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North by Northwest [1959] (1 disc)

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Director:Alfred Hitchcock
Writer:Ernest Lehman
Composer:Bernard Herrmann
Length:136 minutes
(2 hours 16 minutes)
Sorting Category:Mystery
IMDB Rating:8.3/10
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Classifications:
  • Mystery
  • Action
  • Drama
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Synopsis: A New York City advertising executive goes on the run after being mistaken for a government agent by a group of foreign spies.


Reaction: This is a classic of the genre, the era, and of a great film-maker's oeuvre. Everyone should see this to be conversant in great cinema.


Personal Rating: 9/10

Select Cast and Crew
Alfred Hitchcock => Director / Man Who Misses Bus (uncredited)
Ernest Lehman => Writer
Bernard Herrmann => Composer
Adam Williams => Valerian
Alexander Lockwood => Judge Anson Flynn (uncredited)
Bess Flowers => Hotel Lounge Patron (uncredited)
Carleton Young => Fanning Nelson (uncredited)
Cary Grant => Roger Thornhill
Edward Platt => Victor Larrabee
Eva Marie Saint => Eve Kendall
Frank Marlowe => Taxi Driver (uncredited)
Frank Wilcox => Herman Weitner (uncredited)
Harvey Stephens => Stockbroker (uncredited)
James Mason => Phillip Vandamm
Jessie Royce Landis => Clara Thornhill
Jesslyn Fax => Woman on Train (uncredited)
Josephine Hutchinson => Mrs. Townsend
Ken Lynch => Charley
Kenner G. Kemp => Man Leaving Office Building (uncredited)
Lawrence Dobkin => U.S. Intelligence Agency Official (uncredited)
Leo G. Carroll => The Professor
Martin Landau => Leonard
Maudie Prickett => Elsie (uncredited)
Ned Glass => Ticket Seller (uncredited)
Nora Marlowe => Anna (uncredited)
Olan Soule => Assistant Auctioneer (uncredited)
Paula Winslowe => Woman at Auction (uncredited)
Philip Ober => Lester Townsend
Robert Ellenstein => Licht
Robert Shayne => Larry Wade (uncredited)
Stanley Adams => Lieutenant Harding (uncredited)
Tol Avery => State Police Detective (uncredited)

Random Trivia For This Title:

  • While filming "Vertigo (1958)," Sir Alfred Hitchcock described some of the plot of this project to frequent Hitchcock leading man and "Vertigo" star James Stewart, who naturally assumed that Hitchcock meant to cast him in the Roger Thornhill role, and was eager to play it. Actually, Hitchcock wanted Cary Grant to play the role. By the time Hitchcock realized the misunderstanding, Stewart was so anxious to play Thornhill that rejecting him would have caused a great deal of disappointment. So Hitchcock delayed production on this movie until Stewart was already safely committed to filming Otto Preminger's "Anatomy of a Murder (1959)" before "officially" offering him the role in this movie. Stewart had no choice. He had to turn down the offer, allowing Hitchcock to cast Grant, the actor he had wanted all along.
  • This movie has been referred to as "the first [James Bond] film" due to its similarities with splashily colourful settings, secret agents, and an elegant, daring, wisecracking leading man opposite a sinister yet strangely charming villain. The crop duster scene inspired the helicopter chase in "From Russia with Love (1963)."
  • While on location at Mt. Rushmore, Eva Marie Saint discovered that Cary Grant would charge fans fifteen cents for an autograph.
  • Sir Alfred Hitchcock filmed Cary Grant's entrance into the United Nations building from across the street with a hidden camera. When he gets to the top of the stairs, a man about to walk down does a double take upon seeing the movie star.
  • Rather than go to the expense of shooting in a South Dakota woodland, Sir Alfred Hitchcock planted one hundred ponderosa pines on an MGM soundstage.
  • Less than eight feet of film was cut from the final release. Eight feet is about five seconds, or one hundred twenty frames.
  • Cary Grant found the screenplay baffling, and midway through filming told Sir Alfred Hitchcock, "It's a terrible script. We've already done a third of the picture and I still can't make head nor tail of it!" Hitchcock knew this confusion would only help the movie after all, Grant's character had no idea what was going on, either. Grant thought the movie would be a flop right up until its premiere, where it was rapturously received.
  • Thornhill appears on the left side of the screen for almost the entire movie.
  • The day before the scene where Thornhill is hidden in an upper berth was to be filmed, Cary Grant took a look at the set which had been built and told Sir Alfred Hitchcock that it had been constructed sloppily and would not do for the movie. Hitchcock trusted Grant's judgment so completely, that he ordered the set rebuilt to better standards without ever checking the situation for himself.
  • It was journalist [?] Otis L. Guernsey, Jr. who suggested to Sir Alfred Hitchcock the premise of a man mistaken for a nonexistent secret agent. He was inspired, he said, by a real-life case during World War II, known as Operation Mincemeat, in which British intelligence hoped to lure Italian and German forces away from Sicily, a planned invasion site. A cadaver was selected and given an identity and phony papers referring to invasions of Sardinia and Greece. The Man Who Never Was (1956) recounted the operation.
  • In François Truffaut's book-length interview, Hitchcock/Truffaut (1967), Sir Alfred Hitchcock said that MGM wanted this movie cut by fifteen minutes so its length would run under two hours. Hitchcock had his agent check his contract, learned that he had absolute control over the final cut, and refused.
  • Sir Alfred Hitchcock planned to shoot a scene in the Ford automobile plant in Dearborn, Michigan. As Thornhill and a factory worker discussed a particular foreman at the plant, they would walk along the assembly line as a car was put together from the first bolt to the final panel. Then, as the car rolled off the line ready to drive, Thornhill would open the passenger door and out would roll the body of the foreman he had just been discussing. Hitchcock loved the idea of a body appearing out of nowhere, but he and Screenwriter Ernest Lehman couldn't figure out a way to make the scene fit the story, so it never came to fruition. A similar scene is seen in Minority Report (2002).
  • For the cropdusting scene, Cary Grant was filmed on a studio set diving into a fake ditch while the plane footage unspooled on a screen behind him.
  • A panel of fashion experts convened by GQ Magazine in 2006 said the gray suit worn by Cary Grant throughout almost the entire movie was the best suit in movie history, and the most influential on men's style, stating that it has since been copied for Tom Cruise's character in Collateral (2004) and Ben Affleck's character in Paycheck (2003). This sentiment has been echoed by Writer [?] Todd McEwen, who called it "gorgeous", and wrote a short story "Cary Grant's Suit", which recounted this movie's plot from the viewpoint of the suit.
  • Among the problems that the Production Code found with this movie was the effeminacy of the henchman Leonard (Martin Landau). Landau had taken it upon himself to play his character as a closeted homosexual who is in love with the James Mason character.
  • According to the book "Haunted Idol: The Story of the Real Cary Grant" by [?] Geoffrey Wansell, Cary Grant wanted [?] Sophia Loren to play the part of Eve Kendall, but she turned the role down. [?] Sophia Loren played a role very similar to Eve Kendall in Stanley Donen's Sir Alfred Hitchcock-inspired thriller "Arabesque (1966)" opposite Gregory Peck, "MGM"'s original choice for the role of Roger Thornhill.
  • MGM wanted Sir Alfred Hitchcock to cast Cyd Charisse for the part of Eve Kendall, but Hitchcock insisted upon Eva Marie Saint.
  • MGM wanted Gregory Peck to star as Roger O. Thornhill, but Sir Alfred Hitchcock refused, claiming that he was too stone-faced.
  • Sir Alfred Hitchcock wanted [?] Grace Kelly for the role of Eve Kendall, even though she was Princess of Monaco.
  • Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin were considered for the role of Roger O Thornhill.
  • Often thought of as the best amongst Sir Alfred Hitchcock's "wrong man" thrillers.
  • Sir Alfred Hitchcock considered Elizabeth Taylor for the role of Eve Kendall.
  • Sir Alfred Hitchcock and Ernest Lehman considered Yul Brynner for the role of Phillip Vandamm.
  • Curd Jürgens was a top contender for the role of Phillip Vandamm.
  • William Holden was suggested to play Roger Thornhill, but was never actually offered the part.
  • Vera Miles was a candidate for Eva Kendall.
  • Hitchcock's insistence on casting Eva Marie Saint came as a surprise to some as she was known as a method actress often cast as dowdy or put upon housewives or girlfriends. Hitch joked with her that: "You don't cry in this one. There's no sink.".
  • Kim Novak was Hitch's first choice to play Eve Kendall.
  • MGM wanted Cyd Charisse for the female lead but Hitchcock preferred Eva Marie Saint.
  • Alfred Hitchcock cameo: man arriving at a bus stop during the opening credits, but getting there a second too late and the door is closed in his face. He misses the bus.
  • Spoilers
  • Eva Marie Saint had to re-dub a particular line during post-production, to satisfy censors. The original line was "I never make love on an empty stomach", but was changed to "I never discuss love on an empty stomach". Yet the final scene, after she and Cary Grant are embracing on the upper berth, shows a train entering a tunnel.
  • This movie is the culmination of one of Sir Alfred Hitchcock's favorite plot devices, of concluding the plot with a hair-raising fall from a great height. His other movies to end this way are Murder! (1930), Jamaica Inn (1939), Foreign Correspondent (1940), Saboteur (1942), Rear Window (1954), and Vertigo (1958).
  • Sir Alfred Hitchcock came up with the ending innuendo of the train entering the tunnel. He considered it one of his finest, naughtiest achievements. Ernest Lehman's screenplay just ended with "the train heads off into the distance", or words to that effect. "There's no way I can take credit for (the tunnel)", Lehman said, adding: "Dammit."
  • The crop scene is homaged in The X Files (1998), when Mulder and Scully are pursued by helicopters in another crop field. Martin Landau appears in both films.
  • Included among the "{1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die}", edited by [?] Steven Schneider. Included among the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the Top 100 Greatest American Movies. In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #55 Greatest Movie of All Time. Ranked #7 on the American Film Institute's list of the 10 greatest films in the genre "Mystery" in June 2008.