Tag Archives: north by northwest

No. 55 NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959)

I never discuss love on an empty stomach

Neither should you – I think – as only bad things happen then. Half of your brain is thinking of food and not running on full power. You don’t necessarily make the most rational decisions then – at least I don’t. But that aside – the original line in the North by Northwest script was actually “I never make love on an empty stomach”, but that had to be edited as it was ahead of its time. Nowadays nobody would even bat an eyelid at that! How times have changed!

North by Northwest was filmed in 1959 – at a very different era. The cold war was a reality. Moviemaking was different back then – there were no computer made special effects. Somehow the movies filmed back then now look more glamorous even though we have much more sophisticated techniques now. The men looked like real men and the women looked like elegant temptresses. This movie is a bit slow-paced as one has gotten so used to the spectacular special effects and fast-paced action movies where things seem to happen at 100 miles per hour; but it still holds your attention all the way thru. And to be frank I actually enjoyed the slower pace as you have time to concentrate on the characters’ expressions and almost see the wheels turning when they think what to do next. It is actually quite relaxing. The movie is fantastically shot by the legendary Alfred Hitchcock whose attention to detail is amazing. Every scene has hidden meanings. I am sure I missed crucial elements that make this movie one of the Greatest Movies. Like the last scene in the movie when the train that is carrying Cary Grant’s and Eva Marie Saint’s characters shoots into a tunnel. Just before that you see them kissing on a bed. And no, I did not make the connection – I wish I would be that smart. Instead, I watched the Behind-the-Scenes documentary on the DVD!

North by Northwest is like Mad Men meets CIA. Cary Grant’s character Roger Thornhill looks like a tanned, suave ad man / gentleman spy; who likes to suit up. If this is ever remade – please, don’t – I could see George Clooney running towards the cornfield and smooth talking to a dangerous blonde on a train [I am sure now it would be some kind of a bullet-train]. In the movie CG’s character is mistaken for a government agent [who later in the film we learn does not really exist], while taking a business meeting in “Mad Men style” with some tasty looking Martinis. From this misunderstanding starts the chase thru the country by trains, planes and automobiles – from New York to Mount Rushmore. It seems that Roger Thornhill is being chased by everybody. Not to forget about the blond oh-so-dangerous-vixen, who does some different kind of chasing! And Roger Thornhill is ready for wife number 3. But not before some spellbinding twists and turns that are Alfred Hitchcock’s trademarks.

This film also features probably the most famous chase scene ever – Cary Grant’s character is being chased by a crop-duster plane in the middle of nowhere where there is nowhere to hide. Run, Boy, Run!

Would you buy a holiday from Alfred Hitchcock?

This is truly a movie where all the little things matter. Like the matchbook, that Cary Grant’s character tosses downstairs from the balcony towards the end of the movie. And how it ends up at the feet of one of the bad guys, who actually lifts it up without looking at it and not realizing that it has R.O.T (Roger O – O stands for nothing – Thornhill) on it. The whole time I found myself holding my breath – and grinning at the initials…

I also love that Cary Grant’s character is so self-conscious that in the first scene of the film he asks his secretary to put a note on his desk in the morning, which says “Think Thin!” How times have not changed that much!

This movie is worth watching as long as you pay attention to every little detail; that is where the cleverness of this movie lies. Not my favorite Alfred Hitchcock movie, but enjoyable watching.

War is hell – even if it is a cold one.

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