A New Perspective on “Vertigo”

4 03 2012

Authors Wendy Powers and Robin McLeod provide a new perspective on Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “Vertigo” with their novel “The Testament of Judith Barton.” Where the events of “Vertigo” (which I wrote about here) are seen through the eyes of its hero, John “Scottie” Ferguson, this novel looks at one of the most remote women in the Hitchcock canon: Judith Barton, who portrayed Madeleine Elster, whose actions helped drive Ferguson to the brink of insanity, before falling victim to forces greater than herself.

Powers and McLeod ask the questions that Hitchcock ignored: Who is Judith Barton, and how did she become involved with Gavin Elster and, ultimately, with John Ferguson? The novel lays out a rich background for Barton as she grows up in Kansas, in the shadow of her older sister, worshipping her jewelry-repairman father and getting reluctantly drawn into the theater. But after her father’s death, the two sisters decide to strike out for California, with Judy heading for San Francisco, where she studies theater and struggles to make ends meet. A chance meeting with Gavin Elster at a jewelry shop sets brings her story into sync with “Vertigo” as Elster hires her to portray his wife to throw off the man who he claims is following her.

That man, of course, is Ferguson, and while Judy never gets a clear picture of Elster’s true plan – to use Ferguson as a puppet in a scheme to murder his wife – she falls in love with the former police detective. Anyone who has seen the movie knows that there is only one possible outcome for Judy, though, and it’s not a good one. But you may find yourself rooting for Judy to find a way to escape her fate in “The Testament of Judith Barton,” as I did. You can order the book from Amazon here.




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