Genre Grandeur – North By Northwest (1959) – Michael Eddy


For this month’s next review for Genre Grandeur – Hitchcockian Films, here’s a review of North By Northwest (1959) by Michael Eddy

Thanks again to Michael Eddy for choosing this month’s genre.

Next month’s Genre has been chosen by Vinnie of Vinnie H. and it is Historical True Story Films.

Please get me your submissions by the 25th of February by sending them to vinnieishistory@movierob.net

Try to think out of the box! Great choice Vinnie!

Let’s see what Michael thought of this movie:

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Let me preface my contribution by saying that I am a huge fan of Alfred Hitchcock. He’s probably one of my 5 favorite directors (along with John Ford, William Wyler, Billy Wilder and Spielberg). On occasions when I’ve been asked to compile a list of my Ten Favorite movies of all time – a task which I simply cannot do without having a meltdown – I try to cheat – and say – why not just make a list of my 10 favorite Hitchcock films. So it’s not easy here to pick only a handful to review – from the Master himself and another favorite which could pass for Hitchcock – but was not directed by him.

 

First, I will take on a favorite – and one that seems to be a concensus favorite by cinefiles – “North By Northwest”. Working from a twisty and clever screenplay by Ernest Lehman and starring one of Hitchcock’s most reliable stars – Cary Grant – with Eva Marie Saint as his cool blonde and a terrific James Mason as the villain – this film can be considered one of the more iconic in the Hitchcock canon. Snappy dialogue, a couple of classic set pieces, some stunning visuals and his usual innocent man caught up in a spider web of murder and trapped between the police (accused of a crime he didn’t commit) and the baddies who put him in the box – this is vintage Hitchcock.

 

The plot is quite simple – even though in the telling, it appears to be convoluted enough that Cary Grant, reading the script – went to Hitchcock half way in – to complain that he couldn’t understand what the hell was happening to his character. Which was exactly the point. A US espionage group (let’s call them the CIA) in an effort to break up a foreign spy ring – has invented an imaginary agent named Kaplan – booked him a suite in a ritzy NYC hotel – and furnished it with his clothing. There is no Kaplan. He is a cipher. A ghost. But Cary Grant, a NY advertising exec, going to the hotel for a meeting (with his mother for lunch…) is mistaken for “Kaplan” by the very spies the US agency are trying to ensnare. Grant is quickly trapped in a lethal game of cat and mouse which has him threatened by the bad guys and unable to extricate himself with the authorities – because his story is so ludicrous that they find it all laughable. Add to the mix, Eva Marie Saint, who is the arm candy for the lead villain – James Mason, and insinuates herself into Grant’s company as a love interest (in a beautifully staged “meet cute” aboard a train). But all (or very little) is as it seems.

 

Along the way, Grant is spotlighted for a murder (inside the UN of all places), forced to go on the run, in a cross country jaunt that takes him across a cornfield in the middle of nowhere and an attack by a crop dusting plane – where there are no crops – to an art gallery auction – where he must bid like a crazy man to draw the attention of the police in order to extricate himself from the lurking villains and ultimately to Rapid City, South Dakota – and Mount Rushmore- where Hitchcock stages one his more memorable and lasting sequences amongst the visages of the 4 Presidents, whose faces grace the mountainside (he actually wanted to take things even further – having Grant hiding from the baddies inside of Lincoln’s nostril – and having a sneezing fit).

 

The film is a gem. A thriller with the Hitchcock touch, sporting Ms. Saint at her sexiest and Grant delivering Lehman’s dialogue with a throwaway insouciance as only he could. Throw in Martin Landau as a silent, but deadly henchman and the estimable Leo G. Carroll as a spymaster (he would go on only a few years later to be the head of a spy outfit on TV in the hit series “The Man From U.N.C.LE.”) and Jessie Royce Landis as Grant’s hard it all before and couldn’t possible take any of it seriously high society mother.

 

If somehow you’ve never seen this on before – you are in for a treat. And if you have – you’re in for a 2nd, 3rd, 4th or more helping of some delicious moviemaking.

One thought on “Genre Grandeur – North By Northwest (1959) – Michael Eddy

  1. Pingback: Genre Grandeur January Finale – Frenzy (1972) – Michael Eddy |

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