Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Cary Grant heads 'North by Northwest'

North by Northwest (1959)
Starring: Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, and James Mason
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Rating: Ten of Ten Stars

When ad executive Roger Thornhill (Grant) is mistakenly identified by foreign spies as an elusive American agent, he finds himself framed for murder and on the run for his life, hunted by an ever-present foe (Mason) for reasons he doesn't understand. He eventually attempts to turn his situation back on his tormentors and discover the true identity of the spy they've mistaken him for, with the help of enigmatic beauty, Eve Kendell (Saint).

"North by Northwest" is perhaps the greatest thriller ever made, and I think it's quite possibly the very best movie Alfred Hitchcock directed; it's tied with "Young and Innocent" as my favorite Hitchcock film. It's got a fantastic cast--with Grant, as the hapless hero, and Mason. as the ultra-polished, James-Bondian bad guy, Vandamm shining brightest--a perfectly paced script that moves from one complication to another, from one breathtaking chase to another with roller coaster-like ups and downs and whip-lash turns; brilliant camera-work and editing; and one of the most fabulous scores ever written for cinema.

The use of sound in the film is also incredibly impressive. The cropduster scene (perhaps the most famous sequence from any Hitchcock film) is as impactful as it is because of the strategic use of sound (or, more accurately, the use of silence).

Modern filmmakers and writers should study this film carefully. They'll notice that the KISS principle is best when it comes to effective thrillers, and they'll also perhaps see what real witty dialogue sounds like. Lovers of thrillers and spy movies should also seek it out if they haven't seen it yet. It truly is a classic, and it is a movie that deserves to be seen again and again.


  1. Yes! I love this one too. One of my favorites. It's scheduled to play on the big screen at a theater here in Chicago next Tuesday night, as part of the Turner Classic Movies traveling film fest. Scheduled to appear in person are Robert Osborne and Eva Marie Saint who will talk about the film before it's screened. I'm planning to check it out; the seats are free (first come first served) so I hope I can get there early enough to get in.

  2. I hope you have a chance to catch the film in the theater! I'll be looking for the report on your blog! :D