North by Northwest (1959)
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NORTH BY NORTHWEST has one crucial difference to any James Bond film, though: Alfred Hitchcock. While the Bond films have been seen as quintessential action fluff (although fluff of the better kind until the franchise ran out of gas in the 80s), Hitchcock, always the master of subtext as well as suspense, creates memorable scenes that balance sexual tension, sexual innuendo, comedy, and mounting suspense seamlessly. There is never the feeling of being bored as there is too much going on, especially with the sizzling chemistry of Eva Marie Saint and Cary Grant, by now a Hitchcock veteran. When they're on screen, dialog crackles and so much more is said with so little gesture -- she closes the lid on her Ice Goddess role, but gives it a nice, cheeky, knowing wink. He of course evolves from the sort of man who while looking and being slightly clumsy and under his mother's thumb -- once it becomes clear he's been marked and is a target for a sinister plot that only later becomes clear -- becomes more assertive in taking matters into his own hands. A quintessential Hitchcock Everyman, Grant has his stamp all over his role. No one can imagine anyone else running away from that crop duster in one of the movies many standout sequences, or saying the reassuring last words to Eva Marie Saint as they cuddle together in the train. When one thinks of NORTH BY NORTHWEST, one thinks Cary Grant.
Easily one of Hitchcock's best films, made while he was at the peak of his career in the bracket formed with THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH and MARNIE. Great supporting performances are all over the map, from Jesse Royce Landis as Grant's mother, James Mason as Phillip Vandamm, Martin Landau as Vandamm's protégée who might be a little more than that, and Leo G Carroll as The Professor. Doreen Lang appears early in the movie as Grant's secretary; she would of course be remembered as the woman who shrieks at Tippi Hedren in THE BIRDS and gets slapped by her as the camera holds itself tight on her face.
For me, half of the fun of North by Northwest is its incredible story. This film has something for everyone within it: a little comedy, a little romance, great snappy dialogue and more action than any Bruce Willis Die Hard film combined. Hitchcock was a master at this and in North by Northwest he lets his genius shine through totally. It seems to me that whenever I watch it, everyone who made this film from Cary Grant on down had nothing but sheer fun making it. Perhaps my two favorite scenes are the infamous "crop-duster" sequence and the last twenty minutes or so at Mount Rushmore.
I must give special mention to Ernest Lehman who yet again managed to write a screenplay that totally knocks your socks off. How he came up with the idea, I've not a clue, but what an idea it is. The screenplay itself was nominated for an Academy Award that year, but lost to Pillow Talk. North by Northwest was also nominated for Best Set Decoration and Best Film Editing, but lost to Ben-Hur in both categories.
All in all, what a film. If you haven't seein it, do so ASAP. North by Northwest just reinforces my belief that Alfred Hitchcock was one of the greatest directors of all time. Period.
My rating: 4 stars
Cary Grant is one of those actors that a filmgoer either falls in love with or deeply envies. His debonair manner is displayed to the full in this film, even though the peril that his character goes through would cause any normal dude to break into a maddening sweat. The dialogue Roger Thornhill delivers alongside Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint) in this film is sometimes too hilarious to be true, but wouldn't any woman fall for it? (I'm merely guessing here) Ernest Lehman's screenplay is so lighthearted and yet very ominous. With all the traps and pitfalls Grant goes through in this film, you would have to find comedy in it. Grant does and to great appeal. I absolutely love the sequence at the auction when Roger tries to get himself arrested by yelling out flaky bids and accusing the auctioneer of selling junk worth no more than $8. I also admire the scenes with Saint on the train to Chicago; I was tempted to jot down some of his pick-up lines, but then I realized it's just a movie (or is it?)
Hitchcock was famous throughout his career of setting up death-defying sequences with major landmarks as backdrops. Here, Mount Rushmore will never be looked at the same again afterwards. We may never enter the United Nations again without peering behind our backs for a notorious knife-thrower. And, I dare say, I will never walk alongside a highway where a cropduster could swoop at any minute. I love the line during the Rushmore incident when Grant says his two ex-wives left him because he lived too dull a life. Go figure!
It has been said that Hitchcock's many films each contain a personal side of the director inside them. The archetypes of the Master of Suspense are here amid the chasing and running across the U.S. The mysterious blonde, played to a tee by Eva Marie Saint, is a common fixture of many Hitchcock jaunts. Saint joins Grace Kelly and Tippi Hedren in this feature. The protagonist is again awkward when faced with the opposite sex, but unusually casual when wrapped up in danger. The hero has an attachment to his mother, continually under his nurturing wing. And of course, the macguffin has fun with us again (government secrets my foot!)
Whenever I see action-packed epics today like "The Fugitive" or the James Bond series, they all seem to quiver in comparison to this film. It amazes me that Hitchcock is able to hold the audience in the palm of his hand throughout the whole length of the journey. We become Grant as he runs away from the police and the secret agents who have chosen him as their dupe. But throughout the squabble, we sense that Grant is getting off on the whole jaunt, just as we want the chase to continue, not looking at our watches for a minute. However, it's fascinating to note that Roger Thornhill is not a born adventurer, nor is he an archeologist with a flair for escaping impossible situations. We are experiencing the Cary Grant in all of us, running away from an enemy we do not know they are or what they want. Is this symbolism of some kind? I say who cares; just watch the film and have fun!
Very few other films of this kind attain the near perfect tone of this one, precariously balanced between seriousness and silliness. Sometimes this film manages the very difficult trick of being both suspenseful and comical at the same time, as in the auction house scene, or the wonderful scene in the lift when the hero's mother turns to two heavies in a lift looking menacingly at the hero and says "you gentlemen are not REALLY trying to kill my son, are you?".
Of course the famous crop dusting plane scene and the Mount Rushmore chase are terrific. The former is really more notable for the amount of time taken to build up to the action than the action itself, while the technical work on the latter still looks pretty good. In a totally different vein is the astonishingly frank seduction sequence on the train. Hitchcock takes his time here as with many of the other scenes, but the film is so crammed with memorable passages that one hardly notices it's 136 mins long.
Ernest Lehman's script is full of wonderful lines, many of them delivered so well by chief villain James Mason that at times we almost want to root for him. "Has any one ever told you tend to overplay your various roles Mr Kaplan....it seems to me you fellows could stand a little less training from the FBI and a little more from the Actor's Studio". Cary Grant is so smooth one almost forgets he's over 50, and of course there's also Bernard Herrmann's vibrant score.
Endlessly enjoyable even with repeated viewings. How many of today's thrillers will be such fun in 25 years time?
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.
Rightly regarded as a classic and can more than compete with today's thrillers that too often rely on special effects to make up for the lack of genuine suspense. Here the plot requires a great deal of faith, but it is brought off with such style and energy that it is totally absorbing. The action is great and the several main scenes have become part of popular culture and are regularly spoofed on TV etc. The romance works as well and Thornhill and Kendall exchange plenty of good scenes.
The dialogue is great and the direction is faultless from Hitchcock. Many thrillers run over 2 hours - but only the good ones can stand up to repeated viewings. Northwest can take back to back viewings it is so good. The plot may have been put together as shooting went (as was the case with at least
one key scene) but it all stands together well. The acting is also perfect, Grant's rebirth as a thriller man is brilliant and is one of Hitchcock's best everyman characters. Marie-Saint is yet another dangerous blonde but is very good. James `The Voice' Mason is excellent, while Landau adds great homosexual subtext to his character. The ever present Leo G Carroll IS Mr Waverly but is still enjoyable and even support roles like Landis as Thornhill's mother is perfection!
Over 40 years on this film has barely dated. Hearing the music is enough to make me want to see it again, while the direction, set pieces, dialogue and performances are all pitch perfect. A wonderful thriller for young and old - no sex, no swearing, all thrills.
The film works because of the witty dialog Mr. Lehman wrote. This has to be one of the riskiest projects undertaken by Mr. Hitchcock because of the sexiness Eva Kendall exudes throughout the film and the repartee between her and Roger Thornhill. The film mixes adventure and romance that aren't put ons, as one feels what one's watching to be really happening.
Much has been said in this forum as to the values of this classic, so we shall only add our pleasure in seeing this masterpiece any time it turns on cable. In fact, the film hasn't dated, the way some others of the same period have. The highlights of the film are the sequences involving the crop duster, the train ride to Chicago where Eve and Roger first meet, the auction, and the Mount Rushmore climax.
This is one of the best contributions by Cary Grant to any of his work with the director. Roger Thornhill is one of the best roles Mr. Grant played, during his long career. His chemistry with Eva Marie Saint is perfect. This young actress added class and elegance to the picture. James Mason and Martin Landau played villains convincingly. Jesse Royce Landis, Leo G. Carroll, and the rest of the supporting cast is excellent.
"North by Northwest" is one of Alfred Hitchcock's best crafted films thanks to the brilliant people that came together to work in it.
Grant is terrific--funny, sexy, angry, confused, exhausted, redeemed. It is a full-bodied performance. And speaking of bodies--Eva Marie Saint is *definitely* an asset here, not just for her looks (there's that cool, blond Hitch femme fatale again) but for showing off her acting chops as well.
James Mason is a consumate actor, and Hitch gives him a vehicle to enter one of his finest performances. Martin Landau, too, is appropriately chilling.
Favorite scenes? The crop-dusting sequence is certainly a classic. But I love the scenes with Roger and his mother, dickering over his "drunkenness." And the auction is Hitch in his element: the scene plays tense and terse but also funny.
I can quibble with this film: The blue-screening looks a bit cheesy nowadays. And the movie opens with a huge plot hole (when the page is searching for George Kaplan and Thornhill grabs his ear for a quick question, Mason et.al. believe Thornhill to be their man, setting off the entire plot. However, shouldn't the page have continued searching the room, calling for Mr. Kaplan? And shouldn't the villains have heard him continue to page, knowing that Thornhill wasn't who they assumed he was? Ahh, but that would blow the whole movie!).
This film also contains the best "naughty joke" Hitchcock ever devised. The final sequence is Eva Marie Saint and Grant pulling each other into bed. The jump cut is to a train entering a tunnel. You figure it out.
Oh, the champagne dialogue in this movie is simply premier cru, darlings! Eve: "You don't believe in marriage." - Thornhill [indignant]: "But I've been married twice." - Eve: "See what I mean?" Or take this repartee... Vandamm: "Seems to me you fellows could stand a little less training from the FBI, and a little more from the Actors' Studio." - Thornhill: "Apparently, the only performance that'll satisfy you is when I play dead." - Vandamm: "Your very next role. You'll be quite convincing, I assure you."
The dialogue is also very risqué for a 1950s film in places. In the dining car, for example, Thornhill: "The moment I meet an attractive woman, I have to start pretending I have no desire to make love to her." This thinly-veiled propositioning of Eve/Eva for sex, which sounds banal these days, would have been outrageously shocking to its original 50s audience. Likewise, "I'm a big girl." - "Yeah, and in all the right places, too." A cliché now, but imagine its impact then. "I've heard nothing but innuendoes," says Vandamm at one stage. He's right; there are plenty in this movie's verbal and visual imagery.
This dialogue, and the general production design, conspire to create product that, unlike other Hitchcock thrillers like Rear Window and Psycho, doesn't appear dated now. The design is ultramodernist, which is reflected in the architecture of the locations like the NYC UN HQ and the Rushmore lodge.
A convoluted plot is usually the result of bad scripting or an attempt to mask a movie's deficiencies in other areas. As usual, Hitchcock keeps the plot dead simple and doesn't complicate matters by trying to explain. It's just some kind of meaningless Cold War spy thing. This perfectly suffices, for it's quite incidental to the thrilling chase that forms the core of the film. What seem like hokey, incredible contrivances, such as Eve's coming on so strong to Thornhill in the dining car (when we think her unaware that he's not a real murderer) are soon enough fascinatingly demystified. (She's in cahoots with Vandamm, or, as we later find, an undercover agent trying to expose him!)
Fantastic performances from Cary Grant, James Mason, Eva-Marie Saint and a much-underused Martin Landau. If there's one criticism, it's that Cary Grant is preternaturally unflappable as the urban sophisticate plunged into a living nightmare. He always retains his self-assured, even arrogant, panache and never panics. In fact, with that ever-present twinkle in his eye, he seems to be getting perverse enjoyment from his own misfortunes. However, his modulated performance remains just the right side of comicality.
Eva-Marie Saint is camera-loved as the lethal seductress. She seems the perfect Bond girl. Had her star risen a few years later, I'm sure she'd have been captivating Connery. In fact, this movie shows that Hitchcock could have directed James Bond. It's no secret Bond's film incarnation was modelled to some extent on Cary Grant's supersuave persona in this film.
A young-looking Martin Landau is effective as the menacing sidekick, although it's only in the final scene in the Rushmore lodge that he has any quality screen time or lines. James Mason underplays the role of the polished, oleaginous villain perfectly. His very British voice and demeanour conveys menace by suggestion, not overt declaration. He too, like Saint, would have been ideal in a Bond film. He doesn't sound ridiculous mouthing lines like, "A bit naughty, using real bullets!" [my paraphrase]
[Continuity: In the scene in Eve's hotel room, Thornhill calls for the valet to sponge and press his suit. He's told it'll take 20 minutes and a guy comes to collect the suit a minute later. He pretends to take a shower, whilst Eve absconds. Thornhill leaves immediately, and he doesn't return to the hotel. However, in the next scene, we see him wearing the same suit, perfectly sponged and pressed. There's no way he could have returned to the hotel to collect the suit.]
But it just doesn't matter: IMDB voters at this writing have placed the 44-year-old `North By Northwest' ahead of all but 18 movies ever made, including 14 which have nothing to do with Frodo Baggins or Darth Vader. That's pretty damn impressive. What the hell were they thinking? The only Hitchcock movie they rate higher is "Rear Window;" I can think of at least seven or eight Hitchcocks I'd rank over "North By Northwest." [None of them are "Rear Window."]
The truth is this film is so popular because it is so good. Not great, but very, very good, in a way that anticipates a lot of the direction of mass entertainment to come and thus speaks to people in a way `Vertigo' or `Strangers On A Train' do not. People talk about how forward thinking "Psycho" is, and it is, but more directors took note of the just-as-clever-but-more-mainstream approach of "North By Northwest." The last four decade have been chock full of flicks serving up suspense, sex, changing locales, and plot twists that play with viewers' expectations, all the while keeping the laughs coming. It's not like "North By Northwest" invented this formula, but it perfected and distilled it into an essence that is imitated, with varying success, to this day.
Cary Grant plays slick adman Roger Thornhill, who gets mistaken for a fugitive named Kaplan and finds himself on the run from a slew of bad guys, led by James Mason at his smug and oily peak as Vandamme. Martin Landau makes his first memorable appearance as Mason's nastiest henchman Leonard (1959 was good to him, as "Plan Nine From Outer Space" premiered that year as well), suspicious, ruthless, and probably gay. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it was 1959 and that was a little daring.
Daring also is Eva Marie Saint's Eve Kendall, a woman who uses sex, as Thornhill puts it, "the way some people use a flyswatter." Her repartee with Thornhill shows just how erotic two people just talking to each other can be. It also provides further evidence Hitchcock's writers didn't go out on many dates. (Kendall: "I'm a big girl." Thornhill: "Yeah, and in all the right places." And she KISSES him for it!)
The film does chug slowly at the outset, building suspense but also bugging you a bit as the plot gears grind while Thornhill is being pushed through his early paces, right until his moment at the UN. About the time we find ourselves with Thornhill in the cornfield, the picture starts to pick up a serious head of steam, and never loses it all the way to the final, famous tunnel shot. Actually, I like the penultimate scene between Grant and Saint, an elegant and witty way of resolving that most tried-and-true device, the cliffhanger.
As with most of Hitchcock's 50s fare, elegance is behind much of what makes this movie so great. `North By Northwest' manifests an elegance in dress, decor, language, music, and lighting that represents the best of its era while giving the picture a timeless character all the same. Hitchcock's camera movements are very subtle yet brilliant, as during Mason's entrance and Grant's hide-and-seek game around the train. Everyone has perfect hair, lounges about in gowns and jackets, and you never think it should be otherwise.
Grant isn't my favorite actor, but he's smooth enough for the central role when he's not doing that bad Foster Brooks impression behind the wheel of the car. [I docked the movie one point just for that.] His best scene may be at the auction, though he projects real fear in the cornfield. Saint is simply splendid, nailing every line as she walks a tightrope and plays her character's motives close to her décolletage. Hitchcock seemed to lose his ability to direct female actors, and not merely bask in them, with the advent of color, but Saint is one blonde bombshell that gives us a sense of brains and personality behind her mystery.
There's logic gaps in this movie, and bad process shots, but it's an amazing ride all the same, more amazing because it's done with smoke and mirrors and without apologies. You ask the questions and figure out the loopholes only after you walk away, because the movie doesn't let you up much while you are watching it. Hitchcock made other, more challenging movies that attested to his rare vision as an artist, but this is maybe his purest exercise in the craft of good filmmaking. That's why `North By Northwest' has remained so high in people's estimations. Whatever the errors, it's hard not feeling good about that.
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?
Cary Grant may be the ideal Hitchcock actor, and he is a big part of making this such great fun. As one of the man-on-the-run characters that Hitchcock loved to make movies about, Grant is entertaining and believable, maintaining good humor even as he tries to work his way out of a series of desperate situations. The other stars, James Mason and Eva Marie Saint, also are very good, and the supporting roles are all filled by good character actors.
The story is one of Hitchcock's most exciting. It's slightly longer than usual, and it occasionally stretches credibility, but it all goes by quickly because there is always something interesting going on, and there is also plenty to look at. Whether using the famous landmarks or using more everyday settings, there is always lots of good detail, and the settings complement the story nicely. At times the plot becomes somewhat fanciful, but probably deliberately so, for it only emphasizes Hitchcock's mastery of technique that he can have his characters do almost anything and make you believe it at the time.
With everything that characterizes Hitchcock at his very best, this fully deserves its reputation as one of the finest films by him or any other director. You can watch it several times and still find it just as entertaining.
Grant plays Roger Thornhill, a stylish publicist, mistaken for a fictitious Federal agent, plunged into a world of crime and intrigue, hunted down by villains who want to eliminate him because he seems to be on their dishonest dealings
When questioned by bland Phillip Vandamm (James Mason), Thornhill is unable to convince him that he is a victim of a mistaken identity His three thugs fill him with bourbon, and place him in a stolen car expecting him to have a drunken accident After narrowly escaping death, no one believes his story including, obviously, his skeptical mother (Jessie Royce Landis).
In an effort to discover the agent he is being confused with, and using the clues he collected, Thornhill returns to the United Nations Headquarter looking for George Kaplan There, somebody falls into his arms and unthinkingly, Thornhill draws the blade out of the victim's back and is photographed holding the weapon in mid-air And thus became a fugitive from justice, pursued by the cops and had to skip by boarding a train to Chicago
While on the run, he is caught by a provocative platinum blonde (Eva Marie Saint), who comes out as a glamorous woman and a delightful charmer
James Mason, a polished mastermind spy showed too well to be threatening... His menacing henchman, Martin Landau is also convincingly hurtful...
In his fifth Hitchcock picture, Leo G. Carroll is suave and calm as the devoted intelligence chief
Directed by a genius behind the camera, "North By Northwest" remains a genuinely exciting film for the dangerous world of spies and counterspies
For an espionage tale like this, I would have preferred an approach more based on grim realism. Instead, the narrative seemed a bit too convenient and contrived, as if Old Hitch was trying to make the ends meet at the last minute. Somehow, I never felt the `taut' tension of his other films that I've immensely enjoyed (Dial M for Murder, Rear Window, Psycho, The Wrong Man, Vertigo, to name but a few). It certainly doesn't help that the film contains too many scenes that verge on the `fantastical' level. For example, there's a scene in which a gun goes off in the living room of a house. Eva Marie Saint comes out of her room and asks, `What was that noise,' to which James Mason replies, `We were just wondering about that.' Martin Landau just gives a little shrug and all is forgotten. I mean, come on! I'd say it's pretty hard to mistake a gunshot for, say, somebody dropping a glass on the floor. As I mentioned, there are many more scenes like this during the course of the movie, and every single one of them acts as a decelerator' of the narrative. Also, the overall performance of the cast struck me as rather underwhelming, especially when we're talking about some of the finest actors ever to grace the silver screen. James Mason, in particular, sleepwalks his way through, though I can't blame him, given the fact that his character was so painfully underwritten. The bit when Cary Grant acts like he's drunk was pretty difficult to sit through. Humor is fine when it works on, again, a believable level.
I like the idea of having a normal Joe get tangled up in a case of mistaken identity/international espionage. Also, it does feature some memorable scenes, especially the famous crop field/airplane sequence (it really does deserve all the praise it has received) But again, it just proves to me that even a seemingly sure-fire combo like Ernest Lehman-Alfred Hitchcock can still come up short on the goods.
The second 007 adventure, `From Russia with Love', received some hounding because people thought it was basically a rip-off of this movie (there are some obvious similarities), but in this madman's humble opinion, `From Russia with Love' is the one that achieves a better telling of a spy story.
Enjoyable mystery movie involves a bewildered ad-man who hold numerous tricks in order to escape from his captors and being chased cross country . Entertaining suspense movie packs humor , intrigue and ordinary Hitch touches . This agreeable and often hilarious picture from master of suspense has a memorable scene after another and was the only film Alfred Hitchcock made for MGM . Alfred Hitchcock's films have become famous for a number of elements and iconography : vertiginous height , innocent men wrongfully accused , blonde bombshells , voyeurism, long non-dialogue sequences , a matter of mistaken identity etc. This film has these particularities ; furthermore contains a fun intrigue , amusing situations and keeps the action at feverish pitch . Hitch was famous for making his actors follow the script to the word, and in this movie the characters use their dialogue taken from an interesting as well as fun screenplay by Ernest Lehman . Alfred Hitchcock's movies were known for featuring famous landmarks such as Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco convent in ¨Vertigo¨ and the Statue of Liberty in ¨Sabotage¨ . Here includes Mount Rushmore images and now-legendary scenes such as crop-dusting plane sequences and the train station scene that was shot in New York City's Grand Central Terminal .
Alfred Hitchcock couldn't get permission to film inside the UN, so footage was made of the interior of the building using a hidden camera, and the rooms were later recreated on a soundstage . Very good support cast such as James Mason , Martin Landau , Josephine Hutchinson , Les Tremayne as auctioneer and Jessie Royce Landis as mummy , though she was only 7 years older than Cary Grant, who plays her son . Features two actors who would go on to head spy agencies in their own 1960s television series. Edward Platt would star as "Chief" in ¨Get Smart¨, and Leo G. Carroll would star in ¨The man from U.N.C.L.E . And of course , Alfred Hitchcock cameo , he arrives at a bus stop during the opening credits but gets there a second too late and the door is closed in his face , he misses the bus.
Colorful and glimmer cinematography in Vistavision by Robert Burks , Alfred's ordinary cameraman , showing nice outdoors . Rousing score by Bernard Herrmann , he arranged his whimsical themes from Fandango music. Bernard and Hitch had a long as well as fruitful professional relationship . Rating : 8.5/10 . Essential and indispensable seeing , being perfectly directed by the master himself . Worthwhile watching , one of all-time amusement . Ranked #7 on the American Film Institute's list of the 10 greatest films in the genre "Mystery"
The famous scene where Cary Grant is attacked by a plane is fine, but it isn't integrated with the rest of the plot. (If someone wanted to kill Cary Grant, why didn't they just hire a gunman instead of a plane?) The plotline is perfunctory: Cary Grant makes his way into the villain's house, and instantly discovers what one of the best FBI agents has failed to uncover in years. The scene at the auction and the final chase on Mount Rushmore are, once again, memorable. But overall, this film appears to confirm my view that while Hitchcock was superb with individual set pieces, he never gave much thought to the overall structure or pacing. Even at his best (e.g. "The 39 Steps" or "Rear Window") Hitchcock doesn't give an impression of having an artistic vision to impart, which makes his reputation as a great director rather puzzling. No doubt his admirers see more than I do.
As in the case of many of the best films, the success of "North By Northwest" is shaped by a combination of winning components, including one of the most gifted directors, a sharp, snappy screenplay by Lehman, superb cinematography by Robert Burks, an effectively moody musical score by Bernard Hermann, and first-rate casting.
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 Illinois cornfields. As the mysterious Eve Kendall, lovely Eva Marie Saint is a very different woman from her Oscar winning performance as Edie Doyle in "On the Waterfront", and she never ceases to intrigue us here even after many viewings. And who could deliver those caustic, cynical lines as well as James Mason in the part of the deceptively "respectable" villain, Philip van Damm?
Throughout the film, subtle undercurrents persistently flow beneath the surface, including Thornhill's strange relationship with his mother (Jesse Royce Landis), which may by itself explain his previous two divorces, and the peculiar jealousy of van Damm's assistant thug, Leonard (Martin Landau). Having the "guts" in 1959 to interpret the role as an effeminate homosexual with a crush on his boss, Landau casts his Hollywood career to the wind, and the gamble thankfully paid off for him. And how about that final scene of the train shooting through the dark tunnel? When I first viewed this film in 1959 at the age of ten, I didn't get he symbolism, but I was still very impressed by the unforgettable visuals.
As talented as Alfred Hitchcock was as a director, much of his success is attributed to his extraordinary trust in the ability of others and to his persistence in finding the right people for the right job. The end result is a long list of extremely entertaining movies that continue to endure the test of time.
The plot's merely a device to put together a string of unlikely set pieces involving Roger O. Thornhill (Grant), an advertising exec who is mistaken for a secret agent by two thugs, and taken off to meet the evil Jonathan Van Damme (Mason) masquerading as a UN Diplomat. The purpose of the charade is never explained; nor are Van Damme's contrived methods of offing Thornhill, none of which is successful. In a series of unlikely coincidences, Thornhill finds himself wanted for murder and fleeing from the police on the Century Limited, the train from New York to Chicago that saw thousands of passengers a day in its prime. Thornhill meets and seduces a beautiful young blonde on the train, who remarkably agrees to hide him from the authorities; mirabile dictu, she's Van Damme's girlfriend. But we don't care about the improbably confluence of events that drive the picture to its remarkable conclusion in South Dakota.
The first among many excellent off-screen contributions is the Bernard Hermann soundtrack, whose frequent hemiolas paint an aural picture of the jagged angles suggested by the title and the opening credits set against the facade of the UN building.
I agree with the many reviewers who put this movie at the top of their lists, and pity those who can't see the humor or suspense in this Hitch classic. One suggestion -- see this on the big screen, if you can. Just for an example, the crop dusting scene is suspenseful enough on DVD; the last time I watched it in a theater, people were ducking in their seats to get away from the plane.
Well, seeing the film again five years ago on DVD as a 50-something-year-old turned out to be a major disappointment, mainly because the first hour was so boring. The beginning had scenes that looked too dated and worse, were drawn out too long, such as Grant's drunk scene and the romance between he and Eva Marie Saint.
Once Grant goes on the run, the story improves noticeably and mixing in some comedy with the drama was a good move. From that point, it's still the fun film I had remembered but, overall, didn't have the suspense anymore and, to this day, I believe is an overrated Alfred Hitchcock film. The more I see of Hitch's old films, the more disappointed I am, with the exception of Psycho and Rear Window.