North by Northwest (1959)

Not Rated   |    |  Adventure, Mystery, Thriller


North by Northwest (1959) Poster

A hapless New York City advertising executive is mistaken for a government agent by a group of foreign spies, and is pursued across the country while he looks for a way to survive.

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8.3/10
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  • Cary Grant and Eva Marie in North by Northwest (1959)
  • Cary Grant in North by Northwest (1959)
  • Cary Grant in North by Northwest (1959)
  • Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint in North by Northwest (1959)
  • Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint in North by Northwest (1959)
  • Cary Grant and Alfred Hitchcock in North by Northwest (1959)

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Reviews & Commentary

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User Reviews


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

Screenwriter Ernest Lehman knew he wanted his hero to be an innocent man, possibly a sports announcer, a newspaperman, an advertising executive, or even a Frank Sinatra-type entertainer, but he couldn't figure out how the hero gets into trouble. Sir Alfred Hitchcock ended his dilemma by recalling a story idea a New York City newspaperman had once given him at a cocktail party, an idea about some government agency creating a non-existent decoy agent to throw the villains off the trail of a real government agent. It did not take Lehman and Hitchcock long to concoct a similar phantom agent for their plot purposes.


Quotes

Roger Thornhill: How does a girl like you get to be a girl like you?
Eve Kendall: Lucky, I guess.


Goofs

When Roger Thornhill leaves Chicago for that rendezvous with the machine-gunning crop-duster, he is shown standing on a Highway 41; which would be the correct number. However, it is designated on the highway sign as "Indiana Route 41". In reality Route 41 is a U.S. Highway Route and is identified so with the white shield emblem with black letters.


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

It's a Most Unusual Day
(1948)
(uncredited)
Music by
Jimmy McHugh
Lyrics by Harold Adamson
Played as background music at the Plaza Hotel

Storyline

Plot Summary


Synopsis (WARNING: Spoilers)


Genres

Adventure | Mystery | Thriller

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