“Now you listen to me — I’m an advertising man, not a red herring!”
Successful advertising executive Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) is kidnapped by spies (led by James Mason) who think he is a U.S. secret agent named George Kaplan. When the police don’t believe his story, Thornhill accepts the help of a mysterious blonde (Eva Marie Saint) he meets on a train — but can she be trusted?
Response to Peary’s Review:
North by Northwest, one of Hitchcock’s “most enjoyable pictures”, features “outstanding performances, technical brilliance, a great deal of humor, terrific locations for suspense scenes, [and] one of Bernard Herrmann’s finest scores.” As Peary notes, even at 136 minutes, Hitchcock “keeps the picture moving” without a single dull moment, as “his characters move quickly from one locale to another”, and new plot developments continue to crop up.
North by Northwest may be the perfect movie to show new film fanatics who aren’t yet familiar with Hitchcock’s oeuvre. Not only is it consistently great fun, but it deals with some of Hitch’s favorite themes: false accusations, mistaken identities, and “everyday” men who are forced into situations where they must rise to the occasion and help those in need. The remarkably risque romance between Grant and Saint (those endless kisses in the train compartment!) is classic Hitchcock as well: it develops logically out of the proceedings, and serves as the perfect motivation for Grant’s final heroic actions. Scene after scene in North by Northwest is both memorable and humorous — and, though we suspect that everything will turn out okay in the end (it has to!), we’re never really sure how; that was Hitchcock’s genius.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Cary Grant — pitch perfect in the lead role as a man who finds himself thrust into a nightmarish situation beyond his control
- Eva Marie Saint as Grant’s mysterious love interest
- James Mason as Phillip Van Damm, cold-hearted head of the spy ring
- Martin Landau in a bit role as Van Damm’s right-hand-man
- Jessie Royce — only one year older than Grant in real life — as his mother
- Grant getting himself strategically thrown out of an auction
- Grant entering the bedroom of a strange woman, who immediately falls for him
- Grant running for his life from a lethal cropduster
- The final climactic scene on Mt. Rushmore
- Bernard Herrmann’s riveting score
Absolutely. This remains one of Hitchcock’s most entertaining movies, and merits repeat viewing by all film fanatics.
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)