North by Northwest (1959)

North by Northwestnorthwest-poster
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Ernest Lehman
1959/USA
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental
#355 of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Man at Prairie Crossing: That’s funny, that plane’s dustin’ crops where there ain’t no crops.

I defy anyone to watch this movie and not be thoroughly entertained.

Ad man Roger Thornhill’s (Cary Grant) problems begin innocently enough.  He is lunching in the New York Plaza when he decides to send a telegram to his mother.  Unfortunately, he calls an attendant over immediately after George Kaplan is paged.  George Kaplan happens to be a secret agent and Roger’s life is immediately in grave danger.  He is kidnapped by a couple of thugs and brought to a country estate.  There he meets a cultivated yet sinister gentleman who is later revealed to be Philip Van Damme (James Mason).

Roger’s demise is promptly ordered but he miraculously escapes only to promptly become wanted for killing a man.

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Roger escapes that predicament by train, hounded now by both the bad guys and the police.  There a beautiful blonde by the name of Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint) introduces herself, seduces him and offers her assistance.  Her “assistance” is a two-edged sword as the chase continues.  With Martin Landau as a henchman and Leo G. Carroll as a spy.

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Here’s another one that just never gets old.  It is Hitchcock’s best on the “wrong man” theme – a perfect mixture of suspense, action, laughs and romance.  The dialogue sparkle, the performances are all spot on and there is no doubt this was put together and shot by a Master.  Highly recommended.

I always confuse the bizarre seduction sequence on the train with Janet Leigh seducing Frank Sinatra under similar circumstances in The Manchurian Candidate.  The difference is that this one comes to make sense later in the film.

North by Northwest was nominated for Academy Awards in the categories of Best Writing,  Story and Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen; Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color; and Best Film Editing.

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6 thoughts on “North by Northwest (1959)

  1. With all its tiny flaws, NORTH BY NORTHWEST remains a hella of a ride. Beautiful people being, well, beautiful. Sublimated homosexuality. Microfilm. Crop dusters. Trains. Upper berths. What more could any movie goers want?

  2. There’s a reason that I call this my favorite movie of all time. There’s nothing about it I don’t like.

    What continually surprisese me about it is how many great scenes it has that I remember, but that I forget just how good they are. I always forget, for instance, just how good the auction scene is and how funny it is despite the tensions going on in the scene. So much good work from so many good people–everything clicks here, especially the chemistry between Grant and Saint as well as the more vicious chemistry between Grant and Mason.

  3. Cary Grant was a perfect cast for this role. I even suspect the the role was tailored or at least adapted to him. If I had to mention the most quintessential Cary Grant character I would have a hard time choosing between Roger O. Thornhill and Dexter Haven of The Philadelphia Story.

    • Agreed. He and Mason are perfect foils in the suave department. Even though Thornhill is hapless he somehow reminds me of James Bond in this film.

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