AFInity: Vertigo

By Kim Hollis

July 15, 2010

James Stewart and Mel Gibson would really get along.

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Three different women are part of Scottie’s life during the course of the film, and each of them is distinctly different from the other. Midge is brought to life by Barbara Bel Geddes (who would later be best known as the matriarch in the television series Dallas). She’s clearly smitten with Scottie, though she also seems to instinctually realize they are wrong for each other. Even so, she is the loyal friend throughout the film, the tried and true girl who would do anything to help him. She’s in stark contrast to both Madeleine and Judy, both played by Kim Novak. Madeleine is a mystery, a psychological hot mess, and Scottie can’t help but be drawn to her. Judy, Madeleine’s doppelganger, is down to earth and straightforward, but even she has secrets brimming under her surface. Madeleine and Judy are all smoldering sensuality, while Midge is much more subtle. Midge is the girl who’s right for Scottie, but he aches for the passion. The excellent work turned in by Novak and Bel Geddes has to be credited here.


Finally, when it comes to being a detailed story about obsession and deep-seated desires, Vertigo can’t really be beat. As audience members, we grow very uncomfortable when Scottie’s ever intensifying feelings begin to cross lines. We’re constantly thinking, “Ew, I can’t believe he just asked Judy to do that!” Yet, as voyeurs to his emotions, we’re also inside his head just a bit. We become tense as his anxiety rises.

Still, it’s probably going to be another long time before I ever sit down to watch Vertigo again. I can’t really get past the fact that the first half of the film is almost intolerably boring – I frankly had trouble staying awake, and I was watching the film in the middle of the day. Yes, it’s extremely well acted and it looks amazing, but compared to other Hitchcock classics, it’s just not my cup of tea.

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