Friends of Carlotta



“Only one is a wanderer; two together are always going somewhere.”

In its final form, VERTIGO doesn’t feel like it could be called anything else, even if the hero’s acrophobia is only an occasional plot point — the film inspires all kinds of dizziness, and is perhaps finally about the fear triggered by standing on the brink of eternity.

But the source novel was called D’entre Des Mortes, (Wikipedia suggests Sueurs Froides: D’entre des Mortes, or Cold Sweat: From Among the Dead) translated into English as The Living and the Dead, which served as the first working title for the movie. Maxwell Anderson produced a draft called DARKLING, I LISTEN, a title which nobody could take seriously. Hitch suggested DOUBLE TROUBLE, as a joke, in a letter to Anderson. When his WRONG MAN co-scenarist Angus MacPhail bowed out of script duties due to alcoholism (sadly, the inventor of the MacGuffin never wrote again), Alec Coppel was hired to write a new draft, titled FROM AMONG THE DEAD, which included the dream sequence much as it appears in the final film, but did not satisfy the demands of Jimmy Stewart for believable characterisation.

Samuel Taylor was hired to solve this issue, producing a draft whimsically named FROM THE DEAD or THERE’LL NEVER BE ANOTHER YOU, credited to “Samuel Taylor and Ambrose Bierce.” (Bierce, a great author of ghost stories and supernatural mysteries, longtime resident of San Francisco, vanished off the face of the earth in 1900. Fans of VERTIGO’s warped and death-defying love might like to try his necromance Beyond the Wall.) Taylor’s other joke title was TO LAY A GHOST.

As the film moved into production, Paramount execs started offering up titles: A MATTER OF FACT was suggested by Arthur Kram (what a pathetic title that is!) and Sam Frey drew up a list of seventeen alternatives, including such zingers as TONIGHT IS OURS, POSSESSED BY A STRANGER and THE MAD CARLOTTA. Six titles including the word “face” — FACE IN THE SHADOW was Hitch’s favourite — were thrown out when Warners started making A FACE IN THE CROWD.

Dan Auiler’s otherwise exhaustive Vertigo, The Making of a Hitchcock Classic doesn’t say where the title VERTIGO comes from, but it instantly became Hitch’s choice, and he defended it against stiff studio opposition. Very possibly it was his own idea.


From the start, Hitchcock seems to have been intent on following the novel’s two-part structure, which translates in the movie into the Madeleine half and the Judy half. The novel sets these sections of story in France before and after World War II, with the doomed romance blossoming amid the misguided confidence of France’s entry into the conflict. After the war comes a truer understanding. This loose mirroring of the personal and the political doesn’t really form part of Hitchcock’s scheme, and he doesn’t seek to establish the events of his story in relation to any real-world equivalent. This probably assists the dreamlike quality of the movie.

The hero of Boileau & Narcejac’s novel, the gloomy, introverted and cowardly Gevigne, clearly needed work to become a Jimmy Stewart character — although by the end of Hitchcock’s film, Stewart has come as close as he ever came to demolishing utterly his nice-guy image. The novel’s protagonist even fails in his role as patsy: hired to stand witness to a fake suicide, he flees the scene and never appears at the inquest, causing a cloud of suspicion to settle on the Gavin Elster character. Hitchcock and Taylor wisely have Stewart play his unwitting part in the murder quite faithfully, getting blamed for Madeleine’s death from sarcastic coroner Henry Jones (whose snide, wheedling performance sparked libel fears among the censors, since the county coroner was a real individual).



Run the movie!

Enter Saul Bass: the graphic genius brought into movies by Otto Preminger here contributes a truly hypno-romantic dream descent, aided by avant-garde filmmaker John Whitney, who had been working separately on the question of how to animate Lissajou spirals (graphic visualisations of mathematical formulae). The nameless woman in Bass’s opening sequence adds another blurring to the identity of the woman in VERTIGO — Carlotta-Madeleine-Judy are all, in a sense one person. Midge paints herself as Carlotta-Madeleine at one point. Jimmy Stewart’s character, Scottie, spots several false Madeleines before finding Judy (one of these is Lee Patrick, Effie in THE MALTESE FALCON, another San Francisco detective story about “the stuff dreams are made of). The real Madeleine, glimpsed in the murder flashback, is played by Kim Novak’s stand-in. And the nun at the end is dubbed with Novak’s voice…

Feeling dizzy yet?



Gripping stuff! The hand grasping the rung is such a strong opening, and then we’re into an exciting rooftop chase! The process shots in VERTIGO are generally of a very high standard, and there are a hell of a lot of them. Perhaps Hitch’s reputation for sloppy effects shots stems from the fact that quality control is bound to slip somewhere if you do so many effects. Anyhow, this sequence is notably unreal but still effective and convincing, in its unreal way.

James Stewart, as John “Scottie” Ferguson (“A good strong name,” says Kim) slips on a loose slate and dangles. “Give me your hand,” hollers a cop, before plunging to his doom. Do you mind if I don’t? The exponential zoom yawns before us, a miniature alleyway constructed by FX man John Fulton and photographed sideways for ease. (No photographic record — besides that in the film — exists of the miniature alley and church tower interior.)

vert3A classic John Fulton matte shot.

This exciting opening is only referred to in the novel by way of memory, but Hitch wisely avoids flashbacking for now, and gets a cracking opening scene out of it, which leaves Scottie cliffhanging over an urban abyss. If anything, it runs the risk of setting too exciting a pace for the film to follow, since this is one of Hitch’s slowest and most floaty films. “We never find out how he gets down,” observe the restoration team in the DVD commentary track. But we do — why does Scottie need a walking stick and a support garment in scene two? Because he’s fallen four storeys shortly after the end of scene one. How come he didn’t die? Maybe Conductor 71 missed him in the fog. (But cinematographer Robert Burks — on top form — doesn’t use a fog filter until we get to the graveyard scene…)

Thinking of A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH reminds me of my late friend Lawrie, with whom I last watched this movie. “Oh, I’m sure I’ve seen it at some point,” he said, airily. Either he hadn’t, or he’d forgotten it in the last forty years, because it was all new and wonderful to him. He would shoot glances of amazement at me all through it. “The most interesting thing Hitchcock ever did!” he proclaimed. Lawrie did like his hyperbole, but he’s not actually wrong.


Midge is Samuel Taylor’s invention, and one we can be grateful for. She grounds the movie, without totally earthing it and letting the energy escape. Apart from her scenes, it’s surprising how closely the action of the first half mirrors that of the book. Even Madeleine’s grey suit is there. Barbara Bel Geddes, who also acted for Hitch in Lamb to the Slaughter, an Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode based on a Roald Dahl story, gives the film added humanity. The other masterstroke is Jimmy Stewart, who is Mr Credible. Oddly, the script insists they were at college together, except he’s 50 and she’s 36. The cantilever bra on her drawing board is described as the invention of “an aircraft engineer” — a Howard Hughes reference? Recall that BBG played opposite a Hughes surrogate, Robert Ryan as Smith Ohlrig in her other big movie, Max Ophuls’ CAUGHT.

Midge is, I think, the last Hitchcock character who draws. Artists figure obsessively in his work, and often use their drawing and painting to woo, as Midge does later. Think of the sleazy painter in BLACKMAIL, the stick figure courtship in RICH AND STRANGE, or John Forsythe trading his abstracts for a double bed in THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY. (The painter of those abstracts, John Ferren, also designed VERTIGO’s “Special Sequence.”) And after all, Hitch had used his art to snare Alma, in a way.


Hitch, perhaps returning his French horn to the Friends of the Evergreen Society?

I enjoy how, learning of Elster’s dockside address, Midge and Scottie speculate that he may have fallen on hard times. Love how the nonentity Elster is assumed by his old friends to be a washed-up failure, implying that if he hadn’t married money, that’s just what he’d be.

“Power and freedom” — the first CLUE in the movie, a refrain introduced by Gavin Elster (another college chum of Stewart’s, even though he’s English) and soon taken up by Pop Liebel in the Argosy Bookshop and finally Kim Novak herself. Although VERTIGO’s status as a twist-ending tale is arguably it’s least interesting attribute, it’s still quite satisfying to follow the breadcrumbs when rewatching the movie, seeing how the hocus pocus works. Of course, the idea of Madeleine being possessed by a reincarnated ancestor is, if anything, MORE plausible than the Rube Goldberg assassination scheme used to “explain” it — maybe that’s why the hero strangles the heroine in the book, because she’s ruining a perfectly good supernatural story.

(It was just after this film that Hitch seriously tried to make MARY ROSE, his JM Barrie ghost story adaptation. He went as far as obtaining the original score of the London stage production he saw in his youth, to inspire Bernard Herrmann in his Wagnerian soundtrack for VERTIGO. Incidentally, the star of that stage show was Fay Compton — owner of Hill House in THE HAUNTING, and co-star of Hitch’s WALTZES FROM VIENNA.)

Exactly as in the book, Elster uses a trip to the opera to bring his detective and wife-impersonator together (Kim Novak’s great roles always cast her as wife-impersonators: cf Polly the Pistol in Billy Wilder’s KISS ME STUPID). Herrmann brings on the love theme for its first outing, and proceeds to show us how many changes he can ring on it in the course of the story. Madeleine is seen for the first time in profile, a recurring motif — Judy is also introduced this way.


Following Madeleine: the long, slow, obsessive sequence, which started life much longer (until Hitch instructed editor George Tomasini to ignore San Francisco geography) and was to have VO dialogue between Elster and Scottie. The black wipe opening up on the flower shop. The museum (source of all those DePalma Steadicams). The cemetery, which it’s curiously localised fog effect (Burks’ fog filter doesn’t really try to suggest actual fog, it’s the mist of dream — and very effective, in spite of Hitch’s SPELLBOUND ruling that dreams are always quite sharp).

Madeleine checks into the McKittrick Hotel, and vanishes, without explanation. Hitch apparently shot a section of Judy’s later flashback that shows the hotel receptionist being bribed to facilitate this vanishing act, but he cut it — perhaps realising that he was replacing an old mystery, forgotten by most viewers, with a fresh one — why enlist the receptionist unnecessarily? Why vanish at all? The scene has a direct ancestor in the book, but Madeleine doesn’t vanish there. Here it’s just a bit of enigma to spice up the slow part — Hitch was acutely aware that he had nothing but slight intrigue to hook his audience here, and then only a love story to snare them with until Madeleine does a Waring Hudsucker.

Now both Elster and Hitchcock need to move their plot to the next level, so Madeleine jumps in the bay. Stewart rescues her, dragging her up a set of steps that don’t, in fact, exist at the at location — nicely prefiguring the belltower at San Juan Battista, which likewise doesn’t exist.


Novak speaks — in a strange posh quasi-English accent, perhaps modeled on Tom Helmore’s Elster-speak. In fact, she sounds a bit like Dr Evil. Novak’s performance here only really works if we see her as Judy playing a role, not too skillfully. Even the muttering in her sleep — I can just make out “The house, my child…” — is in character as Madeleine/Carlotta. I listened to it very carefully, because it was amusing to think that if Judy talked in her sleep for real, and Scottie heard her, she might give away the whole plan before it’s really started.

As meet-cutes go, it’s pretty memorable. The censors objected to everything here — the underwear drying in the kitchen, Novak being nude, Novak being embarrassed, and Stewart’s pause in the next scene with her: “I enjoyed… talking to you.” Hitchcock ignored their concerns, and Stewart really milks that pause for maximum suggestion.


Nice plotting when Stewart sets off to follow Novak the next day — the same places, inevitably, with Herrmann’s score adding heavy doom notes — and finds her stopping by his apartment to thank him. Which gets us to the first “date” (he’s already undressed her so it’s a backwards kind of relationship) and the giant redwood, referenced so beautifully by Chris Marker in LA JETEE. “Here I was born, and here, I died.” Novak starts to get more into her role. In the forest, she seems to disappear again, then is rediscovered. The sea! The first big Wagnerian love scene, and the problem of Madeleine’s possible madness is now stated. It’s Scottie’s task to cure her by proving she’s not mad, that there are reasons she remembers all this stuff — perfectly rational explanation. Some hope.

Scottie must now play detective-shrink, which is what leads him and Madeleine inexorably to the old mission house. Madeleine’s invented dream — which will soon become Scottie’s ACTUAL dream — provides all the clues. But although Scottie constantly does what a good detective and shrink should do, it never works out. My friend, the arch-genius Comrade K, suggests that VERTIGO can be seen as Hitch’s anti-Freudian story, where confrontation with the truth just leads to renewed trauma. Hitch WAS skeptical about therapy: after all, he was well aware of the source of his policeman phobia, but knowing its origins did him no good at all.


Midge’s role continues to be essential for now — she represents the reality Scottie is drifting loose from. With her commercial art and her hanging bras, it’s been suggested that Midge demystifies sexuality, which is why Scottie prefers the unreal Madeleine. But I know a lot of guys who are crazy about Midge, and BBG is so sweet in the role…

Taking Madeleine to the site of her dream seems like a good idea, but it backfires rather badly. Note the very compressed editing as Novak flees — Alma objected to Novak’s run, and Hitch had George Tomasini cut the sequence to the bone. “She will just leap from one side of the square to the other, but nobody will notice it because we will cut from big head to big head.”

(I love Hitch’s use of “big head” instead of close-up. Reminds me of Put Money in They Purse, Micheal MacLiammoir’s memoir of shooting Welles’s OTHELLO. According to Welles, an emigré director in Hollywood’s silent days had been in the habit of asking for a “Big Head of Pola” when shooting his star, Pola Negri. From then on, all closeups in OTHELLO are referred to as Big Heads of Pola.)


More vertigo effect exponential zooms as Stewart chases Novak upstairs. Now, we’re told that no record of the model used exists. But I’m not convinced it IS a model. In the first shot, Stewart’s hands can be seen in the foreground — and the finger move. It’s not a GI Joe doll or something. If they can raise the camera vertically two flights, why not more? Indeed, there is a high angle of Stewart descending at the end, so they certainly COULD situate the camera up there, though lowering it while zooming would certainly be trickier. I’m wondering if they alleyway was a model shot and the tower shot real? The tower was built, it seems, full-scale, for the actors to act in. If I’m right, this would explode a major piece of accepted wisdom about the making of this movie…


Great matte painting showing Madeleine’s body being recovered from the roof, while Scottie wanders off in a daze. The God Shot.

Now we get Henry Jones’s drolly vicious turn as DA, one of the few sequences of plodding prose left in the film — verging on the dreaded “photographs of people talking” — not a bad scene, just a necessary rather than an exciting one. Jones is delightful in Tashlin’s THE GIRL CAN’T HELP IT, whose nominal star, Tom Ewell, is excellent in The case of Dr Pelham, an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents directed by the man himself, which deals with a Doppelganger, and is one of only a couple of Hitchcock films to avoid a rational explanation — the story’s nightmarish events are the work of an agency “more than human…”


The Special Sequence! Fiona demands I prepare for her, somehow, a T-shirt bearing Jimmy Stewart’s Big Head flying disembodied through a Vortex of Insanity. Maybe I will, maybe I will. It’s the ruffled hair and little corner of neck that make it. Dig also the plunge into open grave — replayed in Gilliam’s BRAZIL, a decade before her recombined VERTIGO in 12 MONKEYS — and the splay-legged knock-kneed unstrung puppet figure of Stewart dropping bedazzled into an aerial landscape that bleaches out into the White Screen of Death — a cinema screen with nothing projected on it.


And now the psych hospital scene, a recasting of THE WRONG MAN — even the nurse, with her professional smile, and the doctor, with his professional concern, seem the same. (In fact, Scottie has the same doctor as THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN — and he’s equally helpless in both cases.) Scottie sits zombified in the care home listening to exactly the kind of light classical music he objected to Midge playing in scene two.

From Chris Marker’s SANS SOLEIL.


Long pan of San Francisco skyline, which stands in for any explanation of what’s happened to Midge or how Stewart has recovered. This odd transition actually backs up Chris Marker’s semi-crackpot theory that the whole last 45 minutes of the film are Scottie’s fantasy, rewriting part one in vain hope of making it come out better, rather like the second part of LOST HIGHWAY and the first part of MULHOLLAND DRIVE seem like fantasy attempts at rewriting the intolerable fact of death.


Stewart now revisits the scenes where he saw Madeleine, behaving at once like a madman — since what can he hope to find? — and a detective (methodical, plodding). Lee Patrick’s scene as the new owner of Madeleine’s green Jag illustrates the dangers of the Hitchcock style — her voice trails off before Stewart cuts her off, an awkward bit of sound editing that reminds us of how pre-packaged and artificially assembled everything here is.

But then Judy’s entrance redeems all that — laughing with her friends, she seems like a figure from a parallel documentary, although Hitch takes care to catch her in profile, and her strange Groucho Marx eye-brows add a note of artifice. “She very obviously does not wear a bra,” observed M. Truffaut, and as a teenager reading that I thought, “What a typical Frenchman.” But now I find her breasts awe-inspiring and impossible to wrench my eyes from. What a dirty old man I have become.

Novak as Judy is a superb, natural and moving as she is stiff and weird as Madeleine, which totally works and is at least somewhat intentional on the actress’s part (although I’d favour playing Madeleine as a completely separate character with complete conviction, but that’s just me). As a big Vera Miles fan, I’m still curious as to what her casting would have been like (a Portrait of Carlotta featuring Miles does exist) — some will talk about the surprising qualities Novak brings to the role, but my own view is that a superior actress is ALWAYS better, whatever qualities you want to talk about. And Miles beats Novak hands down, BUT — Novak is utterly excellent in part two and I don’t know if anybody could have done it better.


Now: the controversial decision to dispel mystery by explaining Judy’s resemblance almost as soon as she’s been introduced. Hitchcock actually argued for removing this scene just before the release, and got in quite a savage argument with his associate producer, Herbert Coleman (really, Coleman was the producer, but Hitch’s desire for sole authority was such that he preferred to leave that title unclaimed). The scene has one major effect apart from clearing up the confusion and focussing us more on suspense as to the outcome — it makes Judy into a more sympathetic character at the end. If we didn’t know of her role in the murder, we’d be shocked, I guess, to discover that this poor doormat had tricked Scottie and us, so the compassion we feel for her up until her unmasking would be broken, right before the conclusion. So I think the scene is defensible on those grounds. Seeing Judy write a confession to Scottie, we get to hear of her guilt and desire to do the right thing by him. On the other hand, treating the story as a typical Boileau-Narcejac twist-in-the-tale yarn would certainly work, and may have been more popular. The trouble with those movies is, I seldom want to watch them twice — the exception being LES DIABOLIQUES.

Judy’s flashback is anticipated in the scenes which suddenly switch to Midge’s POV earlier, as when she sees Madeleine leaving Scottie’s apartment late at night. Hitch always seems to do this — establish a clear POV character, then switch away for brief but telling moments — usually to the POV of a woman.


Following the colours in this movie is fascinating. Stewart most often in brown, but he picks up the green from Novak’s car, and the Edith Head gown she wears at Ernie’s, and wears a green jumper after rescuing her from the bay. Judy is first seen in her green dress, which ought to be a clue. Later, a green skirt and brown top, harmonizing with Stewart’s suit (his blue eyes practically sear through the screen amid all these earth tones). The gray suit is useful because you can give it any colour value, so the green neon of the Hotel Empire sign hazes Judy into the ghost of Madeleine, and then Judy/Madeleine seems to walk THROUGH Robert Burks’s fog filter, without breaking it, like Bela Lugosi passing through the spider’s web on the stairs of Castle Dracula, or like Death walking through a mirror in Cocteau’s ORPHEE.

Stewart’s plan, to possess Judy with the spirit of dead Madeleine, as she was possessed by Carlotta (like Boris Karloff in THE MUMMY?), is quite crazy, and faithful to the book, leading to the famed obsessive makeover. It’s a very Poe idea — specifically, it’s the plot of Ligeia, where the narrator seeks to use his unloved second wife’s body as host to the soul of the departed, and still adored, first wife. It’s Judy’s desperation to be loved that Novak excels at, the emotion which causes her to allow Stewart’s attempts to erase her and replace her with a phantom — a woman she knows never really existed. It’s very much a film about a filmmaker and fantasist, in this sense, because Scottie does not, in the end, love a dead woman, he loves somebody who was an invention, an unreal construct. And his quest is to make her real. Whether Hitchcock tried to do this with Tippi Hedren or not, he certainly did something similar every time he made a film on paper and then attempted to actualize it.

Incidentally, Taylor and Hitchcock get over the weirdness of Stewart’s quest quite neatly — he never fully explains what he’s doing. What we see is the sinister makeover, which is disturbing enough, but the real goal is hinted at (and comes straight from the book). I don’t think there’s any way to deny that this is what Scottie’s up to.

As Arthur S helpfully pointed out yesterday, Stewart BECOMES Elster — the villain of the piece — making over Judy as Madeleine and dragging her to the old mission just as Elster had done. So there are multiple cases of possession going on here. Stewart, meanwhile, becomes truly terrifying towards the end — all the more so because he’s still Jimmy Stewart, still in some way making a claim on our sympathies. The scene where he decides he has to dye Judy’s hair — brilliant! He’s staring at her head EXACTLY like Gaston Modot stares at the statue’s foot in L’AGE D’OR. Oblivious to the suffering human being in front of him, fixated on the image of his fetish idol.

“It can’t matter to you!” The greatest line in cinema. Taylor denies any intention of provoking a laugh here, but it usually gets one (I’ve never heard anyone laugh at Judy’s place or origin, “Salina, Kansas,” although Taylor was convinced they’d be rolling in the aisles). And not, I think, a bad laugh — it’s the laughter of shock. It doesn’t take people out of the picture, and it isn’t an expression of superiority… well, maybe over Scottie. And it’s usually women who laugh most because the sentiment is more grotesque, and maybe more recognizable, to them, from their dealings with the male of the species…


The rotating turntable shot of Scottie and Judy embracing in the hotel, with space-time melting around them, and Herrmann’s great score freaking out on the soundtrack, is one of the greatest moments of cinema ever, I contest. I particularly dig the moment when Jimmy Stewart looks up and NOTICES that he’s elsewhere, then kind of shrugs and goes back to kissing Novak. And the blue-green haze that engulfs them at the end is sublime, like an abstract space that isn’t the hotel or the mission or anywhere. The embrace of death.

Post-coital satisfaction, and a happy, charming, naturalistic performance by Novak, before Scottie’s detective side reasserts itself and he rumbles the deception, due to her extremely foolish error of putting on the Carlotta necklace. Off to the mission! The same shots used, though now day-for-night, emphasizing the  quality of hypnotic reenactment here. Recall Midge quoting the doctor who said Scottie’s vertigo could only be cured by another emotional shock…


The mission, with its painting of a tower (the first time we see it, the Scary Nun of Death can be seen walking across the lawn, on her circuitous way to terrify Novak to her death). Stewart is now the detective explaining why he’s called us all here today, and reenacting the crime, he’s an Elster surrogate re-staging the original murder, a doctor treating a patient with vertigo (himself), and a betrayed lover confronting his mistress with the proof of her infidelity. He fails rather badly at all his roles, except in seemingly curing his high anxiety — which does him no good. He loses his fear, while discovering just what he had to be afraid of.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never wholly liked the nun. I like her better now that I’ve spotted her elsewhere (she’s at the inquest too), and now I know she’s dubbed by Novak. But despite her bringing in Hitch’s Catholicism, she always seemed a slightly unwelcome addition to a movie that’s practically a two-hander. I mean, Elster doesn’t count as human, and Midge, though very warm and real, has disappeared entirely from part two and we don’t actually miss her. So the Scary Nun of Death is a bit of a Deus Ex Machina. But as Sidney Lumet says, nothing has to be perfect.

In any case, the ending is more intriguing and satisfactory than that of the source novel, where the hero strangles the heroine — interestingly, because she’s explained the plot to him, and he can’t accept it. I guess a few audience members have felt that way. But the idea that our protag prefers to kill the woman rather than face the reality that his great love was based on an illusion is an interesting one. My problem with the nun is that she seems, on the face of it, arbitrary.


If she represents a maleficent fate, she’s making a late entry into the story-world. If anything, she’s like the return of the numinous specters haunting part one, seemingly banished by the explanation of the murder plot, but still lurking in the belfry of the subconscious. “…someone within me, and she says I must die…” In the end, we are left with a man standing on the brink. John Boorman would probably suggest he’s imagined the whole story while hanging from a drainpipe at the end of scene one — like the hero of Ambrose Bierce’s An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge. Certainly, Scottie’s situation has spiraled back to the end of part one. How many more times does he have to climb this tower? The novel’s last line is superimposed across my mind’s eye — ‘I shall wait for you,’ he said.

UK purchasers:

Vertigo – 50th Anniversary Special Edition [DVD] [1958]

North By Northwest [Blu-ray] [1959]

US purchasers:

Vertigo (Collector’s Edition)

North by Northwest (50th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Book) [Blu-ray]

Alfred Hitchcock – The Masterpiece Collection

For B. Kite.

55 Responses to “Friends of Carlotta”

  1. Wonderful. I think when one thinks of a handful of truly special achievements of 20th Century Art, Vertigo would stand as among the great achievements. Visually the film is amazingly beautiful, some of the shots looking like works by El Greco and Herrmann’s score(which is one of the few occassions he did not personally orchestrate, one of his great regrets as he felt the composition was probably the best that he did) is something else.

    One nice alternative title could have been Lamia since they used Keats for Darkling I Listen. Lamia would fit the Carlotta Valdes story of a woman driven mad after having her children taken away from her and of course it has the same syllables as Vertigo so maybe it would suit Hitchcock but at the same time it might be risky because it could invite accussations of pretense and make the regulars think it was artier than it already was.

    I have to ask if the edition you used was the one with the unrestored soundtrack since that is the most controversial aspect of that restoration by the Harris/Katz team. The new stereo soundtrack they put in had foleys that was not there in the original.

    Truffaut’s main defence for Kim Novak was that she was sexy and earthy(calling her “an animal” and “carnal”) and Hitchcock shrugged in his interviews(although he admitted that Vertigo was one of his favourites). Vera Miles might have been more convincing as Madeleine and powerful as Judy and maybe she might have been more moving and more forceful. Tag Gallagher said that he thought Madeleine/Judy was a theoretical woman unlike Vera Miles and Ingrid Bergman in the early Hitchcocks. What Novak brings in to the role is that Vera Miles might have allowed the audience to see her as with the same romantic dreaminess as Scottie but Novak brings a naivete to the part and in the second half we identify with Scottie’s obsession but we also know it’s all in his head.

  2. Novak is totally real as Judy and arguably too unreal as Madeleine — Miles would have played M more convincingly, I think. But I think Novak somehow identifies closely with Judy and makes her need to be loved quite tangible and painful. There’s nothing theoretical about Judy.

    Alas, I don’t have a copy with the unrestored sound yet, but hope to obtain one and make that my next viewing of the film. Some of the new foley work in the church is ridiculously intrusive — I find much of the new sound in Touch of Evil likewise too overpowering: they just don’t seem to be able to keep it down! Everything has to have maximum “impact”.

    With Muir Matheson as conductor the score acquires greater lushness and romanticism — Herrmann always preferred a colder, harder sound. Of course the ecstatic approach works well for this movie, but I’m sure Herrmann’s would have been equally effective.

  3. The Cinematheque Francaise has an IB Technicolor print of the film gifted to Henri Langlois by Hitchcock himself. Richard Brody of the New Yorker claimed to have seen it in France when he was doing research for his Godard book. An IB print would have the unrestored soundtrack and the colours never fade. Harris/Katz did marvellous work for Lawrence of Arabia and especially Rear Window. I heard somewhere that the new stereo soundtrack with the extra unneccessary foleys was a studio made compromise to get the rest of the work done. I’ve never seen the film with the unrestored soundtrack so I can’t tell the difference but then my DVD player is blessed with low sound so that the dialogue and music is all I can hear, the latter dominating the former. I hear that an earlier DVD release for the masterpiece edition does have the unrestored soundtrack as an option. The new DVD release of last year promised the old soundtrack but apparently did not include it, all the did was a new mix of the new mix.

  4. I’ve added a link to the Alfred Hitchcock Masterpiece Collection, which seems to be the box set which maybe has the original mix, if anyone has $100 to spare.

    The interview with the restoration team in Auiler’s Vertigo book seems to hint that making the film available in DTS was a necessary commercial step to get the studio to pay for restoration. A damn shame. Similar rerecording on The Big Red One and The Good the Bad and the Ugly also strikes me as rather reprehensible.

  5. Actually it’s very important that a Madeleine be unreal. That links in to the one thing you don’t mention in your otherwise excellent read-out: J.M. Barrie’s Mary Rose. This was Hitch’s dream project — about a woman who comes back from the dead. he said he never figured out a way to do it. But I think he did in Vertigo
    My late friend Warren Sonbert, a marvelous experimental filmmaker and bon vivant (who I wrtie abou tangentially HERE) used to give Vertigo Tours in San Francisco, way back before the film became critically fashionable stateside. He also used to write opera reviews for the “Bay Are Reporter” under the nom de plume of

    (wait for it!)

    “Scottie Ferguson.”

  6. David Boxwell Says:

    Harry Cohn was reputed to have said to Novak that she was “just a piece of meat.” All she had to do to bring Judy brilliantly to life is just draw on that traumatic encounter.

    VERTIGO instantly on Youtube: in the early 80s it was almost impossible to see the film in the States in ANY form–out of circulation, and what few prints were available were faded and torn. This only added to its mystique . . .

    I’ll echo complaints about the sound restoration. . . The initial gunshots are grotesquely anachronistic.

    What does Scottie do after he’s undressed Judy and put her to bed? Do the laundry? Go out for a bite to eat? Or just sit and stare at her for 8 hours . . . or . . .

  7. David Boxwell Says:

    I used to be very annoyed at Novak’s fake “posh” diction as Madeleine–now I think it’s brilliant. I used to be very annoyed at Judy’s overdone eyebrow pencil. Now I think it’s inspired.

    Is BBG made up to look like Patricia Hitchcock? (Even with similar eyewear)?

  8. David Boxwell Says:

    Re-capture those special, desperate Scottie-Judy makeover moments at The Vertigo Hotel on Sutter Street!

  9. David Boxwell Says:

    Scottie’s disembodied head in the nightmare sequence is reminiscent of all the singing heads at the end of the equally hallucinatory THE GANG’S ALL HERE (43), directed by Busby B.

  10. a great film–my favourite after Mulholland Dr… I just love everything about it–although your point about the contingency of the nun’s appearance is well taken (still, it does “rhyme” nicely with the ludicrous series of contingent events that pave the way to Madeleine’s plunge)

    I agree that Vera Miles is a much better actress than Novak–but I’m glad we got Kim in this film–no one this side of Marilyn Monroe knew more about being made over by men for other men, and that awareness gives her performance a remarkable power

    which brings us to the POV shift–for me, it’s essential… catching subjective lightning in the erstwhile protagonist’s fetishized genie-bottle… there’s no other way to communicate just how sick Scottie is–and from that moment on, we (or, at least, I) care more about what ol’ Jim is gonna do to our heroine than we do about the ruse that she helped to put over on him

    I also think the shift invalidates the argument that the second half is Scottie’s fantasy–why on earth would he fantasize Judy’s palpable fear and desperation? He’s not even AWARE of it (except in his instinctive recognition of the ways he can make use of it–“IT CAN’T MATTER TO YOU”)

    Barbara Bel Geddes is also quite extraordinary in this role–her “Was it a ghost? Was it fun?” moment is key–we need it to provide the appropriate context for Scottie’s developing obsession

    David B.–love the Gang’s All Here callback–ol’ Busby really gave a gift to the world with that disembodied head chorus

    personally–I can’t think of Vertigo without reference to Dieterle’s Portrait of Jennie (and also the 1970s Gwen Stacy clone storyline from Amazing Spider-Man)… those texts can keep you busy on the problem of the fetishistic sublime for the rest of your life…

    re: anti-Freud…. I definitely share (what I see as) Hitchcock’s view that fixation/obsession/neurosis is best approached through FURTHER defamiliarization, rather than by way of demystification (“the talking cure)

  11. Hitchcock noted that the interest for him in the story was how Scottie’s makeover of Kim Novak was a reversal of the sexual foreplay of taking off clothes. Here the more clothes, the more cloistered he makes his object of desire, the more he (and we) are turned on. When she’s walking the street with her friends without a bra, it does nothing for him. But when he puts her in the clothes, has her hair tightened in a bun, he is totally turned on. So it’s actually a reversal of the madonna whore complex. Here the hero turns a “whore”(or a woman with comfortable sexuality) into a “madonna” and wants to f–k the madonna. And look how happy Scottie is after the scene d’amour in the spinning hotel room. Stewart’s body posture is very sensual in that scene, his character finally getting the action he always wanted.

    The scene where Scottie takes her to the department store to get her new dresses is anticipated in Ray’s BIGGER THAN LIFE where James Mason takes family to a weird-as-hell shopping spree. He sees a co-worker wear an attractive dress and then he sees his wife paraded before him in different clothes than sees a dress in the background and goes, “Wait, I want to see her in that!” treating his wife like a prostitute or a stripper.

  12. Kim didn’t like her gray suit, and had to be conned into it by Edith Head. But then she felt that her discomfort with the clothes helped her play the part.

    There are definitely aspects of the second half that would require frantic shoehorning to fit any kind of “Scottie’s fantasy” hypothesis — but the same can be said of the first section of Mulholland Dr.

    It seems that Hitchcock MUST have seen a connection between Scottie’s makeover of Judy and what he himself did with Vera Miles, then Novak, and later Hedren, but he never gave any hint of it. He also liked recounting his dreams to writers, with an air of wide-eyed innocence, waiting for them to tell him what it all meant — but I suspect he may have been having them on. (My favourite is the one he told Jay Presson Allen about his penis being made of etched crystal, and being very precious.)

  13. exactly! that’s why I always feel compelled to dispute the demystifying wish-fulfillment interpretation of Mulholland Dr.

  14. Great work, David!

    Now I’d like to see someone film “D’entre les morts” with utter fidelity, preserving its French WWII era setting and murderous ending. (Somebody should suggest this to Chabrol.)

  15. Chabrol would certainly be the right guy. And while Hitchcock is faithful enough to the book for most scenes to have direct correlations to things in B&N’s novel, everything’s different enough to make the exercise quite an interesting one, I’d say.

    In the book, Gevigne is a hopeless drunk by part 2. In the film, there are hints of Scottie going that way — his studied refusal of a drink from Elster at the start, after looking at his watch to establish that it really IS “a little early,” followed by his “I NEED that drink,” at their second meeting. But after M’s death and his crack-up, that idea is dropped. Although I think Midge pours him a drink each time he comes round, including in the deleted “tag” scene at the end.

  16. Christopher Says:

    I agree with anagramsci on the Portrait of Jennie connection..another film that effects me about the same way as Vertigo..2 fragile fellows in love with a fantasy..Well make that 3 fellows..I return to Vertigo over and over myself,hoping it will all be differen’t this time and maybe Judy’liene will re-appear a third time!..That was a mean trick to pull on poor ol’ Jimmy…I can just imagine audiences back then leaving the movie “Well of all the NERVE!”..but its so good! heh heh..go on back to reality Scotty!
    I need to look into Mullholand Dr. again..I recall it had the same peculiar affect on me that this and “Jennie” did..perhaps a bit long..

  17. […] 4, 2009 David Cairns’ extraordinary Hitchcock year has reached the dizzying peak of Vertigo, and you ought to read that entry […]

  18. See also Lang’s The Woman in the Window and Preminger’s Laura

  19. [Notes Taken While Reading This Piece]

    Alec Coppel — I think I remember reading that the scene with the court verdict, the “not guilty … but still guilty” stuff was supposed to be largely Coppel.

    Age difference between Scottie and Midge — 1958, the vear of “Vertigo,” ain’t that far from WW2. Perhaps Scottie was in college as part of a G.I. bill, after his military involvement?

    Midge, and the purpose she provides in the story strikes me as similar to Micaela in Bizet’s “Carmen” — or Betty Schaefer in “Sunset Boulevard,” for that matter. All are “normal” characters whose purpose is to show the derangement of the central characters.

    For Madeleine’s entrance, you’ll notice how the reds of Ernie’s walls become slightly more intense at “1:14”. It’s what, in the theater, is called a “star bump.” The lights go up a notch when La Star enters, to show us that what we’re watching is Someone Special.

    The nun, for me, makes her first appearance in that strange silhouette when Madeleine appears at Scottie’s door. Of course, we realize that it *is* Madeleine, but before that the form seems to belong to a phantasm — which is what the nun, basically, is when she makes her final appearance. (For what it’s worth, the end of Verdi’s “Don Carlo” has always reminded me of the end of the end of “Vertigo.” The hero has a fit, of sorts, and dies because of what he sees — what he believes to be the deceased king, but what is actually a monk. That’s Verdi adapting the playwright Schiller, of course.)

    I remember Tim Hunter saying in the Hitchcock class — and I agree with him — that Novak had a Larger Than Life quality which was the central gain in the Miles-vs-Novak argument.

    I suppose that someone should mention that the “light classical music” in the hospital is Mozart, thus leading to the line which I loved quite a bit it high-school “I don’t think Mozart’s going to help at all.” And, of course, Herrmann’s score is built around Wagner’s “Tristan,” a work notable for its conjunction of eroticism and death. Perhaps “Vertigo” might be read as a conflict between Classical and Romantic, between Mozart and Wagner — and, by extension, between Midge’s world and that of Madeleine?

    James McCourt, in his “Queer Street” book, made an observation that’s worth repeating: that “Vertigo” becomes the story of two murders, of Elster murdering Madeleine and then Scottie murdering Judy.

    Sorry for going on so long. You’ve done beautifully, David. It’s just that “Vertigo is my favorite Hitchcock, and it gives us a lot to talk about.

  20. Thanks! The operatic comparisons are welcome, since it’s certainly a highly operatic film. And you’re right, the GI Bill could explain the Scottie-Midge age gap. Except that I think there’s dialogue about them having known Elster at college BEFORE the war. But I might have to check to be sure. Maybe Scottie and Elster are just younger than they look / than the actors playing them.

    The “star bump” is repeated, I think, just before Judy’s flashback, bringing us into her mind in a Detour kinda way, and also affirming, I guess, that she really IS the same broad.

  21. There’s a lot of Vertigo influence in Tom Ford’s (superb) adaptation of Isherwood’s A Single Man. Particularly in extreme close-ups of eyes as in the Saul Bass Vertigo credits.

  22. Christopher Says:

    THis has been an extremely good write up on Vertigo..I never tire of reading about one of my top 5 favorite films..
    Well probablly my favorite tribute to Vertigo was a mexican Telenovela called La Otra(The Other)which drew not only from Vertigo,but Now Voyager and The Heiress as well..About a simple fellow who falls for a rather fragile young lady,kept in a sort of prison life by her mother.The evil mother concocts a fake death and funeral of her daughter to get the young man to leave her alone..Heartbroken..He returns home only to meet a dopleganger,a dead ringer for his true love,He does the same make over thing Scottie does to Judy..They get married ,but its a bad marriage..He later take as a Sea cruise to get awy from the bitch..and on the same boat is his old Love who is not dead..She pretends to be his wife and they have a terrific affair on board..altho hes becoming greatly suspiscious…and so it goes..back and forth..THe good girl the real love’s name is Carlota.and even has a portrait painted in the same style as the Carlotta painting in Vertigo..Its all fantasy played very straight…and its fantastic..THeres a condensed version on DVD..but you can’t learn much from it as it originally ran as a 4 month series..

  23. One of these days, I’m gonna learn how to type accurately.

    Typing “hyust” for “just” in my last comment was forgivable, more or less, as was “conyunction” replacing “conjunction.” I must assert, however, that the accurate version of Midge’s line is “I don’t think Mozart’s going to help at all.” (“Think” got replace by “thing,” for crissakes!)

    Perhaps, with “The Lady Eve” in mind, a joke title for the script here might be “Positively The Same Dame!”

  24. Typos corrected! I somehow missed “thing” for “think” when I read it anyway.

    That telenovela sounds great! I love plotting when it reaches the heights of madness but is still invested with emotion.

  25. Thanks for the great article. For years I had only seen Vertigo on VHS. While I thought it was pretty good, I really didn’t get it. It was only when they came out with the new print a while back that I saw what an amazing film it was. I remember seeing that scene – the turntable shot, you call it – when he looks around the room while he’s kissing her and I thought, “that wasn’t in the movie I saw,” because it was cropped out. The whole film must have seemed like close ups or “big heads”.

    I always assumed that his line “It can’t matter to you” would not have gotten a laugh when it was made because women were used to being talked to like that back then. But now that I think about it, that doesn’t really explain it.

    It is a great film and it’s aged in a curious way. Filmmakers these days don’t really go for such complex themes and none of them could tackle them with such size. There’s just so many layers, some that don’t really make sense and some that make different sense every time you see it. Dialog and style today is much more realistic (and boring). But even compared to other Hitchcock, this one is so full of emotion and intelligence and power that it stands way above the crowd.

    I don’t think this is nearly Jimmy Stewart’s best performance. It’s the kind of role he did all the time – think of Winchester 73 – but he lacks that natural quality that makes him surprise you in the end. Maybe because he was older. Anyway, just a thought.

  26. […] by David Cairns‘ wonderful Vertigo post, I took another look at the film (a longtime favourite) last night. And today, as fate would have […]

  27. Good point about VHS cropping. Astonishing that it’s taken this long for widescreen to become (almost) standard.

    I have no problem with Stewart’s performance — if he’s better elsewhere, that’s because he was frequently so excellent. Bend of the River may be my favourite of his tortured semi-bad heroes, but put into the context of the rest of the film, Vertigo still has to be the stand-out for me.

    It’s true that the film resonates in various ways — it has just enough interbal logic to work as story, and then all kinds of other things going on which are less to do with narrative, more abstract.

    Hitchcock was really gearing up to make Mary Rose at this time, and did indeed put some of the feeling of the play into Vertigo. But it seems no studio was willing to let him make his ghost story — I can’t imagine why. We could really do with that screenplay being published.

  28. You’re right about Jimmy Stewart, he’s always great. I guess I just like his younger stuff.

    I did a quick search for the Mary Rose script after I read your article and found it pretty easily. I haven’t read it yet, but the first pages look interesting.

    Here’s the link. I’m sure you’ve seen this site.

  29. Stewart is amazing in this movie–although, if pressed, I think I’d still give the nod to It’s A Wonderful Life (for the tracked despair-to-bonhomie shot at the train station alone)

  30. Capra and Stewart compliment each other nicely as artists with a dark side that too often goes unacknowledged: they’re both at their best when they can give it almost-free rein.

  31. There’s no question he was at his best with Capra. But his later stuff with Anthony Mann was great too, and more along the lines of Vertigo, in the sense of that relaxed normal guy going off the hinges by the end. All the acting in Vertigo is great. As you said, Barbara Bel Geddes is great. I think Kim Novak is great too, even in the first half. It’s not a naturalistic performance, but that’s fine. Didn’t Hitchcock spend ages with his women stars making sure they got everything exactly like he wanted it? I remember reading Tippi Hedron’s account of doing The Birds. That’s the same sort of stiff performance too, and you can watch that formality coming apart in it, from where the bird first messes up her hair. It’s the same with Kim Novak.

    My favorite scene from It’s a Wonderful Life is the conversation with the father at the dinner table.

  32. Christopher Says:

    Alot of Actors could have done Scotty and turned in a definative performance..But there is only one Jimmy!..I’m looking forward to another seasonal viewing of Its A wonderful Life..any time now..

  33. I think this Christmas I might take the plunge and watch IAWL again, it’s been years.

    Yes, the Mann films are gloves-off, he goes to some pretty dark places in those. I’ve heard that when Mann cast Cooper in Man of the West, Stewart never spoke to him again. Was debating who could REALLY have played that role — Cooper is great, but you don’t quite believe he was ever a bad guy. I said I’d have believed Wayne. But I don’t suppose he’d have done it.

  34. I did a quick search for the Mary Rose script when I read your article and found it pretty easily. I’m sure you’ve seen this site…

  35. I’m sure you’ve seen this site, but they have the Mary Rose screenplay there…

  36. […] If you’re interested in talking about Vertigo, here’s the link. […]

  37. I never tire of It’s A Wonderful Life–like many, I wonder what film people have been watching when they describe it as a sappy “feelgood” film… it’s the preeminent Christmas Noir

  38. I haven’t seen Man of the West for a long time, but I remember it being steeped in questions of masculinity. Cooper is definitely more suited for something like that. Jimmy Stewart is masculine, but he’s not really an image of masculinity in the same way. Maybe I’m wrong.

  39. I think Cooper is the better choice for sure, and everything he does in the film is done with utter conviction. What’s less convincing is the idea that he was once a murderous outlaw.

    I think maybe Christmas Holiday is the preeminent Christmas noir for me, but IAWL certainly delivers its share of darkness, all the way through. And it’s been suggested that even the ending has an undercurrent of sadness.

  40. Christmas Holiday is a great one (finally saw it for the first time very recently)

    the ending of IAWL is certainly multivalent–the ultimate expression of “mind over matter”-type philosophy and of its diametric opposite: total surrender to material and social reality… it’s definitely a celebration of human communities (and of their power to dispel existential terrors–at least in fits and starts), but there’s no mistaking the note of “protesting too much” that gives this finale (along with the “resolution” of Meet John Doe) its shrill power

    ultimately, every Capra film asks the Hamlet question (they all deal with suicide–in some form or another)–and attempts to answer it with purely pragmatic (as opposed to prophetic) affirmations

    it’s definitely my favourite mixed film noir/film blanc (does that make it a film chiaroscuro? or a film zebra?)–and I think the Pottersville sequence is one of the triumphs of forties Noir style

  41. CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY is such a great film, I remember purchasing it on VHS from some private collector years ago. I got home from work, found it in my mailbox and immediately fired it up. Was pleasantly surprised after watching it, I had no idea what to expect but by the time it was over I knew it was one of my favorite noirs. It’s such an oddity, Gene Kelly and Deanna Durbin are the last two people you’d expect to be in a noir, and then of course there’s the title. I’m sure viewers were expecting snow, hot cocoa, sleigh bells, etc., Boy weren’t they surprised. What was Universal thinking? Although in this case I’m glad they weren’t thinking, because I love this film just as it is.

  42. Apparently the movie was a hit! Kelly certainly had an authentic dark side, and it plays very well here. Once had the odd experience of seeing Living in a Big Way dubbed into German (except the songs) and Kelly is quite sinister as a German.

  43. At one point early in the film there’s a close-up of Kelly’s face, he hovers over Durbin as she sleeps, that’s unforgettable. He’s smiling as I recall, and his face is masklike, perfect, beautiful, and very, very sinister.

  44. Cairns, we have a mutual acquaintance in the UK who characterizes IAWL as out-and-out horror, that Capra’s depiction of the townspeople was not unlike a scarves & nutmeg variation of the relentless fiends in Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. Heh!

  45. Yes, I was thinking of Chris’s interp. The ending for him shows Stewart being consumed by the family and community he’s tried so long to escape. The fact that he embraces it joyously is all the grimmer, in this reading of the film. Probably pretty far from Capra’s conscious intent, but no less valid for that.

  46. Pangofilms — sorry your messages were luking in my Spam file for some reason — not my doing. I shall check out the Mary Rose script with both alacrity and gusto.

    Guy: must find some pretext to get a screen grab of Kelly there, his little scar dimpling the porcelain countenance. There’s a similar shot at my Christmas Holiday post:

  47. This is the best single essay I’ve ever read (and I’ve read plenty) on Vertigo and want to give it a more careful (and leisurely) re-read. There seems to be though a misppprehension that Bernard Herrmann did not orchestrate his own score. Not so; the whole thing is his, but the conducting was done by Muir Mattheson, a stalwart of the British film music world.

  48. Mathieson’s name seems to appear on nearly every British film of the 40s and 50s. You’re absolutely right about his contribution to Vertigo, of course.

    And you certainly know how to get on my good side. Shucks. I can only say that I am standing on the shoulders of some very gigantic giants (which makes me dizzy).

  49. Wonderful work, David. Like others here, you’ve increased the depth, and pleasure, of my understanding of Vertigo. So glad for your passion and dedication!

  50. A correction: Novak claims that she didn’t dub the nun. Here’s what she said in the famous 2003 interview she did with Rebello:

    SR: The dubbing notes for Vertigo indicate that Hitchcock had you record the voice of the nun in the belltower.
    KN: Not so. I never did that.

    SR: You never recorded the nun’s voice.
    KN: (laughing) I would know if I had. Dubbing notes, notes from the set – they’re very imprecise. I tell you, I would have remembered that because I would have thought it was a fascinating idea – as if Judy’s guilt were haunting her so much that she imagined the nun speaking. That’s a wonderful idea. Do you suppose they’d let me dub it today because it would be so interesting to hear the scene done that way?

    Here’s the link for the whole interview:

  51. Has anyone ever noticed that Madeleine’s drying undergarments after her plunge in the bay are hanging on Scottie’s cane? I am sure Hitch did.

    Is there any chance that, in her haste to dress and leave Scottie’s place later in that scene, she perhaps mistakenly puts on Scottie’s discarded corset?

  52. Ha! Well, anything’s possible in that movie. If Scottie, Midge and Elster were all at school together, all bets are off.

  53. Seriously, though, Vertigo is one of those lightning in a bottle masterpieces. A worthy recipient of #1 on the Sight and Sound poll. I, too, would like to have seen Vera Miles in the role, but I think Kim Novak is phenomenal. The part clearly resonated with her.

    The dream – like quality of the whole movie excuses any complaint by the “plausibles” as Hitch called them. This is a descent into the dark corners of the soul. Every scene gets richer with every viewing.

    Consider that Madeleine/Judy has, as we later learn, faked her suicide attempt into the bay. Therefore, she has not passed out in one of her Carlotta possession trances. Therefore she is conscious the entire time that Scottie is removing her clothes! I think Scottie does it with such delicateness that she is moved. Judging from her description of life in Kansas, and, of course, Elster’s treatment, this may be the first time a man has not tried to “take advantage” of her.

  54. I would love to see a Vera Miles version but only if I could keep the Novak one too.

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