Two Sides of the Same Coin?
Knowing and loving “Vertigo” and “Out of the Past” as I do, I can’t explain for the life of me, what gave me the idea to juxtapose these two images against each other or think of both movies together. One is a romantic drama by Hitchcock and the other, a classic film noir by Tourneur. Neurons fired in my brain faster than I could transcribe my thoughts.
On the face of it, neither Madeleine or Kathie are what they seem. ( As Tourneur said: “first half good girl, second half bad girl” ). But it was something a little deeper than that. What speaks to me in looking at the combo of these shots is how different both these women approach love.
Now I use the word “love” very loosely in this little essay of mine. Love’s pre-requisites include understanding, sharing and forthrightness, traits sorely lacking in these two gals. So when I say ‘love’, in the true sense of the word, in the world of Noir and Hitchcock, you’ll cut me some slack. What I see with these two images, is Judy and Kathie both ensnaring a man but they come at love from two different directions. Both get the man’s attention, but one is giving, while the other withholds.
Jane Greer’s Kathie Moffatt from “Out of the Past” uses herself as bait for Jeff; holds herself out as a carrot for him to reach, at least at their beginnings. In their initial meeting she gently rebuffs him, suggests a cantina for him to check out and drops a hint: “I sometimes go there.” Then she keeps him waiting a day or two. Funny thing is they both know he’ll wait. Her walking away makes Jeff want her more. Sure Jeff’s there on a mission, but there’s no law saying you can’t enjoy the mission. She makes him want her by walking away.
When I see Kim Novak as Judy / Madeleine in “Vertigo” it’s a different kettle of fish. Judy also knows Scottie before they meet, just as Jeff knew Kathie. In her “Madeleine” persona she plays a mysterious, game of chase. She makes Scottie chase her ( unbeknownst to him ). But Judy’s fatal flaw is she falls for Scottie. When she’s now her real self, she’s in love and wants him to know her. She’s open, she’s willing, she’s giving. No she can’t tell him her whole truth, but that’s besides the point. She integrates herself with Madeleine to become this hybrid of both Judy and Madeleine; and it’s that who comes through the neon haze. She’s walking towards love with her openness and willingness to be what Scottie needs.
Sure, the circumstances and goals are different for each gal.
They both pretend to be something they’re not. But hold on…IS Kathie really pretending?
At the time Jeff meets her, she’s on the lam…thinks she’s escaped, lets her guard down; does fall for Jeff. The girl has trust issues ( with good reason ) but was willing to run away with Jeff and keep on running. ( If only his pesky partner hadn’t shown up. Grrrr!! ) Kathie’s forced to go into survival mode. Well….a girl’s gotta take care of herself.
My friend Celia asks: “…how willing is Kathie to let men remake her?” You got that right Celia. That ain’t happening.
Celia also poses this thought:
“ALTHOUGH….Kathie is fully aware that men are viewing her differently depending on who they are: So Whit creates his own Kathie; Jeff another.”
And this is why I’m friendly with folks who are waaaaay smarter than me. I hadn’t thought of that myself, but what Celia says IS in “Out of the Past”:
“I never told you I was anything but “Scottie, I was safe when you found me. There what I am. You just wanted to ima- was nothing that you could prove. When I saw gine I was. That’s why I left you. Now you again, I couldn’t run away. I loved you so. we’re back to stay.” I walked into danger, let you change me be-
cause I loved you so.”
Kathie puts the blame on Jeff; Judy throws herself on the mercy of the court. I started this with the premise of Kathie and Judy/Madeleine’s approach to love; one walks towards it, and Kathie’s walking away, was always…walking away.
“We’re starting all over. I want to go back to Mexico. I want to walk out in the sun again and find you waiting. I want to sit in the same moon and tell you all the things I never told you. ‘Till you don’t hate me. ‘Till sometimes you love again.”
I started with the love premise, and end up here. And so it goes with the sometimes crazy wacky mixed up stream-of-consciousness thoughts of a CineMaven. Everybody loses in both movies because they either loved for the wrong reason or represented themselves in a not honest way. Some things you can’t fix.
( H O M E )