Interview with Kim Novak
So, what was it like for you reading the letters of people from the
'MacGuffin' website who wrote so appreciatively of your work?
KN: I am so deeply moved. There was so much insight, appreciation, and intelligence in every one of them. They arrived at the perfect moment, too. What I always try to do in my acting is to communicate with people, to touch them, so I am especially gratified by everyone’s interest in Vertigo.
SR: When the script for Vertigo
came to you, you were under contract to Columbia and its president, the
legendarily crass Harry Cohn. You were also the number one
box-office attraction at the time.
KN: That’s right.
SR: How did doing Vertigo come about for you?
KN: Harry Cohn told me, ‘I got this awful script that Alfred Hitchcock wants you to do. If it weren’t for Hitchcock, I’d never let you do it.’
SR: How did you respond to the screenplay?
KN: The script was always the most important thing to me and I loved the script. For one thing, I’ve always admired trees. I just worship them. Think what trees have witnessed, what history, such as living through the Civil War, yet they still survive. I’ve always felt that part of why they survive is because they don’t try to intercede, to advise ‘No, that’s the wrong way,’ or to try and wipe out an army. They stood and observed. When I read that part of the Hitchcock script where Madeleine and Scottie are among the redwoods, she touches the tree rings and says, “Here I was born and here I died. It was only a moment. You took no notice,’ I got goose-bumps. When it came to shoot that scene, I had goose-bumps. Just touching that old tree was truly moving to me because when you touch these trees, you have such a sense of the passage of time, of history. It’s like you’re touching the essence, the very substance of life. I remember taking my father to see the redwood forest once. He wept and so did I. He ‘got’ it in the same way as I do. We never talked about it. That scene in Vertigo I felt more than any other, except the one in which Judy says to Jimmy’s character that if she lets him change her, will he love her? And she says she’ll do it, she doesn’t care any more about herself. That scene was so important to me. I was so naked there, so willing to be anything he wanted, just to be loved.
SR: Did Hitchcock make you feel valued as a performer and collaborator?
KN: He didn’t necessarily, but, on the other hand, he didn’t make me feel ’less than.’ He never said, ‘Do it a different way,’ or ‘You’re not doing it right.’ We only did probably two, three takes on every scene we did, at the most. I knew that he was a person who wanted what he wanted. I grew up in a family that never expressed when I did something right, but you knew when you did something wrong. So, I understood. What I would do after a take is to look in Jimmy Stewart’s eyes. He would nod his head, as if to say, ‘That was it.’ I used Jimmy to give me what I needed to keep going and to know that I was on the right path with it. I thought I saw Jimmy’s soul all the time we worked. He never covered his soul and I never covered mine. We saw into each other’s souls, very definitely. So, Hitchcock wouldn’t say anything about my work in the movie but, on the other hand, he wouldn’t complain, either.
SR: Vertigo is, thematically, about so many things, including obsession. From your viewpoint, what did Hitchcock seem obsessed by?
KN: Technical points were his main thing. He’d always look through the lens to watch your performance, unlike directors who sit off to the side. You’d never have a sense looking at his face how he thought it was going. He was the camera and I always felt comfortable with the camera. It was always difficult to have a director off to the side. Why I loved working with Hitchcock was that he allowed me that creativity and input. I always painted when I’d go home from a day on the sets of my movies. I love to paint but, back then, I was largely painting out of frustration. I don’t think I painted at all while I worked on Vertigo. I didn’t have the need to. I was so into doing what I was doing and I felt good about what I was doing. No one was telling me, ‘Do it this way.’ Hitchcock wouldn’t tell me how to think. Bad directors love to tell you how to think. I mean, why do they hire you? Today, they could just computerize you.
Costume designer Edith Head was quoted as saying that you arrived on
the set with all sorts of preconceived notions about what you would and
KN: I was always opinionated. Once we were making Vertigo, Hitchcock never questioned anything about what I was doing character-wise. Before shooting started, he sent me over to Edith Head, who showed me a set of drawings. When I saw them, the very first thing I said was, ‘I’m sorry. I don’t wear black shoes.’ When she said, ‘Alfred Hitchcock wants you to wear these shoes,’ I said, ‘I’m sure he doesn’t mind.’ I didn’t think it would matter to him what kind of shoes I wore. I had never had a director who was particular about the costumes, the way they were designed, the specific colors. The two things he wanted the most were those shoes and that gray suit. When Edith Head showed me that gray suit, I said, “Oh, my god, that looks like it would be very hard to act in. It’s very confining.’ Then, when we had the first fitting of the dress, it was even worse and I said, ‘This is so restrictive.’ She said, ‘Well, maybe you’d better talk to Alfred Hitchcock about this.’
SR: How did that conversation go?
KN: I went in and he said, ‘I understand you don’t like these black shoes.’ He asked me why and I said, ‘I tell you, black shoes always sort of make me feel I’m pulled down. I’ve always felt that your feet should be the same as the top of your head, so that you’re connected. Wearing the black shoes would make me feel as if I were disconnected.’ He heard me out. And then he said, ‘Fine. When you play the role of Judy, you will not have to wear black shoes. When you are playing Madeleine, you will wear them.’ When he put it like that -- after all, he’s the director – I said, ‘OK.’
SR: How did being opinionated lead to any other disagreements between you and Hitchcock?
KN: I really wanted the chance to express myself and he allowed me that chance. It felt OK because he had heard me out. He felt my reasons weren’t good enough, they weren’t right. I just wanted to be heard as far as what I felt. So, I thought, ‘I’ll live with the grey suit.’ I also thought, ‘I’m going to use this. I can make this work for me. Because it bothers me, I’ll use it and it can help me feel like I’m having to be Madeleine, that I’m being forced to be her. I’ll have it as my energy to play against.’ It worked. That suit and those shoes were a blessing. I was constantly reminded that I was not being myself, which made it right for Madeleine. When I went out of Alfred Hitchcock’s office, I remember his wonderful smile when he said, ‘I’m so glad we had this talk.’ I think he saw that this was going to be good. He didn’t say to me, ‘Now use that,’ he allowed me to arrive at that myself.
SR: Was it your idea not to wear a bra when you played Judy.
KN: That’s right, when I played Judy, I never wore a bra. It killed me having to wear a bra as Madeleine but you had to because they had built the suit so that you had to stand very erect or you suddenly were not ‘in position.’ They made that suit very stiff. You constantly had to hold your shoulders back and stand erect. But, oh that was so perfect. That suit helped me find the tools for playing the role. It was wonderful for Judy because then I got to be without a bra and felt so good again. I just felt natural. I had on my own beige shoes and that felt good. Hitchcock said, ‘Does that feel better?’ I said, ‘Oh, yes, thank you so much.’ But then, I had to play ‘Madeleine’ again when Judy had to be made over again by Scottie into what she didn’t want to be. I could use that, again, totally for me, not just being made over into Madeleine but into Madeleine who wore that ghastly gray suit. The clothes alone were so perfect, they were everything I could want as an actress.
The short haircut you usually wore in your films was copied by women
all around the world. Why did Hitchcock make you wear wigs in Vertigo?
KN: That’s right, my hair was short at that time in my career and Hitchcock wanted that perfect pulled-back hair. I already hated that gray suit and then having to go through putting on that wig with a false front -- again made me feel so trapped inside this person who was desperately wanting to break out of it but she was so caught up in the web of deception that she couldn’t. The fear of not being loved if she didn’t have on these clothes or wore her hair in a certain way -- oh, god, she had nothing left but to kill herself in the bell tower.
SR: So you definitely understood Judy as hurling herself from the tower.
KN: Absolutely. She was trapped.
SR: The dubbing notes for Vertigo indicate that Hitchcock had you record the voice of the nun in the belltower.
KN: Not so. I never did that.
SR: You never recorded the nun’s voice.
KN: (laughing) I would know if I had. Dubbing notes, notes from the set – they’re very imprecise. I tell you, I would have remembered that because I would have thought it was a fascinating idea – as if Judy’s guilt were haunting her so much that she imagined the nun speaking. That’s a wonderful idea. Do you suppose they’d let me dub it today because it would be so interesting to hear the scene done that way?
SR: We’d need to talk with the Hitchcock family, Universal, Mssrs. Katz and Harris.
KN: Hmmmm. Now, you’ve got me thinking.
SR: How did you react to the mixed-to-negative notices and the disappointing box-office for Vertigo?
KN: It lessened my self-confidence. I always have this feeling that I’m supposed to do something, to mean something. My sense of that started to weaken, as if, ‘Oh, I thought this was a medium that I was supposed to touch people in and I’m not having an impact.’ As time went by, I thought, ‘This is not the right medium.’ It’s a wonderful medium and I enjoyed working in it but I started to think that this must have been a detour. This must not be my medium for doing something important and to touch people. I loved acting, which was never about money, the fame. It was about a search for meaning. It was painful.
SR: Even under contract, with such films as Middle of The Night (1959), Jeanne Eagels (1957), and, especially, Vertigo
you seemed determined to wriggle out of the straitjacket of the ‘new
Marilyn Monroe’ and the ‘lavender blonde’ publicity gambits Columbia
foisted on you.
KN: Oh, yes. I tried so hard with movies like Vertigo and Middle of the Night and others. I felt those would show me that it’s only a matter of time before I’d find the right one to reach out and touch people. Harry Cohn said after Vertigo, ‘Now, let’s get back and do some scripts we can make money with.’ My security comes from my senses, my sensing the direction I should go and suddenly I felt out of tune, out of step with what other people wanted or what other people expected of me. The work I did in Vertigo meant nothing if no one cared about the movie. Luckily, Vertigo had a revival and people had begun to recognize there was something special and it gained in reputation. But it just as well could have ended up rotting in film cans somewhere. It means nothing if the movie doesn’t get out there.
SR: While filming Bell, Book and Candle (1958) with James Stewart, did you feel any emotional carry-over from Vertigo or did you even talk about that movie at all?
KN: It seems to me that when Jimmy and I were making that movie, Vertigo hadn’t been released yet. I don’t remember talking with Jimmy about Vertigo. We were just on to the next movie. We had such a wonderful time making Bell, Book and Candle and just got closer as people. We had a wonderful friendship. The director would yell ‘Cut,’ the scene would be over, they’d throw on the lights and we’d still be sitting there. We wouldn’t even say anything to each other. We’d just be there with our feet resting on an end table and communicating silently, comfortable in each other’s presence without feeling we were in the midst of Hollywood. I always felt Jimmy was trapped in Hollywood. He felt it himself. He loved aviation so much and he wanted to be able to do more of that. He somehow just got stuck here. I’ve never met two people who were less ‘Hollywood’ than Jimmy Stewart and Fred Astaire, with whom I made The Notorious Landlady (1962). They didn’t belong here but their lives were here. They couldn’t break away from it, for some reason. I just had to break away.
SR: Harry Cohn was very much a businessman and Vertigo did not make money. Did he explain his course of action for you after Vertigo.
KN: His idea was for me to play in beach party kinds of roles and do Lana Turner kinds of movies. As I said, I began losing confidence in my instincts, which is tough and very bad for an instinctive person. I didn’t want to start relying on what someone else thought was right. It was easier to go away all together.
Well, many of us would like to see you back for as long as you’d like
to be. I know in the past few months you’ve gotten a number of
offers to do some major films and to appear on high profile television
shows. Are you tempted?
KN: (laughing) Well, we’ll see.
© 2004, by Kim Novak and Stephen Rebello
Readers' messages sent to Ms Novak
[Editor's note. The initial tribute to Ms Novak was emailed to me by Australian director Richard Franklin and provided the impetus for inviting our readers to have their say ...]
1. From Richard Franklin, Melbourne, Australia.
When I was directing PSYCHO II, I discussed VERTIGO with Vera Miles. She told me Hitch was furious that she had become pregnant on the eve of his making her a star. But in this instance Hitch was wrong about the casting of his greatest picture.
I have seen material of Vera in the Madeleine/Judy part and am firmly convinced that the main reason VERTIGO transcends all of Hitchcock's other work is the performance, the sensuality (and vulnerability) of Kim Novak.
Whatever tensions may have existed during the shoot, Kim far exceeds
any other 'Hitchcock blonde' with the strength of her performance. Vera
was beautiful, but did NOT possess the ethereal quality of Kim. Eva
Marie Saint, Grace Kelly and even 'Madeleine' Carroll do not come close.
When I first showed the picture to my friend and colleague Dr George
Miller (MAD MAX, LORENZO'S OIL, WITCHES OF EASTWICK), who you may be
aware is a student of Joseph Campbell et al, he commented
he had never seen a more perfect embodiment of the Jungian 'anima' than Kim Novak in VERTIGO. Kim's Madeleine is simply the perfect female.
I am of the opinion the repressed Hitch (and I'm NOT talking about the Spoto construct) was quite out of his depth with Kim, who gave a performance of such godlike sensuality and such vulnerabilty and humanity as the 'sad' Judy, that in my opinion Kim deserves a great deal of the credit for the film's 'masterpiece' status. I wonder if she knows for example that esteemed Aussie film critic Tom Ryan named his daughter Madeleine.
It is probably transparently obvious that movie director and aficionado of Hitchcock or not, I was in love with Kim Novak. She remains one of my yardsticks of all things wonderful about 'goddesses' of the screen, and of the mystery and wonder of the opposite sex.
And VERTIGO is one hell of a movie - largely because of her.
2. From Joel Gunz, USA.
REMEMBERING KIM NOVAK'S PERFORMANCE IN VERTIGO
By the time I was 17 years old, I had seen almost every film in the
Alfred Hitchcock canon. Hence, when it was announced that _Vertigo_ (one
of the last few that I had _not_ seen) would finally be freed from
litigation in 1983, I was ecstatic. Being a teenager I was still free to
choose my obsessions, and weeks before the new print of the film
arrived in Portland, Oregon I had nearly memorized the chapter on Vertigo in John Russell Taylor's biography of the director, Hitch. For me, this was the
cinema event of the year. I had no way of knowing that it would also turn out to be one of the greatest cinema events of my life.
In spite of my prior research for the movie, I was about as unprepared for Kim Novak's performance of Madeleine as Pearl Harbor was for the Kamikaze attack on December 7, 1941. Madeleine was everything I thought I desired in a woman at that time, in all of her glorious contradictions: timid, audacious, intelligent, sophisticated, mysterious, simple, complicated - often all in the same breath. I will never forget the devastation of suffering her loss twice in the period of about 60 minutes. Even after the movie ended and the house lights came up, I sat in stunned, slackjawed silence, my eyes fixed on the curtains covering the movie screen like a red velvet burial shroud. People stared at me as they filed out of the theater. Later, I went to a vintage shop and bought a dark three-button suit just like James Stewart's in his role as Scottie Ferguson. Like I said, I was 16. I'll obsess my way, and you obsess yours.
Novak's performance brought about a sea change in me as to how I
viewed not only Hitchcock's movies, but also film in general. In the
years B.V. (Before Vertigo) I
was drawn to Hitchcock films because I enjoyed his technical
prowess. The very word 'montage' - as uttered by Hitch - held an
almost mystical fascination for me; its concepts were a Rosetta
Stone-like key to
interpreting the hieroglyphics of film imagery. Vertigo changed
all that. For the first time in many years, I
was utterly, completely, moved by a screen performance. Actually, 'moved' is an understatement. Thanks to Ms. Novak, I was shoved headlong into an emotional abyss - one with stucco walls and a tile roof not dissimilar to those of Mission San Juan Bautista. In my psyche, Madeleine's bones remain there, twisted and sunbleached, to this day.
Happily, Vertigo remains a perennial screen favorite. I can pretty much
count on seeing the film return to one of our more culturally
ambitious independent theaters at least once a year. For that
reason, I'm proud to say that I've never seen the movie on video. Nor
would I want to. Kim Novak gave us a big screen performance, and
watching it on TV would be like listening to Maria Callas'
performance of Carmen on a clock radio. Novak's Madeleine is, perhaps
by definition, unobtainable. Still, I'm grateful for the
few images of her that exist so that I, like other Scottie Fergusons,
may sit in a darkened theater and will her, one more time, back to life.
3. [Mr] 'Kari S.'/ Kari Paananen, Turku, Finland.
What I want Kim Novak to know
I saw Vertigo for the first time somewhere in the mid-eighties. I didn't understand it then. The concept of losing your loved-one was too much for me to grasp - I hadn't even been in love by that time.
But a few years ago, when Vertigo was restored, I fell in love with the film. Now, I had fallen in love, separated and been in love several times in
real life, so perhaps that's the thing that made me realize the
greatness of this picture. There is something in this film that moves me
deeply everytime I sit down to view it. I try not to do it too often,
since I don't want to spoil the experience of
it - once a year is about enough.
I don't recall seeing any of the films of Kim Novak that she made before Vertigo, apart from Picnic by Joshua Logan. As for the later ones, I saw The Mirror Crack'd (From Side to Side), when it was released. Although that was more Elizabeth Taylor's show - I do remember Kim's storming entrance however. Vertigo seems to be in a league of its own. Ms Novak must be so proud for having been in a film like that.
Her voice, to me, is one essential part of Vertigo. When I think about Vertigo, I see a few flashing images and hear the voice of Kim Novak. I remember especially the scene at the beach, when Madeleine tells Scotty about the location of the dream she's been having ('There's a tower and a bell and a garden below...'). I have compared that scene (and others) on the DVD, where there are dubbed versions in Spanish, in Italian, in French and in German. None of the dubbed versions match the original, the intensity of it. Thank God they don't dub films here in Finland.
Being a Hitchcock fan, I realize that a lot of the magic of Vertigo is due to him, not forgetting the score, cinematography or editing... But it would not be the same without Kim Novak's performance.
I want Kim Novak to know that this 35 year old Finnish man thinks highly of her and her work - and is also introducing Vertigo to new people, whenever there's a chance. By the way, the Finnish title of Vertigo is Punainen kyynel (Red Tear), referring to that necklace.
4. [Mr] Sandy McLendon, USA.
I find Kim Novak's performance in 'Vertigo'
remarkable, all the more so when one considers how she may have found
its key. For me, that key is what must have been her very deep
understanding of the manipulation in 'Vertigo's'
script. Like Judy Barton, Kim Novak had come from an unglamorous,
solidly Middle American place to a big, glamorous city. Once in
Hollywood, she was treated as every movie star is - which is to say at
least as much property as person. As with any star, Novak was required
dress, speak and move in ways that fostered fantasy and glamour. The real Kim Novak seems often to have been ignored; the glamour was far more important to Hollywood than the person behind it. I view Novak's early years at Columbia as roughly analogous to the tutelage Judy got from Gavin Elster, gaining her some things she wanted, but at a personal cost she could not have foreseen.
When Novak went from her home studio, Columbia, to film 'Vertigo'
at Paramount, there seem to have been more parallels between actress
and character. Every woman has views on what she feels good wearing, and
what she does not - and Hitchcock's wardrobe requirements for his film
are said to have violated every one of Novak's own preferences. After
being treated at Columbia in the way Gavin Elster treated Judy, Ms.
Novak was now being asked to do precisely what Scottie asked of Judy -
dressed up to a man's specifications. What I find remarkable is
that Ms. Novak herself seems to have understood the parallels at the
time, and was more than actress enough to put her discomfiture to work
for her character. Her work in 'Vertigo'
is quiet and yet searing in its portrayal of the damage done to a young
woman by men who do not consider her important for herself: instead,
she's important to them only because of what she can do for them. So
many people see 'Vertigo' as being
about a dual role or personality; I think Kim Novak went much deeper. Her portrayal is that of a woman being forced to play roles - and who loses her life in an attempt to become one real, complete woman.
I think that
'Vertigo' does not end with 'Vertigo'; I believe that 'Vertigo' spills
over into Novak's next film, 'Bell, Book and Candle.' Ms. Novak had just completed a movie about the damage done by manipulation; 'Bell, Book and Candle' is about someone who resists
manipulation. The fun, glamorous witch she played, Gillian Holroyd, is
someone whom others want to remain a witch for their own selfish
reasons. Gillian wants to define herself as a genuine human being,
capable of love and respect, and voluntarily gives up her powers to
achieve that humanity. To me, the two films are two sides of the same
coin - Judy Barton and Gillian Holroyd have much the same issues, only
Gillian wins where Judy loses. I see other Kim Novak roles that express
the same idea: a woman who is intent on being herself, sometimes against
5. Jim Davidson, California, USA.
A trip down the Monterey Penninsula last weekend for the AT&T
golf tournament led to the required stop by one of the great locations
Hitchcock film: Mission San Juan Bautista. It seems in that place
as if time has stopped, and you can still see Kim Novak as Madeleine
running across the grass plaza from the stables, pursued by James
Stewart as Scotty. Novak's performance in
"Vertigo" is no doubt one of the great, underrated performances of all
time; hers is unquestionably the critical role
in a film that is now thought of as one of the greatest ever made. Her ability to convincingly play the beautiful, tortured Madeleine Elster and make us, the audience - as well as Scotty - believe her, is undoubtedly the key to the film's success.
But I also wanted to mention another part that Novak played that has similar qualities to that of Madeleine Elster/Judy Barton: as Polly the Pistol in Billy Wilder's "Kiss Me, Stupid". Here again, Novak plays a woman who must impersonate another woman to please a man, and she manages to pull this difficult part off and again make it believable to the audience. This must have been a very challenging role to manage under challenging circumstances, and Kim Novak produces a gem of a performance in this film that has never been recognized for the comic masterpiece that it is. Hopefully "Kiss Me, Stupid" will someday be released on DVD and new audiences will come to see the remarkable performance that Ms. Novak gave in this film.
On a personal level, I can say that I saw Kim Novak in person at the premiere of the restored "Vertigo"
a few years ago in San Francisco, and she
was gracious, charming and beautiful. The audience fell in love
with her all over again. It's just too bad that the movie stars of
today don't have the grace, style and elegance of Kim Novak!
6. Eric Carlson, California, USA.
In "Vertigo," Kim Novak gives
one of the greatest performances in a Hitchcock film, and one that was
unjustly snubbed by the Academy (she should
have been nominated and deserved to win). Oscar or not, the
performance lives on as one of the greatest in film. She is
believably one woman and then believably another. She plays an
unattainable goddess (watched by Stewart), a tantalizingly attainable
goddess (courted by Stewart), and a been-around shopgirl (courted again
by Stewart) with equal aplomb. And then, in the third act, she
devastatingly essays the sad, yearning desperation of a woman willing to
obliterate her very personality for the love of an unbalanced man,
giving up her life in the process. A great performance.
Amazingly, in the same year (1958), opposite the same leading man (James
Stewart), Novak is seen in the much lighter and frothier "Bell, Book, and Candle" sexily ruling the screen as a galaxy of scene-stealing male stars floats around her (Stewart, Jack Lemmon,
Ernic Kovacs.) That's a film that makes you ache for the color and glamour of the late fifties. "Vertigo" and "Bell, Book, and Candle" by themselves would earn Novak stardom.
Novak is a great star because she is a beauty who makes us feel. The entrapped rural festival queen in "Picnic," the loving girlfriend of a junkie in "The Man With the Golden Arm," the coveted housewife who enters an ill-fated affair much more out of lonlieness than lust in "Strangers When We Meet."
Novak could offer fun times, too. She shines in "Boys Night Out" (skillfully leading on three married wolves for a sociology experiment while holding them at bay and winning their bachelor friend for her own husband). She's all sexy fun in Wilder's controversial sexy farce "Kiss Me Stupid," sending up Monroe and waking up Dean Martin for a great self-parody. A personal favorite: "The Notorious Landlady," where Jack Lemmon stands in for Everyman in getting a chance with the unattainable (great bathtub scene, too!) A fun exercise: her delightfully catty exchanges with Elizabeth Taylor (opposite Rock Hudson and Tony Curtis) as warring movie divas in "The Mirror Crack'd."
male from nine to ninety, I had a crush on Kim Novak, and still
do. I live in California and often visit the beautiful Carmel
coast where I
believe she lives. Just knowing she's out there somewhere is a
pleasure and a comfort. She beat Hollywood at its own
sex-goddess game, acted in films both great and entertaining, and will
be remembered for years to come.
7. Rick W., Philadelphia, USA.
Although I just cruised into this website by chance - it was linked to an article about PSYCHO, which I viewed again today (Feb. 27) - I am what you
might say a long-time fan of Kim Novak and of VERTIGO.
It is my
favorite movie of all time. No matter how many times I
watch this film, I get all tensed up and weep throughout the scene where
"Madeline" "falls" to her death. And during the climactic scene
when Judy and Scottie go up the tower again, and he cruelly berates this
woman who obsesses him, I sob. Why
should this film affect me so? Perhaps because dozens of books and
scholarly articles could be written about the power and the
universality of this movie. (Oh, excuse me, they HAVE been!)
Definitely, Kim Novak's (and Jimmy Stewart's) performance is
compelling. Just think - during the first part of the film she is
Kim Novak, playing the part of Judy Barton, who is
pretending to be Madeline - who is pretending to be possesed by "Carlotta"! Also, the first time that Scottie meets Judy was, for me, a watershed event - it was the first time I was fully aware that women have, um, breasts! (Did I mention that my mother took me to see this film when I was SIX YEARS OLD?) It was also during this picture that a seemingly throwaway line by Madeline - to the effect that everybody HAS to die - made me realize that, as careful as I could possibly be about avoiding car
crashes, heart attacks, and so on, I HAVE to die some day. Is it any wonder that, at age 50, I find this film even more hypnotizing and gripping than even most Hitchcock scholars, fans, and fanatics?
8. Sarah Nichols, Connecticut, USA.
Am finding it difficult to express just exactly how I feel about the wonderful Kim.Novak. I want to say that the scene in Vertigo,
brings her back to the hotel from their first date, is as once achingly
sad and beautiful, and that the shot of her by the window, bathed in
that ethereal green, breaks my heart. Resignation and pain pass across
her face like nothing I've seen in any
other film. I think of Thoreau's phrase: 'the mass of men live lives of quiet desperation'. We see it here, writ in silence, the dream of an unconditional love draining away.