Hitchcock à la Carte

Hitchcock à la Carte

Book Pages: 272 Illustrations: 55 illustrations Published: March 2015

Author: Jan Olsson

American Studies, Cultural Studies, Media Studies > TV

Alfred Hitchcock: cultural icon, master film director, storyteller, television host, foodie. And as Jan Olsson argues in Hitchcock à la Carte, he was also an expert marketer who built his personal brand around his rotund figure and well-documented table indulgencies. Focusing on Hitchcock's television series Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955-1962) and the The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (1962-1965), Olsson asserts that the success of Hitchcock's media empire depended on his deft manipulation of bodies and the food that sustained them. Hitchcock's strategies included frequently playing up his own girth, hiring body doubles, making numerous cameos, and using food—such as a frozen leg of lamb—to deliver scores of characters to their deaths. Constructing his brand enabled Hitchcock to maintain creative control, blend himself with his genre, and make himself the multi-million-dollar franchise's principal star. Olsson shows how Hitchcock's media brand management was a unique performance model that he used to mark his creative oeuvre as strictly his own.


“Olsson shines a valuable light on Hitchcock’s television work (which may be unfamiliar to today’s audiences). . . .”   — Stephen Rees, Library Journal

"Olsson's witty and playful analysis should send readers scurrying to the box sets. Olsson offers us many toothsome delights on such subjects as the difference between English and American murders, typing and casting against type, doubles and vetriloquism, framing and mirroring and 'momism' (the modern cult of motherhood) and the depiction of women...Olsson is well versed in semiotics and modern critical theory, but he writes in a way that should entice the general reader." — Christopher Silverster, TLS

 “Olsson’s research is impressive.  He writes well.  The book is delicious. Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals; general readers.” — W. A. Vincent, Choice

"After over 100 books and countless tributes written about and to Alfred Hitchcock, Jan Olsson’s Hitchcock a la Carte is a refreshing change of pace. ...Olsson’s superbly researched book heads off in a different direction, one sure to be of interest to fans of Hitchcock’s thrilling foray into television that resulted in Alfred Hitchcock Presents and then The Alfred Hitchcock Hour." — Michael Dalton, M/C Reviews

"[Olsson’s book] excels by virtue of its incisive historiography, illuminating biographical detail, and sharp-eyed cultural analysis. Hitchcock a la Carte is a first-rate achievement by any measure." — David Sterritt, Quarterly Review of Film and Video

"Jan Olsson definitely has a mind for the analysis of television, a gift even. Even with the bulk of Hitchcock material out there, this fresh perspective gives Hitchcock fans something new to sink their teeth into. Overall, the book is a fine multi-course meal that brings all sorts of new tastes and senses to explore." — Romana Guillotte, Popular Culture Review

"Jan Olsson has shown in great detail how Hitchcock consistently manipulated celebrity gossip in order to project the image of a creative genius who was as much 'prankster' as 'master craftsman'. The biggest prank of all was his own body. Despite periodic bouts of binge-dieting, Hitchcock remained until the end of his life mountainously fat. In the mid-1930s, as his ambitions turned increasingly towards a career in Hollywood, he began to parlay his corpulence - and the appetites which had brought it about - into an instantly recognisable public persona. 'His film fame, food reputation, and fabulous physicality were supreme assets,' Olsson observes, 'when he signed up for Alfred Hitchcock Presents in 1955, on the cusp of Hollywood's television era.'" — David Trotter, London Review of Books

"Olsson, a professor of cinema studies at the University of Stockholm, insists on examining Hitchcock’s body of work through -- or at least around -- his body proper. . . . The author’s approach more or less precludes judgments of quality or a devotee’s attention to the particulars of artistry. And that’s okay -- the book is eye-opening on its own terms."  — Scott McLemee, Inside Higher Ed

"Although Hitchcock’s obsession with food has been noted and commented upon in previous scholarly works, none has focussed on it exclusively as Professor Jan Olsson has done in Hitchcock à la Carte. What makes his book a significant addition to the research into the less populated areas of the Hitchcock oeuvre is that he spends considerable time on many of the individual episodes of his two long-running television series."  — Colin Shindler, Journal of American Studies

"...Olsson’s Hitchcock à la Carte marks both an important contribution to the existing literature on Hitchcock and an original approach to a still under-researched aspect not only of Hitchcock’s oeuvre, but of film culture more generally." — Vinzenz Hediger, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television

"Olsson’s study of the relationship between Hitchcock and the press is meticulous, as he thoroughly researches the media content of the time, noting countless instances where Hitchcock’s dietary habits and weight were used for promotion. . . . Olsson’s study succeeds in noting the many different connections between Hitchcock’s brand image and television work."
  — Melenia Arouh, European Journal of American Studies

"Hitchcock à la Carte showcases Alfred Hitchcock in his various functions – showman, businessman, author-auteur, savvy self-promoter, dandy, carnivalesque grotesque – and demonstrates how these all converge around his preoccupations with food and the body, particularly his own. Moreover, it explores how Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, in addition to providing the filmmaker with an outlet for refining his media identity, also provided an outlet for more realised considerations of themes and preoccupations skirted over in his films. In doing so, Olsson makes a strong case for the shows – perennial bridesmaids in scholarly attention – and their centrality to Hitchcock’s iconography." — Ben Kooyman, Media International Australia

"Olsson’s book shall certainly arouse the interest of both the director’s fans and younger generations of neophytes, prompting them to 'taste' the films and TV episodes again." — Antonio Sanna, Screen Bodies

"[Olsson's] decision to be highly selective and provocative rather than exhaustive in considering the Hitchcock corpus . . . provides a wonderfully refreshing aperitif to those who will turn its final page with a sigh of pleasure." — Thomas Leitch, Hitchcock Annual

"Hitchcock à la Carte is a major contribution to the inexhaustible literature on Hitchcock. It locates the branding of Hitchcock in the canny promotion of his orotund and mordantly witty persona and traces how the television franchise amplified and consolidated the Hitchcock brand in an unprecedented fashion. Olsson takes us inside the Hitchcockian world in a way that few have."
— Richard Allen, author of Hitchcock's Romantic Irony

"Alfred Hitchcock said his films were slices of cake, and his TV programs were just as tasty, offering bite-sized morsels of the affable demeanor, understated wit, and genius for suspense that made him the world's most iconic movie director as well as one of the greatest. Eloquently blending historical perspective, stylistic analysis, and cross-disciplinary criticism, Jan Olsson has written the definitive study of these quintessentially Hitchcockian entertainments."
— David Sterritt, author of The Films of Alfred Hitchcock


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Price: $26.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Jan Olsson is Professor of Cinema Studies at Stockholm University. He is the coeditor of Television after TV: Essays on a Medium in Transition, also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii

Introduction. A Body for All Seasons  1

1. Feeding the Legend  13

Interlude 1. Tasty Bodies  63

2. Smaller Screen, Bigger Brand: Hosting "Hitchcock"  69

Interlude 2. Double Hosting  109

3. Hitchcockian Reflections: Traces, Proxies, Doubles, and Corpses  117

Conclusion. Violent Endings with a Twist  183

Appendix. Director Credits for Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour  215

Notes  219

Selected Bibliography  245

Index  253
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5804-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5790-2
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