- by Zoë
Roger is mistaken for
a secret agent and kidnapped by a spy ring. The spies try to kill him but do
not succeed. After a series of events, Roger finds he has to hide from both
the police and the spies. He gets involved with Eve without realizing she is
really one of the spies. Later, Roger saves Eve's life.
Click on Photo for Jen Romkee's fabulous tour of the film locations for
North by Northwest - GREAT !!!!
- by Aileen
Roger O. Thornhill (Cary Grant) is an ordinary man minding
his own business, until one day he accidentally gets mistaken for an agent who doesn't
actually exist, namely George Kaplan. From then on he is chased all over the place by men
who work for a spy called Van Damm, who thinks Thornhill is Kaplan.
Kaplan has been invented as cover for a female agent Eve
Kendall (Eva Marie Saint) who is in Van Damm's household posing as his girlfriend. Kendall
and Thornhill meet on a train to Chicago - as he is attempting to escape Van
Kendall helps by hiding him in her cabin.
As we see them falling in love, we discover that his
presence is putting Kendall at risk as Van Damm begins to suspect her loyalty to him is
not what it might be. So a carefully staged fight occurs in the restaurant at Mount
Rushmore, where Eve "kills" Thornhill in front of witnesses. Later however
Thornhill realizes that Eve is still going with Van Damm, despite the fact that she will
almost certainly be killed. He escapes from the hospital where he is being hidden and goes
to rescue Eve. He gets her and they are chased all over Mount Rushmore by Van
until help arrives.
A must see for anyone in my humble opinion.
My personal favourite bits are: a) The crop duster chase
sequence b) Where Cary tries to persuade a couple of policemen to arrest him and c) The
bits in the train (i) involving the top bunk when he is hiding and (ii) right at the end
as Mr & Mrs Thornhill!
Film Review - July 1, 1959
- by "Powe"
- submitted by Barry Martin
Metro's "North by Northwest" is the Alfred Hitchcock
mixture as before - suspense, intrigue, comedy, humor.
Seldom has the concoction been served up so delectably. It
should be top box office.
Second thoughts on the film will
produce the feeling that there are loose ends and stray threads
that are never quite bound up or followed through. But the
form of the spy melodrama, especially when it is being none too
gently spoofed, with counter-espionage and double-agenting
rampant, is a loose one and license is permissible. Ernest
Lehman has contributed a blithe and funny script.
"North by Northwest"
creates for this country the glamorous background achieved so
often and so well in Europe. Hitchcock uses actual
locations, the Plaza in New York, the Ambassador East in Chicago,
Grand Central Station, the 20th Century, Limited, United Nations
headquarters in Manhattan, Mount Rushmore (SD) National Monument,
the plains of Indiana. One scene, where the hero is ambushed
by an airplane on the flat, sun-baked prairie, is a brilliant use
of location. The scene would not have one-tenth its effect
if done in a studio, no matter how skillfully contrived.
Cary Grant brings technique and
charm to the central character. He is a Madison Avenue
man-about-Manhattan, sleekly handsome, carelessly twice-divorced,
debonair as a cigaret ad. The story gets underway when he's
mistaken for a U.S. intelligence agent by a pack of foreign agents
headed by James Mason. Actually the man he is mistaken for
does not exist. The character has been created by U.S.
Central Intelligence as a diversion so the foreign spies (never
identified as to origin, but presumably Communist) will not spot
the true U.S. agent in their midst. The complications are
staggering but they play like an Olympic version of a three-legged
Grant's problem is to avoid getting
knocked off by Mason's gang without tipping them that he is a
classic case of the innocent bystander. The case is serious,
but Hitchcock's macabre sense of humor and instinct for romantic
byplay, for which Lehman's screenplay gives plenty of opportunity,
never allows it to stay grim for too long. Suspense is
deliberately broken for relief and then skillfully
re-established. At times it seems Hitchcock is kidding his
own penchant for the bizarre, but this sardonic attitude is so
deftly handled it only enhances the thrills.
Hitchcock also displays again his
ability to see qualities in an actress not hitherto shown.
Eva Marie Saint has been effectively drab and convincingly sweet
in previous roles, but she dives headfirst into Mata Hari in
"North by Northwest" and shows she can be unexpectedly
and thoroughly glamorous. She also manages the difficult
impression of seeming basically innocent while explaining how she
becomes Mason's mistress. Mason, in a rather stock role, is
Jessie Royce Landis has a fluttery
comedy role from which she extracts all possible laughter, and Leo
G Carroll is delightful as the head of a U.S. intelligence
unit. Others in key roles are Philip Ober, Josephine
Hutchinson, Martin Landau, Adam Williams and Edward Platt.
Each creates individuality and excitement.
Sure to be widely commented upon,
among other scenes and lines in "North by Northwest," is
a love scene between Miss Saint and Grant, as memorable as
Hitchcock's famous scene between Grant and Ingrid Bergman in
"Notorious." The current scene takes place in a
train compartment, as the pair are en route to Chicago, and
Grant's comment as he comes up for air - "beats flying"
- may well enter the language.
Robert Burks' VistaVision
Technicolor photography, whether in the hot yellows of the prairie
plain, or the soft greens of South Dakota forests, is lucid and
imaginatively composed. It is the first Metro release in
VistaVision, a process Hitchcock prefers. Robert Boyle's
production design, abetted by art direction by William A Horning
and Merrill Pye, is fine in every detail. Set decoration, by
Henry Grace and Frank McKelvey, is equally an asset.
Bernard Herrmann's score is a
tingling one, particularly in the Mount Rushmore sequences, but
light where mood requires. Editing by George Tomasini is
slick and enhances the process work. Sound by Franklin
Milton, who is especially adept at exterior realism, is
first-rate. Herbert Coleman was associate producer.
NEW YORK TIMES
Film Review - August 7, 1959
- by A.H. Weiler
- submitted by Barry Martin
Since he is a peripatetic operative who loves to beat about
the bush while beating about the countryside, director Alfred
Hitchcock and a covey of willing and able traveling companions
have made "North by Northwest," which was unveiled at
the Music Hall yesterday, a suspenseful and delightful Cook's Tour
of some of the more photogenic spots in these United States.
Although they are involved in
lightning-fast romance and some loose intrigue, it is all done in
brisk, genuinely witty and sophisticated style. With Mr.
Hitchcock at the helm, moving "North by Northwest" is a
colorful and exciting route for spies, counterspies and lovers.
The director and Ernest Lehman, his
scenarist, are not, to put a fine point on it, really serious
about their mystery. With a tongue-in-cheek attitude and a
breezy sense of humor, they are off in high gear right at the
beginning as they spin the somewhat improbable yarn of a
successful, handsome Madison Avenue executive, who is mistaken for
a Federal intelligence man by foreign agents and forcibly pushed
into a succession of macabre situations that shock, amaze, perplex
and anger our once-debonair hero.
Mr. Hitchcock, who, as has been
noted, knows that travel is both fun and broadening, quickly
shifts his cast from such locales as the Oak Room of the Plaza
Hotel and the modernistic interiors of the United Nations
Headquarters, to the fancy confines of the Twentieth Century
Limited, to the posh Ambassador East Hotel in Chicago, to a vast,
flat Midwest cornfield and finally to the giant faces of the
Presidents sculptured on Mount Rushmore high above Rapid City,
The complications are introduced
with about the same rapidity as the ever-changing scenery.
Our beleaguered hero, it appears, is being harried by the villains
who want to dispatch him because he seems to be on to their skullduggery.
It is, or course, merely a case of mistaken identity, an illusion
the Federal boys are desperate to maintain.
In any event, Mr. Hitchcock, et al,
take time out now and again to stop strewing red herrings and
inject a funny scene here and there, such as one involving our
drunken hero in a local hoosegow, or to point up the quickly
burgeoning romance between him and the blonde Mata Hari who
apparently is aiding the dastards chasing him. Their
interlude, to the sounds of slick, romantic dialogue, in a train
drawing room, for example, is guaranteed to send viewers'
temperatures soaring. The lines and the expert manipulation
of the principals are tributes to the outstanding talents of
Messrs. Lehman and Hitchcock.
Cary Grant, a veteran member of the
Hitchcock acting varsity, was never more at home than in this role
of the advertising-man-on-the-lam. He handles the grimaces,
the surprised look, the quick smile, the aforementioned spooning
and all the derring-do with professional aplomb and grace.
In casting Eva Marie Saint as his romantic vis-à-vis, Mr.
Hitchcock has plumbed some talents not shown by the actress
heretofore. Although she is seemingly a hard, designing
type, she also emerges both the sweet heroine and a glamorous
Jessie Royce Landis contributes a
few genuinely humorous scenes as Mr. Grant's slightly addle-pated
mother. James Mason is properly sinister as the leader of
the spy ring, as are Martin Landau, Adam Williams, Robert
Ellenstein and Josephine Hutchinson, as members of his malevolent
troupe. And Leo G. Carroll is satisfyingly bland and calm as
as the studious intelligence chief.
Perhaps they and Messrs. Hitchcock
and Lehman are kidding, after all. Their climax is a bit
overdrawn and there are a few vague spots along the way. But
they do lead us on the year's most scenic, intriguing and merriest
Click here to read
Susanna's review of "North
Click here to read Jenny's Crackpot
Reviews at the Cary Grant Shrine
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