January 7, 1959 [Bell, Book and Candle, Vertigo]

Jimmy Stewart has been blind-sided by Kim Novak twice over the past year--in Vertigo first, now Bell, Book and Candle. And who can blame him? Novak looks at you like a cat's ghost--then through you, seeing all the little pockmarks, hearing your bones creak, touching the little bald spot that will grow. And all the while that smile, those almond eyes--crazy in both pictures, somehow, and passing it along to Stewart.

Lucky for him the second time around is pretty light stuff. Novak is a witch, a precise little New York coffee-house night person--and yes she is, and tries to get Stewart in on it--but then she wants to straighten up, be a day person, give up witching and jazz and settle down.

I'm suddenly reminded of something, from Mad magazine no less, Jean Shepherd laying it out for us:
EVERY ONE OF US, I don't care who he is, has a certain amount of "Night People" in him. Because, no matter how many refrigerators you buy from Betty Furness, no matter how many "custom" suits you buy, no matter how many cars with fins you buy, you're still an individual.

And I'll say this: Once a guy starts thinking, once a guy starts laughing at the things he once thought were very real, once he starts laughing at T.V. commercials, once he starts getting a boot out of movie trailers, once he begins to realize that just because a movie is wider or higher or longer doesn't make it a better movie, once a guy starts doing that, he's making the transition from "Day People" to "Night People."

And once this happens, he can never go back!
And that's Stewart's fear--in both pictures, now that I think of it--the anxiety of the high place, the girl slipping along the periphery that he has to chase. He'd rather settle down and get off the ladder, stroke his chin and get to work, than give in to the contrariness it takes to stop kidding himself.

I don't know; maybe that isn't the "message"--but what do I know. Me and Betty Furness have had some long heart-to-hearts, and I'm as ready to buy a refrigerator as the next guy--as ready as Willie Loman to believe a good one is a well advertised one--but maybe instead I should listen to the voice at night, the cat's voice, Kim Novak a dream, a spell. This is the other way, up at midnight, in by dawn, streetlights magically going out, one by one--while the Golden Gate bridge glows in the fog and the redwoods stand quiet as the Moon.


  1. Dear Paul,
    You may be interested to know of a new novel based on Vertigo:
    If you'd like a review copy, feel free to contact me
    Thanks, Wendy


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