an interesting study of the rise, fall and subsequent rise of the reputation of master filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock. Kapsis considers Hitchcock's critical reputation illustrative of an intriguing thesis: that an artist's standing among the critics is shaped by external forces such as changing fashions in aesthetics and the standing of the critics themselves as much as by the artworks. The effect on Hitchcock's reputation of the popularity of auteur criticism--and its subsequent impact on the thriller and horror genres in general--is a compelling illustration of Kapsis's theory. He moves on to a consideration of how auteur theory in effect drove Brian DePalma, a Hitchcock acolyte, out of the genre, and to brief sketches of the critical reputations of Hollywood filmmakers Howard Hawks, Frank Capra and Fritz Lang. Finally, in one of the book's more stimulating sections, Kapsis applies his model to the career of Vladimir Horowitz. This is an intellectually challenging book, but it is marred by repetition and an undistinguished prose style that often borders on the arid. Illustrations not seen by PW.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal:

Kapsis (sociology and film, CUNY) examines Hitchcock's reputation among film critics as well as his legions of fans from the silent era to the present. Drawing on fascinating primary documents from such sources as the "Hitchcock Collection" from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which includes everything from production notes to fan mail, Kapsis analyzes Hitchcock's striving for artistic respectability in the eyes of critics who appreciated his skill but preferred social relevance. Hitchcock's influence on the horror film genre is well delineated, though devoting an entire chapter to the work of Brian de Palma seems a digression. The definitive film-by-film explication of the oeuvre is still Donald Spoto's The Art of Alfred Hitchcock: Fifty Years of His Motion Pictures (Classic Returns, LJ 2/15/92. 2d rev. ed.). Recommended for cinema collections.
- Richard W. Grefrath, Univ. of Nevada Lib., Reno
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Publisher: University Of Chicago Press, 1992
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