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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter November 27, 2015

Bell, Book, Candle, Vertigo: The Hollywood Star System and Cinematic Intertextuality

Steffen Hantke


The production and release of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo and Richard Quine’s Bell, Book and Candle in 1958 creates an odd case of cinematic intertextuality. Beyond the aesthetic and commercial logic of sequels or remakes, the two films share a striking set of diegetic, formal, and contextual features. Released mere months from each other, both films feature the same two stars – James Stewart and Kim Novak – as a romantic couple. Across both films it is Novak in particular who defines and explores a complex, multidimensional star persona that speaks to the intersection of her own career and women’s concerns, both in Hollywood cinema and the late 1950s in general. Despite the two films’ striking similarities, Vertigo’s enshrinement as cinematic masterpiece in general and a highlight in Hitchcock’s career stands in stark contrast to the broad critical dismissal of Bell, Book and Candle as light entertainment. Reading both films as a single extended text, commenting on the contested authorships of cinematic auteurs and Hollywood stars, reveals new aspects of Hitchcock’s canonical film and invites a critical re-assessment of Quine’s regrettably underestimated one.

Corresponding author: Prof. Steffen Hantke, English Department, Sogang University, Seoul, South Korea, e-mail:

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Published Online: 2015-11-27
Published in Print: 2015-12-1

©2015 by De Gruyter

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