Vertigo is a movie I’ve seen plenty of times, but I can’t say that I ever really thought too deeply about the character of Judith Barton (played by Kim Novak). I always got too engrossed with the story of Scottie’s obsession with Madeline to think very much about who the woman behind the gray suit really is. But after reading The Testament of Judith Barton by Wendy Powers and Robin McLeod, I’ve got a whole new perspective on Vertigo.
In The Testament of Judith Barton, we not only get to see the events of Vertigo through Judith’s eyes, we also find out more about her background. We learn all about her childhood in Salina, Kansas as the tomboy daughter of a jeweler who passes away when she’s quite young. After graduating from Catholic school, Judith and her aspiring actress sister Maggie head out to California in search of brighter futures. However, once they get to California, Judith and Maggie go their separate ways. Maggie goes on to Los Angeles while Judith starts a new life in San Francisco. While working in a jewelery shop, Judith has her first encounter with Gavin Elster. When she suddenly finds herself in need of money, Elster comes to her with the idea of paying her to impersonate his wife Madeline.
When I started reading The Testament of Judith Barton, I was mostly looking forward to seeing the events of the movie from Judith’s perspective. But I was surprised by how wrapped up I became with the part that deals with Judith’s life in Kansas. That section paints a vivid portrait of a fairly simple midwestern girl; hardly the type of person you’d expect to get caught up with a man like Elster. But what makes the section that covers the events of the movie quite special is the fact that Powers and McLeod were able to get permission from Hitchcock’s estate to use excerpts from the Vertigo screenplay. Being able to integrate actual lines from the film helps The Testament of Judith Barton blend seamlessly into the story we already know so well.
If you’re a fan of Hitchcock, I absolutely recommend checking out The Testament of Judith Barton for yourself. It’s not often that you’re able to get such a fresh perspective on an old favorite movie. Please visit the book’s website for details on how to get a copy for yourself.
Disclosure: I was provided a free review copy of The Testament of Judith Barton.