Roger O. Thornhill
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Biography for
Roger O. Thornhill (Character)
from North by Northwest (1959)

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In Alfred Hitchcock's "North By Northwest" (1959), Thornhill (his middle initial "O" stands for "nothing," by his own account) is an independent New York advertising man, twice-divorced, well-spoken, and exceptionally well-dressed, who finds himself the target of an extralegal gang of international security-and-defense secrets traders, as well as various police and intelligence agencies, all due to a random case of mistaken identity. The plot centers on him striving to clear his name in a case of driving under the influence, and later of a case of murder, all while being pursued by the police, who want to bring him to justice, and gang of villains, who want to kill him. Thornhill is a suave New York man-about-town until he finds himself in his predicament, but one with a prickly love-hate relationship with his sharp-tongued, wise-cracking mother (Jesse Royce Landis). His primary antagonist is the leader of the gang of international secrets dealers, Phillip Vandamm (James Mason), though Vandamm's reptilian right-hand man, Leonard (Martin Landau), is at least as sinister. His sometime ally, and romantic interest, is the beautiful Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint), who may or may not be trustworthy. Thornhill's quest for vindication and his flight from the law and his would-be murderers lead him from New York's Plaza Hotel to the tree-lined streets of upper-middle class suburban Long Island to the UN building to Chicago's Union Station to a quiet cornfield in Indiana to an auction house back in Chicago and finally to the precipices of Mt. Rushmore, the monument designed by Gutzon Borglum as a tribute to four U.S. presidents (Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt) in the Great Plains, where the story has it denouement.

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