Paramount Pictures released Vertigo to theaters on May 9, 1958. Alfred Hitchcock directed the film starring James Stewart, Kim Novak, and Barbara Bel Geddes.
‘Vertigo’ Movie Summary
Detective, John “Scottie” Ferguson, narrowly survives a near fall from a rooftop that results in the death of a fellow officer. From this tragedy, he develops vertigo and retires.
Soon, an old college buddy, Gavin Elster, comes a knocking, and asks Scottie to follow his wife, Madeleine because he thinks she’s a danger to herself. Scottie agrees to help, and follows her all around San Francisco until she comes to the Legion of Honor art museum. There, the Portrait of Carlotta enchants Madeleine for hours.
Scottie learns the girl in the portrait committed suicide after having a child with a wealthy married man who then ostracized her; keeping their baby. Gavin believes Carlotta now possesses his wife Madeleine because she is Carlotta’s great-granddaughter.
After more tailing of Madeleine’s lovely tail, they wind up at Fort Point where Madeleine jumps into the bay in a suicide attempt, but Scottie rescues her.
The next day, the two end up spending the day together. Madeleine tells Scottie of her dream about the childhood home of Carlotta at the Mission San Juan Bautista. So Scottie drives her there, and the two end up professing their love for each other. Then, in a spinning, blustery whirl, Madeleine races into the church, up the bell tower, and jumps to her death.
Scottie takes chase, and tries to stop her, but that damned acrophobia keeps him from following her to the top. While Gavin doesn’t blame Scottie for his wife’s death, Scottie becomes clinically depressed with a case of the melancholies.
Eventually, the sanatorium releases Scottie, who then roams the streets; retracing the places Madeleine often visited. Eventually, he spots and stalks a woman in green that reminds him of Madeleine.
That woman is Judy Barton from Salina, Kansas, and via a flashback scene, we learn that Gavin paid Judy to impersonate the late Madeleine Elster. Judy writes Scottie a confession, but then tears up the letter, and continues on her charade.
Scottie’s obsession with Madeleine consumes him. He forces Judy to change her clothing, her makeup, her hairstyle, her carpet, her drapes; her everything…eventually, you can’t even tell the two apart.
However, one night, as the pair get ready to leave for dinner, Judy puts on a necklace; the exact same necklace Carlotta wears in the painting. Suddenly, Scottie realizes the truth; Judy was Gavin’s mistress, and Gavin dumped her after he no longer had use for her…just like that wealthy married man who dumped Carlotta in her sad, sad story.
He drives Judy to the very mission that Madeleine killed herself where he tells Judy that he’s figured everything out. Manically, he forces her to the top of the bell tower; thus conquering his fear of heights.
Judy frantically confesses her part in the scheme, and begs Scottie for forgiveness.
Their commotion attracts the attention of a nun who comes to see what the ado is all about. Startled by the nun’s appearance, Judy falls off the bell tower to her death as Scottie looks on without emotion, and that is Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo!
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