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Hitchcock and the Censors$
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John Billheimer

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780813177427

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813177427.001.0001

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Vertigo (1958)

Vertigo (1958)

(p.219) 30 Vertigo (1958)
Hitchcock and the Censors

John Billheimer

University Press of Kentucky

Vertigo received mixed reviews on its initial release, but a 2012 poll of film critics rated it the best film of all time. During script preparation and filming, the Production Code Administration reported several objections to the somewhat implausible story of a man who tricks a friend with vertigo, played by James Stewart, into witnessing the ‘suicide’ of the man’s wife with the help of a double for the wife who later falls in love with the friend. Code office objections included the filming of intimate undergarments drying on a line, discussions of brassiere design, a ‘cat house’ reference, all scenes that are ‘objectively lustful’ and feature ‘open mouth kissing,’ and any hint of sexual relations between the Stewart character and the two characters played by Kim Novak. Most of all, the censors advised that ‘it is most important’ that the guilty husband be brought back for trial. The ban on unpunished crime had an adverse impact on more of Hitchcock’s American films, starting with Rebecca, than almost any other Code provision. Hitchcock made a show of accommodating the dictum in Vertigo by filming an ending in which Stewart and his ex-fianc’e listen to a news broadcast announcing that the villainous husband has been captured and is about to be extradited for trial. The ending was so out of place and obviously ‘tacked on’ that it was cut from the American release but included in foreign prints to satisfy the censorship boards of other countries.

Keywords:   Alfred Hitchcock, James Stewart, Kim Novak, open-mouth kissing, Production Code Administration, best film of all time, unpunished crime, implausible plot, Vertigo

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