How well do you remember Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo?

Torrance Grey

Image: tmdb

About This Quiz

The trippy title sequence, the dizzying heights, the mouse-trap plotting ... "Vertigo" has consistently landed on "best" lists since it came out in 1958! Test your memory of this classic with our quiz!

In what city is "Vertigo" set?

The novel on which "Vertigo" was based was French, and its setting was Paris. But Hitchcock wanted San Francisco's steep hills to accentuate the lead character's fear of heights.

Who played the lead, John Ferguson?

After the movie had a disappointing box-office performance, Hitchcock felt that Stewart was too old to play a virile cop and love interest for Kim Novak. But then, the rarely-satisfied Hitchcock also said later that Novak herself was miscast.

What other role did Kim Novak play in the movie?

Judy Barton will become very important later in the film. However, that's getting ahead of things.

What do acquaintances call John Ferguson?

He tells Madeleine that acquaintances call him Scottie, but friends call him "John." The reason for this distinction is never made clear. Perhaps it's confusing to Madeleine as well, who says she'll call him "Mr. Ferguson."

What line of work is Scottie's friend Midge in?

In her first scene with Scottie, Midge is drawing a "cantilever" bra. It's strapless, lifting the breasts using a principle from the engineering of bridges. Is it any wonder that a man came up with this idea? (Howard Hughes, to be exact).

Scottie has developed a fear of heights, the formal name for which is ________.

Reportedly, the movie contributed to confusion about what "vertigo" meant, with people believing it meant "fear of heights." Vertigo is instead a sense of things revolving or rotating when they are not. Scottie had this problem when his acrophobia set in.

Scottie's old school acquaintance who needs his help is named ______ Elster.

Gavin is in the shipbuilding business, a line of work he married into. It's the state of his marriage that causes him to need Scottie's help.

How does Hitchcock make his customary cameo in the film?

Hitchcock liked to make very brief appearances in his films. Needless to say, this was difficult in "Lifeboat," which was set in an actual lifeboat. (He was in a photograph in a newspaper in the boat. Sneaky!)

Who played the female lead, Madeleine?

Novak was only 24 when she played Madeleine Elster. Hitchcock initially wanted Vera Miles -- Lila Crane from "Psycho" -- but she was pregnant at the time.

Who does Gavin say might harm his wife?

Gavin Elster seems to believe that his wife is possessed, based on her odd behavior. Scottie, until recently a cop, is skeptical.

What is the name of the restaurant where Scottie first sees Madeleine?

Ernie's was a real restaurant. Sadly, you can't go there for that thick steak Judy Barton wanted -- it's no longer open.

What color is Madeleine's car?

This might seem like a trivial point, but viewers spend lots and lots of time following that green car around San Francisco with Scottie. It might be the most important vintage car since the one in 'The Great Gatsby."

Put Madeleine's itinerary, from the first day Scottie tails her, in the correct order:

Madeleine has a busy day! She caps it by disappearing from the McKittrick, which perplexes Scottie.

What does Madeleine go to the art museum to do?

It was Carlotta's grave that Madeleine was visiting at Mission Dolores. At the museum, Scottie begins to see the signs of an obsession: Madeleine wears her hair like Carlotta's, and carries a bouquet exactly like the one in the portrait.

The manager of the Hotel McKittrick is reluctant to reveal the name of her tenant, until Scottie does what?

Why does Scottie still have his badge? We can only imagine the monkeyshines ex-cops could get up to if they were allowed to keep their old badges as souvenirs!

What do Madeleine and Scottie talk about, when she confronts him that first day?

Whether Madeleine even notices she's being followed is unclear. At least, that's how it seems to viewers. Later, we learn something more sinister is at play.

What color is Madeleine's suit?

Kim Novak found Madeleine's gray suit stiff and uncomfortable, but she understood how well it illustrated the character. She also said she felt much more comfortable in Judy Barton's casual wear.

Midge takes Scottie to meet a bookshop owner. What is the name of the shop?

There is an Argonaut book store in San Francisco, which inspired the fictitious Argosy Book Shop. City Lights is also famous in its own right, being the project of poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

What relation is Carlotta Valdes to Madeleine?

According to Gavin, Madeleine doesn't know her great-grandmother's tragic history. He only learned it himself, he says, from Madeleine's dying mother.

Does Madeleine fall or jump into the bay?

The movie is clear on this point: Madeleine spreads her arms and deliberately pitches herself into the water. Later she insists that she must have fallen, though she can't remember the incident. Scottie plays along, but it's evident that he knows the truth.

How old was Carlotta when she committed suicide?

Madeleine is the same age, Gavin tells Scottie. It gives her leap into the bay a disturbing significance.

What San Francisco landmark is visible through Scottie's window?

Coit Tower was built in honor of Lillie Coit, a socialite, using money she bequeathed to the city. Fun fact: Her maiden name was Hitchcock. (We doubt there's any family connection; Hitchcock is not an uncommon name.)

What does Midge paint that upsets Scottie?

While this is supposed to be a joke, it seems to be of the "ha ha... I'm not kidding" variety. Midge is obviously jealous, and the subtext is that she wants to be glamorous enough for Scottie to be preoccupied with her, instead of Madeleine.

Where do Madeleine and Scottie first kiss?

Madeleine has become upset after telling Scottie about her premonitions of an early death. Scottie, after kissing her, assures her that he won't leave her.

Which is NOT a historical date on the tree-ring exhibit?

The tree dates back to approximately 909 A.D., and the exhibit points out rings that correspond to historical dates. Madeleine, seemingly possessed by Carlotta, points out her approximate birth and death years, then becomes distraught.

Madeleine remembers playing as a child in the livery stable of which mission?

Madeleine, apparently in another "Carlotta" trance, remembers gray horses at the stable. Scottie, now in somewhat desperate denial, looks at a life-sized replica and says, "Here's your gray horse," then follows up with a lame joke about it needing to be pushed into its stall.

After Madeleine jumps from the bell tower, what does Scottie do?

His reaction is evidently due to shock. But it allows for a very memorable long/wide-angle shot: as bystanders climb onto the roof to get to Madeleine, you can see a dark-suited figure, in the far right corner of the frame, exit the mission and walk away. That's Scottie. If you're watching the hubbub on the roof, you'll miss it.

After the inquest, why is Gavin angry at Scottie?

Though Scottie isn't responsible for Madeleine's death (and how! as we'll find out), Gavin is a little too eager to slap him on the back and let bygones be bygones. He doesn't seem like a grieving husband.

After Madeleine's death, what does a doctor say Scottie is suffering from?

Scottie is hospitalized for his psychological problems after Madeleine dies. The doctor predicts it'll take six months to a year before he is better.

What kind of music does Midge play to help Scottie with his depression?

Midge explains there's a different composer for various psychological conditions. This sounds as plausible as those "Mozart for Baby" brain-developing programs, but maybe 1958 audiences bought it.

Where does Madeleine ringer Judy Barton work?

I. Magnin, also known as Magnin's, was one of the great old department store chains, based in San Francisco. In the 1990s, it was absorbed into Macy's.

Where is Judy Barton from?

Salina is semi-famous for its eighth-grade graduation test, which is supposedly so difficult that many U.S. adults today can't pass it. In truth, the problem is outdated terminology -- many U.S. adults simply don't know what "tare" and "promissory" mean. (At any rate, Judy did well enough in school to make change at Magnin's.)

The viewer learns that Judy was "Madeleine" at what point?

Hitchcock at first wanted the explanatory scene, then had it removed, then restored it at the studio's demand. There's an argument to be made either way. If the audience knows Judy was in on the plot, then it's poignant that she just can't stay away from Scottie. If they don't, then there's a classic mystery-style "reveal" in the film's climax. For good or bad, we have the first version.

Why does Judy fall to her death?

The nun comes up to investigate the voices in the tower. Judy trips and falls, leaving Scottie to stare in horror: he's just replicated the death that traumatized him in the first place.

Who designed the opening titles for "Vertigo"?

Bass became famous for designing the titles for "Vertigo," "North by Northwest" and "Psycho." The opening credits of "Vertigo" feature moving loops and whorls that illustrate the movie's title and themes.

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