I always liked “Vertigo”. I always liked it better than “Citizen Kane.” I never liked “Citizen Kane” THAT much. I saw it first in London at the National Film Theater around 1970, or so. I had stayed on in England, trying to get into the Drama Schools there, and become a British Actor, which is what I always thought was the best kind of actor you could possibly be.
And I was rejected by every single one.
Although I did get a call-back to the Bristol Old Vic, and spent a lovely weekend, or at least an over-night in Bristol…and then was rejected by them, too.
I was always unimpressed, unmoved by “Citizen Kane.” It was named, at that time “The #1 Film of All Time” and I thought I was really going to see something when I saw it at the National Film Theater. But it left me sort of cold.
I loved and related to the Susan Alexander character, his second wife, who he tries to turn into an Opera Singer. But Kane? No. A bully. A blusterer. A millionaire. Who cared? Orson Welles was good. But when you’re supposed to care about him when Susan Alexander walks out on him, and he tears up her room, I just didn’t care ~ that much.
I was glad she left him.
And “Rosebud”? I thought that was always a very contrived device. One word to sum up a whole man’s life? Nonsense!
And Orson Welles. Well, there was “Citizen Kane” and that was about it.
Whereas Alfred Hitchcock was always my main movie idol, in terms of a filmmaker, whom I constantly revere, engage with, and watch and re-watch, on an almost daily basis.
I always thought “Vertigo” was very, very good. And it was grown in my estimation of it, as I have seen and re-seen it over the years. And “Citizen Kane” no matter how many times I have tried to watch it, and tried to love it, as “The Greatest Film of All Time,” I still can’t really warm to it.
I admire Gregg Toland’s amazing camera work. And the Bernard Herrman score. He wrote the “Vertigo” score, too. The one thing the two films now battling it out at the top of the Sight and Sound Best of All Time List, have in common. I have always loved Dorothy Cummingore’s bitter drunken Susan Alexander.
And as I became familiar with Orson Welles’ back-story, you can’t help but feel for him. And the talent stopped and wasted by his ostracism from the Hollywood community.
Whereas Alfred Hitchcock who made “Vertigo” so beautifully, made many, many, many films. In many eras spanning the silent films all the way up to the 1970s.
He was the ultimate craftsman. And I have mused for years on how someone so obsessed with the technique side of films could have made so many movies that have moved me so deeply, and not just scared me to death. His characters are really quite unforgettable, too.
I mean, Norman Bates in “Psycho”? An iconic name, too. And the Bates motel? That has passed from being a movie set into common parlance. Janet Leigh’s performance as Marion Crane earned her her only Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress(She didn’t win)
And no matter what, Alfred Hitchcock kept making and making movie after movie after movie. He was NOT outside the studio system. Never. Like Welles became so quickly after William Randolph Hearst’s powerful press machine, the mightiest, it was said, at the time, decided to virtually halt his career in America…
Hitchcock never did anything like that. He NEVER challenged the studio heads. He worked with them, and bent them to his will.
And it’s so strange to me that “Vertigo” was never until rather recently considered the great film that it is now acknowledged to be.
That LONNNNNNG car driving scene through the streets and up and down the hills of 1950s San Francisco, with the Bernard Herrman score pulsing underneath it as James Stewart wordlessly follows Kim Novak’s car, the essence of “pure cinema” as Hitchcock himself would call it.
And since this “Vertigo” annointment, I’ve gone back to You Tube to search for just what people thought of it then. Interviewers like Tom Snyder never mentioned it. Never asked about it. Dick Cavett at least lists it…
What can you attribute the rise of “Vertigo” to? Well, for one thing, Francois Truffaut, and the Cahiers du Cinema, who recognized it and touted it long before others did.
More about this endlessly fascinating topic of Alfred Hitchcock, the Master of Suspense, who I just called The Master soon.
And you know, he never won an Oscar?