Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Do the Vertigo Boogie

I was at one time a member of San Francisco's Vertigo Society, devoted to the memory of the great film classic of the same name by Alfred Hitchcock. Among our many other activities was an ongoing Vertigo tour of San Francisco and environs, which would always begin with luncheon at Ernie's. Afterwards, it was then off to one or more of the locales featured in Hitchcock's masterpiece.

I recall a bracing plunge one time en masse in the San Francisco Bay; another day, we decided that we would take a field trip to the San Juan Batista Mission and throw a lifesize inflatable Kim Novak doll from the tower. Imagine our surprise, then, when we arrived there to discover that there was no bell tower at all, and that it had been added with trick photography. You'd think that one of us would have known that!(Can't remember where we bought the Novak doll, OR what we did with it afterwards.)

On another occasion. we hosted a contingency of auteurists---can't remember now, but I don't think it was the MacMahon Society----all the way from France for a wild afternoon shipping spree at Gump's. Well, you get the, um, picture.

As I seem to recall, for our very last meeting in 1993, we all spent the night at the Empire Hotel (separate rooms, of course) and then disbanded after more than ten years during which we had Vertiginously seen all there was to see, done all there was to do. . .and went our separate ways. About five years ago, there was an attempt at a get together, but Ernie's was gone (closed in 1999), the Empire Hotel is now known as the York (how vulgar!), etc., and it just wouldn't have been the same. The reunion was called off.

At every monthly meeting, we would pass out lyric sheets and sing the "Love Theme from 'Vertigo.'" If you don't remember any such music with lyrics in the film, you're not just having a senior moment. For even though the song was composed expressly for Vertigo by the very fine songwriting team of Misters Ray Evans and Jay Livingston, who had performed a similar task for Hitchcock with the memorable "Que Sera Sera" for The Man Who Knew Too Much, finally Hitch found the song, sung by Billy Eckstine, to be "unsuitable" and dropped it from the final cut.

There was an obscure MGM Eckstine single released at the same time the film came out. I was fortunate enough to possess a copy and it was from that disc that we were able to copy the lyrics of the song for our singalongs.

All of the above came rush Rush RUSH-ing back to me earlier today---much like the Vertigo spiral optical---when I came across a download of the song on a web site.

I have always found Hitchcock's excision to be somewhat unfathomable.
Take a listen and see if you don't agree with me that the song operates as a pluperfect musical externalization of Scottie Ferguson's psychological inscape, especially the part about:

This Vertigo is driving me insane my love
This Vertigo that has me spinning like a top
Where will it stop?
I wish you would be just one way with me.

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Davei said...

Do you know the story of the blowup between Hitch and Bernard Hermann?

Bill Reed said...

I assume you refer to Hitchcock's wanting a hipper, younger, more melodic, less-expensive-to-play score for "Torn Curtain," thus precipitating Herrmann's exit from the project.