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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
Maybe the best display of Hitch's wonderful sense of humor
Hitchcock was always celebrated for his beautifully articulated sense of humor. In this movie, that mixes so fantastically well with Cary Grant's natural sense of comedy that we come away having seen both a tight, suspenseful thriller and perhaps Hitchcock's most amusing work. All in all, such an entertaining film that even those who find Hitchcock overrated (and there aren't a whole lot of them) will love it. This is a fine picture and perhaps my favorite Hitch film ever.
1999-10-24
One of the best directed thrillers of all time
Roger Thornhill (Grant) is mistaken for another man by a group of foreign spies and after a few unfortunate events, finds himself on the run.

North by Northwest is recognized as one of Alfred Hitchcock's finest films and with the adrenaline soaked narrative and a great central performance it is easy to see why.

Cary Grant (Charade) delivers a sensational portrayal of advertising executive Roger Thornhill, a simple man who is mistaken for someone else. Thornhill is wonderfully sarcastic, very charismatic and plaudits must go to Grant who has created an original hero, an ordinary man who turns himself into an action hero within a short space of time in Alfred Hitchcock's wonderfully realistic world.

Hitchcock's action styled direction is picture perfect for this fast moving thriller. The British director cements the realism down to the ground with his cutting edge close shots and the fast sweeping direction, most noticeable in the landmark plane scene in the fields.

It is easy to overdo action in modern day films and Hitchcock has expertly managed to balance the action alongside the everyday events of the protagonists.

This film is close to resembling a Bond styled genre, though obviously was made before Bond films were. The cocky yet sophisticated Thornhill is well directed by Hitchcock to create the ultimate action hero in a sharply written narrative that is more realistic and entertaining than the Bond spy genre.

The reason this 1959 thriller works is down to all the genres it covers. Through Hitchcock's action and realistic direction, viewers are thrust into action sequences, romantic moments and crime sequences to, providing viewers with the ultimate adventure. Covering different genres is not a stroll in the park as recent films show and can be appreciated here with Hitchcock's wonderful balance.

The balance of the action and romantic genres works well with the whole mystery concept of what is happening to the central character.

The settings are well executed and further add to the intensity of the plot, particularly the field and the climax on Mount Rushmore.

North by Northwest is a top notch action thriller, made so by Hitchcock's direction, great writing and a fine central character.
2008-10-29
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
A deliriously entertaining masterwork
Alfred Hitchcock was a certified genius of a filmmaker. He could scare you, shock you, surprise you, enthrall you, make you think, make you smile, make you laugh, and all the while making you a part and parcel of the storytelling and action in his film. His goal was always to make the audience a part of the action and take them along for the ride. He may do this to absolute perfection in this film, NORTH BY NORTHWEST, my absolute favorite film of his. It's debatable whether or not this is his greatest film. A lot of so-called film 'critics' will swear by VERTIGO(although I'm not crazy about it), some say PSYCHO, others say NOTORIOUS, some prefer SHADOW OF A DOUBT, others REBECCA. Who knows? I just know that NORTHW BY NORTHWEST, without a doubt, is the most thoroughly enjoyable, fun, fascinating, entertaining, and eye-popping film that Hitchcock ever did. I love every frame of it. The first 30 minutes alone is more captivating, exciting and entertaining than 99.9% of the crap they throw at us nowadays in the movies.

Cary Grant is Roger Thornhill, a normal, run-of-the-mill advertising agency executive. Grant deserves all praise of being the legend that he truly was for what he does in this film. Grant's Roger Thornhill is one of 'us', a fairly regular everyday Joe who gets thrust in the most convoluted of situations: mistaken for a government agent named 'Kaplan' by treacherous U.S. enemies (led by the classy James Mason), Thornhill is whisked off captive one evening and his life is threatened and he is almost killed, but he thankfully escapes his captors and so the fun begins in finding out who these bad guys are and why they think he is Kaplan.

The film has a kind of snowball effect. Each situation that Thornhill is thrown into or gets himself into is more dangerous than the previous one and he has to find some way to get himself out of it. Hitchcock almost seems to relish scaring the Bejesus out of this guy just to see how he will slick or cajole his way out of it. Thornhill is really an unwitting and unexpected pawn in the battle between U.S. agents and the enemy traitors.

All the qualities that made Cary Grant a star shine through in this film: he is handsome, classy, witty, funny, sarcastic, and surprisingly agile. Whoever thought he could pull off being an action hero after all those years of playing primarily romantic comedies? But he totally gives a convincing performance in this film.

Of course at some point we are introduced to the femme fatale, in this case Eva Marie Saint, who is super-sexy and mysterious in this role. Saint's character makes you realize why so many women found Cary Grant so charming and irresistible.

The film has some of the most memorable sequences and set pieces ever in history: the United Nations murder, the Mount Rushmore finale, and most of all, that magnificent crop-dusting sequence smack dab in the middle of the film that forever captured the hearts, minds, and imaginations of moviegoers everywhere. The scene is all at once action-packed, scary, dangerous, exciting, and funny.

For me, this Hitchcock film (first shown in 1959) can be seen as a very early example of a blockbuster summer action movie. It has all the elements: a colorful look and feel, lots of outdoor scenery, nonstop action, a breathtaking pace, and a central character through which the story is told and that we could all identify with and root for.

Truly a great achievement by both Alfred Hitchcock and Cary Grant, with big-time assists from a great cast of supporting actors and actresses, a witty script, and the beautiful scenery of various U.S. locations.
2008-03-15
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.
2005-10-30
Paging Mr. Kaplan… Mr George Kaplan..
"North By Northwest" is probably well.. many things! Probably the best mistaken identity film ever made, the film with the most exciting chase sequences (Man vs. plane!), the most awesome set pieces made (Mount Rushmore!) the funniest "goof" on screen (kid holding his ears when the gun goes off!) and probably my favorite Hitchcock movie ever. Cary Grant is just amazing in this totally insane plot of mild-mannered ad executive getting thrust into a ridiculous game of underworld espionage, where he's forced to run from planes, gets tied up in a drunk driving rap, is nearly run over by a semi AND has to fight off James Mason and Martin Landau! Ah well, if you're gunning for a blonde as smoking as Eva Marie-Saint, wouldn't you? A lot of this is so over the top to be taken totally seriously, and mostly it's just pure popcorn fun. And cinema doesn't get any better or snarkier then the auction scene. A must see, if you're foolish enough for not having seen it yet.
2005-12-24
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
My personal favorite of Hitchcock's films!
It's all too simple really. Hitchcock used this plot device before in many of his films; the innocent man caught up in circumstances beyond his control ("The Wrong Man", "The Man Who Knew Too Much"). However, never will you see Hitchcock use this device more cleverly and stylishly as in "North By Northwest."

Cary Grant plays the innocent man like, well, Cary Grant. Add James Mason as the villain (Mason has a great voice... close your eyes sometimes when watching...chilling!), Martin Landau as his henchman, and Eva Marie Saint as the cool blonde equals a great film.

What other Hitchcock film can boast of not one but two famous suspense scenes? Cary Grant being chased down by a dustcropper will be talked about and studied in film schools for years to come. The chase across Mt. Rushmore is a perfect way to climax the film as well...

There are smaller things to look for too. Watch for the famous kid in the snack shop who covers his ears seconds before a gun is shot and why did Hitchcock use THAT image over "The End"??? Hehehe...
2000-03-04
Good but not quite one of the greatest films of all time
Considered one of the best of Hitchcock's films I find that I'm not that big a fan of the film. Its not that it's a bad movie, rather I think that the film has been ripped off and re-staged so many times that any power the film might have had is rather dissipated. Its kind of like watching Citizen Kane or some other film that is said to have changed the way movies are done and finding that they don't play all that well. The reason is, like North by Northwest that they changed the rules and have been so copied it hard to see what was so revolutionary about them. As it stands now the story of Cary Grant being mistaken for someone else and having to flee from both the police and the bad guys is exciting, especially in its set pieces, but the rest of it isn't anything special and has the feel of been there and done that especially when compared with Hitchcock's other films. Most certainly worth seeing, just be prepared to wonder what all the shouting is about.
2009-09-25
One of Hitchcock's Best
I am a huge Hitchcock fan, and compared to some of his others including the mind-numblingly dull "Suspicion" or the messy "Rebecca," this one shines, along with "Psycho" as one of his best films.

Cary Grant is Roger Thornhill, a New York businessman who is suddenly thrust into a conspiracy that plots him as a killer. With no one to trust, and no one who believes him, he goes on the run, fleeing deeper and deeper into the mystery and the peril. On a train to Chicago one night, he meets Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint), a steely blonde who he becomes involved with both romantically and in this plot against him. The lives of the two intertwine continuously through the rest of the chase, where the characters and plot twist like a winding mountain road, which is a perfect analogy for this movie, which climaxes on Mt. Rushmore, in one of the most gripping, suspenseful climaxes Hitch has ever directed.

This truly is a great movie, in all ways. The music is appropriate and extremely well-fitting, and is in second to the theme of "Psycho" as the best music in a Hitchcock film. The acting is totally on par, especially by the two stars. The chemistry between the two of them on the train is perfect, and adds to the list of memorable pieces of this movie, along with the famous cropduster scene (which had me cringing in fear) and that gripping, edge-of-your-seat, breathtaking climax on Mt. Rushmore. Hitchcock has never directed a climax as good as that. This is his best, second being the gasp-inducing climax to "Psycho." I loved the way the character of Eve Kendall changed so many times, and twisted and turned. At first she appears to just be that girl that will end up by Thornhill's side the whole movie, then she becomes the double-crossing spy, but then she double-crosses the enemies, and we realize so much more about her, that she becomes the most versatile character in the film, played to honest perfection by Eva Marie Saint. And also to mention was the very creepy-looking Martin Landau in a smaller role as one of the spies. Just the look in his eye made him a great antagonist.

This really is a great movie, and as I said, one of Hitchcock's best. Hitch really came a long way from his minimal British productions, all of which seemed to look and feel the same. This is definitely one of the best chase movies around, and has remained as powerful as it was when it first came out.

2000-06-25
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