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North by Northwest
Year:
1959
Country:
USA
Genre:
Drama, Thriller, Action, Adventure, Mystery, Romance
IMDB rating:
8.4
Director:
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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Reviews
North By Northwest
If you are a Hitchcock fan, as I am, then this may be the best Hitchcock of all. "North By Northwest" has a little bit of everything: suspense, love, mystery, thriller intrigue, danger, and justice. Eva Marie Saint (Eve Kendall) has never been more beautiful, or more endearing as she is in this movie.

Years ago I didn't really care for Cary Grant, but he has a way of growing on you, movie by movie, and he is never better that he is in this role as Roger O. Thornhill. I loved James Mason and a young Martin Landau in this movie as well. Well worth the 2 hours and 16 minutes of your time.
2013-07-05
Cinematic Gold
If only all films could be as rewarding to watch as this, I was hooked from start to finish, and would definitely not hesitate in watching it again.

This is one of those films that has it all, intricate and well formed plot, likable main character superbly played by Cary grant, and a magnificent all round cast.

The chase of Thornhill from place to place, as he in turn is chasing the man he's been mistaken for, keeps you occupied and attentive, waiting for each new problem, new twist in the tale that arrives as Thornhill proceeds.

The direction and settings for each scene were sublime, including a fantastic piece of camera work when grant's character gets dropped off in the middle of nowhere by bus to meet the elusive George kaplan. The shot begins with him getting off the bus, and switches to a wide view of the emptiness and bleakness of his current surrounds, as the bus pulls out of view. Then it switches to grant, with the road running next to him, into the distance. The versatility of the direction and camera-work is something sometimes lacking from films, and certainly stands out in this one.

The locations were perfectly chosen, from the UN building in new york, to mount Rushmore for the climax. The grandeur of the background only serves to enhance the experience.

As far as favourite scenes go, I'd have to go for the dining car on the train, with the banter showing the attraction between thornhill and Kendall, or perhaps the auction room scene, an inspired way to evade capture by thornhill's pursuers.

Apart from me being a film geek, north by northwest gives you a fulfilling ride through the frustrations and experiences of Thornhill as he is mistaken for a spy. Wit and humour pepper the dialogue, making you laugh and smile, with Cary grants rough charm accentuating everything.

Surely as close to film perfection as it gets. A must see.
2006-03-29
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)
2008-03-30
Classic 'wrong man' film by Hitch at the height of his powers
Classic Hitchcock tale of the 'wrong man'; a mild-mannered businessman (ultra-suave Cary Grant) is mistaken for a spy and kidnapped at the very beginning, and it's away we go from then on. There are so many great and iconic scenes in this film – the crop duster chase of course, and also those at the United Nations and Mount Rushmore. Hitchcock is brilliant and puts tension in scenes at each and every opportunity, as opposed to devolving a great script into silly chase scenes which lesser directors may have done. It feels like a more masterful 007 movie, and James Mason and Martin Landau are both outstanding as villains. I'm not wild about Eva Marie Saint and only feel real chemistry between her and Grant in the line "Shall I climb up and tell you why?" in response to his wondering why she's so good to him, but the final shot of the train speeding into a tunnel was a nice bit of tongue in cheek symbolism from Hitchcock. Despite a long career he was still at the height of his powers, and in the following year would make Psycho.
2016-03-30
familiar man-on-the-run theme, with a twist
*Spoilers possible ahead*

North by Northwest is arguably Hitchcock's greatest thriller, and with good reason. Not only did Hitchcock create wonderful characters, he took them down and built them back up with such success that this film, written by Ernest Lehman, has some of the best subject with plot of any Hitchcock film. There is a familiar theme present in this movie, but this time Hitch has added a twist to it. The theme that Hitchcock weaves into a film is, of course, the man-on-the-run theme present in some of his other movies. However, in this particular film, Hitchcock has taken it to a new level. This time around, the man-on-the-run has lost his identity, only to have another one forced upon him.

At first, our hero has been accosted by the villains, and subsequently forced out of his cushy lifestyle. Then his identity is stripped from him to have another forced upon him. Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) is transformed into George Kaplan. At first the transformation doesn't take, but by the end of the movie, he has to accept (and does) his new identity to save himself and the girl he loves. In the Mt. Rushmore scene, Roger Thornhill has accepted that to do what he must do, he cannot be himself, and he needs to be Kaplan. So he does just that, he assumes the role of the man who never existed, creating him out of thin air. At points throughout the movie, Thornhill has been on the run for so long, and had so many people tell him he is someone he isn't that he even begins to doubt who he is. In one scene he is talking with his mother and he has to state to her that it is her son, Roger Thornhill.

Some have said that Hitch has just gone over familiar territory for this film. Specific references have been made to Sabotage and The 39 Steps. However, there are several key differences in these films that set North by Northwest apart from the others. Most importantly, the differences are in relation to character. Hitch has said that he did some things wrong with the previous movies, so he was going to correct them with this film. What he did to correct whatever he thought was wrong with his previous movies worked, because in the end Hitchcock created a masterpiece with this movie.

This movie is also exceptional in the way that Hitch has created Cary Grant's character. When we first meet Roger Thornhill and in the few beginning scenes, we learn that he has planted himself in the everyday business-man lifestyle. He has sheltered himself from any irregularity in his life. This is evident by his relationship with his mother, in one scene he describes how his mother still sniffs his breath to make sure he hasn't been drinking. However, within a few short scenes Thornhill's cushy lifestyle is stripped from him and he is plunged into the chaotic world of George Kaplan. Hitchcock does wonders in showing how precarious our lives can be. Just when we think we have everything under control, an unforeseen element enters the mix and throws everything off. In the end, Hitchcock has created something with such great characters and plot that it not only is one of his best, but one of the best movies of its genre of all time.

2003-04-22
Leave your brain home
(SPOILERS- if you've been living it in a cave)

OK, now explain this to me. Eva Marie Saint tells Cary Grant to go out to this 'middle of nowhere' spot to meet the actually non-existent agent he is after who will explain everything that has been happening to him. He's let off in the middle of this endless road and waits. Nothing happens. Then he notices a crop-dusting plane buzzing away in the distance. A guy drives up, stops for a moment for a smoke and then observes that there are no crops to dust. Then he leaves and Cary, having nothing else to contemplate, keeps looking at the plane. It then starts flying toward him and he slowly realizes it is going to try to clip him with its wings. He dives to the ground to avoid it. Then the same thing happens. Then the plane suddenly starts shooting machine gun bullets at him. He runs to a cornfield, (there are crops!) where the plane tries to fertilize him to death. Then he sees a tank truck coming down the road and tries to flag the driver down who decides to run over him instead. Then the plane flies into the tank truck and they both explode while Grant manages to escape.

Questions: 1) Why does Eva send Cary there? She's working for Leo Carroll, so she must know the agent Cary is chasing doesn't exist. Is it just to protect her cover?

2) Would the bad guys really have come up with such a ridiculous method of dispensing with the hero?

3) How is the death supposed to be an 'accident', as they presumably want people to think, especially if machine gun bullets are used?

4) If the pilot has a machine gun, why doesn't he use it from the beginning?

5) Why does the pilot fly his plane into the tank truck? Was this so impossible to avoid?

The film is a lot of fun. But leave your brain home.
2004-05-16
The tale of an amnesic James Bond ... or put in other words, the consummate Hitchcock's film ...
For many years, I regarded "North by Northwest" as a chaotic assemblage of action-thriller vignettes for the sake of an unsubstantial plot, using the casting of an aging Cary Grant as a sorry excuse to grab more fans, definitely not worthy of its reputation. After a second viewing, I concede I didn't have the right mindset to appreciate the hidden brilliance of "North by Northwest".

Let's start with the plot: Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) is an advertising executive, mistaken for George Kaplan, a secret agent, in reality, only a decoy to distract the villainous mastermind Vandamm (James Mason) from the real agent who happens to be his mistress Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint). Yet for the two thirds of the film, neither Grant nor the viewers are aware of these subtleties. For all we know, Grant is the "wrong man" whose attempts to prove his innocence worsens his case even more, from driving a car over a cliff after being severely imbibed and pulling a knife out of the back of a UN diplomat who's just dropped in his arms, Thornhill is the constant victim of the most unfortunate circumstances.

Alfred Hitchcock directs the film as if understanding the plot was not a priority, he knows the mystery effectively conveys the nightmarish karma of Thornhill, the pawn of a game with unknown rules. For all we know, it's the Cold War and he's torn between two kind of secret agents, the good and the bad ones, Hitchcock doesn't embarrass himself with more details and uses the actors like living props to put in the most extreme and spectacular situations. When Thornhill confronts Vandamm, he pretends not to be 'George Kaplan', to which Vandamm, with Mason's deep and mellowest voice, answers "Games? Must we?". Thornhill is victim of the innocent-man syndrome, using the same rhetoric than a guilty one, inevitably preventing Vandamm to say more. Thornhill can't talk because he doesn't know, Vandamm can't because he doesn't believe Thornhill, at the end, it's only Hitch effectively keeping his little secret.

But this secrecy is not gratuitous either, it effectively induces the paranoid feeling of the story, tapping on one of fear's most effective forms: the fear of the unknown, reaching its thrilling paroxysm in a scene set in the middle of nowhere. For eight minutes, nothing happens, Thornhill is just waiting, for whom, for what? We don't know, and we wait. The suspense is carried by our own interrogations, until a crop-duster comes, not with the friendliest intentions, contributing to the most defining moment of the film. The nightmare goes on and gets so intense that Thornhill would rather get himself arrested by the police. He doesn't know what he's escaping from, but he knows enough about his enemies. Yet the unknown can also come in the form of a beautiful creature like Eve Kendall (Eva Maria Saint) popping out in the middle of the chase and hiding Thornhill, in her bedroom after a dinner with enough sexual innuendo to make good old Grant lower his guard.

But if one can't face the unknown, he can leave it nonetheless. And ironically, Thornhill is given a chance to leave until he's told by one of the 'good' agents, played by Leo G. Carroll, that he endangered Eve's life. Thornhill finally detaches from his passive status by becoming a player and making his own rules. The key is not to 'find the truth', at that point, we know everything, but the point is to stop being Hitch's puppet and finally act like a hero , for a last thrilling confrontation … and to get the girl in the process. No room for subtlety, this is not "Vertigo" or "Rear Window", this is pure hormonal Hitchcock. And Cary Grant is never more at ease and charismatic as during the last sequence, accomplishing the only act that could conceal the paranoia he endured for days, he doesn't escape from the enemy, he goes to it, his direction changed and so did Hithcock's.

In a nutshell, I would say "North by Northwest" is like the tale of an amnesic James Bond. And Hithcocks anticipated all the ingredients that would build the secret agent's legend : the henchmen with killing methods as sophisticated and elaborate as they're ineffective, escapist settings, car chases, a suave and distinguished villain, a sensual lady and naturally the ultimate climax in Mt. Rushmore, the very sequence that catalyzed Hitchcock's desire to make the film. Ernest Lehman, who wrote the screenplay, intended to make the "Hitchcock picture that would end all the Hitchcock pictures." (and unintentionally pave the way for James Bonds' flicks) "North by Northwest" reassembles every Hitchcockian ingredient: the blond, the mistaken identity, the villain, the paranoia induced by the enemy's invisibility, the claustrophobia, even Martin Landau as Leonard is not your typical one-dimensional hit-man and has a sort of "Rope" vibe behind his sensual eyes.

And the film magnificently concludes with one of the riskiest and most memorable ellipses of Cinema's history, the transition from Thornill trying to pull Eve from the Mt. Rushmore to the upper bunk of a train was classic enough, the icing on the cake concocted by Hitch himself was the penultimate shot of the train speeding up to the tunnel, whose symbolism needs no explanations. "North by Northwest" is undoubtedly the consummate Hitchcock movie, even more appreciated when we're familiar with his previous films. For the mark of a great director is to toy with his own trademarks and indulge himself to movies with less substance but never at the expenses of suspense and entertainment, magnificently conveyed by Bernard Herrman's theme and unforgettable opening credits.

"North by Northwest" didn't end all Hitchcock pictures but the great streak of the 50's through a triumph of spectacular entertainment, explaining why, one year after, Hitch would turn to a less ambitious format, almost B-movie like, in black-and-white, for an obscure little film called "Psycho".
2013-06-11
A must-see for Alfred Hitchcock fans, their loved ones, and and their friends!
Having seen this movie in excess of 15 times, I am aware of each scene from start to finish. Yet, this piece is not designed to spoil the plot, merely to entice those movie fans who have not yet seen this masterpiece.

"North by Northwest" stars Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason, Leo G. Carroll and Martin Landau (pre-"Mission Impossible").

The basic story is one of an advertising man whose life suddenly takes a drastic turn into espionage and murder. Humor and even romance are deftly woven into this suspenseful tale.

This movie will make you laugh and maybe swoon as you sit on the edge of your seat.

The cast does a terrific job. Cary Grant can do drama and comedy perfectly, and this movie shows him in a peak performance.

Eva Marie Saint is quite sexy and excellent as the "cool blonde" (Hitchcock liked blondes in the lead female role) in this tale.

James Mason and Martin Landau play the antagonists. They are well-dressed and quite sinister

Leo G. Carroll plays a government agent - one can see why he played the spy leader in "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." in the 1960's.

If you have heard of the movie, there are sequences involving a crop-duster and Mount Rushmore. Hitchcock loved to experiment visually, and he succeeds admirably with those aforementioned sequences and the others that tie this film together.

Don't look away too long. This is not a film to be played in the background and interrupted regularly. Also, Hitchcock made a habit of appearing in cameo roles in his films. Originally, it was because the film required more people in certain scenes. Later on, it became a trademark.

In addition, the cinematography is very pleasing in color, the script is abundant with standout dialogue, and that music score - Hitchcock and Bernard Herrmann were a perfect match.

I personally never tire of the film. It had taken years for me to see in its full widescreen format, and it was worth the wait.

See it.

2002-09-17
Better than most, but not Hitchcock's best
This is acclaimed by many as one of Hitchcock's best films, but it is also known as one of his biggest blunders. It is generally agreed that `The Master of Suspense' stumbled badly by revealing the identity of George Kaplan early in the film, in the scene where the CIA members discuss what to do about Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant).

Thornhill is a heady advertising executive who is abducted at gunpoint and taken to a man named Vandamm (James Mason) who asks him cryptic questions and keeps calling him George Kaplan. Thornhill responds that he doesn't know George Kaplan and that they are confusing him with someone else. Through this entire sequence, we are never sure whether he is Thornhill or Kaplan. The film would have been far more intriguing if this were left a mystery until the end, rather than having it cleared up twenty minutes into the plot.

It is thought that Hitchcock believed that the introduction of Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint) would replace one mystery with an even better one. However, Eve's motivations are too transparent and even of the dullest of viewers can discern that their meeting on the train is no chance encounter. Eve is far too forward and obvious, especially for the 1950's. It is hard to believe there is anyone who wouldn't be a tad suspicious at her behavior. Though we are left with more than a few questions about Eve after the love scene, imagine how wonderfully confused we would have been if Kaplan's identity weren't revealed so early in the film. We would know only what Thornhill knew about why he was being pursued and seduced, which is next to nothing.

Despite these flaws, the film is still intriguing, with a number of unpredictable twists. The second half of the film is much tighter, and the chase scene on the face of Mount Rushmore is one the classic suspense scenes in the history of film. Hitchcock tried to get permission to shoot the scene on the real Rushmore, but he was refused. Not to be deterred, he had his own Mount Rushmore set built that was indistinguishable from the original earning an Oscar nomination for set decoration.

The acting is excellent. Cary Grant is at his debonair best as the acerbic ad executive who is beguiled by Eve's beauty and charm. Eva Marie Saint is best known for her movie debut as Edie in `On The Waterfront', but she is every bit as good in this film. Hers is a very complex character, duplicitous and devious, yet vulnerable and torn, and she handles it with facility. James Mason is enigmatic and elusive as VanDamm and a youthful Martin Landau does a nice job as VanDamm's tough lieutenant.

I enjoyed this film, but I don't believe it attains the level of excellence of Hitchcock's other renowned films (`Psycho', `Vertigo' and `Rear Window'). I rated it 9/10 with a point deducted for blowing the Kaplan question. Even so, a bad day for Hitchcock is like the best day for most directors.
2001-04-21
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