A Pictorial History of the Movies: 1958 – Vertigo
And then to double down on the film history choices, here’s Vertigo.
1958 has some good choices in it (like The Defiant Ones, which most likely would have been the choice if not Vertigo), but since Vertigo was one of the highest grossers of the year, and I’ve been deliberately holding back on Hitchcock, so as not to just throw him on all over the place like so many others would do if doing this same exercise, and the fact that this film has grown in stature to be considered one of the greatest films ever made, I felt like it was an appropriate choice.
Plus this film is just so damn nice to look at as well.
Hitchcock made quite a number of films in England, but he never really got going until he was brought over to the U.S. by David O. Selznick. His first U.S. film won Best Picture, and he had his second also nominated that same year. He made some great films in his early years here, but, to me, never really hit his stride until he broke free of Selznick and started doing his own thing. (Granted, they only made four movies together, but still, there’s a difference.)
His first ten movies were Rebecca (drama with a mystery element to it), Foreign Correspondent (political thriller), Mr. and Mrs. Smith (comedy), Suspicion (drama with mystery element), Saboteur (thriller, more in line with what he’d do later), Shadow of a Doubt (drama with mystery, with some noir thrown in), Lifeboat (drama, but added bonus of single location), Spellbound (psychological thriller), Notorious (very much in line with what he’d do later), and The Paradine Case (a legal thriller). That was his last movie with Selznick before he went off to do his own thing.
After that, he made Rope, Stage Fright, Strangers on a Train, Dial M for Murder, Rear Window, To Catch a Thief… you get my drift.
But anyway, I feel like Hitchcock really hit his absolute peak from 1958-1960. He finishes The Wrong Man in 1956, then goes away for a year, and his next three movies are: Vertigo, North by Northwest, and Pyscho. And I’m pretty sure, everyone’s top five favorite Htchcock films are going to include all three of those. Honestly, throw on Rear Window, and you have four of everybody’s top seven.
Vertigo is a movie that I love, and though it’s not my absolute favorite of his movies, it’s the best looking of them all. No Hitchcock film is as beautiful as this one. The locations are just gorgeous, I always say the most beautiful era for movies was 1956-1965. No movies looked as good as those did. Plus, as a film, it’s a perfect entity. Thematically, visually, and the music… the whole movie is perfect.
What I love about Hitchcock’s movies is how they always are adapted from some obscure novel that people don’t really know about, and then by the time the movie comes out, you don’t even care about the book, because the movie is way better than anything that could be in it.
The working title for this movie was From Among the Dead. Just in case you want to spot continuity issues any time a movie shows Hitchcock making this movie.
The other thing that’s great is that it’s one of the few (or maybe the only? It might be the only) Hitchcock movies with an unhappy ending. I think it might be the only one. It’s a stark ending too. It’s really powerful.
So yeah, that’s why this is the choice for 1958. It’s not necessarily social, but in terms of film history, it’s all just there, as a nice package.