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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
What an Action Thriller Should Be.
VERTIGO did nothing to advance Hitchcock's career in 1957 when he released it, and it's actually not a shame: the following year he decided to go completely against the slow-moving erotic thriller genre and do something shamelessly commercial, escapist and single-handedly create the spy movie. Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond novels, states he based his character on the physical characteristics and the suave personality of Cary Grant, as an added note. This could well amount to be the first James Bond film -- a dangerous villain complete with a sidekick, an alluring woman with a dubious nature and an enigmatic "boss," a dashing hero, lush locales setting the scene for powerful chases and escalating danger.

NORTH BY NORTHWEST has one crucial difference to any James Bond film, though: Alfred Hitchcock. While the Bond films have been seen as quintessential action fluff (although fluff of the better kind until the franchise ran out of gas in the 80s), Hitchcock, always the master of subtext as well as suspense, creates memorable scenes that balance sexual tension, sexual innuendo, comedy, and mounting suspense seamlessly. There is never the feeling of being bored as there is too much going on, especially with the sizzling chemistry of Eva Marie Saint and Cary Grant, by now a Hitchcock veteran. When they're on screen, dialog crackles and so much more is said with so little gesture -- she closes the lid on her Ice Goddess role, but gives it a nice, cheeky, knowing wink. He of course evolves from the sort of man who while looking and being slightly clumsy and under his mother's thumb -- once it becomes clear he's been marked and is a target for a sinister plot that only later becomes clear -- becomes more assertive in taking matters into his own hands. A quintessential Hitchcock Everyman, Grant has his stamp all over his role. No one can imagine anyone else running away from that crop duster in one of the movies many standout sequences, or saying the reassuring last words to Eva Marie Saint as they cuddle together in the train. When one thinks of NORTH BY NORTHWEST, one thinks Cary Grant.

Easily one of Hitchcock's best films, made while he was at the peak of his career in the bracket formed with THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH and MARNIE. Great supporting performances are all over the map, from Jesse Royce Landis as Grant's mother, James Mason as Phillip Vandamm, Martin Landau as Vandamm's protégée who might be a little more than that, and Leo G Carroll as The Professor. Doreen Lang appears early in the movie as Grant's secretary; she would of course be remembered as the woman who shrieks at Tippi Hedren in THE BIRDS and gets slapped by her as the camera holds itself tight on her face.
2005-04-11
A perfect film for a rainy, cold October day
I saw this film for the first time when I was a freshman in college as part of an english class I took entitled "writing and the movies". Little did I realize that I would be seeing a film that would stay with me to this day and in essence become one of my all time favorites. Then, a few years ago, I caught it on the big screen at the Fine Arts theater in downtown Chicago. I remember that it was a rainy, cold October day. Perfect weather for a Hitchcock film I thought to myself.

For me, half of the fun of North by Northwest is its incredible story. This film has something for everyone within it: a little comedy, a little romance, great snappy dialogue and more action than any Bruce Willis Die Hard film combined. Hitchcock was a master at this and in North by Northwest he lets his genius shine through totally. It seems to me that whenever I watch it, everyone who made this film from Cary Grant on down had nothing but sheer fun making it. Perhaps my two favorite scenes are the infamous "crop-duster" sequence and the last twenty minutes or so at Mount Rushmore.

I must give special mention to Ernest Lehman who yet again managed to write a screenplay that totally knocks your socks off. How he came up with the idea, I've not a clue, but what an idea it is. The screenplay itself was nominated for an Academy Award that year, but lost to Pillow Talk. North by Northwest was also nominated for Best Set Decoration and Best Film Editing, but lost to Ben-Hur in both categories.

All in all, what a film. If you haven't seein it, do so ASAP. North by Northwest just reinforces my belief that Alfred Hitchcock was one of the greatest directors of all time. Period.

My rating: 4 stars
2003-03-03
Great film that has aged well in spite of a few minor flaws.
Great roller coaster ride of a movie with a few minor flaws. First, I can't imagine a more inept criminal justice system than in Glen Cove: (a) cops crashing their car into a fleeing drunk driver (b) detectives that easily could have exposed the phony Mrs. Townsend (hard to believe they did not already know that the real one was deceased) with a few basic checks, such as the supposed arrival of Thornhill by taxi, his companions at the Oak Bar, the time and circumstances of the theft of the Mercedes, the party guest list, etc. (c) a lawyer letting his client without objection to go to trial on felony charges only one day after the preliminary hearing, and (d) a judge permitting such a quick trial, then letting Thornhill out on bail if his story was supposedly so phony. Second, the scene involving the "United States Intelligence Agency" (staying so secret by being conveniently plopped right in the middle of the National Mall with the Capitol background shot) could have been deleted, leaving the mystery of Kaplan's identity for later resolution; the plot would have been enhanced that much more. Third, the scene in the Chicago train station with the cops checking all the red caps was a bit of a stretch; my recollection of 1950's America was that most of them were of a different ethnicity than that shown in the film.

But in spite of these and the many other minor flaws and goofs that have been well documented, this is still a great film with superb acting, direction, photography, overall plot and suspense that has aged well, like fine wine. I especially liked the little non-verbal nuances, such as: (a) the expression exchange between Thornhill and the other man shaving in the train station, (b) the looks of skepticism by the New York state cop to Eve Kendall, (c) the flabbergasted look by the Chicago cop when Thornhill is suddenly whisked away by the professor at the airport, and (d) Thornhill looking at the farmer (thinking he is Kaplan) across the road, waiting for him to make the first move. The little snippets of humor in the middle of normally suspenseful or dramatic scenes further added to the enjoyment of viewing the film. How many other cops would admonish a murder suspect with "you ought to be ashamed of yourself?" Well worth the rental and viewing time for a good entertainment escape.
2005-08-14
Great Music
This is a great movie and while the direction, locations, acting and editing are fun they are second to one of the best film scores in movie history. Bernard Hermann is a musical master and genius and there has not been anyone before or since that compares to his consistent creativity and this is one of his best. Listen to the music from the first opening credits to the scene on the streets and you will hear some of the best compositions since Stravinsky and Beethoven. (He also did "Psycho", "Twilight Zone" and so many other fabulous scores.) You may think that John Williams music is great, and he is, including all the latest Harry Potter films, but the only thing that he did that comes close to Bernard Hermann is his music for ET, the motor cycle chase in Indiana Jones III, Duel of the Fates and the Droid battle in Star Wars I. Hans Zimmerman, another great film scorer, has tremndous creativity, often more than John Williams, but anything he did and, for that matter, anyone else to date, has never been better than Bernard Hermann; and this movie is one of his best. An essential ingredient to every great movie is an even better musical score and this one of the best examples of this. Musically, previous to Bernard Hermann was Max Steiner, who wrote the score for "Gone With The Wind", and before him was the most creative genius in all of film history, Charles Chaplin (who wrote, directed, acted, and scored all of his films! An unheard of feat these days!). See this movie but also listen to the music and you will hear one the best scores of all time.
2005-12-12
"I'd invite you to my bedroom if I had a bedroom."
Allow me to add my voice to the overwhelming praise for this classic Alfred Hitchcock thriller; one of the legendary director's best. Cary Grant stars (in the last of four collaborations with Hitchcock) as an advertising executive mistaken for a spy and chased cross-country by foreign agents, as well as the police. What follows is one classic scene after another, including the famous scene where Grant is chased by a crop duster. James Mason and Martin Landau make excellent villains. Eva Marie Saint is the sexy double agent who shares some sizzling scenes with Cary. The two had palpable chemistry. Healthy doses of comedy help make this such an enjoyable watch. A great cast, a rousing score by Bernard Herrmann, and flawless pacing by Hitch are among the many elements that make this one of the most fun and exciting movies ever made.
2015-07-14
The Adventures Of Mr. Thornhill
My opinion of this film is mixed. At times the dialogue is clever and amusing. And the final fifteen minutes offer some genuine suspense, together with excellent visual perspective. During this final sequence, the physically risky maneuvers of the main characters, ordinary and vulnerable, contrast thematically with the stone-cold lifelessness of past characters, grand and immortal.

But oh my, the trial of having to sit through two hours getting to that last sequence. Highly contrived, the adventure plot is overblown with sequences that defy logic and scatter the location settings in a near-random manner. As such, the plot seems chaotic, disorganized, and unedited. Major sections could have been excised, or reduced in length. I think the film runs about thirty minutes too long.

Color cinematography is acceptable for the 1950s. Today, the cinematography looks antiquated and clunky, with day-for-night camera filters in outdoor scenes, and lots of rear-screen projections.

As advertising man Roger Thornhill, Cary Grant is clearly miscast, looking way too old for the role. I have no problem with the rest of the casting. And James Mason is always a delight to watch and listen to.

There are some memorable visuals in this film, like the crop-dusting sequence. But overall, "North By Northwest" offers a poor script, until near the end. Hitchcock made some really terrific films in his day. But this is not one of them.
2012-11-02
A genuine classic which is sheer enjoyment throughout
If you read the trivia section for this film you will find numerous bits of information relating to who might have been starring in this film if the circumstances had been different. For me the people who were involved were perfect. I know nothing about film making but it seems to me that the director knew what the story was and who the people were to be in the film and then he decided how to create it. And a masterpiece is what he came up with. The film will keep you transfixed because its overall message is fun. Yes there is tension, danger and some people die but if you watch the film with an open mind you will see what I and lot of other people mean by fun. Life at times can be absurd and unbelievable and there are parts of this film when you just smile because you can identify with most of what happens on screen. As far as I am aware its not a true story, its just a cinematic creation that is also a classic and will be a joy to watch again and again. This film is fifty years old but like every other great film its as enjoyable today as it was when it was made. Buy, rent or borrow the DVD and you will not be disappointed.
2009-09-21
Hitchcock's most overrated movie
I very much anticipated viewing North By Northwest. I have read many great reviews and claims that it is the best Hitchcock movie. It also got a high placement on the American Film Institute top 100 movies of all time. After viewing the movie, I was very disappointed. It did not have the same effect on me that Rear Window and Vertigo (my favorite Hitchcock movie) had. After browsing up more rave reviews for it, I am now convinced that North By Northwest is Hitchcock's most overrated movie.

North By Northwest was Cary Grant and Hitchcock's last collaboration, and it's certainly not their best. Grant plays Roger O. Thornhill, a Madison Avenue advertising executive, who got mistaken for a government agent named George Kaplan by a gang of spies. After a failed hit on him, he escapes and went straight to the police. When he brought the police to the place where he was interrogated, the place was mysteriously different from what he saw the previous night.

To prevent looking like a fool, Thornhill decides to look for the man he was mistaken for-George Kaplan. His quest sparks a cross-country pursuit, and as the tagline says, `a 3000-mile chase across America!' Along the way, Thornhill encounters a beautiful woman named Eve Kendall (Eve Marie Saint) who helped him dodge a few cops. Eve is surprisingly helpful and interested with Thornhil's affairs. As the movie progresses, we begin to doubt whose side Eve is with and who is she working for.

Hitchcock created a memorable and signature scene when a small airplane pursued Thornhill in the middle of nowhere. The scene is still one of the best action sequences ever made. The sequence generates much suspense and leaves the audience bewildered. The problem here is that we have to believe the implausible series of events that led Thornhill to that situation. He got the coordinates through information of Kaplan's whereabouts yet it still led him to a trap. If Eve was with her side, why did she lead him to his death? Or if she were working for the spies, why would the spies have to plan a complicated murder and not a simple yet effective one?

Ernest Lehman's script is good but has a lot of holes. Its dialogue is not very effective and not appropriate to the tone of the movie. It seems to be a serious action adventure, but the dialogue tries to be funny and fails. In a signature final scene atop Mount Rushmore, Thornhill and Eve keeps exchanging quips and wise cracks even though their lives are clearly in danger.

North By Northwest is very inventive, but because it tries to create exciting situations, it fails to set the situations up completely. It is definitely Hitchcock's grandest movie because of the elaborate sets and amazing locations. But it leaves the audience hanging; its story is not much believable, and it does not have the same heart and emotion of Hitchcock's great movies. We all watch a Hitchcock movie because of the grabbing suspense. Unfortunately for North By Northwest, we also like it to make sense.
2002-04-19
Hitchcock's "blue" movie
Picasso had his "blue" period, and blue figured prominently in some of Elvis Presley's recordings ("Blue Moon," "Blue Moon of Kentucky," "A Mess of Blues," "Moody Blue," and so on). But I don't recall hearing much about Alfred Hitchcock's blue period. Yet, the great director's "North by Northwest" is awash in that color, so much so that it must have been a deliberate, and, therefore, significant move.

Blue, and a rather unattractive pale shade of it at that, is everywhere in "North by Northwest," so damn prominent that I found myself annoyed when watching what was once one of my favorite films on video. Yes, there was so much blue that "North by Northwest" may not be one of my favorite films for long. Blue, especially that pale shade, is not my favorite color. But there's Cary Grant in a pale blue suit; the interior of the train he boards when fleeing the police is blue; the sky, of course, is blue; and, well, there just seems to be blue--that sickening pale blue--everywhere. What was Hitchcock thinking? The master of suspense was famous for planning his films down to the smallest detail, so unless I saw a bad video transfer, he must have had a reason for emphasizing that color.

Well, "North by Northwest" is still one of Hitchcock's greatest films, although what stands out after repeated viewings is not that crop duster scene, or the escape from enemy agents across the faces of Mount Rushmore, or the naughty image at the conclusion, but the music: Bernard Herrmann's score is one of the composer's most thrilling and unforgettable works.

I must say that after my most recent encounter with the blue hues of "North by Northwest," I appreciate all the more the fact that Hitchcock made his next film ("Psycho," of course) in black-and-white.
1999-04-07
More like a Bond movie than a Hitchcock movie, but much better
Though I may have to turn in my 007 fan card for saying so, "North by Northwest" is more riveting, classy, and funny than any Bond movie, and predates the earliest "official" Bond film by three years. Cary Grant's protagonist may be an unwilling spy, but he is a natural one, bantering confidently with baddies in posh hotels and doggedly courting a mysterious femme fatale (Eva Marie Saint). The crop duster scene is perhaps the best and most iconic action sequence that Hitchcock ever filmed. James Mason makes an ideal antagonist, dwelling in a Bond-villain-style lodge atop a famous U.S. landmark. Twists and triple-crosses make for an exciting, complex tale.
2013-06-19
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