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Rare Facts About Hitchcock’s Movie Vertigo

Today, the movie Vertigo by Alfred Hitchcock is considered one of the best films he’s ever made, despite its lack of success during initial release. It also took from Citizen Kane the ‘Greatest Film of All Time.’

The story of Vertigo goes something like this: an injured cop (played by Jimmy Stewart) suffering from extreme acrophobia has been hired by a familiar face to investigate his distant wife (played by Kim Novak). Here are a couple of facts relating to the movie most are unfamiliar with:

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1. Alfred Hitchcock Blamed Jimmy Stewart for Vertigo’s Failure

Despite it being one of his best works in the modern day, it was a spectacular dud when it was first released. It’s unfortunate that the movie was not received well as one could hope, considering the $2.5 million it cost to make.

What could have been the problem the audience had with the movie? Director Hitchcock suggests that it was Stewart’s ‘aging appearance’ that drove people away from his film and drew harsh criticism from writers.

Hitchcock once made the statement that Stewart, being 50 years old in real life at the time, was not a believable love interest for the 25-year-old Kim Novak’s character.

2. Edith Head Used Color to Highlight the Character’s State of Mind

The costume designer explained to Kim Novak that “Hitch paints a picture in his films, that color is as important to him as an artist,” in a book about the making over Vertigo.

While Novak protested a little at first, the actress shared a revelation with the publication known as The Telegraph, “I thought, ‘He knows my point of view, he must see a reason why that would work. He wants me to feel that discomfort as Madeleine. And, of course, she should feel that way because she’s actually Judy, playing the part of somebody, so that edge of discomfort will help me.

3. Kim Novak Was Already Being Considered to Replace Vera Miles, Hitchcock’s First-Choice Leading Lady

Hitchcock had initially spoken to actress Vera Miles about being his leading lady in the film. The problem with Miles was her reluctant to take direction from the director. At one point, Miles chose to drop out thanks to a surprise pregnancy.

The author of Vertigo: The Making of a Hitchcock Classic, author Dan Aulier wrote, “A few weeks before Miles reported to Stage 5 at Paramount for hair, costume, and makeup tests, Hitchcock screened The Eddy Duchin Story, a biopic featuring an actress [Kim Novak] who was being molded by one of Hitchcock’s crosstown rivals [Harry Cohn].

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4. An Uncredited Cameraman Came Up With the Famous “Vertigo Effect”

Do you know those scenes where a character’s sudden realization shows viewers visual discomfort? That is something known as the “vertigo effect.” It works by the cameraman pulling the camera in reverse as they zoom in on their subject.

This special technique was developed by cameraman Irwin Roberts. Herbert Coleman said of Roberts, “He didn’t get screen credits on Vertigo because they gave the screen credit to another close friend of ours [Wallace Kelley] who did all the process work on the stage.”

5. The Production Code Administration Policed the Morals of The Film’s Characters

Essentially the 1950s version the FCC, the organization sought to police what fictional characters were allowed to talk about on-screen. Many scenes containing what they deemed ‘illicit’ sex were demanded removed from the film.

Even the slightest shot of Madeleine’s underwear during her suicide attempt had to be removed.

6. The Film Went Through Several Title Options

Vertigo was actually based on a book whose title translated to From Among the Dead, which is what the film was initially referred to as. Executives at Paramount had suggested names such as A Matter of Fact, The Mad Carlotta, Face in the Shadow, and Possessed by a Stranger.

7. Despite Hitchcock’s Taskmaster Reputation, Kim Novak Got Along With Her Director

Alfred Hitchcock had a reputation in Hollywood for being a hard-ass with his actors and movie crew. But Novak stated in a 2003 interview with MacGuffin that it wasn’t the case with her. “Hitchcock didn’t make me feel ‘less than.’ He never said, ‘You’re not doing it right…’ What I would do after a take is to look in Jimmy Stewart’s eyes… I used Jimmy to give me what I needed to keep going and to know that I was on the right path with it… So, Hitchcock wouldn’t say anything about my work in the movie but, on the other hand, he wouldn’t complain either.’

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