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"North by Northwest"

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"North by Northwest"

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Character's Name: Roger O. Thornhill
Release Date:  July 17, 1959
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Studio:  Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Running Time: 136 minutes

Cast: Cary Grant (Roger O. Thornhill), Eva Marie Saint (Eve Kendall), James Mason (Phillip Van Damm), Jessie Royce Landis (Clara Thornhill), Leo G Carroll (Professor), Philip Ober (Lester Townsend), Josephine Hutchinson (Handsome Woman), Martin Landau (Leonard), Adam Williams (Valerian), Edward Platt (Victor Larrabee), Robert Ellenstein (Licht), Les Tremayne (Auctioneer), Philip Coolidge (Dr. Cross), Patrick McVey (Chicago Policeman), Edward Binns (Capt. Junket), Ken Lynch (Chicago Policeman)

North by Northwest trailer:

- by Zo Shaw
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 Mackintosh
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 Damm's men. 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 Damm's men, 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!

VARIETY 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 race.

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 properly forbidding.

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, SD.  

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--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 charmer.

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 chase.

Click here to read Susanna's review of "North by Northwest"

Click here to read Jenny's Crackpot Reviews at the Cary Grant Shrine

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