Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


THE GIRL IN ALFRED HITCHCOCK'S SHOWER. Robert Graysmith. Berkley Books; 2010.

Because of carelessness and the fact that she wasn't aware of what people were saying about her, Marli Renfro, the body double for Janet Leigh in the shower scene in Psycho, was reported murdered -- there was even a book about it. However it turns out the real victim was Myra Davis, a supposed stand-in for Leigh who did not take her clothes off and therefore did not "stand-in" in the shower. [People thought that "Marli Renfro" was Davis' stage name.] It was irresistible, of course: the body double in the shower in Psycho winds up being murdered by a psycho herself. Only it didn't really happen.

The Girl in Alfred Hitchcock's Shower purports to be a biography of the very-much-alive Marli Renfro, but author Graysmith doesn't seem to know if he wants to write a bio about a pin-up queen [with a great body but not a great beauty] that he idolized in college [time to grow up, maybe?]; a book about the making of Psycho; or a true-crime tome about "Sonny" Busch, who was strangling women around the time that Psycho was being made. And boy does this book suffer because of it!

Just as the story of Sonny Busch reaches fever pitch and you're anxious to know what happens next, Graysmith suddenly switches to a chapter about Renfro and her negligible "career" in men's magazines and in sex comedies. This happens again and again. You're anxious to find out how Sonny is going to get caught, and Graysmith expects you to give a shit about some old movie with Marli because Francis Ford Coppola was supposedly involved with it. Marli Renfro's life and career might have been worth an article, but a book? It's almost as if all the stuff about Hitchcock and Psycho and Sonny Busch on his murdering spree is padding for the life story of Marli Renfro! Who cares? The real story is Sonny Busch and his murder spree, but Graysmith keeps pulling away from it to concentrate on the tedious adventures of Marli, even dragging in Hugh Hefner and others for some added name-dropping. I suspect Graysmith was trying to create a book that was a big tapestry containing several elements, but it doesn't work -- the separate elements simply don't jell.

Worse, there seems to be only a couple of paragraphs about the actual murdered woman. We learn virtually nothing about her! The other victims are pretty much given short shrift as well.

While some parts of The Girl in Alfred Hitchcock's Shower are readable, the fact remains that this is a disjointed and ill-conceived project cobbled together for the 50th anniversary of Hitchcock's film. If Graysmith had wanted to write about Renfro and the world of men's magazines and cheap sex films of the sixties, he should have stuck to that. It seems to me that a book about Sonny Busch -- a psycho on the loose who even murdered two victims after seeing the film -- would have not only included the Psycho connection but made a far more interesting tome.

Verdict: Half of this book should have been left on the cutting room floor. **.


Unknown said...

I'm a little bit upset to find out that not only has this guy released a crappy book based on a case that I have been researching for some time now, but he's apparently butchered facts surrounding the case.
First off, I'd like to say that I'd like to read this even though every review is horrible, but I'd like to see exactly what information Mr. Graysmith was able to come up with, that I haven't been able to find out through the numerous articles and photos, and conversations I've had with the grandchildren of Henry Buschs' second victim, Margaret Briggs. But alas, I really don't like to waste my money on pretentious literary drivel. The fact that I've been beaten to the punch to a book that I've been hoping to write once I got all my facts straight(something that was apparently lost on this author), as a tribute to My Husband's Great Grandmother, Margaret Briggs. Mr. Graysmith is although successful in prospering financially off of events that are still very real to the people in my family.

William said...

I believe there is still a lot to say about the Busch case, and think you should still continue work on your project. Your slant is obviously different from Graysmith's, and you have a personal connection as well [instead of the highly tenuous "connection" Graysmith manufactured]. As your book would be quite different from his, I think you should continue to work on it. Best, William