North by Northwest (1959)

Approved   |    |  Adventure, Mystery, Thriller


North by Northwest (1959) Poster

A New York City advertising executive goes on the run after being mistaken for a government agent by a group of foreign spies.


8.3/10
295,761

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30 September 2004 | DrLenera
Wonderful comedy thriller, not Hitchcock's best but his most sheerly enjoyable
North By Northwest is not an artistic masterpiece like Rear Window and Vertigo, but it is probably the most purely entertaining picture Hitchcock ever made. It's essentially a rehash of many of his earlier films, with a plot partially derived from The Thirty Nine Steps and the very similar Saboteur, while there are borrowings from Foreign Correspondent and Notorious, among others. However, it is all done with such style and confidence that it doesn't matter if it's essentially just a greatest hits package.

Very few other films of this kind attain the near perfect tone of this one, precariously balanced between seriousness and silliness. Sometimes this film manages the very difficult trick of being both suspenseful and comical at the same time, as in the auction house scene, or the wonderful scene in the lift when the hero's mother turns to two heavies in a lift looking menacingly at the hero and says "you gentlemen are not REALLY trying to kill my son, are you?".

Of course the famous crop dusting plane scene and the Mount Rushmore chase are terrific. The former is really more notable for the amount of time taken to build up to the action than the action itself, while the technical work on the latter still looks pretty good. In a totally different vein is the astonishingly frank seduction sequence on the train. Hitchcock takes his time here as with many of the other scenes, but the film is so crammed with memorable passages that one hardly notices it's 136 mins long.

Ernest Lehman's script is full of wonderful lines, many of them delivered so well by chief villain James Mason that at times we almost want to root for him. "Has any one ever told you tend to overplay your various roles Mr Kaplan....it seems to me you fellows could stand a little less training from the FBI and a little more from the Actor's Studio". Cary Grant is so smooth one almost forgets he's over 50, and of course there's also Bernard Herrmann's vibrant score.

Endlessly enjoyable even with repeated viewings. How many of today's thrillers will be such fun in 25 years time?

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Did You Know?

Trivia

William Holden was suggested to play Roger Thornhill, but was never actually offered the part.


Quotes

Roger Thornhill: If you accept the belief that a high Trendex automatically means a rising sales curve...
Eddie: Mr. Thornhill?


Goofs

When Roger drives away from the crop duster attack, he goes the wrong way, toward Indianapolis. This is easily tracked by the location of the corn field, which is on the northbound side of the road (where traffic heads toward Chicago). Roger got off the bus on the other side of the road, and that's where the truck stops when the plane crashes into it. Roger steals the truck from the northbound side, does a U-turn into the southbound lane, and off he goes toward Indianapolis. In the next scene, he's managed to find his way to Chicago.


Crazy Credits

The Leo the Lion/MGM trademark preceding the credits is on a green field, to match the green field used in the credits proper.


Alternate Versions

The print originally had an acknowledgement for the cooperation of the Department of the Interior and the National Park Service. But they requested it be removed after MGM violated the agreement that no violence would take place near the Mt. Rushmore monument. Some prints, however, were released with the acknowledgement still in.


Soundtracks

I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face
(1956)
(uncredited)
Music by
Frederick Loewe
Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner
Portion sung by Cary Grant (as "I've Grown Accustomed to Your Bourbon") as he's being seated behind the wheel of the Mercedes while drunk

Storyline

Plot Summary


Synopsis (WARNING: Spoilers)


Genres

Adventure | Mystery | Thriller

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