January 31, 2012

The Title

I can attribute probably 90% of my writing skills to the discipline of my high-school English professor. He didn't teach grammar--rather he expected that by the time we got to him, we understood basic English Grammar, and furthermore understood how to think and write critically.  But he did, as I recall, have a list of ten-or-so rules which we had to follow, and which, if we broke them, he would dock a full ten points from our grade.

Those rules and standards are so ingrained in my habits that I can hardly even name them. But one stands out to me, particularly, even today. He insisted that we give a title to all our essays. If we were unable to give a title, we clearly had no idea what we were talking about, and he didn't have time for it.

Ten points for no title struck me as draconian at the time, but now, especially since I have to title every blog post and email (because what is a subject line if not a title), I've grown to love this little habit.

I was reminded of it yesterday when I stumbled upon a list from Paramount Studios to Alfred Hitchcock suggesting alternate titles for the film Vertigo.  As I scrolled down the list, I had to wonder: did Paramount even watch the film? And, if Vertigo had been named The Mad Carlotta or A Life is Forever, would it have become the classic that it clearly is today? (Of the alternate titles, The Face Variations is most intriguing to me.  Let me file that one away for a story that I probably won't ever write.)

Ps. I found this Czech movie poster, too.  Yeah, don't think they really captured the spirit of the film, haunting though it is.

UPDATE: Other alternate movie titles.

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