October 24: Alternative Titles Day

On this date in 1957 movie executive Sam Frey sent director Alfred Hitchcock a list of suggested alternative titles to the film that Hitchcock was shooting. The director has been in a continual battle with his studio, Paramount, over the movie’s title. Hitchcock was determined to go with the one-word title Vertigo; the studio, however, rejected the director’s choice. The list of 47 alternative titles was the studio’s last attempt to sway Hitchcock. It included the following suggested alternative titles:

Afraid To Love
Checkmate
The Face
Malice
The Mask and the Face
Shadow on the Stairs Shock
Two Kinds of Women

Vertigomovie restoration.jpgHitchcock stood firm with his choice, and when the film opened on May 8, 1958, the movie marquee read Vertigo. The film starring James Stewart is based on a French novel entitled D’entre les morts (“from among the dead”). Today it is recognized as one of the greatest psychological thrillers in Hollywood history (1).

Today’s Challenge: What’s the Word?
What would be your one-word alternative title to a classic book or film? Like Vertigo, three of the top grossing films of all time have one-word titles: Avatar, Titanic, and Jaws. The challenge of a one-word title is to evoke the quintessential core element that defines the film. Brainstorm some alternative titles to some classic book titles and film titles. You may not, however, use any of the words in the original title. The Wizard of Oz, for example, might be retitled “Rainbow” but cannot be retitled “Oz” or “Wizard.” Create a Top Ten list of your best alternative titles, and if you’re working with a group, hold an Alternative One-Word Title Contest. (Common Core Writing 3 – Narrative)

Quotation of the Day: ‘Vertigo’ was about a murder, a love affair, memory and loss, and a police detective with a work-related injury. The title, however, perfectly captures the queasy, off-balance feeling the film induces in the viewer, as well as the psychological state of the protagonist. -Christopher Johnson

1-Usher, Shaun. Lists of Note: An Eclectic Collection Deserving of a Wider Audience. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2015: 242.