06 February 2012

Post 476: Spellbound by Beauty

Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies by Donald Spoto. ISBN: 9780307351302.

In his intro to this book, Spoto says that Hitchcock's genius cannot be denied, just as his faults cannot either. Hitchcock ended his life lonely and isolated due to his controlling manner and unwanted sexual advances (also because of his weight according to Spoto, but there are plenty of large people who are happy, so that seems more like Spoto's prejudice coming through).

I'll admit that at the beginning of the book, most of Hitchcock's antics didn't seem that bad. Salty language and innuendo have become somewhat common place, and some of the pranks, etc. seemed relatively harmless. As the book progresses though, we see Hitchcock take it to higher and darker levels, putting his actresses in harm's way both physically and emotionally. Hitchcock was downright abusive and at a time when there was no recourse for women to avoid this kind of behavior, they had to risk assault and hope to come out of the job and/or a long contract relatively untouched, or be blacklisted by studios for breaching contract. Had anti-harassment legislation been in place at the time Hitchcock was alive and working, his actions may have been curtailed early enough so that he never even attempted some of the more disturbing pranks or controlling behaviors.

What amazes me is that there are still people who believe that sexual harassment in the workplace isn't really a big deal. There are people who believe that those regulations are unnecessary and that women who are uncomfortable can and should just go find another job. These people are completely out of touch with reality, and it's no big surprise that most of them are white men who are usually wealthy. For some reason they don't come to the conclusion that if harassment is allowed in one workplace, then it is allowed in every workplace, and so without regulation a woman might leave one bad situation without any guarantee of improvement. And if this kind of behavior takes place at work on the verbal level, what might happen off the job?

Giving people a legal right to tell someone that they are uncomfortable regarding certain language or behavior does not lead to a less productive work force. Having been in a work related situation where I was being made uncomfortable and even actively harassed, I can tell you that that made me less productive, and the company retained someone who was more interested in harassing me than doing his job. Had the situation been addressed satisfactorily, maybe both of us could have moved on and been more productive and we both would have benefited from it. Instead, it worked more against him than it did me, because the more annoying he got, the firmer I had to be in my rejection to the point where I couldn't even talk to him, much less be his friend. Which was too bad, because he was obviously a very lonely person, and I didn't have a problem with him except for his inappropriate behavior.

On the flip side, I have this problem to some degree as well. I am a touchy person. I like touching people, and I like flirting with everyone regardless of their or my sexual orientation. I have learned to reserve this to some degree for people I know a little more, but I try to check in every now and then, and if someone tells me they're uncomfortable I make an effort to stop. It works out better for everyone involved, because you get to keep your friends.

A possibly Hitchcock-biased review from Alfred Hitchcock Geek. Other than that, not a whole lot of good reviews. I would say read it if you're interested in Hitchcock, but with the understanding that Spoto may have issues of his own. He did after all refer to Alfred Hitchcock as "Hitchcock" throughout the book while doing the disservice of referring to the female actresses by their first names. Yeah. I caught that Spoto.
LibsNote: Picked up from swap shelf.

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