Hitchcock Heights

A glamorous, glittering city on a hill, San Francisco in the late 1950s represented the pinnacle of American prosperity and sophisticated civilization. But every dream home Ñ even the ones that sell for six or seven figures -- has a trap door, as acrophobic Detective “Scottie” Ferguson discovers to his eternal damnation when he skids off a roof while pursuing a suspect. The Everyman hero/monster of Vertigo, Scottie (regular guy James Stewart) is revealed as sucker and sadist, persecutor as well as victim. His weakness and shame, his obsession with the past, are with us forever: Scottie fell for our sins. The San Francisco of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo: Place, Pilgrimage and Commemoration, a new collection of essays compiled by film scholar and historian Douglas A. Cunningham, examines our ceaseless fascination with the movie and San Francisco’s midcentury heyday. The San Francisco Museum and Historical Society, which fetes Kim Novak (Stewart’s object of pernicious desire) at its annual fundraising bash later this spring, convenes Cunningham and four of his learned authors at the Presidio for a midday conversation about sunny locations and pitch-black plots. Watch your step -- it’s a long way down.
Sat., April 7, 2 p.m., 2012

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