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
When Roger was shown to be looking at the floor indicator of the lift in the hotel to see which floor Eve was going to, because of the angle it would have been impossible for him to see the indicator where he was standing at the desk. See more »
[coming out of the crowded elevator, dictating to his secretary]
If you accept the belief that a high Trendex automatically means a rising sales curve...
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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 »
The print originally had an acknowledgement for the cooperation of the Department of the Interior and the National Park Service. But they requested it be removed after MGM violated the agreement that no violence would take place near the Mt. Rushmore monument. Some prints, however, were released with the acknowledgement still in. See more »
Wedged between the making of two very serious, psychological suspense films, "Vertigo" and "Psycho", director Alfred Hitchcock created a very different kind of thriller, one consisting largely of comedy, both subtle and obvious, thanks in part to the talent of scriptwriter, Ernest Lehman. Hitchcock and Lehman started with three seemingly unrelated ideas, (1) a mistaken identity, (2) a chase scene through the United Nations, and (3) a spectacular finale at Mount Rushmore. They then wove these three events into one cohesive story, a fascinating creative process by itself.
As to the acting, I have seen Cary Grant in many movies, including a number of mediocre items and even worse than that, but he provides the perfect Roger Thornhill with his dry, natural wit and suave, elegant appearance. Whenever I am faced with life's adversities, I only need to recall how Roger would approach the situation with his coolness and muted sense of humor. The fact that Grant did not understand Lehman's script only authenticates his genuine state of confusion as he is pursued from New York City to Rapid City, South Dakota by way of Chicago and some very dry Indiana cornfields. As the mysterious Eve Kendall, Eva Marie Saint is a very different woman indeed from her Oscar winning performance as Edie Doyle in "On the Waterfront", and she never ceases to intrigue us as a woman who is far more independent and sexually assertive than we would normally expect in 1959. And who could deliver those caustic, cynical lines as well as James Mason in the part of the deceptively "respectable" villain, Philip van Damm? Grant and Mason are an outstanding match, and they bring this film to a high level (no pun intended when you consider the ending) that it may not have achieved without their dynamic interaction.
Throughout the film, subtle undercurrents flow beneath the surface, including Thornhill's curious relationship with his undermining mother (Jesse Royce Landis), which may by itself explain his previous two divorces. Then there is the quirky jealousy of van Damm's assistant thug, Leonard (Martin Landau). When I first viewed this film at the innocent age of ten, I didn't appreciate the symbolism of the speeding train through the tunnel at the end, but I was nevertheless very impressed by the overall visual power created by Hitchcock, not only here but in many of his other productions as well.
There were many memorable cinematic moments in this film, including an extraordinary aerial shot of Thornhill escaping from the United Nations building, a sudden showdown involving a man, a speeding oil tanker, and a menacing crop duster, and several, breathtaking shots from atop Mount Rushmore, both real and manufactured. As was the case with the Statue of Liberty in "Saboteur", the power of the monument is enhanced even more by the director's dramatic camera angles as it stands as an invincible symbol of the freedom that the evil elements in the film want to destroy.
The success of "North By Northwest" is shaped by a combination of winning attributes, including a very gifted director, a sharp, snappy screenplay by Lehman, superb cinematography by Robert Burks, an effectively moody musical score by Bernard Hermann, and some first-rate acting.
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