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Vol. 17 No. 1 (2023): New Lenses on Old Hollywood

The Many Faces of Judy Barton: Contemporary Retellings of Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo"

June 4, 2023


This analysis of Wendy Powers & Robin McLeod's 2011 novel The Testament of Judith Barton, a retelling of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958) from the point of view of its female lead, argues that the shift in perspective makes space for the inner life and personhood of a character who has been objectified by the film’s male gaze and flattened by its cultural legacy. As a work of adaptation, The Testament of Judith Barton demystifies Vertigo’s mysteries by closely following Judy from early childhood through to her performance of Madeleine within the film’s plot, removing the distance imposed by the male protagonist’s point of view on-screen. It is a contemporary retelling of a classic film that uses the conventions of the novelization genre to interrogate Judy’s place in film history from a feminist angle. By flipping the script and approaching this well-known narrative from Judy’s first-person perspective, the novel alternatingly explores and reinvents her complex motivations in ways that cannot be addressed by the film itself, thereby creating a more fully rounded character and breathing new life into the Hollywood classic.