Vertigo (1958)

James Stewart
Kim Novak

Mystery, Thriller

Alfred Hitchcock

Pierre Boileau (novel)
Alec Coppel
Thomas Narcejac (novel)
Samuel Taylor

Bernard Herrmann

Director of Photography
Robert Burks

One of Hitchcock's most discussed films. Retired police detective Stewart, who has a fear of heights, is hired by old school chum in San Francisco to keep an eye on his wife (Novak), eventually falls in love with his quarry and that's just the beginning; to reveal more would be unthinkable. Alec Coppel and Samuel Taylor scripted, from the novel D'entre les Morts by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac. Haunting, dream-like thriller, with riveting Bernard Herrmann score to match; a genuinely great motion picture that demands multiple viewings.

The film is based upon the novel "D'Entre les Morts" which was written specifically for Hitchcock after the authors heard that he tried to buy the rights to their previous novel "Diabolique".

San Juan Batista, the Spanish mission which features in key scenes in the movie doesn't actually have a bell tower - it was added with trick photography. The mission originally had a steeple but it was demolished following a fire.

The screenplay is credited to Alec Coppel and Samuel Taylor, but Coppel didn't write a word of the final draft. He is credited for contractual reasons only. Taylor read neither Coppel's script nor the original novel, he worked solely from Hitchcock's outline of the story.

Hitchcock reportedly spent a week filming a brief scene where Kim Novak stares at a portrait in the Palace of the Legion of Honor just to get the lighting right.

Hitchcock invented the famous combination of forward zoom and reverse tracking shot to convey the sense of vertigo to the audience. The view down the mission stair well cost $19,000 for just a couple of seconds of screen time.

Hitchcock originally wanted Vera Miles to play Madeleine, but she got pregnant and was therefore unavailable.


Hitchcock makes his cameo appearance about 11 minutes in wearing a gray suit walking past Gavin Elster's shipyard.

Raymond Bailey
Barbara Bel Geddes
Ellen Corby
Tom Helmore
Gavin Elster
Henry Jones
Kim Novak
Lee Patrick
False Madeleine
Konstantin Shayne
Pop Leibel
James Stewart
Scottie Ferguson


Vertigo was restored in 1996 by Robert A. Harris and James C. Katz.

Since 1982 it has been featured in the Sight and Sound Greatest films of all Time poll conducted every 10 years.


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