Petty controversy: Did The Artist 'rape' Vertigo by stealing its music?

Former silver-screen starlet Kim Novak unloads on the current Oscar frontrunner for borrowing the theme from Alfred Hitchock's 1958 film

Kim Novak, pictured on the set of "Vertigo," says audiences are only responding to "The Artist" because the new film stole music from Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 classic.
(Image credit: The Weinstein Company/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis)

The controversy: Count Kim Novak, star of Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, among those who were not charmed by Oscar frontrunner The Artist, the silent film about a leading man's fall from Hollywood's A-list as a young actress' star rises. In a press release, Novak writes, "I want to report a rape… my body of work has been violated by The Artist." She goes on to charge that The Artist aped the iconic love theme from Hitchcock's 1958 classic, passing the music off as its own. That's cheating, she says, because it's the familiarity of the music that helps evoke the audience's emotions at the climax of The Artist. Novak didn't compose the music in question; the film's score was written by legendary Oscar-winning composer Bernard Herrmann. "I love Bernard Herrmann," says The Artist director Michel Hazanavicius, "and his music has been used in many different films and I'm very pleased to have it in mine. I respect Kim Novak greatly and I'm sorry to hear she disagrees."

The reaction: Novak does have a point, says Jen Yamato at Movieline. A well-known piece of music from a "beloved classic can… evoke the emotion earned by that reference film." However, sampling familiar compositions is a commonly-used tool, from the rampant use of the Bing Crosby-sung "Pennies From Heaven" in other pieces of cinema to beat samples and hooks in many hip-hop songs. And comparing this to "rape" is so hyperbolic and incendiary that it "almost negates the complaint," says Damon Houx at Screen Crave. It's like comparing a person to Hitler. Besides, says Mike Fleming at Deadline, who's going to "recognize music from a film released in 1958?"

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