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North by Northwest
Drama, Thriller, Action, Adventure, Mystery, Romance
IMDB rating:
Alfred Hitchcock
Cary Grant as Roger O. Thornhill
Eva Marie Saint as Eve Kendall
James Mason as Phillip Vandamm
Jessie Royce Landis as Clara Thornhill
Leo G. Carroll as The Professor
Josephine Hutchinson as Mrs. Townsend
Philip Ober as Lester Townsend
Martin Landau as Leonard
Adam Williams as Valerian
Edward Platt as Victor Larrabee
Les Tremayne as Auctioneer
Philip Coolidge as Dr. Cross
Patrick McVey as Sergeant Flamm - Chicago Policeman
Storyline: 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.
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duplicity as a game...
Why can't we do that kind of movie anymore? ... a lot of tension, many humor, a little violence and great but simple story, a recipe we seem to have lost!

There is a lot of Vertigo tension and some idea of the futur humoristic ton he will use in Marnie, but there is especially one great couple of actors. One of the best acting part for Cary Grant and the villain played by James Manson is actually a nicer guy than the introducing Thornhill. There both majestic and the little blond in the middle is both a woman and a girl, adjusting the tone perfectly. The characters are full of surprises and mysteries, they all played some double game a game for freedom!

The idea is basic -some twisted identities- but the shots and the tense music are still amazing! You can recognize Hithcock work everywhere: he spends as much work on the form and the background of his movie and this is a true lesson of Cinema.

We still enjoy his movies at this point and this is quite a collection of master pieces!
Pleasant and Entertaining
No, they don't make them like this anymore, but fortunately you can still rent a copy or better yet go see it in a theater somewhere. Cary Grant is very good as the baffled ad exec being chased by, and chasing, international spies in a case of mistaken identity. He never loses his cool and manages to shift effortlessly between comic and serious, making it all look easy. Good casting all around except maybe for Jessie Royce Landis who plays Grant's mother - not that she's bad in the role, but she doesn't quite look the part owing, perhaps, to the fact that she was actually younger (by 10 months) than Grant. Movie audiences back then took Grant to be ageless, I suppose, and perhaps he was. James Mason is good as the suave villain.
Sexy Hitchcock thriller (spoilers throughout)
There are no two ways about it, North by Northwest is a sexy film. Just take the exchanges on the train or the film's final image or even the homoerotic banter between James Mason and Martin Landau. The whole film reeks of sex.

It's quite fun watching the film back and noticing all the subtle, and not too subtle, allusions to horizontal activity. The most explicit is the conversation between Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint. The flirty banter is superb, as is the scene that follows it. For all intents and purposes it's a sex scene, but because Hitchcock wasn't able to get away with that at that time he had to be creative, and as a result the scene is perhaps even sexier. But perhaps flying slightly under the radar is the relationship between James Mason and Martin Landau. Sure, years later, plenty of film academics have pointed out the homoeroticism that is present, but it's fun to ponder whether the original audiences picked up on it. I mean, just listen to some of the dialogue: 'call it my woman's intuition if you will.' 'Why Leonard, I do believe you're jealous! I'm actually very flattered!' And then there's the fight they have. It's like a sex scene. There are two close ups, the money shot and then one slumps down into an armchair and the other stands there, grimacing in pain and relief. But if you want to analyse it in even more depth, there's the fact that the argument starts with a gun. Only its Eve's gun and it fires blanks. The emptiness of heterosexuality, perhaps? Probably not, but like I said, it's fun to theorise. Oh, and while I'm on this train of thought, James Mason says 'Gay surroundings' with a distinct emphasis. I wonder if he's trying to tell us something?

There's also a Freudian kink to the relationship between Thornhill and his mother. She looks the same age as him and they act like a married couple. In fact, at the start of the film, is seems as if Roger can't do anything without her. She's the one he phones when he gets arrested and she's the one that he takes on his early adventures. She's only ditched when he comes across a better prospect - Eve Kendall.

But that reminds me of one of my favourite scenes. I love Cary Grant's drunk performance in the police station. It's bloody hilarious. I love the drunken conversation with his mother ('No, they didn't give me a chaser') and the drunken conversation with the doctor ('How much did you drink?' 'This much,' Grant replies with his arms stretched wide apart). Grant's comic acting is impeccable.

Another favourite comic scene is the auction scene. Again Grant's acting is magnificent. The way that he antagonises the auctioneer is superb and the fight is hilarious. And I also love the scene where Thornhill returns to the house. No one can do dignified bemusement quite like Cary Grant.

Less convincing, however, in my opinion, is James Mason. He's certainly got the urbane charm that the character of Vandamm demands but I just don't find him threatening enough. In many ways he's quite a forgettable Hitchcock villain. The only thing that makes him memorable to me is his relationship with Martin Landau.

I also find the final action scene a bit disappointing. I don't think that it quite has enough energy. Plus Mason seems nonplussed at having been caught. Yes that's his character – always cool and in control – but it does deny the audience the satisfaction of his capture. However, the film redeems itself with its final image. I can imagine Hitchcock chuckling to himself having got away with it.

But while I'm coming up with criticisms, I also have to say that the film is a little light. Certainly it's a very amusing film with some terrific dialogue, but it doesn't live as long in the memory as, say, Vertigo, Psycho, Rear Window or even The Birds. And the story, when you sit down and think about it, is completely forgettable. You remember the great scenes and the great moments, but only lip service is paid to the Cold War and the business about the microfilm. It's entirely superfluous.

However, it's easy to ignore the more forgettable elements when there is so much worth remembering. Just take the crop dusting scene, the UN murder, every moment on the train, the terrific musical score and the fantastic dialogue. It's not quite a feast but it's a damn good snack.
My very favorite movie
This has long been my all-time favorite movie. To me, it's just flawless. I love Hitchcock and I love Cary Grant, and they're at their best in this film. I love everything about this film. Scene after scene is just perfect. Even the lesser details are wonderful: The music score is just magnificent! The opening credits are great! The Hitchcock cameo is great! The plot is a treat, which I won't spoil at all.

OK, it's not Hitchcock's most profound. But I don't think that diminishes it one bit. For what it is, for what it's trying to be, it's just flawless.

(and here's a bonus line to satisfy the picky software)
A timeless thriller which mixes romance with suspense in equal proportions.
What makes this movie stand apart from the modern day thrillers- the story that leaves us bemused for more than an hour from the commencing of the movie, Hitchcock's direction and the wonderful camera work that by all means bolsters his way of presenting a story and not just telling a story, or is it a great actor who never caught up with age and exemplified a gentleman as a man in a tuxedo? I'd say, all of it.

Just as you think the movie is headed in no particular direction, Hitchcock steers the swerving vehicle first towards North by train and then Northwest by flight.

Anyone who has watched the film cannot simply remain silent about the fact that they witnessed the best typography ever, a work from the master of it, Saul Bass. And like every other Hitchcock's films, Bernard's soundtracks adds to the suspense in the story.
Suspenseful masterpiece!
I think "North by Northwest" is great! Cary Grant is his charming self as Roger Thornhill, and Eva Marie Saint is delightful as Eve Kendell. I also think James Mason gives an excellent performance as bad guy Vandamm.

My favorite part is the auction scene. Roger knows that Vandamm's men are surrounding the place, and that he would never get out alive. So the only way to escape is to create a disturbance, and be escorted out by the police. This is exactly what he does, and it's hilarious!

Although everyone has seen the famous and climactic chase scene across Mount Rushmore, there is a great movie before and after that. I think that this movie contains one of Hitchcock's best "Mac Guffins", which is an extremely slight reference to what makes the enemy so bad. As the Professor says, Vandamm exploits "government secrets". Hitchcock always said that this wasn't important to the plot, because we only need to know that Vandamm is after Roger. I definitely recommend "North by Northwest" to any Hitchcock or Cary Grant fan, or someone who just wants to see an outstanding movie!
"Subplot" Cary Grant versus James Mason; also "Slighting Chicago"!
Read reviews above for the exceptionally witty commentary this film attracts.

I add one sub plot and one slight to Chicago...

Subplot: Cary Grant, the good actor versus the less popular but greater actor, James Mason.

Read the list of Vandamm quotes to see how many times Mason's character digs at Grant's...acting! Only one instance listed below:

Phillip Vandamm: Has anyone ever told you that you overplay your various roles rather severely, Mr. Kaplan?

(hear Mason as Vandamm comment on Grant's "acting school"


See Mason and Grant--observe their similar wardrobe and physical resemblance in their Mt. Rushmore restaurant...

Mason played Shakespeare well-- see his Brutus in Mankewicz's great 1952 Julius Caesar. Yet he sometimes got roles Grant had rejected...the most famous being Norman Maine in the great "A Star is Born".

I bet Hitch sensed this and encouraged Lehmann to hype up the actor rivalry in N by NW script.

This real life "competition" only enhances the on screen N by NW movie.

And the "Slight to Chicago"? Here, the greatest movie crime N by NW commits! Chicago offers so many sinister possibilities and great visuals in its skyscrapers and shore line, etc, etc. But no! Only a quick train shot of Chicago in the daylight...all the stellar skyline is shot in the dark! (Took the Blues Bros and later The Untouchables to "discover' Chicago's many layers... of film possibilities.)

Still---a great movie! A study in stylish dialogue, too!
remarkably fresh, incredibly intense, ends a bit too fast
SPOILERS Everybody loves Hitchcock. It's strange, but irrelevant of how many times you've seen his films, you always find something new in them. Whether it's Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates, Jimmy Stewart in his wheelchair, or Cary Grant scoring on a train, Hitchcock has got some of the most famous actors of the time to confirm their legend status with his films. Hitchcock's films are also remembered for the forever spoofed or replayed scenes which we know and love. The birds on the climbing frame, the shower scene, the Mount Rushmore climb, all these and many more have been given tribute by Matt Groening's 'Simpsons' and in modern culture, you don't get many higher tributes.

Written in 1959, 'North by Northwest' is one of Hitchcock's more memorable films. Remembered more for the already mentioned Rushmore scene, the film boasts some genuinely amazing performances, as well as some of Hitchcock's masterful tension. Intense and powerful, it also contains some absolutely superb lines and one of the finest train journeys of all time. It's a brilliant film, ruined ever so slightly by the final 30 seconds which feel rushed and incomplete. Still, at over two hours long, there is so much going for this film that you'll never grow tired of it.

Roger O Thornhill (Cary Grant) is just a regular, financially secure advertising executive for a major film. Accidentally mistaken for a spy, Thornhill's life takes an unexpected turn when he is kidnapped and taken to see the evil Phillip Vandamm (James Mason). Plied with alcohol and thrown into a car, Thornhill finds that staying alive has become a new chief priority. Chased by Vandamm and the police at the same time, Thornhill now must uncover the truth behind the mistaken identity and discover just what it is he is meant to know.

Led by the enigmatic Grant, 'North by Northwest' is a brilliant film for two key reasons. Firstly, the entire cast are on top notch form. As the unfortunate Thornhill, Grant is exquisite and lights up the screen for every second that he is on screen. At the same time, both Mason as the bad guy and Eva Marie Saint as the love interest fulfil their roles perfectly. They add humour, they add intensity, and most importantly they add intrigue to roles which are stunningly created by writer Ernest Lehman.

The second reason for the film's brilliance is the simple way that you are twisted and turned and completely stunned by certain key events. Times like the legendary plane chase, the magnificent realisation of the truth behind Saint's character, all add together to produce a film which is actually rather special.

In fact, aside from one or two incredibly sickening lines, the only real problem with 'North by Northwest' is that ending. Rushed and confused, it feels like Hitchcock has cut ten minutes out of the end to reduce the film's length. This is obviously not the case and it's just been written badly, but the haste with which the film just stops is a mild irritation, if purely because your so hyped up on adrenaline from the rest of the film. In a way, it's a bit like watching live sport only for someone to turn off the match with ten minutes left and tell you the final score. Sometimes a calming down period and a proper resolution are needed, and sadly in 'North by Northwest' this never appears.

In possession of some of the most famous film moments in history, Hitchcock's 'North by Northwest' is a brilliant film. Well written and acted, it is a roller-coaster ride which never lets off until it's disappointing rushed conclusion. With so much intensity throughout, it feels weird that the film does climax in such a way, but ultimately for the two hours plus before hand, you can forgive the creators for their impatience. Beautiful to watch, and powerful throughout, 'North by Northwest' is justifiably one of Hitchcock's finest.
A one of a kind Hitchcockian experience
Having seen most of Alfred Hitchcock's works I must admit that North by Northwest has quickly become my favorite, even though it may not possess the typical Hitchcockian motives. What's more, It could as well be placed in the same box as the James Bond franchise, because it may in some aspects remind of the well-known spy movies (Cary Grant could have been a perfect 007, with his elegance, handsome face and fantastic overall presence). However, I must say that it combines a better-developed structure, more wit in its dialogues and greater suspenseful sequences than any Bond movie does. Also, personally I thought that Eva Marie Saint was much more appealing than all of the Bond girls combined.

The main plot introduces the whole movie as a serious and thrilling mystery of a man, who is mistaken for an agent and embarks on a journey to clear his name. Still, apart from that, there are various comedic aspects of the film, along with my favorite scene in the first few minutes, when Roger Thornhill (played brilliantly by Cary Grant) is being held captive, forced to get drunk and then ride a car. As for the romantic section, there is the ongoing chemistry between the devious Eve Kendell and Thornhill.

All those aspects make up for an amazing and most enjoyable plot. The ideal mix of all the conjoint, yet rather opposing, factors marks the true genius of the director himself. Even though all of Hitchcock's pictures are undisputed masterpieces, North by Northwest captivated me the most. I haven't really seen a movie that offers so much - perfect plot-subplots combination, intelligent script, memorable scenes, many distinct sceneries, tremendous acting (great supporting roles by James Mason, Leo G. Carroll and Martin Landau) and, most importantly, the building of suspense until the very last minute. It is also the best Hitchcock- Grant collaboration you will find.

Even though the picture didn't win an Oscar in any of the three categories that it was nominated in, it surely could have won an Award for the best picture of the year. Or the decade. Or the century. Because every time you watch this fantastic movie you will be able to find a new part that will catch your attention. That is the true genius of Hitchcock. He made a movie that brings out everything that is the greatest about the motion picture industry, that is the ability to develop a masterwork that can be interesting to every single person in the world.
Strangers on a train
Alfred Hitchcock's "North by Northwest" is one of the best films in his long and distinguished career. Part of the success of the movie lies in the screen play by Ernest Lehman, one of the best writers of that era. Also, the haunting music by Mr. Hitchcock's usual collaborator, Bernard Hermann, adds texture to what we are seeing. Together with all the above mentioned qualities, "North by Northwest" was photographed by Robert Burks and was edited by George Tomasini, both men did outstanding jobs to enhance a film that shows a mature and inspired Alfred Hitchcock.

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.
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