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Vertigo

Character List

Plot Overview

Analysis of Major Characters

John “Scottie” Ferguson - 

Played by James Stewart

The protagonist of the film. Scottie is a former detective who quits his job when he develops severe acrophobia, or fear of heights. He is a romantic who rejects reality in favor of illusion. His obsession with the ideal woman fuels much of the action of the film.
Madeleine Elster - 

Played by Kim Novak

The female lead of the film. “Madeleine” is actually a role played by Judy, who is impersonating Gavin Elster’s wife. Romantic and ethereal, “Madeleine” is supposedly haunted by long-dead relative Carlotta Valdes and seems bent on committing suicide against her own will. Madeleine becomes Scottie’s love interest and represents the ideal woman to him.
Judy Barton - 

Played by Kim Novak

The true identity of the woman who impersonated Madeleine in the first half of the film. Judy played the role of Madeleine at the behest of her one-time lover, Gavin Elster. She is malleable, lonely, and a bit hard. She is willing to surrender her own identity so that Scottie will love her.
Midge Wood - 

Played by Barbara Bel Geddes

Scottie’s friend and ex-fiancée. Pretty and very capable, Midge is an artist who makes her living designing women’s undergarments. She is a mother figure who is still in love with Scottie and represents everyday reality.
Gavin Elster - 

Played by Tom Helmore

The film’s anti-hero. Gavin is an old college acquaintance of Scottie who has married into a wealthy shipbuilding family. He is calculating and manipulative, exploiting Scottie’s weakness to achieve his own goals.
Coroner - 

Played by Henry Jones

The voice of Scottie’s conscience, who berates Scottie for allowing his fear of heights to prevent him from saving Madeleine’s life. The coroner’s manner is clinical and unsympathetic.
Pop Leibel - 

Played by Konstantin Shayne

Bookstore owner and San Francisco historian. Pop represents the “old” San Francisco inhabited by Carlotta Valdes.
Doctor - 

Played by Raymond Bailey

Psychiatrist in the sanatorium where Scottie recovers from Madeleine’s death. The doctor is the voice of reason who attempts to make sense of Scottie’s descent into madness.

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