North By Northwest

So it’s not the greatest Hitchcock film starring Cary Grant (that would be “Notorious”). It’s not the best Hitchcock film that includes a seduction on a train by a long shot — “The Lady Vanishes” and “The Thirty-Nine Steps” do the boy-meets-girl business much, much better. The mistaken identity business is done much better in “The Thirty-Nine Steps,” too. And Grant’s character’s problems with his mother pale in comparison with those of Norman Bates.

But let’s not be too picky. Grant is terribly charming in this picture and at the top of his form. Eva Marie Saint is lovely, and it’s nice to see her happy and prosperous after “On the Waterfront.” James Mason is delightfully suave as the bad guy. He leaves the sinister stuff to Martin Landau, and that seems exactly right. Landau always struck me as rather sinister in “Mission Impossible.”

Speaking of 60s television, those of us of a certain age get to see a number of favorite spy characters in “North by Northwest.” Mr. Waverly (Leo G. Carroll) from “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” has a nice role as Grant’s C.I.A. handler, and the Chief (Ed Platt) from “Get Smart” makes a cameo too. If you pay attention, you’ll even catch Wally Powers (Edward Binns) from “It Takes a Thief.”

The trailer’s a classic!

2 thoughts on “North By Northwest

  1. Along with what I responded at Google+, another comment or two.

    That trailer was indeed a classic. Much fun!

    No mention of the crop-duster chase? Maybe unnecessary; even people who haven’t seen the movie probably know about it. But I wonder how well you think it works compared to other pursuits in Hitchcock films. Maybe it looks more striking than it actually feels? I’d have to watch it again before I could say.


    1. You’re right, John. The crop duster scene was less striking, this time around. Too low-tech to be truly menacing in this day and age? Or maybe it’s just that the surprise factor was gone.

      I think this film was too commercial. The gags at the beginning with Grant and his mom made it feel like a sit com; everything felt exaggerated. No wonder there were so many TV actors! Doing the show dumbed Hitchcock down, even if it did ensure that he’d remain a household name.


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