Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Vertigo in Garmisch-Partenkirchen
It has long been noted that most generations have moments when one can remember exactly where one was when an important (often tragic) event occurred. For me as a little boy it was Pearl Harbor, as a young married man it was the assassination of John Kennedy, and as a retired older man it was the day in September when the towers fell.
But there was at least one other time, this one not tragic, that I vividly remember a half century later. In early winter of 1959, I found myself with two friends in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, surely the most beautiful place I have ever been. We were probably full of fine lager and Ochsenschwanzsuppe when we decided to see a flick, which was what soldiers of my time called motion pictures. The director was Alfred Hitchcock; the film was Vertigo. And I knew even then what I still know now. This was one of those films.
We had all seen Kim Novak as Molly O and all knew the great score from The Man With the Golden Arm because we were jazz fans. But we had never seen Kim Novak like this. And Shorty Rogers was no match for Bernard Herrmann. And Otto Preminger never worked in Angel, Islington …
When we left the theater, still somewhat stunned by the ending, my friend, Earl Jordan from Lewistown, Pennsylvania, was shaking his head and still talking about the nun: the nun who came out of the dark in the bell tower. It was a clear cold winter night and I saw a deer cross the road. And yes, it had started to snow. An enthralling sight. I was a city boy, watching a deer amble across a road in the snow, in a mountain town in Germany, somewhere in the clouds: the night I saw Vertigo, 9 November 1959.