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North by Northwest (1959)

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A hapless New York advertising executive is mistaken for a government agent by a group of foreign spies, and is pursued across the country while he looks for a way to survive.



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Top Rated Movies #72 | Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 8 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Mrs. Townsend
Patrick McVey ...
Captain Junket


Madison Avenue advertising man Roger Thornhill finds himself thrust into the world of spies when he is mistaken for a man by the name of George Kaplan. Foreign spy Philip Vandamm and his henchman Leonard try to eliminate him but when Thornhill tries to make sense of the case, he is framed for murder. Now on the run from the police, he manages to board the 20th Century Limited bound for Chicago where he meets a beautiful blond, Eve Kendall, who helps him to evade the authorities. His world is turned upside down yet again when he learns that Eve isn't the innocent bystander he thought she was. Not all is as it seems however, leading to a dramatic rescue and escape at the top of Mt. Rushmore. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The Master of Suspense weaves his greatest tale! See more »


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

26 September 1959 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest  »


Box Office


$3,101,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)| |



Aspect Ratio:

1.75 : 1
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Did You Know?


In numerous interviews, Martin Landau said that he made a decision on his own to play the character of Leonard as gay and in love with Phillip Vandamm (James Mason). In an October 2012 interview with Devin Faraci, Landau said that he was cast in North by Northwest when Hitchcock "saw me in a play called 'Middle of the Night,' Paddy Chayefsky's first Broadway play, with Edward G. Robinson, which I toured with after the Broadway run. He was there opening night. I played a very macho guy, 180 degrees from Leonard, who I chose to play as a homosexual--very subtly. Because he wanted to get rid of Eva Marie Saint with such a vengeance. James Mason, to the day he died--he became a friend of mine--the most often asked question of James was whether Vandamm, his character, was bisexual. He said, 'No he wasn't, but Landau made a choice and there's nothing I can do about it.' I actually caused him some grief! Everyone told me not to do that because it was my first big movie and people would think I was gay. I'm an actor! I said it wasn't going to be my last movie, and it certainly wasn't. I've never played a character like that since. I also felt it was something people would know or not know. It was very subtle. I thought in Boise, Idaho they might not notice." Landau also said that after he made the decision to play Leonard as gay, Alfred Hitchcock and screenwriter Ernest Lehman were very supportive of the idea. "Ernie Lehman added a line which was not in the script. 'Call it my woman's intuition' was not in the original script. It was a very daring line for the '50s. Men didn't say things like that. Hitchcock loved what I did and left me alone." See more »


In the crop dusting sequence which allegedly takes place in northern Indiana the highway 41 sign is square which is incorrect. Highway 41 is in fact a U.S. highway which has a completely different shaped sign. Only the secondary state highways have square signs. See more »


Roger Thornhill: [... ] it's something about my face.
Eve Kendall: It's a nice face.
Roger Thornhill: You think so?
Eve Kendall: I wouldn't say it if I didn't.
Roger Thornhill: Oh, you're that type.
Eve Kendall: What type?
Roger Thornhill: Honest.
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Crazy Credits

Right after his credit as director during the opening credits, Alfred Hitchcock is running toward the door of the city bus just as it slams shut on him! See more »


Referenced in Barocco (1976) See more »


I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face
Music by Frederick Loewe
Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner
Portion sung by Cary Grant (as "I've Grown Accustomed to Your Bourbon") as he's being seated behind the wheel of the Mercedes while drunk
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

I finally get how great it is: Hitch infuses his wrong-man caper with ironic movie language and reality-be-damned escapism and suspense.
24 July 2004 | by See all my reviews

Its Hitch's most briskly entertaining movie, and one of his most comic, adventure-caper type movies, largely thanks to the persona of Cary Grant. But its also one of his most suspenseful - in the fact that Grant is being recognised as someone else, and that he may be put in jail for someone else's crime.

I've finally come to realise just how great North by Northwest is. The reason you should love Hitchcock is he put entertainment upfront. Hitchcock was not interested in whether this or that would happen in real life: he was interested in what would make the most entertaining scene for the movie. North by Northwest is a peak in this regard. The dialogue and situations intentionally throw reality to the wind - the double-entendre dialogue in the love scenes is not supposed to be the way people talk!

If you said to Hitchcock "as if he'd keep driving" or "as if she'd do that" - he would just laugh at you and say you've missed the point. This is 100% movieland, and once you get used to the fact, and that this is not a fault in the film, but done intentionally, you'll love it. Its expressionistic - everything happens in movie language: the people laughing at Grant in the elevator, the way he keeps driving drunk near the beginning, the way he grabs the knife and everyone stares at him after someone's been stabbed.

It flirts with the idea of identity. I thought it was interesting how Grant first is dismissing, then incredulous that people should be calling him by another name; then, as the tries to find out who this guy is, he enters the hotel room of this new identity, then he puts the suit on, and finally he identifies himself as George Kaplan.

A succession of fantastic, memorable scenes, a great leading man in Grant, and one of Hermann's essential Hitch scores make for a movie i can put on at any time.


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