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The Dark Side of Genius

The Life of Alfred Hitchcock
Narrated by: Jeff Riggenbach
Length: 23 hrs and 26 mins
3.5 out of 5 stars (2 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The story of the man who changed people’s relationships with their showers forever, thanks to Psycho, this is the classic, Edgar Award-winning biography of the enigmatic and intensely private Alfred Hitchcock. One of America’s greatest film directors, his suspenseful subject matter ranged from the dark drama of a man possibly trying to kill his wife, to the humorous problem of disposing of a body, to the ecological underpinnings of an attack by fowl fiends in a sleepy harbor town.

Acclaimed biographer Donald Spoto explores the roots of Hitchcock’s obsessions - with food, murder, and idealized love, among others - and traces the origins of his incomparable, bizarre genius, from his childhood and education to the golden years of his career. Based on interviews with his writers, actors, and longtime associates, and on exhaustive research, The Dark Side of Genius is the definitive biography of Alfred Hitchcock.

Donald Spoto is the author of more than 20 books, including best-selling biographies of Alfred Hitchcock, Tennessee Williams, Laurence Olivier, Marlene Dietrich, Ingrid Bergman, and Audrey Hepburn. He lives with his husband, Danish artist and school administrator Ole Flemming Larsen, near Copenhagen, Denmark.

©1983 Donald Spoto (P)1998 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"The finest book about a filmmaker yet. Sensational in its revelations; at the same time, a biography of unassailable integrity. I could not put it down." (Gregory Peck)
"Absolutely compulsory reading." ( New York Times Book Review)
"A vivid and perceptive portrait…. Knowledgeable and revealing." ( Time)

What members say

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    3 out of 5 stars

he dies!

he dies and the story stops dead! like final chapter is missing. funeral? legacy? the end.

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  • bookbug
  • 24-12-2012

Hitch's life and phobias keep you "Spellbound"

Having read this book decades ago, I was thrilled to purchase this audiobook. It's just as fascinating as I remembered. If you are looking for technical details of Hitchcock's movies, forget this one. However, if you want a psychological analysis of Hitch's life and his many phobias, you will be spellbound. Born the son of a Cockney grocer, Alfred Hitchcock began writing titles for silent movies. All Hitchcock's movies contain his fears, fascinations (especially with his leading ladies), and phobias. The author, Donald Spoto, was the first to dehumanize Hitch's genius by revealing his dark side, but somehow this makes future viewings of Hitchcock's films more fascinating.

14 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • Erik
  • 22-09-2013

The Last Word

Any additional comments?

I first discovered Psycho when I was 9 years old, and the ride began. I'm 36 now and I've seen everything Hitchcock, read everything Hitchcock, and even subjected myself to a couple of embarrassing biopics (Hitchcock; The Girl). Donald Spoto's "The Dark Side of Genius" is, quite simply, the only source you'll ever need on him. All the others are just lovely picture books.

It's all here. The story of an artist with a grotesque sense of the world, who hid inside his body and behind his camera, fighting like hell to get it perfect every day of his life. He was funny, he was vicious, and he was charming. His films speak for him, but after reading this you'll have a greater sense of what's being said....and why.

Spoto's biography is not melodramatic, nor does it fall prey to camp or long perpetuated rumors. If you seek that, turn elsewhere, because this book only addresses the facts. Jeff Riggenbach's narration is also matter of fact and serves the material well.

All of that said, it's a delicious read. Enjoy.

13 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • Nathaniel
  • 06-11-2012

Annoying silent gaps; poor editing

Did the narration match the pace of the story?

This is certainly a fascinating and comprehensive biography of Alfred Hitchcock, but I must comment on the annoying silent gaps throughout this 3 part audiobook. Just when you think a sentence/paragraph is complete, the narrator continues the thought, a beat, even two or three beats too late. It's annoying and unfortunate because it is a good book. This nuisance can be corrected with a little patient editing of the silent gaps.

13 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • Audio Diva
  • 29-04-2016

Very dark cookie

Where does The Dark Side of Genius rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Every story is different and I read(listen) all the time. Never not have a book going.I would say among the Bio's I have read, the book is well written. How ever the end was not at all good. I think the way the writer ended the book was due to having to finish the book and he had no more time.

What did you like best about this story?

Learning about Hitchcock's quirks, brilliant thinking, and strange connections with certain people.

Any additional comments?

Interesting life, and a story to tell. Dark man. disappointing ending.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Dubi
  • 27-07-2015

One Side of Genius

The good news is, this biography of Alfred Hitchcock is mostly about how he made each of his movies. The bad news is, it is mostly about his movies. What we love about Hitch is his work, prolific in scope, perfection in retrospect, so the focus on his pictures is what we mostly want to hear about. But we don't know much about the great man's guarded personal life, even after 20-plus hours of Spoto, based on painstaking research into every aspect of his life, and that is a missed opportunity to learn more about what made him tick.

What it boils down to is that the insatiable gourmand seems to have been sexually repressed (seems to have been -- no proof). What matters most is that, even if true, he channeled that energy into eliciting some tour de force performances from the series of elegant blondes who graced his pictures. Although he did go a little overboard with poor 'Tippi' Hedren, the part of this book that inspired the HBO movie The Girl, Hitchcock himself never really recovering from the experience of making The Birds and Marnie with her.

Either way, if you're a Hitchcock aficionado, you will find everything there is to know here. Every movie in great detail, at least three movies being juggled at any one time -- one he currently in production, one most recently completed, one in the planning process. Always of interest in a retrospective like this is contrasting contemporaneous reactions from the time a movie was made with conventional wisdom as it has evolved with 20-20 hindsight. An added bonus are the details of his work on his TV show, often overlooked.

The one big problem is the narration. This is an old recording. While Jeff Riggenbach does a fine workmanlike job, you can hear the pauses and cuts and breaths. This book deserves an audio upgrade.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • t murd
  • 11-01-2015

Dark Side of Bordem

What did you like best about The Dark Side of Genius? What did you like least?

The book was very long and the author went on tangents that made it hard to follow. I did enjoy learning more about Alfred Hitchcock and his eccentric waysl.

Would you be willing to try another book from Donald Spoto? Why or why not?

Doubtful, he needs to bring it in a bit, too may rabbit holes that went nowhere and wasted my time.

Which character – as performed by Jeff Riggenbach – was your favorite?

It is a narrative book, henceforth no characters. He did however keep a consistent tone and was easy listening.

Was The Dark Side of Genius worth the listening time?

Not really, I could have read Wikipedia or Cliff Notes version and would have been as satisfying.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Melissa
  • 13-08-2017

great book but the reader was so boring and flat

narrator was not good. Great book on Hitchcock though with a lot of detail. pretty good

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • bethany
  • 01-12-2014

truly enjoyable

Where does The Dark Side of Genius rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

this book has as many shocks for me as a hitch film fascinating truly shows the many sides (very dark ones) of one of the greatest directors of all time

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Laura
  • 19-11-2012

a boring story

Mr Riggenbach's reading, though smooth, was somewhat off in spots, with some words mispronounced and/or with emphasis in the wrong part of the sentence, There was something robotic about it.

The story itself was not very interesting, seeming to get bogged down in meaningless detail while skipping over the most interesting part (his relationship with Tippi Hedren and its effect on her career). Its tone toward its subject was a little tentative.

I don't think I would purchase another book written by Mr. Spoto in any form.

9 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • The Louligan
  • 01-11-2014

JUST A REHASH OF SPOTO'S OTHER HITCHCOCK BOOK

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Not really. It's way to long, repetitive, and doesn't really get to the meat of the real Alfred Hitchcock - The Man. Since the Hitchcock family didn't authorize this biography and refused to open up any personal insight or documents, this is just a well-researched book on public information.

How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

If Spoto had refrained from merging his 1976 book "The Art of Alfred Hitchcock" into what is supposed to be a biography. That book is a comprehensive analysis of every Hitchcock film over 50 years. Here, Spoto just interjects his take on every tiny bit of each film, giving the reader more about the films than the the life of director. I had it when Spoto named every actress who read for "Rebecca" - THIRTY-THREE of them! Really? What did that have to do with the "dark genius" behind Hitchcock?

What aspect of Jeff Riggenbach’s performance would you have changed?

He was rather boring. But what was really appalling is his mispronounciation of common words. At first, I gave him a pass on words with 4 syllables, but then he pronounced "banal" wrong. The clincher was the kid game "Blind Man's Bluff" which he called "Blind Man's BUFF" - not once, but four times!

What else would you have wanted to know about Donald Spoto’s life?

Nothing since this book is supposed to be about ALFRED HITCHCOCK!

6 of 9 people found this review helpful