Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo has been invisible for 30 years and is one of the five “Lost Hitchcocks”, classics by the master of suspense that no one has seen for years. Explanations.
During his lifetime, Alfred Hitchcock made several films for Paramount with a contract specifying that the exploitation rights of the films were to return to him after a period of eight years. The studio complied and these films were then hardly shown on television or in the cinema for nearly thirty years, becoming known as the “5 Lost Hitchcocks”.
These feature films included Rear Window, The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956 version), Cold Sweats and But Who Killed Harry?. Hitchcock then recovered the rights to a fifth film, The Rope, which had long belonged to its producer (Sidney Bernstein), and had in fact been a little more visible than the others.
When her father died in 1980, Patricia Hitchcock inherited the distribution rights to these five director classics but did nothing with them, making the films invisible. We still do not know to this day what prompted his filmmaker father to jealously keep these films for himself, who had gone so far as to seek to have the other copies in circulation destroyed.
In 1983, Universal paid $6 million (about $16.7 million today) in order to acquire the distribution rights. Before that, others had broken their teeth trying to find a financial agreement for a television broadcast of these films. Even for Universal, three years were needed to convince Herman Citron, Hitchcock’s agent, to sell these rights.
Towards the destruction of Vertigo?
During a Hitchcock retrospective in 1969, the National Film Theater asked if there was still a copy of Cold sweat available. Henri Langlois, then director of the Cinémathèque française, provided a copy but in order to have the rights to broadcast it, the National Film Theater had to reveal to Hitchcock the source of the copy. Lest he ask for it to be destroyed, the NFT refused to answer and the film could not be shown.
The same problem arose again for Courtyard window, with the same result. Moreover, a concern of rights arose, which led to a lawsuit between the author of the original story, Hitchcock and Paramount. Sad anecdote, when the Berlin festival paid tribute to James Stewart by programming a retrospective of his work in 1982, the rights holders refused even an extract from Cold sweat not be broadcast.
Double-End for Cold Sweats [SPOILERS]
Adapting a novel by Boileau-Narcejac set in Paris (From the dead), Hitchcock chose to place the action of his Vertigo in San Francisco and shoot a different ending to the book. Or rather two endings. The film’s original ending is one in which Scottie (James Stewart) looks down in amazement at the spot where Judy fell and killed herself. But Hitchcock shot a scene meant to be placed chronologically right after that fall scene.
We find Midge (Barbara Bel Geddes) in her apartment, listening to the radio. She hears Scottie come in, pours two whiskeys, brings him his, but he’s thoughtful, doesn’t say a word to her. He accepts the glass in silence, does not toast, turns to the window. They exchange a look, he has nothing to say to her. She sits down without taking her eyes off him. Appearances might suggest that everything is back to normal, but that is not the case.
Hitchcock is said to have shot this scene so that censors in other countries would not imagine that the murderer got away with it as if nothing had happened. This reason assumed by most historians is still uncertain to this day.
Here is the alternate ending of “Vertigo”: