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The Dark Side of Genius Audiobook
The Dark Side of Genius
Written by: 
Donald Spoto
Narrated by: 
Jeff Riggenbach
The Dark Side of Genius Audiobook

The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock

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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.

What the Critics Say

"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

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (139 )
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3.9 (122 )
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Performance
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  •  
    ladybug Knoxville, TN 12-24-12
    ladybug Knoxville, TN 12-24-12 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "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.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nathaniel Pasig City, Philippines 11-06-12
    Nathaniel Pasig City, Philippines 11-06-12 Member Since 2011
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    "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.


    10 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Erik 09-22-13
    Erik 09-22-13 Listener Since 2010
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    "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.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laura WEST ROXBURY, MA, United States 11-19-12
    Laura WEST ROXBURY, MA, United States 11-19-12 Member Since 2016
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    "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.

    8 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barry PORTLAND, OREGON, United States 02-11-16
    Barry PORTLAND, OREGON, United States 02-11-16 Member Since 2014
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    "Too many assumptions..not enough facts"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    I guess I would focus more on the movies, rather than the pop culture psychology that permeates this book.


    What could Donald Spoto have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    Spoto seems more interested in the salacious rather than just dealing with the known facts. There are endless stories about Hitchcock harassing Tippi Hedren, but nary a word from Grace Kelly or Eva Marie Saint or Ingrid Bergman or Julie Andrews. The entire book becomes a hack job based on Hedrens (And to a lesser extent Vera Miles) miserable experience with Hitchcock. There seem to be a lot of people who enjoyed working for and with Hitchcock....their voices do not appear in this volume. Few, if any memories from stars like James Stewart, Cary Grant....etc. The only people that get sizable quotes are those that did not like Hitchcock. Its just too one sided and becomes boring.


    What do you think the narrator could have done better?

    The narrator was fine


    Do you think The Dark Side of Genius needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    No....this depiction of Hitchcock has now become the "truth" for the modern film fan. Its too late to go back and interview any of the principles involved with Hitchcocks work. This book is as much a missed opportunity as a thoughtful exploration into the man behind the camera.


    Any additional comments?

    This is a Blackstone Audio book that has been recorded from audio tapes. The overall quality is good, but the editing of the tapes is lazy and poorly done. Several times you can tell where a cassette ended and a couple of words end up getting chopped off later in the book. At one point the narrater wanted me to "Turn Cassette 7 over to continue the story"....that stuff should be edited out for these digital editions.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dubi New York, NY 07-27-15
    Dubi New York, NY 07-27-15

    People say I resemble my dog (and vice-versa). He can hear sounds I can't hear, but I'm the one who listens to audiobooks.

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    "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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    t murd 01-11-15
    t murd 01-11-15
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    "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.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Linda Lou Cave Creek, AZ USA 11-01-14
    Linda Lou Cave Creek, AZ USA 11-01-14 Member Since 2014

    OCD over books, listening to 1 a day; ANY genre, fact & fiction. Influenced by Audible reviewers so I keep mine unbiased - FRONT to BLACK!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "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
  •  
    Sheckie Green Westland, MI United States 05-21-16
    Sheckie Green Westland, MI United States 05-21-16 Member Since 2014

    impossiblefunky

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    "If you're interested in Hitchcock's weight..."
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    ... then this is the book for you. The author seems obsessed with Hitchcock's obesity and is all about "fat shaming" the late director. Unfortunately, much of the book seems to rely on pop psychology rather than facts.


    What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

    The production of the book was interesting. There were often long pauses between sentences when I wouldn't think they should be. Finally, at the end of the book there was a mistake -- a "end of cassette 17" announcement that made me realize that I was hearing the gaps between cassette sides that had never been cleaned up.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Audio Diva 04-29-16
    Audio Diva 04-29-16 Member Since 2014

    As an author myself, dyslexic, and ADD, I need something that grabs me. Non-fiction on things of interest to me, educates, & titillates.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • barjil
    BEMBRIDGE, United Kingdom
    8/26/12
    Overall
    "Spoiled by narrator"

    I listened to the trial reading before buying this book, which I was really interested to have. The narrator sounded OK for that brief time but since then I have had to stop listening after enduring five chapters. I am obviously used to American pronunciations such as Birming-HAM and could cope with some of the mispronounced names but he is going to call AH's wife Awlmah for 23+ hours, whereas she is Alma. But there are hideous mispronunciations of ordinary words and ultimately one is just waiting for them to happen and this destroys any possible enjoyment. Very disappointing as it's obviously a most interesting book - shall have to read it in print!

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Mark H
    Kilwinning, United Kingdom
    5/12/14
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    "A detailed biography of a flawed genius"

    I am a fan of Alfred Hitchcock. I have watched many (most) of his films and I have read some other insights into his life. This book is the most detailed account of his life that I have read. As a consequence of its length, breadth and detail, it exposes many human flaws which may or may not be true. In hindsight, I would rather not have heard the assertions of his darker side, some of which may have reflected attitudes more prevalent in his era than they are now , or petty eccentricities given an uncharitable spin. So, if you are a film buff that would like lots more details of Hitchcock’s life and career then this is a good book for you. If you are a Hitchcock fan, then this might make you see him in a less favourable light because of some of his character flaws, so just keep watching his films and admire his genius.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Stephen Amos
    6/8/16
    Overall
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    Story
    "great story, terrible production values."

    This is an amazing story, a look into the mind and films of one of the greatest directors ever. It is well written and researched, however, the presentation is awful!

    The narrator had a good voice but, occasionally, he pauses in the middle sentences for over 3 seconds (I timed him). This is really annoying, leading you to believe a new paragraph is about to begin when the sentence hasn't been finished.

    On a number occasions there seems to be sentences missing, the narrative jumping from the middle of one sentence into another and towards the end the narrator tells us it is 'cassette 7'

    Really shoddy, which, given the content , is especially disappointing.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Cyrus
    1/29/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Deadly Dull Narration"
    What disappointed you about The Dark Side of Genius?

    Very disappointed in this audio book. The book itself, although it covers all of Hitchcock's life, and serves as a good introduction to his life and work, it is very pedestrian, mostly stating the matter of fact events in a straightforward time order.


    What was most disappointing about Donald Spoto’s story?

    It did not expand and explain Hitchcock's greatness - there was no excitement, no explanation of why he was a genius. Very pedestrian.


    How could the performance have been better?

    This is the main problem - the narration is dull, dull, dull. A dreadful, deep, mumbling, monotonous American drawl. Awful - no intonation, excitement, feeling.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Disappointment - was very excited to hear a good biography on Hitchcock.


    Any additional comments?

    Listen to the sample before you buy.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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