This month on the National Caricaturist Network forums, the subject for the drawing contest is "Hitchcock Films", as decided upon by last month's "B.B. King" contest winner, Vin Altamore. I was overjoyed at this choice of subject, as it gives a lot of scope as to whom we may draw based on whatever Hitchcock film we choose to portray. I really love the films of Alfred Hitchcock, and I had several favourites to choose between, including two starring Cary Grant: "North by Northwest" and "To Catch a Thief". However, my all time favourite is 1958's "Vertigo", starring Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak and, believe it or not, I'd never really drawn a finished caricature of Jimmy Stewart before, though I recall having done some rough sketches of him many years ago. I had, however, drawn a caricature of the alluring Kim Novak from the other film in which they had co-starred together, "Bell, Book and Candle", which you may view here.
There were actually a lot of creative decisions that went into preparing this image, long before the drawing was finalized. In watching the film again, I wanted to pick out one scene that would seem iconic, and the pivotal scene at the old California mission was just perfect in summing up the movie for me, more so than anything in San Francisco itself, where the bulk of the movie takes place. As you can see by the rough thumbnail sketch pictured at left, I wanted to combine several shots from that scene into one single image that would tell more of what was going on, so in addition to the desperate embrace that Jimmy Stewart has on Kim Novak, I wanted her eyes to be focused on the top of the foreboding bell tower. So I included a forced, 3-point perspective shot (not entirely successful) of the mission to create the suspense, and took it further by using the spinning vortex from the Saul Bass title animation as the backdrop, with the bell itself focused in the centre. Lastly, I had struggled with getting Kim Novak's caricature in this 3/4 view, as I wanted to show her hair at the back in the "Carlotta" bun, indicative of the subplot of her believing she's possessed by the spirit of the mad Spanish woman, Carlotta.
Though I've certainly seen "Vertigo" a number of times, it's amazing how it can continue to engage me with repeated viewings. When you see the film for the first time, there is the shock of the mystery being revealed in the last act, which of course you can never relive a second time. However, even when you know what is going on, it's such a pleasure to watch the characters' faces, as you are aware of what they know and what they don't know at any given time. While Jimmy Stewart was wonderful in anything he did, this may be Kim Novak's finest hour, as she was not always given such great roles to work with in her somewhat spotty career. (I personally liked her a lot co-starring with Frank Sinatra in "Pal Joey", but the critics were not as impressed, I'm afraid.)
I'm including here the trailer for "Vertigo", which will hopefully give the uninitiated a compelling reason to seek this film out. Bernard Herrmann's memorable and haunting score, which plays over this trailer, is just one of many reasons to see it. Also, in the second YouTube clip, some very clever fan of the film has taken it upon himself to revisit all of the major locations in San Francisco where "Vertigo" was filmed, as well as faithfully recreating some atmospheric shots like the pan across the inside of the arched doorways of the old California mission. One interesting note of trivia is that the infamous bell tower had actually been created for "Vertigo" as a matte painting, as the mission's own bell tower had burned down many years prior. That's why you're not going to see any such bell tower in the scenes shot by this film fan. I really encourage all of my readers to watch "Vertigo" if they've never seen it before, as it really is one of Hitchcock's finest works.