VERTIGO : Alternate Ending

 

Who can forget that heart-stopping ending of VERTIGO when Kim Novak accidentally falls out of the bell tower and James Stewart’s character, ‘Scottie’, finally conquers his vertigo.

It’s a despairing, desolate ,yet inevitable ending.

Because there was no other ending appropriate for this story of obsession, it seems shocking that anyone would choose to override Hitchcock’s vision. But the Hollywood Production Code Administration tried.

In the era of strict censorship, the PCA were not happy that wife-killer ‘Gavin Elster’ would escape justice.  The PCA said,

”It will be most important that the indication  that Elster will be brought back  for trial is sufficiently emphasised.”

The  film, as it comes to an end, makes no further mention of Elster, so Hitchcock was forced to film a new scene which would have directly followed that unforgettable shot of James Stewart, with his arms outstretched in despair.

 

The Barbara Bel Geddes  character, ‘Midge’ is in her apartment. Her radio is on and we hear that ‘Gavin Elster’ has been arrested. James Stewart enters and without turning round, she prepares a drink for him. He walks slowly over to the window.

 

She gives him the drink then steps away from him. Nothing is said.

 

He gazes out the window.. The end!

Fortunately Hitchcock discarded this scene after a first viewing of the rough cut. And fortunately he got away with disregarding the PCA.

The scene ,which runs just under two minutes , was first included on dvd in 1993 and is also on You Tube.

 

Some thoughts on  Vertigo:

Amazing to see that, on its  release, Vertigo didn’t receive the high praise with which it is now regarded. Time magazine called it “Another Hitchcock-and-bull story.”  The New Yorker described it as “far fetched nonsense.”

How time and tastes change.

At ten year intervals from 1952, the British Film Institute through its magazine, ‘Sight and Sound’, invited a selection of the world’s  film critics to choose the ten best films of all time.  The criteria included being the most important in film history; pinnacle of achievement; the biggest impact on the voter’s view of cinema.

Vertigo didn’t appear in the Top Ten till 1982 when it was joint 7th.

The latest poll from 2012 had Vertigo at number one, replacing Citizen Kane which had topped the polls from 1962.

Which brings me to my idea of a poll, a simple one- how about listing your Top Ten Hollywood sound films covering 1927 to 1960. And we can see if any of our personal  favourites turn up in other people’s lists.

 

Myths – or not:

Before Vera Miles was due to have hair, makeup and costume tests, Hitchcock was screening “The Eddie Duchin Story.”……..

After the luke warm reception to the film, did Hitchcock really think that Jimmy Stewart was too old at 50 for the part. After all, Kim Novak was ‘only’ 25 years younger than Stewart, but who noticed.

 

Kim Novak and Tom Helmore.

The flashback shot that shows what really happened .  Wonder who’s playing the dead Madeleine. A stunt woman, Polly Burson,worked on the film, so maybe her.

Questions. After a few viewings   of  Vertigo over the years, I find myself questioning quite a lot of the plot. I know we have to suspend reality a lot of the time in films, but plots have to have some plausibility.

How did Elster get the dead body into the Mission and up to the top – without being seen. ( Judy later admits to Scottie  that Madeleine was dead.) At night? So he was there with a dead body for hours before Scottie and Judy arrive.

Is that a wound that can be seen on the face of the real Madeleine?

Did Judy know what Elster’s end game was? If not, what story did he spin her and what did she think was going to happen on the tower.

How and when did Judy and Elster get down, again without being seen. How quickly did the police arrive. We see two nuns running to the body, followed by police, but the time scale isn’t clear.

Wouldnt the police have gone up the tower to see if there was any evidence that Madeleine had slipped?

Judy later reveals to Scottie that Elster strangled his wife. At the inquest, the coroner says there was a post-mortem, so surely the strangulation would have been evident.

Apart from that, the only evidence presented for the case  of suicide was from Elster and Scottie. There is no other evidence of mental instability.

( I love how Elster tells Scottie he doesn’t blame him for Madeleine’s death! – he says, “You and I know who killed   Madeleine.”

 

If you are interested in the San Francisco locations for  VERTIGO, two great sites are https:/ http://www.toursanfranciscobay.com  and reelsf.com

 

The Empire hotel where ‘Judy’ lived was renamed the York hotel and is now the  Vertigo Hotel! (Surely the only place to stay when visiting San Francisco!)

The reception desk at The Vertigo hotel – with the film screening behind !

The hotel advertises: “Check into the Hotel Vertigo and you’ll realise that equilibrium is overrated.”

 

The building Hitchcock used for the location shots of the McKittrick Hotel, where Madeleine has a room. This building ,from the 1890s, was the home of a businessman,Henry F.Fortmann till the 1940s. By the time of filming it was empty and was later demolished in 1959.

A great looking old building. A shame it’s gone.

 

Ellen Corby, James Stewart.

The scene at the McKittrick hotel is puzzling. Madeleine parks her car outside and Scottie sees her raising the blind in an upstairs room.

When he speaks to the lady at the reception desk (Ellen Corby), she confirms someone called Carlotta Valdez rented the room, but that she’s not in just now. Her key is on the rack.  Scottie asks her to check the room and she calls him up to show no one is there!

He looks out the window and the car is gone.

Why would Madeleine leave as suddenly as she had arrived, and if she did, how did she get out without being seen – a back exit?

Any ideas?

 

Interesting that Hitchcock should use same shot of Madeleine at the McKittrick  and Judy at the Empire .

 

The Carlotta Valdez gravestone was removed from the Mission Dolores because of all the visitors it was attracting. Wonder what happened to it.

 

That painting of  Carlotta which Madeleine gazes at has also disappeared.

You could always stand on the same spot as Jimmy Stewart does, as he watched Madeleine. (The Palace of the Legion of Honor.)

 

‘Judy’.

 

Does ‘Judy’ look anything like Madeleine?  Dark hair, thick eyebrows and stronger makeup. Don’t think so. So why would Elster – or ‘Scottie’ think so.

It’s not clear how long Scottie was being treated for his breakdown. There was some mention of 6 months or a year. However long it was, when he knocks on Judy’s door and she opens it and sees him, how could she possibly have shown no reaction? This is the man she loves and with whom she has been through quite a traumatic time. Just seems implausible.

 

The transcription of  Judy’s voice-over as she tries to write a letter to Scottie, explaining everything, but she tears it up.

(I love how the grey outifit worn by Madeleine is still in Judy’s wardrobe.)

I guess we just have to accept that Scottie just happened to be walking along the street when Judy passes by.

And that shop worker Judy  can bring to life so convincingly the mysterious Madeleine . This is my biggest problem. At least, why not have made Judy  an actress? Could Judy really be transformed ( even her voice is different) into the sophisticated socialite, Madeleine Elster?

 

Judy gives herself away by putting on the necklace that had belonged to Carlotta and Madeleine and, finally, Scottie realises he has been duped. That Judy and Madeleine are one and the same.

He says, “You shouldn’t keep souvenirs of a killing.”

 

Tom Helmore, James Stewart.

Tom Helmore was so plausible as Gavin Elster , as he draws Scottie into his scheme to murder his wife and make it appear suicide. A few more flashback scenes with him would have clarified some of Elster’s murder  plot.

There is some perfunctory attempt near the end of the film to explain some of the plot but it’s all rather rushed. Once Scottie  knows the truth, he angrily says to Judy, “Did he train you – did he rehearse you?……the two of you hid  back there and waited for it to clear and then sneaked down and drove into town, is that it?”

Judy admits that Elster ditched her and all she got was some  money and Carlotta’s necklace.

 

I’d love to hear any thoughts on the issues I have raised.

And just to add , I fully appreciate all the great things about Vertigo, starting with the great graphics of Saul Bass over the titles; the fantastic Bernard Hermann score which adds so much to the drama; the performances of Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak; all the great San Francisco locations, the wonderful saturated use of colour; and the one and only Hitchcock touch.

Ownership of Vertigo reverted to Hitchcock 8 years after release. He also owned the rights to Rear Window, The Man Who Knew too Much, The Trouble With Harry and Rope. He took them out of circulation for many years.

After his death, Universal bought the rights to the 5 films and they began to be seen again in 1983.

 

Kim Novak  and James Stewart.

 

Great publicity shots.

 

THE WOMAN WHO LIVED TWICE.

 

HOLLYWOOD ROMANCE CLASSICS

A nice surprise to find this well packaged collection of 10 films (all public domain). The tin box of the 5-dvd  set was made in China and the packaging was done in Hong  Kong. And the set was licensed for Australia and New Zealand!

How it turned up in a charity shop in Scotland is anyone’s guess. And it was sealed and unopened.

 

 

The ‘bonus booklet’ had 15 pages of basic information on each star and nice portraits of the stars.

 

Cover of the booklet.

 

STANLEY DONEN: A Tribute

Stanley Donen

STANLEY DONEN, one of the giants of the Hollywood musical, has died at the age of 94.

As I write this I’m watching Stanley receive his Honorary Oscar in 1998. His  acceptance speech was in song and dance! He said, ”Tonight words seem inadequate. In musicals that’s when we a do a song…….”   and he launched into “Cheek to Cheek”……….”Heaven, I’m in heaven and my heart beats so that I can hardly speak……”  followed by a tap dance!

1998 Oscars.

Stanley knew from an early age he wanted to be a dancer. He said,

“I saw FLYING DOWN TO RIO when I was 9 and I directed Fred Astaire when I was 25. He became my good friend.”

Stanley left High School in Columbia, South Carolina and went to New York. Landing a role in the Broadway chorus of  PAL JOEY in 1940, he became friends with Gene Kelly who played ‘Joey’.

Not sure if Stanley Donen is in this picture of “Pal Joey”, but Van Johnson can be seen behind Gene Kelly.

The year after Pal Joey, Gene was back on Broadway choreographing BEST FOOT FORWARD, and  Stanley was one of the dancers. When Gene moved to Hollywood, Stanley followed in 1943 and quickly got into choreography, working for five years in 14 films for Columbia and MGM. Films he worked on included COVER GIRL and ANCHORS AWEIGH.

He was assistant to directors Charles Walters and George Sidney and one can only assume that in addition to his choreographing skills, he was soaking up all the knowledge he could gain about directing movies.

At the age of 25 he was handed directorial control on ROYAL WEDDING, starring Fred Astaire and Jane Powell.

Fred Astaire, Stanley Donen. ROYAL WEDDING.

 

Jane Powell, Stanley Donen.

 

The famous number in Royal Wedding where Astaire defies gravity. Stanley and Astaire and Alan Jay Lerner have each  taken credit for the unique way the number was filmed.

 

Frank Sinatra, Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly. ON THE TOWN.

In the 8 years from his Broadway debut in the chorus line of Gene Kelly’s “Pal Joey”,  Stanley has progressed to co-directing three films with Gene – ON THE TOWN, SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN and IT’S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER.  He was still only 28 at the time of their most famous collaboration, “Singin’ In The Rain”.

 

Rare on-the-set shot from On The Town, with Stanley standing behind Gene Kelly, Jules Munshin and Frank Sinatra. Wonderful to see all the onlookers above.

The first musical to have scenes shot  on location . Arthur Freed at MGM was persuaded by Kelly and Donen to let them shoot for a few days in New York. Not for them the confines of a back lot. When singing about New York, they wanted to be there!

 

The famous shot at the Rockefeller Center with the statue of Prometheus above the skating rink.

(A fond memory for me, being in New York , standing opposite the statue and remembering that scene. I expect many other fans have done the same!)

 

Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen.

On SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN, Stanley said,

“When we did “Singin’ In The Rain” we were young, full of energy and vitality – we didn’t have any fear – we just burst out doing it.

On co-directing with Gene Kelly:

“We did everything together. We were initially rehearsing  in two separate rehearsal halls. Gene worked on one number . I would do another one……there was no system.”

 

Cyd Charisse, Gene Kelly

 

Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Gene Kelly.

 

Wonderful advertising for Singin’ In The Rain in a shop window in New York.

 

Stanley had great success with his solo direction of SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS , DEEP IN MY HEART and FUNNY FACE.

 

 

Audrey Hepburn, Stanley Donen.

 

Ann Miller. DEEP IN MY HEART.

 

And then Stanley was back co-directing with George Abbott in DAMN YANKEES and THE PAJAMA GAME.

M

 

 

Stanley moves to England in 1958 and did the romantic comedy INDISCREET, with Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. Musicals were going out of fashion and Stanley showed he wasn’t tied to musicals.

 

Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman.INDISCREET.

 

Stanley directing Bergman and Grant.

 

His second  film with Cary Grant, THE GRASS IS GREENER, with Deborah Kerr and Robert Mitchum.

 

The wonderful  thriller, CHARADE, made by Donen and compared to Hitchcock’s films.

By the time of “Charade”, Stanley was only 40, yet he only made 9 more movies, with success increasingly difficult for him. It’s not clear why.

 

A third film for Donen and Audrey Hepburn, with the late Albert Finney.

 

 

Stanley directed Elizabeth Taylor in THE LIGHT FANTASTIC in 1952 and the two dated.

 

With Yvette Mimieux

Stanley Donen was married four times including to YVETTE MIMIEUX from 1972 to 1985. His first wife Jeanne Coyne married Gene Kelly after they were divorced. And his second wife,Marion Marshall subsequently married Robert Wagner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE OSCARS

Director FRED ZINNEMANN won four Oscars. Tonight is Oscar night , the 91st Academy Awards, with all the glamour and glitz attached.

This is what Mr. Zinnemann had to say about the annual awards:

“It’s always nice if you can win an Oscar, and I am delighted to have them, but I’m not delighted by the system. It’s a publicity kind of thing. By and large, it’s very important, but the mistakes that are made, are staggering.

There are so many pictures that are marvellous that never got an Oscar.There are a great number of directors who never got an Oscar, like King Vidor and a number of others. He only got a charity Oscar when he was dying.

It depends too much on politics, too much on publicity. Personally I don’t believe that there’s ever anything that’s the ‘best’ – it’s a very facile  kind of a thing to say this is the ‘best’.

How can you say that Beethoven is better than Mozart? It’s not right, so the whole concept of prizes is there really for the publicity and to get more people to pay their tickets to go to see movies.

How can you say that “Citizen Kane” is the greatest picture ever made, when D.W. Griffith made “Intolerance “ so many years earlier? “

 

Fred Zinnemann

 

 

Marlon Brando , Fred Zinnemann, Montgomery Clift

 

Irene Dunne presents Fred Zinnemann with Best Director Oscar for FROM HERE TO ETERNITY.

 

With Grace Kelly. HIGH NOON.

 

MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS (1945)

Kudos  to the writers of MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS – the original novel, “The Woman in Red “ by Anthony Gilbert (pen name for the English crime writer, Lucy Beatrice Malleson) and adapted for the screen by Muriel Roy Bolton .  With the plot of the film centred on  a woman in distress, played by Nina Foch, all we needed was Ida Lupino at the helm and this film would have been unique in 1945!

But it is 1945 and it is director Joseph H. Lewis and cinematographer Burnett Guffey who skilfully bring to life this tale of mystery and suspense which , on a B movie budget, only ran 65 minutes. Which means you can’t waste a second! Hold your breath, go on the wild ride and it’s over before you know it.!

 

Try to take away a person’s identity and you are in the depths of noir.

Julia Ross is set up  in a crazy scheme dreamed up by  Ralph Hughes’s  (George Macready)  mother,Mrs. Hughes (Dame May Whitty) to cover up Ralph’s murder  of his wife.

Yes, the lovely Miss Froy from THE LADY  VANISHES has been reinvented as a venomous old lady determined to do whatever it takes to protect her vicious son.

But,as played by Nina Foch (in the best part of her short Hollywood career), Julia fights against her imprisonment in a large Cornwall mansion on the coast.

To Mrs. Hughes  and Ralph , she says, “My name isn’t Marion and I’m not married to you or anyone.”

 

Start of the film, a rain soaked Julia returns to her boarding house in London . She is behind in her rent and is desperately looking for a job. When she sees a newspaper ad for a secretarial post , she applies at once- and then the nightmare begins!

 

Joy Harrington, Nina Foch.

In her few scenes, Joy Harrington as ‘Bertha’, the cleaner at Julia’s boarding house  is very good. (Joy became a producer/writer/director on British television).

 

Anita Bolster

Anita Bolster  pretending to be an employment agency manager who engages Julia to work for Mrs. Hughes (Dame May Whitty).

 

Roland  Varno

Roland  Varno as ‘Dennis’ who lives in the same London boarding house as Julia. When she disappears, he tries to find out where she has gone.

 

 

The only colour for a cat in a thriller is black!  This little one helps Julia discover a hidden panel and this helps her overhear the plans for her demise!

 

Anita Bolster, Leonard Mudie, Dame May Whitty

Destroy the evidence! Anything that points to the person known as Julia Ross has to go..

Mrs. Hughes: “I want all her clothing destroyed.”

 

Nina Foch

Julia wakes up from a drugged sleep and finds herself dressed in a gown with the initials MH on it. And when she looks around the room, everything has MH on it – remind you of any other film?

(MH for  Marion Hughes whom we never see – well, she was done away with before the film starts!)

 

What are you planning to do with me? Why don’t you stop this farce.”

Julia never doubts her identity – she not Ingrid Bergman in GASLIGHT!

 

George Macready as Ralph is in urgent need of psychiatric treatment! Obsessed with knives, his mother takes them away from him and locks them in a drawer. While she’s not looking, he sneaks one back out of the drawer!

Mrs. Hughes says to him, “If it wasn’t for your temper, we wouldn’t be in this awful trouble today.” (Ie trying to cover up the fact he has killed his wife.)

 

Another inventive idea by Julia. She writes an SOS and wraps it round a stone and throws it through the railings of the mansion’s gates.

 

Never mind his mother’s elaborate plan, Ralph is about to throw Julia out the window to the rocks below, when Nancy the maid comes into the room.  Ralph immediately expresses solicitation for his ‘wife’ (Nancy being the only person in the house who isnt in on the plot).

He says to Nancy (Queenie Leonard) they must get bars for the windows!  And he does.

 

The ingenuity of Julia is displayed again and again as she tries to escape. Looking at these bottles, one of which contains poison, gives her an idea.

 

Doris Lloyd, Leonard Mudie

A great scene near the end of the film when Peters  (Leonard Mudie),  who has been dispatched to the London boarding house Julia lived at, to retrieve the letter Julia has written to Dennis, her off-on boyfriend who’s been searching for her.

Doris Lloyd plays the landlady who is suspicious of Peters.

 

Ralph is stopped from finishing Julia off.

The final scenes seem a bit rushed and it’s not at all clear how the final denouement is orchestrated, though the police on the scene say that they caught Peters in London.

 

 

What an anti- climax  of an ending as Dennis drives Julia back to London after her rescue.

Much better to have stayed at the lashing waves of the ocean – the dead body of Ralph, Mrs. Hughes In handcuffs and Dennis comforting Julia. Now that would have made sense. And a perfect ending.

 

The great supporting cast were nearly all part of the British contingent in Hollywood.

Still enjoyable after a second or third viewing – even though you know what’s coming!  A big thank you to Arrow Films for the new print  of the film.

 

Dame May Whitty and George Macready on the set.