Vertigo

  • Directors: Alfred Hitchcock
  • Producers: Alfred Hitchcock
  • Writers: Boileau Narcejac, Alec Coppel, Samuel A Taylor
  • Genres: Drama, Mystery, Romance, Thriller
  • Actors: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes

San Francisco detective John Ferguson (James Stewart), who is called “Scottie” by his closest friends, develops an extreme fear of heights after a fellow police officer (Fred Graham) falls to his death during a rooftop chase. His fear of heights soon leads to an advanced case of vertigo. He is forced to retire from police work, and is unable even to stand on a stepstool in the apartment of his friend Marjorie “Midge” Wood (Barbara Bel Geddes) without being paralyzed by fear and dizziness.

Scottie is later hired as a private detective by a college acquaintance, Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore), who wants his beautiful wife Madeleine Elster (Kim Novak) followed. Elster is worried that Madeleine appears to have symptoms of a mental illness or spiritual possession. Scottie tails Madeleine, who spends her days visiting the grave and painting of Carlotta Valdes, a woman who killed herself 100 years earlier. Scottie notices that Madeleine is wearing her hair exactly like Carlotta and that she wanders the city in a trancelike, obsessive state.

Scottie becomes strongly attracted to Madeleine. He follows her to Fort Point at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge, where she jumps into San Francisco Bay in what appears to be a suicide attempt. Scottie saves her and brings her to his apartment. On the phone with Gavin, Scottie learns that Carlotta was 26 when she killed herself, Madeleine’s current age.

Judy pleads to Scottie that she does love him, and his anger abates. The two embrace and then, suddenly, a shadowy figure appears at the top of the stairs. Judy, frightened, backs away from the approaching shadow and steps backwards off the tower ledge, plunging to her death. The figure, a nun, whispers, “God, have mercy”, and rings the tower bell as Scottie stares downwards.