May 16, 2012

For the Love of Film III Fundraiser: Vertigo Retold by Its Heroine

About the fundraiser, from the Siren herself:

This year, we are raising funds for the National Film Preservation Foundation's project, The White Shadow, directed by Graham Cutts and written, assistant-directed, and just generally meddled with in a number of different ways by the one and only Alfred Hitchcock. The goal is to raise $15,000 to stream this once-lost, now-found, three-reel fragment online, free to all, and to record the score by Michael Mortilla.

With over 100 bloggers participating, I know we can reach this goal. Why not donate now? Here's the link:


For my entry, I have posted a slightly-revised version of a book review I wrote last month. It is the fascinating, devastating story of Judy Barton, the tragic heroine of Vertigo (1958). I would recommend this book to any fan of Hitchcock:

The Testament of Judith Barton
Wendy Powers and Robin McLeod

I felt like the embattled heroine of The Testament of Judith Barton when I started reading this book. I meant to read only a few pages, but then it sucked me in.

There are few movie characters I’ve felt more empathy for than Judy Barton in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958). The poor woman comes to San Francisco alone, ready to begin her life, and it’s as if the men of the town are waiting to destroy her, grabbing at her like the animated trees in The Wizard of Oz.

First, she’s seduced and abandoned by a wealthy man, though it is never clear whether it is money, passion or both that drove her to him. Then, when she thinks she’s met a decent fellow, he not only won’t acknowledge her identity, but totally strips it away from her until he believes he has recovered the apparition that obsesses him.

The Testament of Judith Barton tells the story of this young woman from Salina, Kansas. It takes her from childhood to the conclusion of the filmed Vertigo story in a rich, troubling and engrossing tale.

Due to a remarkable dispensation by the Hitchcock estate to use quotes from Vertigo in the book, the voice of the film haunts the story, but it somehow does not overtake it. I think this is primarily because the authors set up their own world before diving into the elements that are more familiar to fans of Hitchcock’s film.

I thought I would be impatient with the early scenes in Judy’s life when I started reading. After all, I was interested in the book because I wanted to see Vertigo through her eyes, not necessarily the rest of her life. As her story developed, I found that I liked that background story as much, if not more than the San Francisco narrative connected to the movie.

Judy is portrayed as a straightforward small town girl. She’s a tomboy, who loves her jeweler father and spending time outdoors. Though she’s the opposite of her more feminine sister, they have a close relationship and her mother is supportive and loving.

It was interesting to get to know the young Judy, and the people she knew in her early life. She has a bit of edge, but not so much that it obscures her sensitivity and decency. I relished Judy's interactions with her family and friends, and the details about gemstones and jewelry that were woven into the narrative as she learned her father’s trade.

Once Judy began her life in San Francisco, I became more critical, even skeptical of the direction the story was taking. Little details irked me, mostly when I thought that the Judy I knew in the movie would not have behaved in a certain way. I wish I would have just trusted the authors, because they make it work.

Vertigo is not a very plausible story, and this novel cannot be expected to be either, but in so many ways it is. I believed Judy could have been the way she is portrayed, and I felt for her as if she was a real person. Even knowing her fate, I kept hoping that something would change, and that was entirely due to the hold this riveting tale had on me.

Thank you to Wendy Powers for providing a copy of this book for review. Purchase information here.

Please consider helping the White Shadows effort by clicking on the image below and making a donation. It doesn't have to be much. Pennies don't come from hell!


  1. This sounds like a great idea! Thanks for pointing me to it.......

  2. I hope you get a chance to read it. It's very addictive!