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Alfred Hitchcock's VERTIGO


MissGoddess
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Horse-Boy: "Hey, watch it. Ms. Hayes has much better-looking eyebrows."

 

Easy...easy on Kim's eyebrows. ^ ^ She didn't exactly look like Groucho...from the neck down.

 

Lafitte: "Still, I would like a little forest in my 'Vertigo', thank you...'Vertigo' demands so much more, it is wrought with emotion etc., it seems to require a little more versimilitude with reality because of what it puts us through. Just me.

 

Don't worry...I know that "Vertigo" and "Rear Window" are apples and oranges. But I think that because "Vertigo" is so emotionally draining, verisimilitude can be gently bent; we're thinking through our heart and desires here...not the steel trap of our minds.

 

And I think the breaking down and picking apart of "Vertigo" is the trees...not the forest. Just me. ;-)

 

Now about Martha Hyer...

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You're right, of course, but I think this is really the "other side of the same coin" in that Scottie wouldn't have been able to take Judy to these places, thereby risking the discovery and unraveling of Elster's entire plan, if Elster had eliminated her in the first place, as you say.

 

Well, that's like saying that Ray's father should've simply walked out of the cornfield at the beginning of FIELD OF DREAMS (if he had, there would have been no movie, of course). The problem of VERTIGO's illogic vis-a-vis Elster's leaving Judy alive is irreconcilable, so the film just has to rely on an audience's finding the who package so compelling that they overlook it.

 

We have to remember that films simply weren't made to be viewed over and over, and analyzed for minutiae the way we do now. In its way it's like old special effects that look fine in original 35mm print density, but look painfully obvious when viewed on home video, a medium on which they were never designed to be viewed.

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>Easy...easy on Kim's eyebrows. ^ ^ She didn't exactly look like Groucho...from the neck down.

 

Neither did Ms. Hayes ... especially when she was 50 feet tall and walking around in her hospital sarong.

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>We have to remember that films simply weren't made to be viewed over and over, and analyzed for minutiae the way we do now.

 

I agree 100%. Unfortunately, we would then be reduced to talking about

 

i) whether or not TCM should be showing newer films

ii) which politician we hate most

iii) ants invading Houston

iv) old threads I resurrect for my own amusement (e.g., Charlie Chan). By the way, I found a beaut several days ago, but I'm afraid to resurrect it.

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> {quote:title=CineSage_jr wrote:}{quote}

 

> We have to remember that films simply weren't made to be viewed over and over, and analyzed for minutiae the way we do now. In its way it's like old special effects that look fine in original 35mm print density, but look painfully obvious when viewed on home video, a medium on which they were never designed to be viewed.

 

CS and Fred:

 

Yes, that's quite true. These are thoughts that have come only on repeat viewings.

 

I well recall the first time I saw this film, which was in the 1980s when it was re-released to theaters. I was so swept up in the atmosphere, the characters, the scenery, the acting and even the plot that it wasn't until after repeat viewings that some of these shortcomings we've discussed presented themselves. As you said, Cine, the whole package was compelling enough.

 

Speaking for myself, I don't generally view a film very "critically" the first time I see it. Naturally, some thoughts will occur, but I don't really view with the idea of dissecting the film. So I would say again regarding VERTIGO that issues such as Elster's shortcomings as an evil genius are probably not likely to occur on a first viewing for most folks, and even despite this flaw, VERTIGO is still a gem, and one that warrants repeat viewings.

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>And I think the breaking down and picking apart of "Vertigo" is the trees...not the forest. Just me. ;)

 

Oh, I thought one was the plot and the other art. I guess I've lived in the city too long, haha.

 

Good points about parsing in general, we analyze so much now. As CineS alluded, back then movies came out and then disappeared. As others have mentioned here, I certainly don't remember being taken aback re the plot when I first saw it all those moons ago. I vaguely remember expecting the movie to end soon after Madeleine's death---that some story-ending twist was imminent---and was consequently jolted in my chair when the story resurrected itself with the appearance of Judy and then continued on.

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CM: "Easy...easy on Kim's eyebrows. ^ ^ She didn't exactly look like Groucho...from the neck down."

 

SCSU: "Neither did Ms. Hayes ... especially when she was 50 feet tall and walking around in her hospital sarong."

 

CM: So true so true. A whole lotta woman, wasn't she?

 

Lafitte: "Oh, I thought one was the plot and the other art. I guess I've lived in the city too long, haha."

 

No...you're right. Good analogy.

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There are lots of films that hold up well to repeated viewings, such as Citizen Kane, Gone with the Wind, The Letter, Mutiny on the Bounty. There are almost no flaws in these films (except I think Captain Bligh should have been thrown overboard late at night and reported the next day as simply being "missing").

 

I've seen Treasure of the Sierra Madre dozens of times and the only major flaw in it is that Curtin should have tied up Dobbs during those last few nights on the trail. There are a couple of minor flaws regrding the gold prospecting and mining, but they aren't noticed by people who aren't familiar with gold mining.

 

I can't think of any flaws in Double Indemnity. These types of murder cases occur all the time in this country. Well, there was one flaw due to the Code. The film never showed the killers "doing it", but we all know they did it. No lovers murder a husband just so they can have a few hugs and kisses.

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There are lots of films that hold up well to repeated viewings, such as Citizen Kane, Gone with the Wind, The Letter, Mutiny on the Bounty. There are almost no flaws in these films (except I think Captain Bligh should have been thrown overboard late at night and reported the next day as simply being "missing").

 

Except that, unlike the other titles you cited, the various versions of MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY is a true story, and Bligh didn't get thrown overboard in the middle of the night (besides, if, in a fictional story, he had been disposed of in such a matter, there would have been a less compelling reason for the mutineers to find an out-of-the-way refuge like Pitcairn Island to hide out from the inevitable retribution by the British Admiralty, which takes up roughly the last quarter of the movies).

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>Except that, unlike the other titles you cited, the various versions of MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY is a true story, and Bligh didn't get thrown overboard in the middle of the night (besides, if, in a fictional story, he had been disposed of in such a matter, there would have been a less compelling reason for the mutineers to find an out-of-the-way refuge like Pitcairn Island to hide out from the inevitable retribution by the British Admiralty, which takes up roughly the last quarter of the movies).

 

 

I?m saying that what the sailors should have done in real life was throw Bligh overboard. They could have either returned to England with the load of breadfruit, or returned to Tahiti and picked up a load of dames and then gone out in search of a deserted island.

 

What caused them all the trouble was in allowing Bligh to get away and get back to England.

 

Anyway, the Brando version didn't stick to the truth. The captain didn't die in a fire aboard the ship.

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> {quote:title=FredCDobbs wrote:}{quote}

> There are lots of films that hold up well to repeated viewings...

 

In addition to those you've listed, I'd add others which are personal favorites: NOW VOYAGER, for one. I can't think of any flaws in that one. A quibble would be that Charlotte and Jerry's romance doesn't go through any of the myriad of things that can cause love to die, but that's not really a flaw.

 

THE BIG SLEEP, '46 version, doesn't really have any flaws unless you count the rather labyrinthine nature of the plot. But that doesn't stop me from enjoying it several times a year.

Heck, I even enjoy DARK PASSAGE, and that is one farfetched movie!

 

THE DESPERATE HOURS, '55 version, holds up pretty well, too, but the fact that the crooks actually let Fredric March leave the house & go to work strains credulity.

 

I also enjoy repeat viewings of THE WINDS OF WAR and WAR AND REMEMBRANCE, the historical portions of which are actually quite (but not 100%) accurate.

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I?m saying that what the sailors should have done in real life was throw Bligh overboard. They could have either returned to England with the load of breadfruit, or returned to Tahiti and picked up a load of dames and then gone out in search of a deserted island.

 

What caused them all the trouble was in allowing Bligh to get away and get back to England.

 

Anyway, the Brando version didn't stick to the truth. The captain didn't die in a fire aboard the ship.

 

But if the mutineers had done what you suggest, then they'd have been as bad ad Bligh. Worse, even, and no longer victims, but victimizers. It's much like the scene in SPARTACUS, after the gladiators-in-training have rebelled and taken over Batiatus's training school: all they want to do is sally out into the countryside and wreak havoc, killing looting and ****, until Spartacus asks, "What are we becoming? Romans?" and points out that they have another choice -- to become "An army. An army of gladiators" whose mission it is to free "every slave in Italy."

 

Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall would never have written their Bounty trilogy of books if the mutineers had forsaken the heroic and the common good for the self-interest of revenge, and we would probably never have heard of them.

 

 

THE BIG SLEEP, '46 version, doesn't really have any flaws unless you count the rather labyrinthine nature of the plot. But that doesn't stop me from enjoying it several times a year.

Heck, I even enjoy DARK PASSAGE, and that is one farfetched movie!

 

The only thing wrong with THE BIG SLEEP is that it's neither as good, nor as entertaining as THE MALTESE FALCON

 

THE DESPERATE HOURS, '55 version, holds up pretty well, too, but the fact that the crooks actually let Fredric March leave the house & go to work strains credulity.

 

I see you've yet to have your family held hostage.

 

I also enjoy repeat viewings of THE WINDS OF WAR and WAR AND REMEMBRANCE, the historical portions of which are actually quite (but not 100%) accurate.

 

Protagonist Victor "Pug" Henry, the oldest and most somnolent man ever to be stuck at the rank of Commander in the history of the U.S. Navy.

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> {quote:title=CineSage_jr wrote:}{quote}

> The only thing wrong with THE BIG SLEEP is that it's neither as good, nor as entertaining as THE MALTESE FALCON

 

I would disagree on both points. I think a good case could be made either way, however.

 

> THE DESPERATE HOURS, '55 version, holds up pretty well, too, but the fact that the crooks actually let Fredric March leave the house & go to work strains credulity.

>

> I see you've yet to have your family held hostage.

 

And you have?

 

> I also enjoy repeat viewings of THE WINDS OF WAR and WAR AND REMEMBRANCE, the historical portions of which are actually quite (but not 100%) accurate.

>

> Protagonist Victor "Pug" Henry, the oldest and most somnolent man ever to be stuck at the rank of Commander in the history of the U.S. Navy.

 

Mitchum at his most somnolent still exudes more charm and charisma than most other actors who could have played the part. Besides, the character was only supposed to be around fifty.

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Mitchum at his most somnolent still exudes more charm and charisma than most other actors who could have played the part. Besides, the character was only supposed to be around fifty.

 

A Navy officer typically reaches the rank of commander (equivalent to Lt. Colonel in the other branches of the military) by about age 35. If he's not promoted past that by his early forties, the handwriting's usually on the wall that he's hit the advancement ceiling, and retirement usually follows.

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Yes, but was that the case during the years between the World Wars?

 

I understand that those were extremely hard times for all branches of the service as far as advancement was concerned. It's possible that that might have had something to do with it.

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I just have a minute but I wanted to post this article from an online Indian news magazine, which I thought was nicely expressed and shows how worldwide the pull of *Vertigo* remains:

 

A romantic piece from the master of suspense

Saturday May 24 2008 17:40 IST

 

Jai Arjun Singh

 

This month saw two significant anniversaries in American cinema. While May 20 was the birth centenary of James Stewart, one of Hollywood?s finest actors, the week before marked the 50th anniversary of a film that contained Stewart?s most complex performance: Alfred Hitchcock?s poetic, intensely personal masterpiece of romantic obsession, Vertigo.

 

Though it opened to indifferent reviews in 1958, Vertigo has seen a huge turnaround in critical reception over the decades, so much so that it now competes with the once-untouchable Citizen Kane on many ?best film? polls.

 

The film begins with a haunting prologue ? a scene that can almost be viewed as a standalone ? that shows detective Scottie Ferguson (Stewart) discovering (in the worst imaginable situation) that he suffers from a paralysing fear of heights. Though advised to recuperate for a few weeks, Scottie is intrigued when an old college friend asks him to follow his wife Madeleine (Kim Novak), who may be possessed by the spirit of an ancestor. Soon, the detective falls obsessively in love with Madeleine and becomes her protector. When she dies in an incident that might have been prevented if it weren't for his vertigo, the guilt-stricken Scottie withdraws into himself ? until, one day, he meets a woman named Judy, who strongly resembles his deceased love. They become close and then, unmindful of her feelings, he sets about trying to refashion her in the image of Madeleine.

 

It?s difficult to meaningfully discuss Vertigo without giving away spoilers, but suffice it to say that the thriller aspects of the film ? built around a convoluted, implausible plot ? are a pretext to explore much more universal themes about human relationships. In Scottie?s idealisation of Madeleine, his callous treatment of Judy and the latter?s hesitant succumbing to his manipulation, we can see the subtle emotional arm-twisting that accompanies the deepest relationships; how our feelings towards other people are very often based on the image of them we have created in our heads rather than what they are really like; and how people frequently make compromises or mould themselves to win the acceptance of someone they care about.

 

It's widely accepted today that this is Hitchcock?s most intimate work. This can be a stumbling block for the casual moviegoer, conditioned to think of the director as a witty entertainer who traded strictly in suspense films. Even for more knowledgeable Hitchcock fans, the emotional directness and rawness of Vertigo can be very unsettling, because we are used to seeing Hitchcock deal with serious ideas obliquely rather than head-on. This film doesn?t have the black humour, the sardonic detachment of Psycho or Rear Window, nor is it a full-blown entertainer like North by Northwest.

 

In fact, many people I know think of it as slow-moving and abstract, and some critics have theorised that it is best watched alone rather than in a hall with an audience.

 

But if you open yourself to it fully, this is a beautifully accomplished work that grows richer with each new viewing. It?s also a lovely film to look at (the original negative was in grave danger in the early 1980s, but a painstaking restoration process rescued it), full of lengthy wordless sequences and some very evocative use of San Francisco locations such as the Golden Gate Bridge and the sloping streets. Adding to its effect are Bernard Herrmann?s lush music score and Stewart?s daring performance as a man who willingly dives head-first into a situation that he may never be able to escape from. As an avid DVD collector, I?m hoping a special anniversary edition makes it to Indian stores soon.

 

Jai Arjun Singhis a Delhi-based freelance writer. He blogs at http://jaiarjun.blogspot.com

 

jaiarjun@gmail.com

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"...we can see the subtle emotional arm-twisting that accompanies the deepest relationships; how our feelings towards other people are very often based on the image of them we have created in our heads rather than what they are really like; and how people frequently make compromises or mould themselves to win the acceptance of someone they care about."

-Jai Arjun Singh

 

Thanxxx for citing this article MissGoddess. Reading this just crystallized something in my mind. The plot about Judy/Madeleine - fear of heights - new fangled cantilevered brassiers - inquests and phony suicides is all...all of it...all of it the MacGuffin. The whole reason of the movie is the quote I lifted. THAT is the movie.

 

I can only imagine the delicious torturous torment Hitchcock suffered (though happily married) by gazing weeks at a time at the likes of Kim, Grace, Ingrid, Doris, Eva Marie, Madeleine, Dietrich, Tippi, Suzanne, Fontaine, Teresa etc. (among others) and knowing he could never have them.

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You've done it again...citing an article beautifully written of Hitcock's masterpiece. And the messages below the article were wonderfully written.

 

I especially liked what Sarah Nichols wrote:

 

"Am finding it difficult to express just exactly how I feel about the wonderful Kim.Novak. I want to say that the scene in Vertigo, after Stewart brings her back to the hotel from their first date, is as once achingly sad and beautiful, and that the shot of her by the window, bathed in that ethereal green, breaks my heart.

 

Resignation and pain pass across her face like nothing I've seen in any other film. I think of Thoreau's phrase: 'the mass of men live lives of quiet desperation'. We see it here, writ in silence, the dream of an unconditional love draining away."

 

Wonderfully expressed!!

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Thank you for posting the Indian review and Kim Novak interviews, Missy G. I enjoyed reading them both. I thought Mr. Singh's review was on the mark and I really appreciated Richard Franklin's words on Ms. Novak.

 

1. From Richard Franklin, Melbourne, Australia.

 

When I was directing PSYCHO II, I discussed VERTIGO with Vera Miles. She told me Hitch was furious that she had become pregnant on the eve of his making her a star. But in this instance Hitch was wrong about the casting of his greatest picture.

 

I have seen material of Vera in the Madeleine/Judy part and am firmly convinced that the main reason VERTIGO transcends all of Hitchcock's other work is the performance, the sensuality (and vulnerability) of Kim Novak.

 

Whatever tensions may have existed during the shoot, Kim far exceeds any other 'Hitchcock

blonde' with the strength of her performance. Vera was beautiful, but did NOT possess the

ethereal quality of Kim. Eva Marie Saint, Grace Kelly and even 'Madeleine' Carroll do not come close. When I first showed the picture to my friend and colleague Dr George Miller (MAD MAX,

LORENZO'S OIL, WITCHES OF EASTWICK), who you may be aware is a student of Joseph

Campbell et al, he commented he had never seen a more perfect embodiment of the

Jungian 'anima' than Kim Novak in VERTIGO. Kim's Madeleine is simply the perfect female.

 

I am of the opinion the repressed Hitch (and I'm NOT talking about the Spoto construct) was quite out of his depth with Kim, who gave a performance of such godlike sensuality and such vulnerabilty and humanity as the 'sad' Judy, that in my opinion Kim deserves a great deal of the credit for the film's 'masterpiece' status. I wonder if she knows for example that esteemed Aussie

film critic Tom Ryan named his daughter Madeleine.

 

It is probably transparently obvious that movie director and aficionado of Hitchcock or not, I was in love with Kim Novak. She remains one of my yardsticks of all things wonderful about 'goddesses' of the screen, and of the mystery and wonder of the opposite sex.

 

And VERTIGO is one hell of a movie - largely because of her.

 

I never thought Kim received the credit she was due in Vertigo and I believe it was because of Hitch. Yes, even the Master can be wrong.

 

I used to say that the real Mrs. Elster's death was the MacGuffin in Vertigo but I now feel as if the entire Elster scheme is in fact the MacGuffin. The story is that of Scottie and his obsessive love and desire for Madeleine. That's the film. It's not the "how" but the "that" of Scottie's "discovery" of Madeleine that carries the most weight. What we the audience lose in the film cannot equal what we find.

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SPOILERS

 

In my opinion, Many of what Richard Franklin said is right. But there are some things that I have to disagree with. Kim Novak was great. But we cannot forget James Stewart's performance. We travel through Scottie in the first half. We are able to feel what his character feels about Madeleine. I think this has a huge role in second half of the film. In the second half, the audience knows that Madeleine isn't real. But the audience still has an inner desire to see Madeleine again, because we are able to feel what Scottie feels. I think that's another reason why Vertigo is so great. When I watch Suspicion, I have the same feeling. The audience can feel what Lina feels. We don't want Lina to lose Johnnie, because he is the only person she truly loved. Like James Stewart's character in Vertigo, Joan Fontaine plays the character so beautifully. I also like Shadow of A Doubt, because of same reason. I think we are able to feel the pain Young Charlie is feeling. The tension between Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten is also incredible.

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Hey, Konway -- How's it goin'?

 

SPOILERS

 

In my opinion, Many of what Richard Franklin said is right. But there are some things that I have to disagree with. Kim Novak was great. But we cannot forget James Stewart's performance. We travel through Scottie in the first half. We are able to feel what his character feels about Madeleine. I think this has a huge role in second half of the film. In the second half, the audience knows that Madeleine isn't real. But the audience still has an inner desire to see Madeleine again, because we are able to feel what Scottie feels. I think that's another reason why Vertigo is so great.

 

I certainly agree with you. I consider Vertigo to be James Stewart's best performace, just ahead of Anatomy of a Murder. But I must say that Kim's "Madeleine Elster" is what captivates me the most. She mesmerizes me, just as she does "Scottie." What Jimmy (with Hitch's guiding hand) does a wonderful job doing in Vertigo (and Rear Window) is portraying "us." He is we and we are he. Everything flows through him. He's a conduit, an exceptionally male conduit.

 

When I watch Suspicion, I have the same feeling. The audience can feel what Lina feels. We don't want Lina to lose Johnnie, because he is the only person she truly loved. Like James Stewart's character in Vertigo, Joan Fontaine plays the character so beautifully.

 

As you know, Joan Fontaine's performances in Suspicion and Rebecca are two of my very favorite in Hitch's films. Unlike many actresses in Hitch's films, Fontaine is asked to play a wide range of emotions and I believe she does so elegantly. She's never over-the-top; everything feels just right.

 

I also like Shadow of A Doubt, because of same reason. I think we are able to feel the pain Young Charlie is feeling. The tension between Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten is also incredible.

 

I also like Teresa Wright's performance, although she is asked to do something differently than Joan. "Young Charlie's" emotional scale is that of a straight line. She starts high and slowly starts to go downhill. Joan's emotional scale is up and down. One minute she's happy the next fearful the next sad and disillusioned then happy and hopeful again.

 

Where I feel Teresa's performance is at its strongest is when she is concealing her anger and fear from the family, especially her mother. Those are my favorite scenes of hers. I just love that she knows she is in danger yet still chooses to protect her mother from the truth. Young Charlie believes the truth about Uncle Charlie would "kill" her mother. It's a very mature decision and one that almost costs her her own life.

 

I believe Teresa does a fine job of outwardly projecting inner fear and disgust, which helps create the ever-important tension in Shadow of a Doubt.

 

Vertigo is definitely at the top of my list of Hitch "feel" films. Suspicion, Rebecca, Marnie, The Wrong Man, The Paradine Case, and Under Capricorn are all "feel" films, although of different stripes. Through review, I have now learned that The Birds is a hidden "feel" film. I'm actually thrilled about this revelation, too. I always felt The Birds was on the "overrated" Hitch side of the aisle but now I think differently. I value the film much more today. I also believe I Confess is close to being a "feel" film but not quite.

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Great Post, Frank Grimes. Samuel Taylor's script arrangement was very successful. Vertigo (1958) contains lots of great ideas. Some of these ideas can also be seen in Secret Agent (1936) and Suspicion (1941). In Secret Agent, we see Church Bell Tower. And Tom Helmore is in both Secret Agent and Vertigo. Vertigo's Title Design by Saul Bass is also similar to a scene in Secret Agent (1936). In Secret Agent, Percy Marmont's character dies by falling from the Mountain.

 

As for Suspicion (1941), I think I have mentioned similarities with 180 degree kissing in both films, Lina tearing the letter and Judy tearing the letter in Vertigo, Lina trying to find Johnnie and Scottie trying to find Madeleine.

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