North by Northwest (1959) Film Review

North by Northwest

A+

DIRECTOR: Alfred Hitchcock
BOTTOM LINE: Screenwriter Ernest Lehman wrote “the Hitchcock picture to end all Hitchcock pictures” and it’s another Hitchcock masterpiece. A tale of mistaken identity, with an innocent man (Cary Grant in his most memorable role), pursued across the United States by agents of a mysterious organization trying to prevent him from blocking their plan to smuggle microfilm (the film’s MacGuffin) which contains government secrets, out of the country. THE GREAT HITCHCOCK TEAM of the late nineteen fifties are all here at the peak of their artistic brilliance:

  • Cinematographer Robert Burks
  • Composer Bernard Herrmann
  • Graphic Designer Saul Bass who was the first to use kinetic typography on the film’s magnificent opening credits.
  • Editor George Tomasini

Eva Marie Saint gives Grace Kelly in “Rear Window” a run for her money as Hitchcock’s most elegant leading lady and the chemistry between the two leads is more palpable than in any Hollywood picture before or since.
Eva Marie Saint’s wardrobe for the film was originally entirely chosen by MGM. Hitchcock disliked MGM’s selections and the actress and director went to Bergdorf Goodman in New York to select what she would wear. The gentleman knew what he liked and, as in everything he touched, he had spectacular taste. Miss Saint’s wardrobe being one of the most memorable in Hollywood history.

Eva Marie Saint: North by Northwest
There are some thrilling set pieces:
  • Grant being chased by an airplane in a cornfield on a beautiful day. There is nothing unusual until you begin to see the white trails of plane exhaust in a clear blue sky.
  • Grant and Saint escaping from James Mason (a superb Hitchcock villain) and Martin Landau on top of Mount Rushmore.
  • The bidding scene in the Chicago auction house.
  • The gun going off in the Mount Rushmore gift shop and the little boy putting his hands to his ears a millisecond before the shot – a rare Tomasini miss that makes the film more fascinating today.
  • Grant being chased through a brilliant reconstruction of the United Nations since Hitchcock was not allowed to film there.
  • The final risqué shot of the train entering the tunnel as our stars finally get to consummate their relationship.

This is a film to be savored repeatedly. One of the all-time greats.

POST TITLE: Hitchcock Made Seven Perfect Films

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SUBCATEGORY: Hitchcock

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