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Trivia / Vertigo

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  • Actor-Shared Background: Judy Barton is a Midwestern girl who moves to California and gets noticed by an older man, who grooms her into portraying a specific look and image. This parallels Kim Novak and her experience working for Harry Cohn at Columbia Pictures. Judy's hometown of Salina, Kansas is where Novak filmed her Star-Making Role in Picnic (though that was just a coincidence).
  • AFI's 100 Years... Series:
  • Creator Backlash:
    • Alfred Hitchcock in his interviews with François Truffaut said that he considered Vertigo one of his best films, but he admitted that it was imperfect and in other interviews, he blamed the poor reception on miscasting James Stewart, saying he was perhaps "too old" for his role. He also later said that Kim Novak was miscast and that he regretted the fact that his first choice Vera Miles did not play the part. Later scholars, noting Hitchcock's tendency for obfuscation have questioned this. Stewart was always Hitchcock's first choice for the part, and the film he made after Vertigo had Cary Grant who was older than Stewart. Kim Novak however was indeed forced by the studio, and Hitchcock developed a rapport with Vera Miles who he directed in The Wrong Man,note  and indeed the original costumes designed by Edith Head for Madeleine was made with Miles in mind.
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    • While many enthusiasts and critics consider his score a masterpiece, Bernard Herrmann was rather cheesed off about Vertigo. His main gripe was that he didn't conduct and orchestrate the music. He was one of the few composers of that era who insisted on total creative control who not only wrote his musical scores but personally orchestrated and conducted musicians. For Vertigo, a musicians' strike meant that the orchestration was done in England, conducted by Muir Matheson (a highly respected professional in the field), which was still not good enough because he did feel the composition was one of his best works, and regretted the fact that he never put his own official version on the score (There is no recording of Herrmann's rendition of Vertigo). Herrmann also didn't like the movie a great deal and preferred other Hitchcock films. He felt that it should not have been set in San Francisco, and like Hitchcock, felt Stewart was miscast, albeit for different reasons. note 
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  • Dawson Casting: Scottie and Midge are meant to be the same age, but James Stewart was fifteen years older than Barbara Bel Geddes and looks it.
  • Defictionalization: Gavin Elster's office set, which was designed by the famous Henry "Hank" Bumstead so impressed Hitchcock, that he commissioned Bumstead to remodel his real-life office based on Elster's. As such many wags noted that Hitchcock would invite people into his office and walk through stories in the mode of the villain of this film, in the same way Elster manipulated Scottie.
  • Deleted Scene: During the film's production, a tacked-on ending scene set in Midge's apartment was shot, offering a clearer exposition of Elster's and Scottie's fates. It was shot for overseas prints of the film in countries whose censor boards were tougher than the Hays Office (which, by 1958, was a lot more lenient and was entering its twilight), and was eventually included as an extra on various home video releases. It was never screened in America on original release and was definitely not Hitchcock's preferred ending.
  • Doing It for the Art:
    • It took a week to film the brief scene of Madeleine staring at the painting of Carlotta, just because Hitchcock wanted to get the lighting right. The famous shot of Madeleine's silhouette at Ernie's Restaurant (when Scottie first sees her) was actually a composite of inserts from the original production and reshoots taken long after production had finished because Hitchcock was not entirely satisfied with it.
    • Hitchcock wanted a certain realism for the film but he hated shooting on location unless absolutely unavoidable. For the scenes set in Ernie's, the famous real-life restaurant (which shut down in 1995), Hitchcock recreated the entire restaurant in detail in Paramount's studio lot, and then he brought the entire staff and regular patrons to act as extras in the studio version of Ernie's.
  • Enforced Method Acting: The fact that the role of Madeleine/Judy was intended for Vera Miles and the costumes for Madeleine was designed by Edith Head with Miles in mind allowed Kim Novak to immerse herself into a role of a woman trapped by a man's obsession of shaping her into an ideal image. The grey suit was especially uncomfortable for Novak to wear, because it hadn't been designed for her at all. As such Madeleine comes across as strained, affected and a little distant while Judy is natural and truly herself.
  • Follow the Leader: Brian De Palma made two loose remakes: Obsession (New Orleans instead of San Francisco and an extra twist involving the Doppelgänger Replacement Love Interest, and a Bernard Herrmann score) and Body Double (claustrophobia instead of acrophobia).
    • Just about every erotic thriller made between the late 1980s and early 1990s used the premise of Vertigo as a template (easily-manipulated protagonist coping with a past trauma, enigmatic Femme Fatale with a dual identity, and often a Big Bad Friend who sets up the protagonist).
  • Lying Creator: Alfred Hitchcock claimed for years that his wife hated the film. Alma Reville actually loved it when she first saw it.
  • The Other Marty: Alfred Hitchcock said that Vera Miles was his preferred choice as Madeleine. She performed a costume test and modelled for an early version of Carlotta's portrait, but had to leave the project after becoming pregnant. Apparently the studio wasn't really enthusiastic about Miles anyway and was eager to have Kim Novak, who had been their choice from the start, take over.
  • Playing Against Type: Jimmy Stewart in a not very heroic part.
  • Trope Namer: Hitchcock helped give rise to the term Fridge Logic when admitting that he had no explanation for the scene where Madeleine leaves her hotel room without Scottie or the desklady seeing:
    "[This scene] hits you after you've gone home and start pulling cold chicken out of the icebox."
  • Those Two Actors:
    • A dozen years after sharing a memorable scene in It's a Wonderful Life ("Could I have $17.50?"), James Stewart once again worked with Ellen Corby, who played the desk lady at the McKittrick Hotel.
    • Stewart and Kim Novak were reunited in Bell, Book and Candle (which Stewart agreed to make for Columbia Pictures in exchange for Columbia loaning Novak out for Vertigo).
  • What Could Have Been:
    • As noted above, Hitchcock's first choice for the role of Madeleine/Judy was Vera Miles. Hitchcock intended this to be her Star-Making Role after she had played the main lead in The Wrong Man, a preceding film of The '50s. Some have theorized that he saw Miles as the Spiritual Successor of Grace Kelly and Ingrid Bergman. Her pregnancy meant she couldn't commit to the part at the time which Hitchcock greatly regretted and never stopped complaining about.note 
    • Hitchcock originally wanted to cast Lana Turner in the lead role, but she "wanted too much loot" and was dropped from consideration. Audrey Hepburn was also interested.
    • Joseph Cotten, Lee J. Cobb and Everett Sloane were considered for Gavin Elster.
  • Working Title: Filming began as From Among the Dead, which is the literal translation of the original novel's French title, but nobody really liked it. The studio suggested a bunch of titles, many with the word "face" in them, and Hitchcock liked Face in the Shadow, but he changed his mind, and others were worried about the similarity to A Face in the Crowd. Hitchcock chose Vertigo but the studio hated it and tried to talk him into going back to Face in the Shadow, or Fear and Trembling, or a long list of other suggestions that he turned down (which included The Dark Tower and Without a Trace).


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