Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Stars: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes
Plot: A San Francisco detective suffering from acrophobia investigates the strange activities of an old friend's wife, all the while becoming dangerously obsessed with her.
Uncredited second-unit cameraman Irmin Roberts invented the famous "zoom out and track in" shot (now sometimes called "contra-zoom" or "trombone shot") to convey the sense of vertigo to the audience. The view down the mission stairwell cost $19,000 for just a couple of seconds of screen time.
The film was unavailable for decades because its rights (together with four other pictures of the same period) were bought back by Alfred Hitchcock and left as part of his legacy to his daughter. They've been known for long as the infamous "Five Lost Hitchcocks" amongst film buffs, and were re-released in theatres around 1984 after a 30-year absence. The others are The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), Rear Window (1954), Rope (1948), and The Trouble with Harry (1955).
The Empire Hotel where James Stewart eventually finds Kim Novak is (as of 2009) the Hotel Vertigo (formerly the York) located at 940 Sutter St. in the heart of San Francisco. Novak's character lived in Room 501, which still retains many of its aspects captured in the film.
Alfred Hitchcock was embittered at the critical and commercial failure of the film in 1958. He blamed this on James Stewart for "looking too old" to attract audiences any more. Hitchcock never worked with Stewart, previously one of his favorite collaborators, again.
Kim Novak has told interviewers that while in her "Judy" costumes, she did not wear a bra (bralessness was extremely unusual for a woman of that time). Novak has said that it was an element of the Judy costuming that helped her feel much more comfortable as Judy than as Madeline, whose costumes were much more severe and stiff.
There is a 25 year age difference between James Stewart and Kim Novak, who were 49 and 24 respectively when the film was shot in 1957.
When Kim Novak questioned Alfred Hitchcock about her motivation in a particular scene, the director is said to have answered, "Let's not probe too deeply into these matters, Kim. It's only a movie."
Costume designer Edith Head and director Alfred Hitchcock worked together to give Madeleine's clothing an eerie appearance. Her trademark grey suit was chosen for its colour because they thought it seemed odd for a blonde woman to be wearing all grey. Also, they added the black scarf to her white coat because of the odd contrast.
Poorly received by U.S. critics on its release, this film is now hailed as Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece.
The film is based upon the novel "D'Entre les Morts" (From Among the Dead) which was written specifically for Alfred Hitchcock by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac after they heard that he had tried to buy the rights to their previous novel "Celle qui n'était plus" (She Who Was No More), which had been filmed as Diabolique (1955).
This film is often credited (blamed) for creating or popularizing the misconception that vertigo means a fear of heights. For the record, the proper name for that condition is "Acrophobia", whereas vertigo is "a sensation of whirling and loss of balance, associated particularly with looking down from a great height"
Alfred Hitchcock has a cameo. He is seen wearing a gray suit walking past Gavin Elster's shipyard, carrying a musical instrument case.
The only one of Alfred Hitchcock's films in which the killer is not punished. An ending in which Scottie and Midge hear news over the radio of Gavin Elster being sought by the police was filmed at the demands of the American Production Code Administration, but ended up not being used.
Alfred Hitchcock switched Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac's story from Paris to San Francisco and changed their ending, in which the enraged hero strangles the mystery woman upon discovering her trickery.
In an interview with Kim Novak, Novak's take on the ending is that Judy threw herself off the tower. When Scottie found out the truth, he told her "It's too late." So when she cried out, "No," it was because she realized that she had just lost her last chance and had nothing left to live for. The nun's arrival merely distracted Scottie long enough for Judy to break away from him and do herself in.
Old Mission San Juan Bautista is located about 100 miles south of San Francisco in San Juan Bautista, just west of the city of Hollister, California. Founded in 1797, it is said to be the largest mission in California. However, the bell tower featured in Vertigo was added by a special matte painting.