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Alfred Hitchcock’s Empty Suit

In 1939, a short, fat Englishman named Alfred Hitchcock arrived in Hollywood at the invitation of David Selznick.  Impressed by Hitchcock’s work in British film, Selznick thought he would be perfect to direct Rebecca, starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine.  Things did not go well.  Selznick was among the most overbearing of Hollywood producers.  He thought himself more aesthetically competent than anyone he paid.  As far as he was concerned, Hitchcock was hired help, and Selznick naturally expected to oversee his every move.  Needless to say, the soft-spoken, gentlemanly Brit was appalled.

Although Hitchcock thought Selznick’s “suggestions” ruined his filming of Daphne du Maurier’s novel, Rebecca succeeded commercially, and in Hollywood that was all that mattered.  So Hitchcock labored on, often unhappily, under Selznick’s ever-watchful eye until he had built a reputation that allowed him to become his own producer.  By 1948, at last free of Selznick, Hitchcock began to make films on his own terms, and he changed what Americans thought movies could be.  He won a popularity that rivaled even Walt Disney’s.  And yet his films had none of the original Mouseketeer’s syrupy reassurance.  In fact, Hitchcock’s work had become the prescribed antidote for the indigestible surfeit of saccharine self-congratulation...

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