Abandoned Alternate Titles for Two Great Films: Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove and Hitchcock’s Vertigo

Kubrick notebook

We have here a page out of Stan­ley Kubrick­’s note­book, which Lists of Note—the sis­ter site of Let­ters of Note, always a favorite of ours here at Open Cul­ture—post­ed as a col­lec­tion of alter­na­tive titles for Dr. Strangelove. The list includes Dr. Dooms­day, The Dooms­day Machine, Dr. Doomsday and His Nuclear Women, Don’t Knock the Bomb: these ideas came not from an inter­fer­ing stu­dio, but from Kubrick­’s own mind as he worked his way toward the most suit­able name. You can see him get­ting clos­er; while this page does­n’t include the film’s final title, Dr. Strangelove: Or, How I Learned to Stop Wor­ry­ing and Love the Bomb, it does include Dr. Strangelove’s Bomb, Strangelove; Nuclear Wise­man, and the Gib­son­ian-sound­ing The Pas­sion of Dr. Strangelove. I myself will always won­der how Dr. Strangelove’s Secret Uses of Uranus would have played, but when you deal with cin­e­mat­ic crafts­men as detail-ori­ent­ed and reput­ed­ly “per­fec­tion­ist” as Kubrick, you know that their dri­ving desire to get things right extends all the way to their titles and beyond.

This holds just as true for Alfred Hitch­cock. Alone in the Dark, Behind the Mask, The Dark Tow­er, With­out a Trace, all pos­si­ble titles for the movie we now know as Ver­ti­go. When Hitch­cock­’s San Fran­cis­co psy­cho­log­i­cal thriller recent­ly topped Sight and Sound’s crit­ics poll of the great­est films of all time, it sure­ly did so for cin­e­mat­ic mer­its hav­ing noth­ing to do with its name.

But would a Ver­ti­go by any oth­er title feel quite as fresh and grip­ping today, 55 years after it first came out? This goes espe­cial­ly for the pre-thread­bare titles I rat­tled off above, which only account for four of 47 of the sug­ges­tions Para­mount Pic­tures exec­u­tive Sam Frey pitched to Hitch­cock, includ­ing Deceit, Deceit­ful, and, for good mea­sure, Decep­tion. You can read all of them below, or at Lists of Note. I quite like The Face Vari­a­tions, but Hitch­cock knew his project most inti­mate­ly, and thus knew that Ver­ti­go it had to be.

  1. Afraid to Love
  2. Alone in the Dark
  3. The Appari­tion
  4. Behind the Mask
  5. Car­lot­ta
  6. Check­mate
  7. Con­science
  8. Cry from the Rooftop
  9. The Dark Tow­er
  10. Deceit
  11. Deceit­ful
  12. Decep­tion
  13. Don’t Leave Me
  14. Dream With­out End­ing
  15. The Face Vari­a­tions
  16. Foot­steps
  17. For the Last Time
  18. The Hid­den life
  19. In the Shad­ows
  20. The Inves­ti­ga­tor
  21. A Life Is For­ev­er
  22. The Lure
  23. Mal­ice
  24. The Mask and the Face
  25. The Mask Illu­sion
  26. My Madeleine
  27. A Mat­ter of Fact
  28. Nev­er Leave Me
  29. Night Shade
  30. Noth­ing Is For­ev­er
  31. Past, Present and Future
  32. The Phan­tom
  33. The Sec­ond Chance
  34. The Shad­ow
  35. Shad­ow and Sub­stance
  36. Shad­ow on the Stairs
  37. Shock
  38. Steps on the Stairs
  39. Ter­ror
  40. To Live Again
  41. Tonight Is Ours
  42. Too Late My Love
  43. Two Kinds of Women
  44. The Unknown
  45. Want­ed
  46. With­out A Trace
  47. The Wit­ness

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Inside Dr. Strangelove: Doc­u­men­tary Reveals How a Cold War Sto­ry Became a Kubrick Clas­sic

Philoso­pher Slavoj Zizek Inter­prets Hitchcock’s Ver­ti­go in The Pervert’s Guide to Cin­e­ma (2006)

20 Free Hitch­cock Movies Online

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­lesA Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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