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Drama, Thriller, Action, Adventure, Mystery, Romance
IMDB rating:
Alfred Hitchcock


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Cary Grant as Roger O. Thornhill
Eva Marie Saint as Eve Kendall
James Mason as Phillip Vandamm
Jessie Royce Landis as Clara Thornhill
Leo G. Carroll as The Professor
Josephine Hutchinson as Mrs. Townsend
Philip Ober as Lester Townsend
Martin Landau as Leonard
Adam Williams as Valerian
Edward Platt as Victor Larrabee
Les Tremayne as Auctioneer
Philip Coolidge as Dr. Cross
Patrick McVey as Sergeant Flamm - Chicago Policeman
North by Northwest Storyline: Madison Avenue advertising man Roger Thornhill finds himself thrust into the world of spies when he is mistaken for a man by the name of George Kaplan. Foreign spy Philip Vandamm and his henchman Leonard try to eliminate him but when Thornhill tries to make sense of the case, he is framed for murder. Now on the run from the police, he manages to board the 20th Century Limited bound for Chicago where he meets a beautiful blond, Eve Kendall, who helps him to evade the authorities. His world is turned upside down yet again when he learns that Eve isn't the innocent bystander he thought she was. Not all is as it seems however, leading to a dramatic rescue and escape at the top of Mt. Rushmore.
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Great but FLAWED (some mild spoilers)
I won't bother with any of that nonsense about how this is one of the greatest movies ever made. Everybody knows that, and if anyone tries to tell you otherwise, let me know so I can stamp the word IDIOT on their forehead. But the movie has a terrible, terrible flaw that needs to be addressed.

Simply put, Hitchcock should have cut that early scene where the intelligence agency members discuss what they are going to do now that Thornhill has been mistaken for Kaplan. It's an awful scene. For one thing, the scene is incredibly poorly written in comparison with the rest of the film--the characters say everything over and over again, in the simplest terms possible, as though they think we're all too stupid to figure anything out. More importantly, though, the scene completely ruins the mystery of George Kaplan way too early in the film.

Imagine if that scene were removed. Then we'd be closer to Thornhill's plight throughout the entire movie--when he sees that guy at the cornfield, we'd think that was Kaplan, just like Thornhill does. And then when the professor guy shows up at the airport, we'd all be like, "Okay, now that HAS to be Kaplan." And we'd learn the truth about Kaplan right along with Thornhill. But that dumb scene at the beginning spoils the mystery, and unfortunately that keeps us from relating with Thornhill as much as we otherwise might have.

Don't let any of this stop you from seeing the movie. It's wonderful. But while you watch it, think about what it might have been.
Wow, one of the most entertaining films I've ever seen
I bought this on a whim, after someone made a joke about a drawing I'd done (of a man running away from something in a field) striking of Hitchcocks famous scene. After watching it, I am ashamed that I didn't see this instant classic sooner.

The film starts off and instantly you are hooked, the snappy dialogue (the brilliant Taxi skit), the comedy (pretty much any scene with Mrs Thornhill Sr) and the thrilling ambiguity and intrigue. The answers come in just the right places, so you're never wondering longer than is reasonable, apart from the scenes where Hitchcock has dragged it out to an amazing edge-of-seat effect.

Another thing I loved, apart from the great writing, story and direction, were the characters, a compound of the above three. All the actors do a brilliant job of filling the characters shoes, and Cary Grant is nothing short of irresistibly charming and brash as the troubled hero. Most film-makers nowadays would portray the characters as psychological train wrecks given their circumstance, but they exhibit the cool and likable persona's (even Mr Van Damme is a charming villain) that are sadly missed in most modern films.

In fact, a lot of things in this film are sadly missed from modern thrillers, the charm is irresistibly and I've no qualms about giving it a 10 and saying it's one of the coolest films I've ever seen.
North by Northwest proves that great art can also be entertaining.
Alfred Hitchcock made this film at the height of his genius and also at the height of his popularity, when his television show gave him the kind of exposure and face recognition usually reserved for only the biggest stars. Hitch always maintained that great films should also entertain, North by Northwest being presented here as our star witness to prove his assertion to be correct.

Cary Grant plays Roger O. Thornhill as the slick Madison Avenue advertising man who is mistaken to be George Kaplin, a spy hot on the trail of Phillip Vandamm, played masterfully by James Mason. All we really know about Thornhill is the statement he makes to Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint) on the train from New York to Chicago that he has a mother, several bartenders and two ex-wives dependant upon him for support. The "O" used to initial his middle name stands for "nothing" and his initials, R.O.T., sum up his life. These details are revealing and the scene is beautifully crafted, showing us the apparent emptiness of his life prior to this adventure. Ernst Lehman's script is loaded with these types of gems throughout the picture.

If you're really not into excellent dialogue and clever acting and prefer that the story get on with it, this also is the movie for you, as it has two of the most memorable action sequences in the history of motion pictures. Of course I'm referring to the crop dusting sequence and the finale on top of Mount Rushmore. Those are enough to put this movie near the top of anyone's must see list.

Kudos are also due to Leo G. Carroll in one of his best character roles as The Professor, who's humble appearance belies the fact that he is the one who is responsible for manipulating much of the action behind the scenes. A young Martin Landau, as Leonard, Vandamm's "right arm", shows us in the few scenes that he's in what a capable actor he was. The music by the great Bernard Herrmann is one of the classic pieces that made him famous, starting from the clever opening title sequence to it's conclusion.

If we view this movie in its historical context of 1959, we see that it was made in the middle of the Cold War, and much of the suspense is reliant upon the audience's reality of living with the knowledge that everything could end with the press of a button (I know this is too simplistic, but many people's perception at this point in history was just that). The Professor, Vandamm, Ms. Kendall, Leonard and others are Cold Warriors, and it is Thornhill's misfortune to become swept up in it's intrigues, but our very great fortune to be able to get swept up with him and let Hitcock, the "Master of Suspense", be our guide in one of his masterworks.
Now, quite firmly my all-time favorite Hitchcock movie
I watched my first Hitchcock movie, Psycho, in my last year of high school and I immediately became a fan. Over the following 25 years though I have noticed that my favorite Hitchcock movie has continued to change. It was Psycho for many years, but sometime in the mid- 1990s, it became Vertigo (coincidentally a time when a new restored print of that came out). Apart from the beautiful new print (which I also saw on the big screen), I was probably somewhat also swayed by the Sight & Sound critics poll where Vertigo had just displaced Citizen Kane as the greatest movie of all times.

But, for the past ten years or so, North by Northwest has become my favorite Hitchcock movie of all times. It is the one I find myself watching over and over again (just caught it on the big screen, for a change). It is also the one I find myself recommending to others, when they ask what Hitchcock movie should they start with.

I guess the reason for this is that it is the most "perfect" Hitchcock movie. It has all the elements: the Macguffin, the wrongly-accused leading man, and the blonde woman who may or may not be who she claims to be. More than that, it has in one single movie everything that you will find in separate Hitchcock movies: a great screenplay (by Ernest Lehman), fantastic score (Bernard Herrman, obviously), great title sequence (Saul Bass), crackling dialogue and humor, and great chemistry between the leads (similar to 39 Steps). The interplay between Cary Grant (at his best - and more than Jimmy Stewart, the perfect Hitchcock lead) and Eve Marie Saint when they first meet on the train is an exercise in great writing and acting - it could be from any great romantic movie.

But most of all it has some of the great set-pieces assembled in the movies - the crop-dusting and Mount Rushmore sequences are already classics. Yes, it doesn't have the psychological complexity of Vertigo, the shock and horror of Psycho, but it is what it is: the most ENTERTAINING movie that Hitchcock ever made, and the one I can watch over and over again.
"The Man Who Sneezed in Lincoln's Nose"
Alfred Hitchcock knew a recipe for a perfect thriller because he had made many but among his films, "North by Northwest" (1959) stands out as a great combination of suspense, sex, and humor. The film is based on a case of mistaken identity that in a course of a few days makes a likable (even if slightly arrogant) Manhattan ad-man Roger O. Thornhill (Cary Grant) the object of a cross country spy hunt. Having no clue what is happening to him, Thornhill will be kidnapped by the spies, brought to an unknown mansion and after the questioning forced to get drunk. He will get arrested for a stealing a car and drunk driving of which he has no recollection. It is just the beginning. Next, he finds himself in the UN building talking to a man who drops dead in the middle of the conversation in front of hundreds of people. The worst part – the man is murdered and Thornhill has the murder weapon, the knife in his hand. Both, the police and the spies are on his trail and his only hope is to escape NYC by train where a very sexy blonde named Eve (Eva Marie Saint) is ready to help him. Their encounter leads to one of the sexiest scenes ever filmed without any sexual act involved.

The film is packed with the witty and funny dialogs and one- liners as well as with artful and imaginative set pieces including Grant running for his life across the prairie from an evil crop-duster and the climatic chase on Mount Rushmore. Hitchcock who always wanted to make a film with two scenes – a chase on the face of a president and the attempt to wake up the Peru Ambassador during the assembly in UN who turned to be dead, had his dreams fulfilled with "North by Northwest" which he suggested should be called "The Man Who Sneezed in Lincoln's Nose". Among many of film's pleasures are Eva Marie Saint as sexy stranger on a train and James Mason and young Martin Landau as a duet of villains with a complicated relationship.
Good but not quite one of the greatest films of all time
Considered one of the best of Hitchcock's films I find that I'm not that big a fan of the film. Its not that it's a bad movie, rather I think that the film has been ripped off and re-staged so many times that any power the film might have had is rather dissipated. Its kind of like watching Citizen Kane or some other film that is said to have changed the way movies are done and finding that they don't play all that well. The reason is, like North by Northwest that they changed the rules and have been so copied it hard to see what was so revolutionary about them. As it stands now the story of Cary Grant being mistaken for someone else and having to flee from both the police and the bad guys is exciting, especially in its set pieces, but the rest of it isn't anything special and has the feel of been there and done that especially when compared with Hitchcock's other films. Most certainly worth seeing, just be prepared to wonder what all the shouting is about.
Why not Hitchcock's best?
To summarise, let's just say this is over two hours long and yet seems to last only minutes. You just wish it were longer.

And all the clichés in it were there for the first time: we've just seen them so many times since. I think it was in his conversations with Truffaut that Hitchcock said that, when a character is on the run in a film, he is always shown as walking down rain-washed cobbled streets, hiding in the night, but Hitchcock wanted to change all that and make it as light as possible, hence the crop-duster scene ... as every director has done ever since.

Back-projection has never been that good in Hitchcock's films, I'm sorry to say. I think that film-goers were just expected to accept it at the time. But I think the special effects in the finale (now where was it set?) are superb, and I really feel that the actors and stand-ins are really there (I was surprised it wasn't actually filmed there) ... apart from the studio inserts, that is.

But the plot is entirely original (or so I believe, but you always find something in the archives ...); Lehman's lines are very witty (and sexy!); the casting is superb (Grant never turned in a bad performance, and Landau, Mason and, especially, Carroll, setting himself up for his long-term role in his later acting career, are outstanding); and, like all Hitchcock's films, it's a fine comedy (and Psycho is the biggest joke of all). So why do all the critics always favour Vertigo, Rear Window, Strangers on a Train, The Trouble with Harry or Psycho?

Well, North by Northwest is my favourite Hitchcock anyway.

And I'm sure I don't have to mention Herrmann's massive contribution.

In fact, my only objection is James Mason's cardigan. I find that so irritating!
North By Northwest
If you are a Hitchcock fan, as I am, then this may be the best Hitchcock of all. "North By Northwest" has a little bit of everything: suspense, love, mystery, thriller intrigue, danger, and justice. Eva Marie Saint (Eve Kendall) has never been more beautiful, or more endearing as she is in this movie.

Years ago I didn't really care for Cary Grant, but he has a way of growing on you, movie by movie, and he is never better that he is in this role as Roger O. Thornhill. I loved James Mason and a young Martin Landau in this movie as well. Well worth the 2 hours and 16 minutes of your time.
All things point to this being one of Hitch's very best - 91%
For only my second Hitchcock picture (I know, bit behind the times!), I decided to go for one of his more iconic pictures. Movies like this have dual appeal to me - full of classic moments and yet, they maintain a mystery to me as the basic bones of the film are usually forgotten. "Rope" was a genuine surprise despite feeling a little stagey but this tense, taut thriller remains an utterly compelling picture even today. It might not be Hitch's best picture but to ignore "North By Northwest" would be a very grave mistake.

Cary Grant plays Roger Thornhill, an advertising executive in New York who suddenly finds himself thrust into a terrifying world that he literally knows nothing about. Mistaken by a couple of thugs for someone called George Kaplan, he is bundled into a car and driven to the home of urbane villain Phillip Vandamm (James Mason) who ignores Thornhill's pleas for clemency. Once Thornhill escapes barely with his life, he finds himself pursued by law-enforcement across the US after he is mistaken for an assassin who strikes at the UN Building. His only chance is to track down the real George Kaplan (if he even exists) and on-board a train, he encounters bewitching blonde Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint) but can anyone really be trusted?

Even without such legendary moments like Grant being chased by a crop-duster or scrambling over the faces of Mt Rushmore, "North By Northwest" feels ahead of its time. In many ways, it feels like an early James Bond flick - full of stunning locations, an epic plot and most of all, a charismatic and witty lead in Grant whose performance as the out-of-his-depth hero is not just believable but actually provides the movie with a recognisable core. Alongside Grant, Saint is a classy femme fatale with looks to kill and lines for any vamp to savour. Mason, able to play baddies in his sleep, is in his element as the mastermind one step ahead at all times. And running throughout, naturally, is that tension that Hitch is rightly famous for - the combination of dramatic music, lengthy sequences when nothing is said and frankly stunning shots. Take the crop-duster scene as an example. Next to no dialogue or music, the creeping fear the film summons as we see the plane steer around for another pass and the terror as you realise that there is almost nothing Thornhill could do.

There are any number of so-called 'thrillers' that have been released since that simply don't fulfil their promise. "North By Northwest" is an exception. In the same way that "Heat" is the template for all cop dramas and "The Godfather" is the Don for mob movies, this should be considered the basis for any decent spy flick. The only thing I didn't like was the ending which came out of nothing due to probably the most out-of-place and unwelcome cut I've ever seen in a movie, flicking from a moment of high drama and danger to a post-story conclusion in the blink of an eye. It nearly soured my opinion of the film as a whole but I'm not gonna let one mistake put me off. "North By Northwest" is an absorbing, classy movie that isn't held in the same regard as films like "Vertigo" or "Psycho". In the same way that "Rope" surprised me, the quality of "North By Northwest" really took my breath away and I would argue that this is still a wonderful movie if released today. I'm thinking I need to watch more Hitchcock film from here on...
A Cinema Buff's Delight
Cary Grant, kidnapped in the opening frames of the film due to a case of mistaken identity, is actually a red-herring in a cold war spying game.The game goes awfully wrong, and to set the matters right in comes the sultry blonde Eva Marie-Saint,an avatar of Mata Hari.After some cat and mouse games in a train , a crop-duster tries to mow down Grant in a widely acclaimed and much written about sequence. But to my mind the auction sequence,in which our hero makes a perfect ass of himself inorder to get arrested and shake off his pursuers, takes the cake.It is top class hilarious stuff. This counterpoint between suspense and comedy is in fact the tenor of the film. The tempo of suspense is heightened and maintained with the help of appropriate music and through shadows and sinister camera angles. The finale on Mount Rushmore is both literally and figuratively a cliff-hanger. Grant is poker faced and takes his series of misadventures stoically - a la 007. Eva Marie, though icily menacing on the outside , shows a vulnerability deep down which is alluring. As Grant aptly describes her "she is a big girl, and in all the right places too ". The film is replete with such enjoyable one-liners. Cinema buffs would also love the editing wizardry - look out for the cut from Mount Rushmore to the upper berth in the train at the very end of the film. While not definitely the greatest of Alfred Hitchcock's oeuvre , is is nevertheless a cinema buff's delight. Rating - 8/10
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