"Vertigo," the location shots & background

I watched Hitchcock’s *Vertigo *last night, although I’ve seen it several times. Not the best Hitchcock ever, but the thing that I enjoyed the most *this *time was the background outdoor location shots in and around 1958 San Francisco. I was 10 years old that year, and even though I never lived in San Francisco it was a treat to see the world I remember from that time. The street scenes, the cars, the clothes (seamed hose, which I so longed to wear, but they were out by the time I got old enough), the interiors-- restaurants with people dressed to the nines, the department store where Jimmy made over Kim Novak, the beauty salon where the operators dressed in white like nurses, the gigantic hospital room where Jimmy recovered from his breakdown, and most of all, the two principals’ apartments.

Barbara Bel Geddes’ studio apartment was a dream! Panoramic windows overlooking the city, sweet little galley kitchen. Didn’t see a bedroom, but I could easily live in that (I’m guessing) 400 sq. ft. space quite happily for the rest of my life. She probably paid $50 a month for it in 1958. :smack: But then her annual income was probably less than 2,000. (When Jimmy bought Kim that flower corsage-- was it an orchid?-- it cost .50.)

Jimmy’s apartment was lovely, too… bigger, with a real kitchen and bedroom, not to mention a fireplace. Probably set him back $150.

Another good movie for backgrounds and cars from that era is the otherwise-pointless Lucille Ball/Desi Arnaz film The Long, Long Trailer (which I saw at age 6 with my parents at the drive in!).

You may have already heard this, but the critics who vote in Sight & Sound’s poll every ten years recently named it not only Hitchcock’s best film, but the best film ever.

That’s all - sorry, nothing to add about the background or location shots, though I agree they’re very nice!

Best film ever??? No, I hadn’t heard that. Don’t agree.

These may be of interest:



Yeah, Vertigo knocked off Citizen Kane from its reign at number 1. I personally think there are many better movies (alot made the list though.)

I think San Francisco is the most filmable city in the US. Bullet, Dirty Harry, and that Sharon Stone/ Michael Douglas movie all look great set there. Come to think of it, I think Douglas has done a few movies there.

I love Vertigo as well. North by Northwest, another of Hitchcock’s movies is, IMHO, his best movie though.

Not to mention a TV series (at least some exterior shots).

I live in San Francisco, and it can go from mundane to breathtaking in just one moment. One example: travel north on 19th Avenue from Sloat Blvd. Traffic, usually terribly; ambiance, fairly gritty middle class urban residential/commercial. Then suddenly you top a slight hill and spread before you is the Golden Gate Bridge in the background, with Golden Gate Park in the foreground. This is a part of town where you don’t expect great views, it’s generally flattish and sloping down towards the ocean.

Another nice thing about Vertigo, (remembering from the last time I saw it) is that the sequence of locations actually makes sense, unlike Bullitt for example.

The suburban style of the '50s has been quite rightly ridiculed for about half a century. However, I have always loved the urban style of the '50s, as in the apartments seen in movies such as Vertigo, Rear Window, Bell Book & Candle, etc. I am not sure what it is about it that I like so much, but it has a certain classic elegance.

People were dupe by Bullitt. The car chase scenes were not in sequence as one would find them driving in SF, the soundtrack was that of a Ford GT40 (hence the double clutching) not a 390 Mustang GT.
It’s terrible when you have knowledge that ruins an otherwise exciting scene.
/hijack. (sorry)

You are all insane. Rear Window is obviously the best.

My mother grew up on 12th Ave, between Anza and Balboa. IIRC, one block away from Park Presidio*, leading from Golden Gate Park in one direction, to the Presidio (and on to the Golden Gate Bridge) in the other.

I used to love visiting my grandma in the summer.

Also: Vertigo rocks. I just hope nobody ever takes it into his head to remake it with Shia LeBeouf.**

*I see from Google maps that after it leaves the park, they stop calling it the Park Presidio, and call it the Shoreline Highway.

**Anyway, they already remade it with Craig Wasson.

The first act of Howard Hawk’s Man’s Favorite Sport features some great San Francisco locations. Here’s the opening scene (spanish version)

I’ve been to San Juan Bautista many times, but I keep forgetting to look and see if the mission there has a tall bell tower like in the movie. I kinda think not - I think it was matted in.

BTW, SJB is a long way from San Francisco - over 100 miles, I believe.

There’s an excellent new book that assembles a wide variety of essays on Hitchcok’s use of SF in Vertigo (which is easily in my top 10 films of all time). The essays discuss San Francisco and how the film taps into issues of class, culture, history, geography as metaphor, and iconography. Really interesting stuff, and a great way to give yourself a self-guided tour through the city at all the (remaining) locations from the film.


One interesting thing I read fairly recently was that as Jimmy Stewart is tailing Madeline, he’s always shown driving down hilly streets, subtly adding to his sense of…(forgot the word I’m looking for here)

Actually, The Streets of San Francisco was filmed almost entirely on location in the city. I’m working my way through the DVDs now, and I recognize almost every scene (I’ve lived in San Francisco for 25 years). In one episode, Martin Sheen robs the building I’m sitting in right now.

I’m not a big fan of Vertigo, but now I feel like seeing it again just to see how much of the city I can identify.