FILM 1449: VERTIGO
TRIVIA: 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).
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."
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.
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.
Alfred Hitchcock reportedly spent a week filming a brief scene where Madeleine stares at a portrait in the Palace of the Legion of Honor just to get the lighting right.
Alfred Hitchcock had originally wanted to use his now-famous Vertigo zoom in Rebecca (1940), but due to lack of technology at that time he couldn't do it. The technique was inspired by a time when Hitchcock had fainted during a party.
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.
This film is often credited (blamed) for creating or popularizing the misconception that vertigo stands for fear of heights. For the record, the proper name for that condition is "Batophobia", whereas vertigo is "a sensation of whirling and loss of balance, associated particularly with looking down from a great height" (Oxford Dictionary).