Vera Miles

Pencil Portrait by Antonio Bosano.

Vera Miles Pencil Portrait
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The quality of the prints are at a much higher level compared to the image shown on the left.


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Vera Miles refused co-operate on the two Hitchcock biopics filmed in 2011, the then 83 year old preferring to leave research ‘consultancy duties’ to her grandson.

As Jessica Biel, the actress chosen to play Vera Miles in the ‘Psycho’ themed film ‘Hitchcock’, was moved to say:

“Vera Miles wasn’t interested… Vera is alive and did not want to speak to me because she doesn’t have a public life and is not interested in a public life.

“I don’t think that was an insult to me but her grandson was available and so I picked his brain for hours. He’s married and was very nice and (a) very respectful guy, and he was very unsure about me at first. He is very protecting of his grandmother, but he was the best historian on her career and who she was at the time of Psycho.”

“Her life is exactly what she wanted. I feel it’s very challenging to have a private life. It’s been very hard for me to have any sort of privacy in life. I get that it’s a balance you have to try and create but it’s very hard.”

A brief overview of her life and career can be located via the following link:

An understanding of her acting strengths lies very much at the heart of her failure to achieve cult status as a film star. In his book “Hitch: The Life and Times of Alfred Hitchcock” (1978), Russell Taylor observed that;

“Physically she had the makings of his favourite cool blonde type, and he (Alfred Hitchcock) thought he could manoeuvre her into it. He set to work to mould her career, choose her other roles for her, give her an image by selecting the colours she should wear and the way her hair should be styled. But he came up against a problem he had not anticipated: she was an excellent actress—better, probably, than some of the others he had given the same treatment to—and she looked more or less right, but temperamentally she was all wrong. On screen she came over as strong, practical, earthy. Not ethereal at all, not cool and mysterious. Nor, perhaps, the material really big, big stars are made of.”

Based upon her own testimony in several key interviews throughout her career, it remains apparent that stardom was a secondary consideration for the actress, preferring as she did, the challenges of more multi-dimensional roles. Nevertheless, she was a woman in Hollywood and those of her ilk still require compliments. In a 1956 feature article in Look magazine, Miles said of Hitchcock, “He has never complimented me, or even told me why he signed me.” Hitchcock commented in the same article, “She’s an attractive, intelligent and sexy woman. That about rolls it up.” In a far more effusive mood, he told a reporter, referring to the similarities between Miles and Grace Kelly, “I feel the same way directing Vera that I did with Grace. She has a style, an intelligence, and a quality of understatement.”

Production delays and her pregnancy cost Miles the dual leading role in the project Hitchcock designed as a showcase for his new star, ‘Vertigo’ (1958), a film considered by many to be one of the director’s masterworks. Miles recalled that when she told Hitchcock that she could not star in his deeply personal and melancholic thriller for which costumes and makeup tests had already been completed, “He was overwhelmed.” The director would replace her with Kim Novak, with whom he subsequently clashed. When asked years later about Miles by director Francois Truffaut in the book Hitchcock/Truffaut, Hitchcock explained their professional falling-out this way: “She became pregnant just before the part that was going to turn her into a star. After that, I lost interest. I couldn’t get the rhythm going with her again.” Miles reflected, “Over the span of years, he’s had one type of woman in his films, Ingrid Bergman, Grace Kelly, and so on. Before that, it was Madeleine Carroll. I’m not their type and never have been. I tried to please him but I couldn’t. They are all sexy women, but mine is an entirely different approach.” The master of suspense may have failed to revive his rhythm with Miles, but this didn’t stop him hiring her for further episodic work on his long running “Alfred Hitchcock presents” television series in the 60’s.

Born in Boise City, Oklahoma, Vera Miles attended school in Pratt, Kansas and Wichita, Kansas. The patrician beauty of Miss Miles won her the title of “Miss Kansas” in 1948, leading soon to small roles in Hollywood films and television series. Fame came to the forthright, spirited Miles when she attracted the attention of two master directors, Alfred Hitchcock and John Ford. Ford cast her in the classic western The Searchers (1956) and Hitchcock, who put her under personal contract and hailed her as his “new Grace Kelly”, paired her with the great Henry Fonda in The Wrong Man (1956).

Recommended viewing

The Wrong Man (1957)

It may have a downbeat quality conspiciously absent in Hitchcock’s most popular fims of the 50’s, but “The Wrong Man” nevertheless remains an essential cornerstone in the director’s oeuvre.

Miles is excellent as Rose, slowly falling apart under the stress of her own guilty feelings; her breakdown essentially an extension of the tragedy that Manny faces in the first half of the film. Her mental deterioration is still part of his tragedy. The film is therefore not only about the terror of false incarceration but about the long-term effects of that experience on an innocent family. One of the most powerful scenes in the film occurs at the end, when Manny is vindicated, and he goes to the mental institution to rescue Rose from her own incarceration, but she’s too far gone. Therein lies the real tragedy of this film.

The F.B.I. Story (1959)

James Stewart portrays one of J. Edgar Hoover’s finest and Vera Miles co-stars as his steadfast wife in this salute to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The colorful career of Agent Chip Hardesty (Stewart) covers 1924 to the late ’50s. Along the way he tangles with everything from the Ku Klux Klan to a bomber who commits mass murder for insurance money. His fiercest exploits come in the ’30s when he stares down a gun barrel at Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, Machine Gun Kelly, Ma Barker and John Dillinger. The movie would be adapted from two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Don Whitehead’s bestseller, and directed by veteran Hollywood hitmaker, Mervyn LeRoy.

Miles is the adoring librarian fiancée when we first meet her, and it’s small wonder Stewart is committed. She radiates loveliness and wholesomeness, attributes that from today’s perspective, hark back to a bygone era. When Grace Kelly seduces Cary Grant in Hitchcock’s “To catch a thief” (1955), there are literally fireworks on screen, yet our hero is left facing marriage at the film’s finale with some trepidation. In contrast, Stewart cannot envisage a life without Miles.

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