On Watching Vertigo on the Big Screen in 35mm with an Audience

On a cold, blustery Chicago afternoon, I was safely tucked in the back row of a theater watching Vertigo as it was intended to be seen—on the big screen in 35mm with a theater full of movie buffs, cinephiles, and Hitchcock fans.  The rich, saturated colors of the new print were a treat after seeing so many contemporary films shot in the drab, flat, burnished colors of digital cinematography. The film was followed by a commentary and discussion led by mystery writer Sara Paretsky and psychologist James W. Anderson, a professor at Northwestern University. Watching Vertigo on the big screen helped me notice details that had eluded me on previous viewings, while comments by Paretsky and Anderson offered a different point of view on the film. I also learned a great deal from the insightful observations of the audience members.

Part detective story and part psychological thriller, Vertigo is about a man who cannot come to grips with his obsession for a woman. And, it is also the story of what it means for the woman to be the object of that obsession, though that part of the tale is often overlooked. Hitchcock was fond using a doppelganger theme in his films, in which one of the main characters has a double who is exactly like them and yet the opposite of them. A doppelganger theme often employs a doubling structure in the narrative; in other words, patterns or events are repeated twice. With this viewing of Vertigo, I noticed that the doubling structure for this film consists of the real version of a character or event juxtaposed with a phony version. Kim Novak is introduced as Madeleine Elster, but she is really Judy Barton who is masquerading as Madeleine as part of an elaborate murder plot. The phony Madeleine pretends to be obsessed with her great grandmother, Carlotta Valdes. Jimmy Stewart is John “Scottie” Ferguson, who is hired by Gavin Elster to follow his “wife” to learn more about her obsession. Scottie is the dupe in the plot who will ensure that Elster’s plan is successful. In pretending to be obsessed, Madeleine visits places associated with her ancestor, including the graveyard where Carlotta is buried and the museum where her portrait hangs. Scottie’s  desire for the phony Madeleine, especially after her death, turns into a real obsession, which is manifested through his haunting of the same places—her gravesite, the museum, etc.  We see Scottie follow Madeleine to these places in the first half of the film as part of her pretense; then we see him haunt these places in the second half of the movie as part of his real obsession. While recovering from his breakdown, Scottie runs into the real Judy, whom he tries to recreate into the Madeleine who never existed, which duplicates Gavin Elster’s deeds though for different reasons. Truth and illusion follow the same patterns in this story, and, like Scottie, we can’t always tell the difference.

HITCHCOCK DIRECTS KIM NOVAK ON LOCATION

Other examples of doubling involve comparing Madeleine to Scottie’s friend, Midge, who is in love with him. Midge paints a duplicate portrait of Carlotta Valdes, except with her face superimposed over the mysterious Carlotta’s. Midge is shot in profile, just as Madeleine had been in the beginning of the film, suggesting that the real, live Midge is trying to replace the faux Madeleine as the girl of Scottie’s dreams. Madeleine describes her nightmares as a vision of walking down a long, dark hallway, which dissolves into total darkness. If she steps into that darkness, she knows she will disappear. The last image of Midge finds her walking down the long hallway of the mental hospital where Scottie ends up after Madeleine’s death. She realizes that he still loves Madeleine, even in death, and she stands no chance with him. As Midge, the real woman in Scottie’s life, walks down the hallway, she moves farther and farther into darkness.  Later, when Scottie has succeeded in convincing Judy into changing her hair and makeup to look like Madeleine, he anxiously awaits in her hotel room for her return as his dream girl. He looks down the hallway of the hotel and sees Judy in the murky lighting at the end of hall. She walks toward the camera into the light—the opposite of Midge’s last scene. Some audience members wondered what became of Midge in the storyline; Hitchcock tells us visually that she has disappeared from Scottie’s life, replaced by Judy who has been “jerry-rigged” to be Madeleine.

SCOTTIE TURNS JUDY INTO MADELEINE BY PRESSURING HER TO CHANGE HER LOOK. THE GREEN LIGHTING EFFECT IS USED TO SUGGEST THAT MADELEINE IS "UNREAL." GREEN POPS UP THROUGHOUT THE FILM IN CONNECTION WITH THE CHARACTER.

Sara Paretsky and James Anderson moderated the discussion and tried to steer it in certain directions. Paretksy suggested we think about whether the film is a detective tale or a psychological thriller, and how that affects our response to the story. From the standpoint of a detective novelist, she admired Hitchcock’s decision to reveal the murder plot and Judy’s role in it before the end of the film. In the original novel, D’Entre les Morts, that information is left as a surprise for the conclusion.  Anderson described how there were two levels of psychology in the film—a pop psychology that is part of the plot and a deeper psychology that illustrates the impact of obsession on a man and the effect of wanting to be loved for herself on a woman.  The pop psychology generated a few laughs from the audience while watching the film, as when the psychiatrist explains to Midge that Scottie, who seems nearly catatonic, is suffering from “acute melancholia” with a “guilt complex.” But, according to Anderson, the emotional devastation of Scottie’s obsession, as depicted by Hitchcock via Stewart, and the longing to be loved for herself, as depicted by Hitchcock via Novak, are profound and genuine.

MIDGE SHOWS SCOTTIE THE LATEST DEVELOPMENT IN FEMININE UNDERGARMENTS: A BRA DESIGNED ON THE PRINCIPLE OF THE CANTILEVER BRIDGE.

Given the storyline, Vertigo is rife with observations, criticisms, and commentary on the nature of romantic relationships and gender issues, which provoked many thoughts and perspectives from members of the audience.  I agreed with some of the comments and disagreed with others. But, all of the ideas represented how much this 50-year-old film provokes and inspires debate and discussion.

IN GERMAN EXPRESSIONISM, MIRRORS SYMBOLIZE A DOPPELGANGER, THAT IS, A CHARACTER WITH TWO SIDES. JUDY AND MADELEINE ARE FREQUENTLY REFLECTED IN MIRRORS.

For me the most interesting comments were in regard to the depiction of Judy/Madeleine and the way both Gavin and Scottie turned her into a person she was not. Hitchcock has long been accused of misogyny in his films, with events in his private life used as proof of his shortcomings. First revealed by Donald Spoto in his biography, The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock, Hitchcock’s dealings with his actresses revealed a man deeply scarred and troubled. While I wouldn’t say this is untrue, I do find accusations of misogyny in his films to be exaggerated and simplistic. A couple of audience members did call Hitchcock misogynist, throwing out references to his personal life as proof, and pointing out that Judy is so manipulated and controlled by men that it is uncomfortable to watch. Interestingly, these audience members were men. As might be expected, women had a different and less cut-and-dry interpretation of Judy.

MADELEINE IS THE PERFECT MALE FANTASY: ENIGMATIC, BEAUTIFUL, SENSUAL, PASSIONATE, AND IN NEED OF RESCUE.

The women who commented acknowledged that it is incredibly difficult to watch Scottie—who is played by everyone’s favorite everyman, Jimmy Stewart—to coerce Judy into changing her makeup, clothing, and hairstyle so he can have his dream girl once again. He seems to have little regard for her feelings about changing her look, even telling her, “It can’t matter to you.” But, as Anderson pointed out, we are made to see Judy’s position and the torment she experiences in knowing that Scottie loves the unreal Madeleine, not her. Women in the audience sympathized and identified with Judy: Any woman who has ever acquiesced to her husband or boyfriend’s wishes regarding an article of clothing, a style of makeup, or a hairstyle can relate to Judy, though the character represents an extreme example.  And, as one woman noted, Scottie has his choice of two real women—Midge and Judy—but instead he prefers an idealized dream girl who doesn’t really exist. Madeleine is a version of everything men desire; she’s a beautiful, sensual, passionate cipher who needs rescued. She is the archetype of womanhood found in most Hollywood films.  Rejection of real women in favor of an ideal results in the destruction of both women, and Scottie is devastated once again at the end of the film This audience member suggested that Vertigo served as a critique of onscreen misogyny, or at least a criticism of men’s idealized expectations of what women should be.

MIDGE TRIES TO "PAINT" HERSELF INTO SCOTTIE'S FANTASIES.

The screening was well attended by audiences of all ages; and, there was an energy in the air as those members who participated in the discussion eagerly offered their interpretations and observations. I asked the people around me what attracted them to the screening. Peter remarked that he had seen the film before, but he was looking forward to the insights that Paretsky and Anderson might have. Mary came not only because Vertigo is one of her favorite films but also because she is a fan of Paretsky’s V.I Warshawski novels.  Al was also interested in Paretsky’s take, because  Vertigo inverts the standard detective story; he also commented on the way Hitchcock’s personal obsessions related to universal human fears, which were expressed in this film. Al’s comment reminded me that all classic films are a popular art form that serves as part of our modern mythology, which traffics in universal emotions and issues. Films tie us together as a culture, and, whatever the conveniences offered by the home-viewing industry, there is no substitute for watching a classic film on 35mm in a theater with an audience. That should always be the standard to measure that film and its importance as art and as culture.

46 Responses On Watching Vertigo on the Big Screen in 35mm with an Audience
Posted By suzidoll : December 5, 2011 2:39 pm

I didn’t have time or space to talk too much about the audience’s extremely enthusiastic reaction to the film because it was on 35mm. However, read fellow Morlock Keelsetter’s discussion on the demise of 35mm projection at the hands of the industry.

http://moviemorlocks.com/2011/12/04/the-end/#comment-22566

Posted By suzidoll : December 5, 2011 2:39 pm

I didn’t have time or space to talk too much about the audience’s extremely enthusiastic reaction to the film because it was on 35mm. However, read fellow Morlock Keelsetter’s discussion on the demise of 35mm projection at the hands of the industry.

http://moviemorlocks.com/2011/12/04/the-end/#comment-22566

Posted By swac : December 5, 2011 3:07 pm

I consider myself lucky to have been able to see VERTIGO on the big screen in 35mm on three different occasions. The first was when the Hitchcock estate allowed the theatrical release of a series of films in the ’80s, after a number of years in the vaults (the others included REAR WINDOW, THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH, THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY and ROPE), and I was a movie-mad teen trying to catch all the classics I could. Then VERTIGO got a snazzy restoration and reissue all its own, complete with too-realistic sound effects on the new Dolby soundtrack, in the ’90s, and I was able to see that a couple of times and re-experience the power of the film all over. For me the scene where Scottie snaps is an emotional punch in the gut, more so in the second round of viewings as someone close to me died while I was in college, and in some ways I spent a number of years trying to replace her in my life, which I eventually had to admit was impossible.

Vertigo will always be Hitch’s crowning glory in my mind, I can’t think of another Hollywood film that comes close (despite Brian De Palma’s best efforts).

Posted By swac : December 5, 2011 3:07 pm

I consider myself lucky to have been able to see VERTIGO on the big screen in 35mm on three different occasions. The first was when the Hitchcock estate allowed the theatrical release of a series of films in the ’80s, after a number of years in the vaults (the others included REAR WINDOW, THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH, THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY and ROPE), and I was a movie-mad teen trying to catch all the classics I could. Then VERTIGO got a snazzy restoration and reissue all its own, complete with too-realistic sound effects on the new Dolby soundtrack, in the ’90s, and I was able to see that a couple of times and re-experience the power of the film all over. For me the scene where Scottie snaps is an emotional punch in the gut, more so in the second round of viewings as someone close to me died while I was in college, and in some ways I spent a number of years trying to replace her in my life, which I eventually had to admit was impossible.

Vertigo will always be Hitch’s crowning glory in my mind, I can’t think of another Hollywood film that comes close (despite Brian De Palma’s best efforts).

Posted By swac : December 5, 2011 3:08 pm

Although if I was Scottie, I’d have taken off with Midge in her Karman Ghia in a heartbeat.

Posted By swac : December 5, 2011 3:08 pm

Although if I was Scottie, I’d have taken off with Midge in her Karman Ghia in a heartbeat.

Posted By Jim Vecchio : December 5, 2011 3:46 pm

You were right the first time, so I’ll just repeat your words..”there is no substitute for watching a classic film on 35mm in a theater with an audience. That should always be the standard to measure that film and its importance as art and as culture…”
I have one regret about VERTIGO, and that involves my sister, now passed away. She took me to see it on the big screen when I was a child and I did not appreciate it then. But, I guess I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life!

Posted By Jim Vecchio : December 5, 2011 3:46 pm

You were right the first time, so I’ll just repeat your words..”there is no substitute for watching a classic film on 35mm in a theater with an audience. That should always be the standard to measure that film and its importance as art and as culture…”
I have one regret about VERTIGO, and that involves my sister, now passed away. She took me to see it on the big screen when I was a child and I did not appreciate it then. But, I guess I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life!

Posted By tdraicer : December 5, 2011 4:12 pm

Vertigo is certainly in my top 10 favorite films, but unfortunately I’ve only seen it on dvd.

I have always believed that right after the film ends, Scottie follows Judy off the tower.

Posted By tdraicer : December 5, 2011 4:12 pm

Vertigo is certainly in my top 10 favorite films, but unfortunately I’ve only seen it on dvd.

I have always believed that right after the film ends, Scottie follows Judy off the tower.

Posted By debbe : December 5, 2011 4:14 pm

wow. suzi this is brilliant. wish i could have been there.

Posted By debbe : December 5, 2011 4:14 pm

wow. suzi this is brilliant. wish i could have been there.

Posted By Emgee : December 5, 2011 4:21 pm

Great to read such an insightful piece on one of my favourite movies. The mood is so relentlessly tragic and melancholic without a phony happy end, it was really brave of Hitchcock to go way beyond a conventional murder mystery.
The only jarring element about it is the ending, when the nun comes up the stairs and scares Madeleine/Judy into jumping from the tower; to me it’s totally unconvincing. Apart from that it’s a near-perfect movie which i can watch again and again.
To love a woman that never actually existed, how sad is that?

Posted By Emgee : December 5, 2011 4:21 pm

Great to read such an insightful piece on one of my favourite movies. The mood is so relentlessly tragic and melancholic without a phony happy end, it was really brave of Hitchcock to go way beyond a conventional murder mystery.
The only jarring element about it is the ending, when the nun comes up the stairs and scares Madeleine/Judy into jumping from the tower; to me it’s totally unconvincing. Apart from that it’s a near-perfect movie which i can watch again and again.
To love a woman that never actually existed, how sad is that?

Posted By suzidoll : December 5, 2011 4:33 pm

Some great comments here, just like the discussion for the film. I think this film packs a cultural wallop.

I hadn’t seen Vertigo on the big screen since the 1980s, though I have watched it a couple of times on VHS/DVD since. The melancholy,dreamy mood is no where near as effective in viewing it home as watching it on the big screen in a darkened theater — which is like a dream state anyway. That’s the main reason why this is a must-see on the big screen.

Also, watching the film at different stages of life will result in different reactions. This time I had very little sympathy for Stewart’s character. His weaknesses and obsessions resulted in the deaths of three characters. And, having known men who drool or moon after idealized versions of women made me look at Scottie as a fool blinded by illusion. I did not find him sad. Falling from the tower after Judy/Madeleine is too good of a demise for him.

Posted By suzidoll : December 5, 2011 4:33 pm

Some great comments here, just like the discussion for the film. I think this film packs a cultural wallop.

I hadn’t seen Vertigo on the big screen since the 1980s, though I have watched it a couple of times on VHS/DVD since. The melancholy,dreamy mood is no where near as effective in viewing it home as watching it on the big screen in a darkened theater — which is like a dream state anyway. That’s the main reason why this is a must-see on the big screen.

Also, watching the film at different stages of life will result in different reactions. This time I had very little sympathy for Stewart’s character. His weaknesses and obsessions resulted in the deaths of three characters. And, having known men who drool or moon after idealized versions of women made me look at Scottie as a fool blinded by illusion. I did not find him sad. Falling from the tower after Judy/Madeleine is too good of a demise for him.

Posted By Emgee : December 5, 2011 4:48 pm

“His weaknesses and obsessions resulted in the deaths of three characters.” I can’t see it that way. The Judy character, well, at least partly, true. But the cop at the beginning, how can he be blamed for causing his death; just because the cop was trying to save his life? And how did he kill Elster’s wife?

Yes, Scotty is both weak and obsessed, but i do find that dreadfully sad. I think he is more victim than villain, even though his make-over of Judy is pretty creepy and hurtful. I’m not saying i like Scotty, but think he’s pathetically sad.

Posted By Emgee : December 5, 2011 4:48 pm

“His weaknesses and obsessions resulted in the deaths of three characters.” I can’t see it that way. The Judy character, well, at least partly, true. But the cop at the beginning, how can he be blamed for causing his death; just because the cop was trying to save his life? And how did he kill Elster’s wife?

Yes, Scotty is both weak and obsessed, but i do find that dreadfully sad. I think he is more victim than villain, even though his make-over of Judy is pretty creepy and hurtful. I’m not saying i like Scotty, but think he’s pathetically sad.

Posted By suzidoll : December 5, 2011 5:00 pm

Emgee: I didn’t say he caused three deaths, but three deaths resulted from his personal issues. His acrophobia resulted in the cop’s death, and he was complicit in the real Madeleine’s death because he was a dupe. He was reluctant to take the case until he sees Madeleine and then he is unable to investigate with any degree of insight, resulting in the real Madeleine’s murder.

Posted By suzidoll : December 5, 2011 5:00 pm

Emgee: I didn’t say he caused three deaths, but three deaths resulted from his personal issues. His acrophobia resulted in the cop’s death, and he was complicit in the real Madeleine’s death because he was a dupe. He was reluctant to take the case until he sees Madeleine and then he is unable to investigate with any degree of insight, resulting in the real Madeleine’s murder.

Posted By Brian : December 5, 2011 5:25 pm

Fascinating article, Suzi. Thank you for sharing some of the insights from the post-screening discussion. You can talk about Vertigo anywhere, but not with a mystery writer, a psychology scholar, and a room full of engaged viewers. So cool.

Posted By Brian : December 5, 2011 5:25 pm

Fascinating article, Suzi. Thank you for sharing some of the insights from the post-screening discussion. You can talk about Vertigo anywhere, but not with a mystery writer, a psychology scholar, and a room full of engaged viewers. So cool.

Posted By michaelgloversmith : December 5, 2011 6:52 pm

Great write-up, Suzi. I’m sorry that I missed this screening; it sounds like the discussion was fascinating. It’s interesting that it was the men who labelled Hitchcock a misogynist. The Spoto book is useful but it’s also sensational and should be taken with a grain of salt, especially where personal anecdotes are concerned.

I have seen Vertigo in 35mm on three occasions in the past. In addition to the reasons you cite, I think it also has to be seen on the big screen to be appreciated because that’s where the illusion of depth, so crucial to the film’s meaning, is most convincing and impactful.

I’m curious about this new print – do you know if the soundtrack was the original mono mix or the controversial stereo mix (with re-recorded sound effects and music) done for the Harris & Katz restoration?

Posted By michaelgloversmith : December 5, 2011 6:52 pm

Great write-up, Suzi. I’m sorry that I missed this screening; it sounds like the discussion was fascinating. It’s interesting that it was the men who labelled Hitchcock a misogynist. The Spoto book is useful but it’s also sensational and should be taken with a grain of salt, especially where personal anecdotes are concerned.

I have seen Vertigo in 35mm on three occasions in the past. In addition to the reasons you cite, I think it also has to be seen on the big screen to be appreciated because that’s where the illusion of depth, so crucial to the film’s meaning, is most convincing and impactful.

I’m curious about this new print – do you know if the soundtrack was the original mono mix or the controversial stereo mix (with re-recorded sound effects and music) done for the Harris & Katz restoration?

Posted By Carol E : December 5, 2011 7:30 pm

Good insights, Suzi. Wish I could have been at the screening. (I’ve seen Vertigo on the screen twice, in its original release and when it was rereleased.) In those days, in order to get a man, women (girls, we were then) were *supposed* to reengineer themselves to be what men wanted–but of course Scottie does go overboard. Did anyone talk about the scene at the McKittrick Hotel, where Madeleine disappears? There was never an explanation in the film for that, though Madeleine’s husband says that was Carlotta’s house.

Posted By Carol E : December 5, 2011 7:30 pm

Good insights, Suzi. Wish I could have been at the screening. (I’ve seen Vertigo on the screen twice, in its original release and when it was rereleased.) In those days, in order to get a man, women (girls, we were then) were *supposed* to reengineer themselves to be what men wanted–but of course Scottie does go overboard. Did anyone talk about the scene at the McKittrick Hotel, where Madeleine disappears? There was never an explanation in the film for that, though Madeleine’s husband says that was Carlotta’s house.

Posted By suzidoll : December 5, 2011 11:40 pm

Michael: I don’t know if it was the stereo mix, or not. I don’t think it was because I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary about it. The print was in excellent shape, though. A couple of odd scratches, but no dirt.

Posted By suzidoll : December 5, 2011 11:40 pm

Michael: I don’t know if it was the stereo mix, or not. I don’t think it was because I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary about it. The print was in excellent shape, though. A couple of odd scratches, but no dirt.

Posted By suzidoll : December 5, 2011 11:42 pm

Carol: No one mentioned the disappearance at the McKittrick. Since Scottie is being duped and we see that whole sequence from his perspective, I always assumed it was some manipulation on Gavin and Judy’s part.

Posted By suzidoll : December 5, 2011 11:42 pm

Carol: No one mentioned the disappearance at the McKittrick. Since Scottie is being duped and we see that whole sequence from his perspective, I always assumed it was some manipulation on Gavin and Judy’s part.

Posted By keelsetter : December 6, 2011 1:16 am

Suzi – All I can say is: I wish I had been there. I love this movie, and all the comments within this thread reinforce my curiosity and passion for the many mysteries that still, despite the years, so clearly lay therein.

Posted By keelsetter : December 6, 2011 1:16 am

Suzi – All I can say is: I wish I had been there. I love this movie, and all the comments within this thread reinforce my curiosity and passion for the many mysteries that still, despite the years, so clearly lay therein.

Posted By dukeroberts : December 6, 2011 7:01 am

I think some of the men may have stated that they felt the film and Hitchcock were misogynistic to seem more enlightened, so as to get in good with the ladies. :)

Posted By dukeroberts : December 6, 2011 7:01 am

I think some of the men may have stated that they felt the film and Hitchcock were misogynistic to seem more enlightened, so as to get in good with the ladies. :)

Posted By michaelgloversmith : December 6, 2011 9:24 am

Carol: in his book-length interview with Francois Truffaut, Hitchcock claims the woman working at the McKittrick was a “paid accomplice.”

Posted By michaelgloversmith : December 6, 2011 9:24 am

Carol: in his book-length interview with Francois Truffaut, Hitchcock claims the woman working at the McKittrick was a “paid accomplice.”

Posted By Emgee : December 6, 2011 4:26 pm

Maybe Hitchcock wasn’t so much a misogynist but to me definitely a disappointed, even frustrated romantic. There is a dramatic watershed between his depiction of women before and after Psycho.
The character played by Eve Marie Saint in North By Northwest is the last of the romantic Hitchcock heroines. After that the depiction of women is much more grim, sometimes even cruel, as in Psycho, The Birds and Frenzy. I think personal frustration certainly played a big part in his treatment of both actresses and female characters in his later films. However brilliant he was as a director, he was also (shocker ahead!) a man with human wishes, desires and frustrations.

Posted By Emgee : December 6, 2011 4:26 pm

Maybe Hitchcock wasn’t so much a misogynist but to me definitely a disappointed, even frustrated romantic. There is a dramatic watershed between his depiction of women before and after Psycho.
The character played by Eve Marie Saint in North By Northwest is the last of the romantic Hitchcock heroines. After that the depiction of women is much more grim, sometimes even cruel, as in Psycho, The Birds and Frenzy. I think personal frustration certainly played a big part in his treatment of both actresses and female characters in his later films. However brilliant he was as a director, he was also (shocker ahead!) a man with human wishes, desires and frustrations.

Posted By Harvey Chartrand : December 7, 2011 2:22 pm

The contributions of Tom Helmore (Gavin Elster), Henry Jones (coroner) and Raymond Bailey (“Scottie” Ferguson’s psychiatrist) are too often ignored in analyses of VERTIGO.
Tom Helmore effortlessly delivers reams of expository dialogue… without losing the audience’s attention. (Gavin Elster is one of Hitchcock’s more sympathetic villains.) Henry Jones’ long accusatory monologue is an astonishing feat of memory. In his brief role, Raymond Bailey movingly conveys the doctor’s genuine concern for Scottie’s deplorable condition.

Posted By Harvey Chartrand : December 7, 2011 2:22 pm

The contributions of Tom Helmore (Gavin Elster), Henry Jones (coroner) and Raymond Bailey (“Scottie” Ferguson’s psychiatrist) are too often ignored in analyses of VERTIGO.
Tom Helmore effortlessly delivers reams of expository dialogue… without losing the audience’s attention. (Gavin Elster is one of Hitchcock’s more sympathetic villains.) Henry Jones’ long accusatory monologue is an astonishing feat of memory. In his brief role, Raymond Bailey movingly conveys the doctor’s genuine concern for Scottie’s deplorable condition.

Posted By suzidoll : December 7, 2011 2:57 pm

Harvey: Good point about Tom Helmore. That same day I caught him in THE TENDER TRAP as the suave neighbor who meets Celeste Holm’s character at the end, and I recognized him right away. Character actors are too often unsung.

Posted By suzidoll : December 7, 2011 2:57 pm

Harvey: Good point about Tom Helmore. That same day I caught him in THE TENDER TRAP as the suave neighbor who meets Celeste Holm’s character at the end, and I recognized him right away. Character actors are too often unsung.

Posted By annaphallactic : December 9, 2011 12:01 pm

Ha! One of the men who threw out the misogynist accusation at Hitchcock during the post-screening discussion is my fiance. I don’t entirely agree with that sentiment; despite the evidence from Hitchcock’s professional and personal life, your dyed-in-the-wool woman-hater could never have made a statement like Vertigo with regards to gender relations and the disparate expectations and options available to men and women in cisgender, heterosexual relationships.

I found the discussion lively and this article particularly insightful. Thank you for the write-up, Suzi!

Posted By annaphallactic : December 9, 2011 12:01 pm

Ha! One of the men who threw out the misogynist accusation at Hitchcock during the post-screening discussion is my fiance. I don’t entirely agree with that sentiment; despite the evidence from Hitchcock’s professional and personal life, your dyed-in-the-wool woman-hater could never have made a statement like Vertigo with regards to gender relations and the disparate expectations and options available to men and women in cisgender, heterosexual relationships.

I found the discussion lively and this article particularly insightful. Thank you for the write-up, Suzi!

Posted By florizel : December 11, 2011 2:28 pm

Great article. I’m terribly jealous; I’ve never seen any Hitchcock films in a theater and would absolutely love to. Hitchcock is one of my favorite directors, and “Vertigo” one of my favorites.

I greatly appreciated the comments on the director’s supposed misogyny. Speaking as a woman who regards herself as a feminist, I by and large do not see misogyny in his films. If the only films that you concentrate on are “Psycho” and “Frenzy”, than you could have a case; but when the bulk of his oeuvre is considered, a different picture emerges. Consider Margaret Lockwood in “The Lady Vanishes”, Jane Wyman in “Stage Fright”, Ingrid Bergman in “Spellbound” and “Notorious”, Grace Kelly in “Rear Window” and Eva Marie Saint in “North By Northwest”. These women prove themselves to be very strong, even though they are endangered and frequently belittled by the men around them.And of course “Vertigo”, where the audience is allowed to see how much pain Judy is in, and that what is being done to her by Scottie is wrong. An earlier post described Hitchcock as a frustrated romantic, which I think is a more appropriate description.

Incidentally, Spoto’s credibility as a biographer has been questioned, which is also worth considering.

Posted By florizel : December 11, 2011 2:28 pm

Great article. I’m terribly jealous; I’ve never seen any Hitchcock films in a theater and would absolutely love to. Hitchcock is one of my favorite directors, and “Vertigo” one of my favorites.

I greatly appreciated the comments on the director’s supposed misogyny. Speaking as a woman who regards herself as a feminist, I by and large do not see misogyny in his films. If the only films that you concentrate on are “Psycho” and “Frenzy”, than you could have a case; but when the bulk of his oeuvre is considered, a different picture emerges. Consider Margaret Lockwood in “The Lady Vanishes”, Jane Wyman in “Stage Fright”, Ingrid Bergman in “Spellbound” and “Notorious”, Grace Kelly in “Rear Window” and Eva Marie Saint in “North By Northwest”. These women prove themselves to be very strong, even though they are endangered and frequently belittled by the men around them.And of course “Vertigo”, where the audience is allowed to see how much pain Judy is in, and that what is being done to her by Scottie is wrong. An earlier post described Hitchcock as a frustrated romantic, which I think is a more appropriate description.

Incidentally, Spoto’s credibility as a biographer has been questioned, which is also worth considering.

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