North By Northwest is my favorite of all of Hitch’s films. I was quite delighted to come across it on the 101 Action Movies list. It’s fun, charming, and races along full tilt right to its climax.
It has an iconic score by Bernard Herrmann, and a top-notch cast featuring Cary Grant (I love his turns in Hitchock films), Eva Marie Saint, James Mason, and Martin Landau.
It’s a classic case of mistaken identity as Grant’s Roger Thornhill is believed to be a spy by the name of George Kaplin (a man who doesn’t even exist) and then is also accused of murder. Picked up by a couple of hired thugs who mistake him for Kaplin, Grant is pulled into an adventure of international intrigue, double-agents, and some of the most iconic moments in film history.
Grant is chased by a crop-dusting bi-plane, fights atop Mt. Rushmore and disrupts an art auction, all while keeping his cool, being charming, and falling for Eve Kendall (Saint).
The film is an all-out high-octane romp which is still captivating and enthralling half a century later. It’s characters are smart and witty and trade verbal jabs as easily as they chase one another across the country.
Mason is the villain Phillip Vandamm, and Landau plays his rather creepy, cold, calculating and threatening right hand Leonard.
And poor Grant, whatever he tries to do to prove he’s not Kaplin just misfires, simply cementing the belief that he is the spy he says he isn’t, until as the film closes in on the final act he gets into some double-crosses and spying himself as he races the clock to rescue Kendall from Vandamm.
Everything works in this film, the cast, the light-hearted tone making it a fun-filled adventure, the script, the brilliant score… there’s a zest to this film that is rather lacking in a lot of films these days. This is the kind of film movie houses were made for, a larger than life picture.
The pacing and the story doesn’t let up until the final frame… no sooner do the opening credits end, with Hitch’s cameo missing the bus, than the audience is thrown into the film feet first, as Grant is kidnapped, had a bottle poured down his throat (which then features a hilariously drunk Thornhill), and trapped in an ever-expanding mystery over the non-existent Kaplin.
This is a film that you don’t want to give too much away for, as the twists, turns, revelations and sheer fun would then be lost. The climax atop Mt. Rushmore is tense, and nail-biting as Herrmann’s score swells around you.
This for me is one of the films that proves Hitchcock is a master filmmaker, though I like all of the ones featuring Grant, this one has been and I think always will be my fave of his.
It’s a wonderful classic with a style and flair that doesn’t seem to exist in movies anymore. You know going in that the guy is going to get the girl, that there is going to be a happy ending, but it’s all about the hows, and the journey…
What is your favorite Hitch film?