Wednesday, September 5, 2007

History of "Vertigo"

"The only way to get rid of my fears is to make films about them" Alfred Hitchcock

Choosing a place

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

In 1951, Alfred Hitchcock visited San Francisco for the opening of "Strangers on a Train". According to his daughter, Patricia Hitchcock, "He loved San Francisco. He felt it was a very glamorous city. He felt it was rather like an American Paris". It is said that Hitchcock liked to present the audience "a peaceful place and then introduce an unexpected twist of malice".

Alfred Hitchock had observed the Golden Gate Bridge and was tremendously inspired.
The only element missing was a story to support the movie, until he found "D'entre les morts" (From Among the Dead). After having the story for his film and all the settings in his mind he asked his associated producer, Herbert Coleman to look for Spanish missions for the "key scenes".

Mission Old San Juan Bautista

In 1955, Herbert Coleman visited the Mission Old San Juan Bautista. This place, located 97 miles south San Francisco, was built in 1797 and since then, it has served mass. It has also resisted earthquakes. The first one took place on October 1800 and the other one in 1906. In reality, the bell tower that appears in the most important scenes of the film does not exist. It had been destroyed in a fire a long time ago, so Hitchcock added it by means of photography tricks.
The Cast

Regarding the cast, James Stewart seemed to be the perfect person to play a detective with fear of heights.

Vera Miles

Originally, the role of Madeleine was going to be played by Vera Miles. But problems appeared : Hitchcock had to had an operation and by the time he recovered, Vera Miles announced that she was pregnant and that she could not do the film. Finally Kim Novak was chosen as the object of the detective's obsession.

The costumes were in charge of Edith Head, who also had an important role in Vertigo. She was one of the most important costume design
er in Hollywood. Let us remind you that clothes take an important role in Vertigo. The grey suit or the dress that Madeleine wears at Ernie's or the white coat, are also part of Scottie's obsessions.
Hitchcock was very clear about what kind of clothes he wanted for his films and its colours.

The Story

After Hitchcock and his wife had carefully studied the story for the film, they hired the first screen writer, Maxwell Anderson who turned in a screenplay called "Darklin I Listen" that was not satisfactory at all. Then, Alec Coppel worked on this script and changed its name to "From Among the Dead". It contained scenes such as the rooftop opening, the dream sequence and scenes at the Spanish mission. But Hitchcock and James Stewart were still unhappy about the script,so a new writer was hired. He was Samuel Taylor and he worked for one year on the screenplay and did a great improvement. He added Midge and developed James Stewart's character,and he decided to reveal Madeleine's identity to the audience two-thirds of the way into the film rather than at the end.

By 1957, the location shooting began mainly in San Francisco and the title of this movie was "From Among The Dead". Hitchcock did not like to shoot on real locations. Instead, he would get the outside places and then build a set on the stage in order to be able to control the lights and the actors. Henry Bumstead designed all the individual sets for Vertigo, including the inside part of the Bell Tower. The set for the bell tower was seventy feet high, so it gave Hitchcock's stars a real feeling of vertigo.

The vertigo effect was achieved b
y a combination of zooming forward and tracking backward simultaneously. It was necessary to build a large-scale model of a staircase. It was filmed by cameraman John Fulton.
The spiral, a symbol of the movie, was designed to express the feeling that Vertigo produces.

Robert Burks carried out Hitchcock's cholor scheme of reds and greens and used fog filters to create a dreamlike atmosphere. Green is important because it has a symbolic role in the movie.
This Masterpiece was going to be lost, but fortunately it was restored by James Katz and Robert Harris in 1996. This work lasted for two years.

This post was made thanks to the information found on :

Special thanks to the following Documentary:
Obsessed With Vertigo.Dir. Harrison Engle. DVD. American Classic Movies 1997
In which this post has been mainly based.

1 comment:

julie said...

Hi, I don't know if you check in on your blog anymore, but I think doors as vaginal symbols are far more telling in Vertigo than are the phallic symbols. Scotty is a stalker and potentially a rapist. His objectification of Madeleine/Judy only exacerbates as the movie goes on - think of the dressing up and changing Judy's hair color, where he says "it can't matter to you, Judy!" He frequently has to go through doors he ought not go through, and hesitates at other times. Entering the door is penetration - intercourse. What do you think?