This post for Backlot’s Hitchcock Halloween combines both new and previous material. Happy Halloween to Fearless Leader Lara & Bloggers!
*** Caution! You’re in The House Where Spoilers Dwell! ***
For me, Vertigo keeps getting better over time! It’s hard to believe now, but when I was younger, I used to have a love/hate relationship with Alfred Hitchcock’s classic romantic psychological thriller Vertigo. I loved its suspense; its moving performances; the dreamlike quality of its haunting love story; and most of all, Bernard Herrmann’s score. So why did it take me years to embrace Vertigo as wholeheartedly as our beleaguered hero John “Scottie” Ferguson embraces his beloved Madeleine Elster? The ever-awesome James Stewart (from such classic Hitchcock thrillers as Rear Window; the 1956 version of The Man Who Knew Too Much; Rope; and the not-Hitchcockian but nevertheless delightful Stewart’s Oscar-winning performance in The Philadelphia Story (yes, sometimes even Team Bartilucci enjoys non-Hitchcock movies!).
|Dames! They always put a guy in a spin!
|Poor Scottie would rather be on The Spirit of St. Louis right now!
|Madeleine Elster: It's magic...or maybe witchcraft...whatever it is,we're spellbound!
Gavin Elster: “Scottie, do you believe that someone out of the past, someone dead, can enter and take possession of a living being?”
Gavin: “If I told you that I believe this has happened to my wife, what would you say?”
Scottie: “Well, I’d say take her to the nearest psychiatrist, or psychologist, or neurologist, or psycho—or maybe just the plain family doctor. I’d have him check on you, too.”
But it soon becomes clear Gavin is serious about his troubled wife, so for old times’ sake, Scottie takes the job and discreetly tails Madeleine all over San Francisco to the places where the tragic Carlotta lived, loved, and went mad after her sugar daddy “threw her away” and kept their love child. Midge has plenty of knowledge about the old days of San Francisco, like “…who shot who in the Embarcadero in August 1879.” Midge and Scottie go to The Argosy Book Shop, where all the great San Francisco sleuths like Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon and Phillip Marlowe in The Big Sleep and Murder, My Sweet take care of no-goodniks, with the help of book seller/historian “Pop” Liebel (Konstantin Shayne from The Secret Life of Walter Mitty The Stranger; The Seventh Cross). It’s like the most elegant, discreet shadowing ever — that’s what I call class!
|Madeleine and Scottie: so close and yet so far!
Our determined hawkshaw finally comes face to face with his quarry after saving her when she jumps into the bay in one of her fugue states. That’s “meeting cute” on a whole other level! Interestingly, Scottie introduces himself by his Christian name, John, and Madeleine says she likes that strong name — and yet they both end up calling him “Scottie,” a more playful, almost childlike name. Perhaps it’s because the two of them aren’t truly comfortable because Madeleine just might be hiding secrets from him? To quote The Marvelettes, the hunter is captured by the game. Soon Scottie and Madeleine are mad for each other— but it seems poor troubled Madeleine is also mad in a less romantic way. When she confides in Scottie about her recurring morbid dreams about the Mission at San Juan Bautista, Scottie brings her there in hopes of curing her obsession. Bad move, Scottie — Madeleine bolts to the bell tower! Scottie gives chase, but his vertigo paralyzes him halfway up the stairs (great spatial F/X here). Poor Madeleine! Where’s Dr. Constance Petersen from Spellbound when you need her? And poor Scottie! He hears a woman screaming, sees a body fall past the window...and his beloved Madeleine is no more.
|Carlotta Valdes' final resting place...unless she's subletting with Madeleine's soul!
|Yikes! Not a lifeguard in sight! Thank goodness for Scottie's
quick thinking and Madeleine's natural buoyancy!
|I love Scottie and Madeleine's big romantic kiss;
it's like From Here to Eternity with clothes on!
|Poor Scottie! Even in his dreams, Carlotta gives him the Hairy Eyeball!
Face Two: The Lighter Side
Make no mistake, I’ve found Vertigo progressively more riveting and fascinating over time. I wouldn’t change a frame of it now, from the powerful performances to Bernard Herrmann’s swooning, poignant score. That said, in my heart of hearts, I’m still a sucker for, if not a full-tilt happy ending, then at least a hopeful one. Heck, I’ll even take an ending that isn’t entirely plausible, if only because I find myself feeling for the characters. That’s why I’ve sometimes toyed with alternate ways that Vertigo’s plot could have turned out, at least to satisfy my own private amusement and “what-if” thoughts about the characters' fates. It’s just that I’ve come to care so much about those obsessed but strangely lovable crazy kids John “Scottie” Ferguson and Madeleine Elster, a.k.a. Judy Barton, so the softie in me can’t help wondering how Vertigo’s plot would have unfolded with just a few little behavioral tweaks in these characters. Goshdarnit, where are screenwriters Alec Coppel & Samuel Taylor and source authors Pierre Boileau & Thomas Narcejac when you really need them?
|"Oh, Johnny-O, where's your wry sense of humor? And you wonder
why we broke up our engagement in college!"
|Judy's gonna sit right down and write herself a letter confessing the murder plot—or will she?
|"Pop" Leibel" knows all the scuttlebutt from old San Francisco,
plus the first-ever draft of Fifty Shades of Gray, that slyboots!
|It's not easy to live a double life (oy, my head...)
On the other hand, Midge might decide her “Johnny-O” isn’t “the only man for (her)” after all. Come to think of it, we never did find out why Scottie and Midge broke off their college engagement. What was the real story behind that, I wonder? Maybe he’s got cold feet, or maybe Midge did. Sometimes it’s easier to fall in love with someone he can never really have because of his own issues. Anyway, I want to see Midge find a nice fella on her wavelength who’d give her his undivided attention. She could stop worrying about Scottie and concentrate on her career. She could join forces with that engineer who came up with the cantilevered bra Midge was working on when we first met her. They could design the lingerie and the factory!
|...but there's some perks to the gig!
Stacy & Clinton would approve!
“Scottie, sweetie, I’ll wear my hair Madeleine style Monday through Friday and wear it loose on weekends, okay?”
“Aw, Judy, honey, if the style’s too much work, I’ll learn how to make that little chignon ’do for ya.”
|Oh, to be torn 'twixt love and Judy!
Here's a clip of that magnificent 360 shot that shifts from the hotel room to the mission.
And here's a fan-made video of the song "Carlotta Valdez" by Harvey Danger!