A wealthy San Francisco socialite pursues a potential boyfriend to a small Northern California town that slowly takes a turn for the bizarre when birds of all kinds suddenly begin to attack people there in increasing numbers and with increasing viciousness.
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
Roger Thornhill's mother tells him jokingly, "Pay the two dollars," after he futilely attempts to shed light on his kidnapping and be exonerated from his DWI charge. The line is a reference to a Depression-era Willie Howard vaudeville sketch written by Billy K. Wells. A man is in court to pay a $2 fine for spitting on the subway, but his lawyer insists on fighting the case. As the lawyer incurs greater and greater sentences, his defendant keeps pleading, "Pay the two dollars!" This sketch also appeared in Ziegfeld Follies (1945) with Edward Arnold portraying the attorney. See more »
The line "our friend who's assembling the General Assembly" is a deliberate play on words, and it's in the script. It is not a case of Thornhill (or actor Cary Grant) erroneously saying "assembling" instead of "addressing". See more »
Now you listen to me, I'm an advertising man, not a red herring. I've got a job, a secretary, a mother, two ex-wives and several bartenders that depend upon me, and I don't intend to disappoint them all by getting myself "slightly" killed.
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The Leo the Lion/MGM trademark preceding the credits is on a green field, to match the green field used in the credits proper. See more »
I can't quite understand how anyone can dislike Alfred Hitchcock's films. Personally, he's one of the few old school talents I find interesting and watchable, even if his work is dated and set in its era (the era when most sets were hopelessly phony). I guess you have to appreciate his themes - dysfunctional relationships between a man and his mother, flawed by essentially innocent men caught up in a web of intrigue, beautiful blonds, comments of authority figures, black humor, etc - to really appreciate Hitchcock.
Interestingly, James Stewart was Hitchcock's original choice for the role of Roger Thornhill, the hapless ad man who is mistaken for a spy who doesn't even exist to begin with and is chased half way across the country by villains and authorities for a murder he didn't commit. For one reason or another, Stewart was unavailable and the part went to Cary Grant instead. Grant seems better suited to the character and the situation than Stewart would have been, but I can easily picture Stewart being chased in the cornfield by the crop duster.
Like all Hitchcock films, there are hundreds of things that aren't realistic though set in the real world and lots of highly improbable stuff going on everywhere, but if you give it a chance you'll enjoy it and won't care. Don't miss Eva Marie Saint having to dub over a then lewd line about love, a full stomach and sex. The use of a crop duster may not be the most practical way to kill a man, but it's a great visual representation of the great Hitchcockian examination of "nowhere to run, nowhere to hide". The music and clinging to Mount Rushmore is also memorable. Did I mention the innuendo?
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