North by Northwest


2h 16m 1959
North by Northwest

Brief Synopsis

An advertising man is mistaken for a spy, triggering a deadly cross-country chase.

Photos & Videos

Film Details

Also Known As
Breathless, In a North West Direction, In a Northwesterly Direction, The CIA Story, The Man on Lincoln's Nose
Genre
Adventure
Mystery
Thriller
Spy
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Jul 1959
Premiere Information
World premiere in Chicago: week of 9 Jul 1959
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Long Island, New York, USA; New York City, New York, USA; Chicago, Illinois, USA; South Dakota, USA; MGM Studios, Los Angeles, California, USA; Mount Rushmore, South Dakota, USA; Chicago, Illinois, United States; Chicago, IL, United States; New York City, New York, United States; New York City, NY, United States; New York City, New York, United States; Rapid City, South Dakota, United States; Rapid City, SD, United States; Wasco, California, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 16m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.66 : 1
Film Length
12,256ft (16 reels)

Synopsis

In New York City, advertising executive Roger Thornhill attends an informal business meeting at The Plaza hotel, where, intending to send his mother a wire, he summons a bellboy who has just paged George Kaplan. Across the room, two men, Valerian and Licht, believe Roger's summons is acknowledgment that he is Kaplan and when Roger leaves the bar, forcibly take him to a waiting car and drive him to the private home of Lester Townsend in Glen Cove. There he is met by the suave Phillip Vandamm, who Roger believes is Townsend. Vandamm dismisses Roger's claim that he is not Kaplan and urges him to reveal the information he wants. When Roger continues to deny being Kaplan, Vandamm directs his secretary, Leonard, to handle the situation. Leonard forces Roger to drink an entire bottle of bourbon then places him behind the wheel of a car on a mountain road. Roger revives and although completely befuddled by the liquor, drives erratically down the hill until he is picked up by police.

At court the next day, Roger and his lawyer describe his abduction and near murder, prompting the judge to order an investigation by county detectives. In the company of his mother and the detectives, Roger returns to the Townsend home but there is no sign of the kidnapping incident. A woman claiming to be Mrs. Townsend indicates Roger attended a party at the house the previous evening and reveals that Townsend is at the United Nations addressing the General Assembly. Roger and his mother return to The Plaza hotel in search of Kaplan. In Kaplan's room, Roger finds a newspaper photograph of Vandamm who he still believes is Townsend, but is forced to flee when he realizes Valerian and Licht have followed him. At the U.N., Roger requests to see Townsend, but is confused when man he meets is not the man he met at Townsend's house. Perplexed, Roger is about to show Townsend the newspaper photo he found in Kaplan's room when Townsend is struck in the back by a knife hurled by Valerian, who then flees. As Townsend collapses into Roger's arms, Roger grabs the knife in shock and is photographed by a nearby photo journalist. Horrified, Roger runs away.

Later that day at the U. S. Intelligence Agency, a group of agents led by a man known as the Professor, discuss Townsend's murder and Roger's involvement. The Professor and his group are investigating Vandamm for selling government secrets and have created a fictitious agent named George Kaplan in hopes of forcing Vandamm into the open. When the agents wonder if they should intervene on Roger's behalf, the Professor refuses, declaring that despite the danger to Roger, he is diverting attention from another agent working undercover with Vandamm. Meanwhile, Roger is labeled by newspapers as the U.N. murderer. Having learned that Kaplan has checked out of the hotel and is heading for Chicago, Roger sneaks aboard the Twentieth Century Limited. On board Roger meets an attractive blonde, Eve Kendall, who misdirects the police while he hides. Roger evades the conductors after the train gets underway, then visits the dining car where he is seated with Eve. Roger and Eve flirt with one another when she admits to tipping the waiter to seat Roger with her, but she also reveals to having seen the newspaper coverage accusing Roger of Townsend's murder. When the train makes an unscheduled stop to allow two police detectives to board, Eve offers to hide Roger in her compartment overnight.

Unknown to Roger, Eve is an associate of Vandamm, who is also onboard the train with Leonard. Upon arriving in Chicago the next morning, Roger disguises himself as a porter and escorts Eve off the train. Having concluded that Kaplan can lead him to Vandamm, Roger intends to meet Kaplan and Eve offers to make the arrangements so that Roger might maintain a low profile. After Roger changes clothes, he meets Eve who claims she has contacted Kaplan at the hotel and received explicit directions for their meeting. Roger follows Eve's directions and by mid-afternoon waits for Kaplan alongside a deserted road in the middle of empty farm fields where a crop duster works in the distance. After several cars go by without stopping, the crop duster abruptly turns towards Roger and, to his amazement, makes several attacking passes at him. Roger seeks refuge in a corn field, but the plane dusts the field with a chemical powder, forcing Roger back into the open. Spotting an oncoming tanker truck, Roger desperately flags it down and stands directly in its path, forcing the tanker to stop.

Still pursuing Roger, the plane swoops down at him and smashes into the tanker. When passers-by stop to gape at the scene, Roger steals a pickup and drives back to Kaplan's Chicago hotel. There he is stunned to learn that Kaplan checked out before Eve's purported conversation with him from the train station. Moments later, Roger spots Eve in the lobby and follows her to her room where she is startled to see him. Insisting that they cannot get involved with each other, Eve demands that Roger depart. Later, Roger follows Eve to an auction at an art gallery where she joins Vandamm and Leonard. Roger angrily confronts them, hurt over Eve's betrayal. Vandamm and Leonard scoff at Roger's indignation, then bid on and win a small Mexican Tarascan Warrior figure, unaware of the Professor's presence in the bidding audience. When Valerian and Leonard block the exits, Roger creates a scene, starting a fight in order to get himself arrested. The patrolmen report Roger's seizure and are instructed to take him to the airport where he is met by the Professor, who explains about the fictitious Kaplan and the need to capture Vandamm with incriminating evidence before he departs the country from his ranch in South Dakota.

Roger refuses the Professor's request to continue posing as Kaplan until the Professor admits that Eve is their inside operative, and that she is now in grave danger of being exposed unless they can convince Vandamm of her loyalty. Upon arriving in Rapid City, Roger sets up a meeting with Vandamm at the cafeteria of the Mount Rushmore memorial and stages an argument with Eve, climaxing in her shooting him with blanks. With Vandamm and Leonard convinced that Roger is critically wounded, the Professor takes Roger to meet Eve secretly and the two apologize to each other for their misunderstandings. Roger is dismayed, however, when Eve discloses that she must accompany Vandamm out of the country that night. The Professor allows Eve to return to Vandamm and places Roger in protective custody at a hospital.

That night, Roger escapes and takes a cab to Vandamm's ranch, beside which a small airplane runway is lit. Roger hides near an open window where he overhears Leonard and Vandamm discussing the secret microfilm hidden in the warrior figure. Leonard then tells Vandamm that his long suspicion of Eve has been justified and demonstrates that Eve's gun is filled with blanks. Deeply angered, Vandamm tells Leonard he will get rid of Eve during their flight that night. Alarmed, Roger climbs up the side of the house to warn Eve, but she leaves her room before he can talk to her. Writing a warning message on a matchbook bearing his initials, Roger then tosses it into the living room where Eve waits with Vandamm and Leonard as their private plane lands outside. After reading Roger's note, Eve meets him in her room where he tells her of the microfilm and Vandamm's plan to do away with her. When Eve joins Vandamm outside, Roger attempts to sneak out of the house but is held at gun point by the housekeeper.

After escaping from the housekeeper, Roger steals Valerian's car and races to retrieve Eve, who has snatched the warrior figure and fled Vandamm. Stopped by a locked gate, Roger and Eve proceed on foot, followed by Valerian and Leonard. Realizing they are trapped on top of Mount Rushmore, Roger and Eve start down the monument, but Roger is attacked by Valerian and Eve tussles with Leonard. After Roger hurls Valerian off the mountain, Leonard takes the figure and pushes Eve down the cliff where Roger comes to her aid as she dangles perilously on the edge of the monument. As Leonard menaces the couple, the Professor and his men come to the rescue, killing Leonard and arresting Vandamm in the process. Roger and Eve return to New York as man and wife, sentimentally taking the train.

Cast

Cary Grant

Roger Thornhill

Eva Marie Saint

Eve Kendall

James Mason

Phillip Vandamm

Jessie Royce Landis

Clara Thornhill

Leo G. Carroll

Professor

Josephine Hutchinson

Vandamm's sister, also known as Mrs. Townsend

Philip Ober

Lester Townsend

Martin Landau

Leonard

Adam Williams

Valerian

Edward Platt

Victor Larrabee

Robert Ellenstein

Licht

Les Tremayne

Auctioneer

Philip Coolidge

Dr. Cross

Patrick Mcvey

Chicago policeman

Edward Binns

Capt. Junket

Ken Lynch

Chicago policeman

Alfred Hitchcock

Man rushing toward bus

John Beradino

Sgt. Emile Klinger

Nora Marlowe

Housekeeper

Doreen Lang

Maggie

Alexander Lockwood

Judge Anson B. Flynn

Stanley Adams

Lt. Harding

Lawrence Dobkin

Cartoonist

Harvey Stephens

Stockbroker

Walter Coy

Reporter

Madge Kennedy

Housewife, also known as Mrs. Finlay

Tommy Farrell

Starter

Jimmy Cross

Taxi driver

Baynes Barron

Taxi driver

Frank Marlowe

Taxi driver

Harry Seymour

Captain of waiters

Frank Wilcox

Weltner

Robert Shayne

Larry Wade

Carleton Young

Fanning Nelson

Ralph Reed

Bellboy

Paul Genge

Lt. Hagerman

Robert B. Williams

Patrolman Waggonner

Maudie Prickett

Maid

James Mccallion

Valet

Doris Singh

Indian girl

Sally Fraser

Girl attendant

Maura Mcgiveney

Girl attendant

Susan Whitney

Girl attendant

Ned Glass

Agent

Howard Negley

Conductor

Jack Daly

Steward

Tol Avery

Detective

Tom Greenway

Detective

Ernest Anderson

Porter

Andy Albin

Farmer

Carl Milletaire

Clerk

Olan Soule

Assistant auctioneer

John Damler

Police lieutenant

Len Hendry

Police lieutenant

Sara Berner

Telephone operator

Wilson Wood

Photographer

Bobby Johnson

Waiter

Taggart Casey

Man with razor

Bill Catching

Attendant

Dale Van Sickel

Ranger

Harry Strang

Assistant conductor

Patricia Cutts

Hospital patient

Jesslyn Fox

Helen Spring

Lucile Curtis

Anne Anderson

Malcolm Atterbury

Sid Kane

Hugh Pryor

Charles Postal

Photo Collections

North by Northwest - Lobby Card Set
Here is a set of Lobby Cards from North by Northwest (1959). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
North by Northwest - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are several behind-the-scenes photos taken during the shooting of North by Northwest (1959). Look for director Alfred Hitchcock and stars Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, and James Mason.

Videos

Movie Clip

North By Northwest (1959) - More Polished Than The Others Snatched from a Manhattan restaurant to a Long Island mansion, Thornhill (Cary Grant) is interrogated by James Mason, whom he presumes is Townsend, and who insists he must be Kaplan, with henchman Martin Landau, nothing clear, in Alfred Hitchcock’s North By Northwest, 1959.
North By Northwest (1959) - Where There Ain't No Crops Sent to an empty farm field in hopes of finally meeting the elusive Kaplan, Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) gets no result, even from a passing farmer (Andy Albin), leading to the famous crop-dusting sequence devised by director Alfred Hitchcock and screenwriter Ernest Lehman, in North By Northwest, 1959.
North By Northwest (1959) - It's A Nice Face Wearing shades to evade a nationwide manhunt, Thornhill (Cary Grant) on the 20th Century Limited is guided to Eve (Eva Marie Saint) in the dining car, whom he met earlier, launching a celebrated provocative dialogue piece by screenwriter Ernest Lehman, in Alfred Hitchcock’s North By Northwest, 1959.
North By Northwest (1959) - Take Me To The United Nations With his mother (Jessie Royce Landis) at the Plaza, Thornhill (Cary Grant), evades the same thugs (Adam Williams, Robert Allenstein) who abducted him, then races to Alfred Hitchcock’s mocked-up U-N, unhappy to learn that Townsend (Philip Ober) isn’t James Mason, in North By Northwest, 1959.
North By Northwest (1959) - No Such Thing As A Lie One of designer Saul Bass’ best-known openings, Bernard Hermann’s music highlighting, then the director’s cameo, as Cary Grant and Doreen Lang (as ad-man Roger Thornhill and secretary Maggie) fly into Ernest Lehman’s original screenplay, in Alfred Hitchcock’s North By Northwest, 1959.

Trailer

Hosted Intro

Film Details

Also Known As
Breathless, In a North West Direction, In a Northwesterly Direction, The CIA Story, The Man on Lincoln's Nose
Genre
Adventure
Mystery
Thriller
Spy
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Jul 1959
Premiere Information
World premiere in Chicago: week of 9 Jul 1959
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Long Island, New York, USA; New York City, New York, USA; Chicago, Illinois, USA; South Dakota, USA; MGM Studios, Los Angeles, California, USA; Mount Rushmore, South Dakota, USA; Chicago, Illinois, United States; Chicago, IL, United States; New York City, New York, United States; New York City, NY, United States; New York City, New York, United States; Rapid City, South Dakota, United States; Rapid City, SD, United States; Wasco, California, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 16m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.66 : 1
Film Length
12,256ft (16 reels)

Award Nominations

Best Art Direction

1959

Best Editing

1959
George Tomasini

Best Writing, Screenplay

1960

Articles

North by Northwest - The Essentials - NORTH BY NORTHWEST


SYNOPSIS

Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant), a successful New York advertising executive, is implicated in a murder at the United Nations and is forced to flee. He is soon captured by a spy ring who are convinced he is George Kaplan, a U.S. agent who is in possession of a top-secret microfilm. After a bungled attempt on his life by his captors, Thornhill goes to the police but they don't believe his story. In an attempt to discover who the real George Kaplan is, Thornhill embarks on his own cross-country investigation, while being pursued by both spies and government agents. The only person who appears willing to help him is a cool, mysterious blonde (Eva Marie Saint) he meets along the way.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Producers: Alfred Hitchcock, Herbert Coleman
Screenplay: Ernest Lehman
Cinematography: Robert Burks
Music: Bernard Herrmann
Art Direction: William A. Horning, Merrill Pye
Cast: Cary Grant (Roger O. Thornhill/George Kaplan), Eva Marie Saint (Eve Kendall), James Mason (Phillip Vandamm), Jessie Royce Landis (Clara Thornhill), Leo G. Carroll (The Professor), Martin Landau (Leonard), Philip Ober (Lester Townsend).
C-136m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning. Descriptive Video.

Why NORTH BY NORTHWEST is Essential

Alfred Hitchcock's North By Northwest (1959) is one of those rare films that expertly encapsulates all the favorite plot devices and themes that have marked a film director's entire career. It has an ordinary man thrust into extraordinary circumstances, a glamorous but enigmatic blonde, an array of sophisticated and diabolically cunning villains, and the expected cameo appearance by the director. The plot is also a distillation of the best espionage film cliches while displaying an ingrained fear of the police and American institutions like the U.S. government. North By Northwest is exactly what screenwriter Ernest Lehman intended; "the Hitchcock picture to end all Hitchcock pictures."

At the time of the film's release, Hitchcock was at the peak of his popularity with American audiences, mainly due to his weekly presence in American homes via the hit television series, Alfred Hitchcock Presents. He capitalized on this popularity by delivering a motion picture brimming with his trademark suspense, humor, and glamour that are still the measuring stick for chase thrillers.

The studio, however, wasn't quite so appreciative. They wanted to cut the film thinking that at 136 minutes it was too long. But Hitchcock's contract prevented that, and he insisted that some of what they were trying to cut was in fact vital to the film.

James Stewart, a veteran of four Hitchcock pictures, lobbied hard for the lead role in North By Northwest. But Hitchcock, while he admired his friend and frequent lead actor, did not envision Stewart as the dashing Roger Thornhill in North By Northwest. Hitchcock was able to stall Stewart long enough until the actor was forced to start work on Bell, Book and Candle (1958) for Columbia Pictures. Besides, Hitchcock didn't have the heart to tell Stewart that he had Grant in mind all along.

Cary Grant earned a nice chunk of change for his part in North By Northwest. On top of his base salary of $450,000, Grant also earned the same profit percentage as Alfred Hitchcock, plus an extra $5,000 per day beginning seven weeks after the contract was signed and continuing until the production was complete. Those seven weeks expired before shooting even began, so Grant's bank account swelled by the end of principal photography. It was Grant's fourth and final Hitchcock film and the actor brought his usual debonair charm and a genuine sense of confusion and bewilderment to the part. During shooting Grant said to Hitchcock, "It's a terrible script. We've already done a third of the picture and I still can't make head or tail of it." The comment greatly amused Hitchcock because, far from being a flaw, it perfectly reflected what Grant's character was feeling as well.

For the female lead, MGM tried to force Hitchcock to accept Cyd Charisse, who was under contract at the time. The idea of the attractive and talented actress as the duplicitous Eve Kendall seemed plausible, but Hitchcock wasn't interested. Meanwhile, Cary Grant wanted Italian sensation Sophia Loren, whom he had become quite smitten with while working on a previous film together, Houseboat (1958). Hitchcock surprised everyone by insisting on Eva Marie Saint. Starting with her Oscar®-winning role in On the Waterfront (1954), Saint had developed a "plain Jane" image in her choice of screen characters. Why Hitchcock thought she could sufficiently portray a sexy female spy baffled many. But Hitchcock loved the challenge of molding Saint into his idea of the mysterious blonde heroine. Just as Scottie Ferguson (James Stewart) molded Judy Barton's (Kim Novak) appearance in Vertigo (1958), Hitchcock personally supervised every aspect of Eva Marie Saint's transformation into Eve Kendall. "I watched every hair on her head," Hitchcock said about the wardrobe and pre-production tests. MGM commissioned two sets of wardrobe for Saint, both of which Hitchcock rejected because the clothes made Saint look like a "waif." Instead, Hitchcock took Saint on a shopping spree to Bergdorf Goodman's in New York City and bought the character's wardrobe right off the rack. By the way, see if you can read Saint's lips during her line "I never discuss love on an empty stomach" since the audio was supposedly dubbed over the original line "I never make love on an empty stomach."

Veteran scene-stealer Jessie Royce Landis landed the showy role of Cary Grant's mother. Her casting is peculiarly amusing in light of her age: she was less than a year younger than Grant. Some sources incorrectly list her as two years older than Grant.

While the story covers a wide span of the United States, filming was mostly brief location shots and extensive studio work. Hitchcock and cast started in New York in August 1958. A hidden camera was used to film Grant entering the United Nations building but they weren't able to film in the real UN lobby because it had been used somewhat inappropriately in an earlier film and all movies were forbidden there. Instead they filmed on a studio set that had been recreated as accurately as possible. (Hitchcock had gone through the real lobby with a still photographer while pretending to be a tourist and getting numerous snapshots.) The director ran into a similar problem at Mount Rushmore. The Department of Interior-which operates the monument-not only wouldn't allow filming on the actual sculpture but they also wouldn't give permission for actors to crawl over a reproduction either. A compromise was reached where the actors went between the faces instead of over them, but except for a few exteriors the whole Mount Rushmore scene was filmed at the MGM studios. (Perhaps it's a good thing that Hitchcock gave up his plan to have one of the characters erupt in a sneezing fit while hiding in a statue nose.)

The famous scene of Cary Grant being chased through a cornfield by a crop duster is an example of Hitchcock at his best. It came about because he had noticed that when most directors try to make a suspenseful scene they use tight alleyways, shadows barely visible through the gloom and the slow building tension of the approaching menace. So Hitchcock did exactly the opposite: full daylight, completely open space and a very fast machine. Similarly, most directors gradually shorten each individual shot in such a scene as a way of increasing the tension, but Hitchcock kept his shots fairly uniform so that a viewer gets a better idea of how far and where Grant is running. The finished scene lasts around seven minutes with no dialogue and is as remarkable as the shower scene he devised for Psycho a year later.

The studio, however, wasn't quite so appreciative. They wanted to cut the film thinking that at 136 minutes it was too long. But Hitchcock's contract prevented that, and he insisted that some of what they were trying to cut was in fact vital to the film.

On release, North By Northwest proved Hitchcock knew what he was doing, when it turned out to be a big hit, breaking records at Radio City Music Hall and going on to become the sixth highest grossing film for 1959 (tied with Anatomy of a Murder) which made up for the commercial disappointment of Vertigo. The New York Times and National Board of Review chose it as one of the ten best films of the year. There were three Oscar® nominations for Best Editing, Best Art Direction and for Ernest Lehman for Best Original Screenplay. (Years later, Lehman would work with Hitchcock on Family Plot (1976), one of Hitchcock's biggest commercial successes, and another script that was never filmed.)

By Scott McGee, Jeff Stafford & Lang Thompson
North By Northwest - The Essentials - North By Northwest

North by Northwest - The Essentials - NORTH BY NORTHWEST

SYNOPSIS Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant), a successful New York advertising executive, is implicated in a murder at the United Nations and is forced to flee. He is soon captured by a spy ring who are convinced he is George Kaplan, a U.S. agent who is in possession of a top-secret microfilm. After a bungled attempt on his life by his captors, Thornhill goes to the police but they don't believe his story. In an attempt to discover who the real George Kaplan is, Thornhill embarks on his own cross-country investigation, while being pursued by both spies and government agents. The only person who appears willing to help him is a cool, mysterious blonde (Eva Marie Saint) he meets along the way. Director: Alfred Hitchcock Producers: Alfred Hitchcock, Herbert Coleman Screenplay: Ernest Lehman Cinematography: Robert Burks Music: Bernard Herrmann Art Direction: William A. Horning, Merrill Pye Cast: Cary Grant (Roger O. Thornhill/George Kaplan), Eva Marie Saint (Eve Kendall), James Mason (Phillip Vandamm), Jessie Royce Landis (Clara Thornhill), Leo G. Carroll (The Professor), Martin Landau (Leonard), Philip Ober (Lester Townsend). C-136m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning. Descriptive Video. Why NORTH BY NORTHWEST is Essential Alfred Hitchcock's North By Northwest (1959) is one of those rare films that expertly encapsulates all the favorite plot devices and themes that have marked a film director's entire career. It has an ordinary man thrust into extraordinary circumstances, a glamorous but enigmatic blonde, an array of sophisticated and diabolically cunning villains, and the expected cameo appearance by the director. The plot is also a distillation of the best espionage film cliches while displaying an ingrained fear of the police and American institutions like the U.S. government. North By Northwest is exactly what screenwriter Ernest Lehman intended; "the Hitchcock picture to end all Hitchcock pictures." At the time of the film's release, Hitchcock was at the peak of his popularity with American audiences, mainly due to his weekly presence in American homes via the hit television series, Alfred Hitchcock Presents. He capitalized on this popularity by delivering a motion picture brimming with his trademark suspense, humor, and glamour that are still the measuring stick for chase thrillers. The studio, however, wasn't quite so appreciative. They wanted to cut the film thinking that at 136 minutes it was too long. But Hitchcock's contract prevented that, and he insisted that some of what they were trying to cut was in fact vital to the film. James Stewart, a veteran of four Hitchcock pictures, lobbied hard for the lead role in North By Northwest. But Hitchcock, while he admired his friend and frequent lead actor, did not envision Stewart as the dashing Roger Thornhill in North By Northwest. Hitchcock was able to stall Stewart long enough until the actor was forced to start work on Bell, Book and Candle (1958) for Columbia Pictures. Besides, Hitchcock didn't have the heart to tell Stewart that he had Grant in mind all along. Cary Grant earned a nice chunk of change for his part in North By Northwest. On top of his base salary of $450,000, Grant also earned the same profit percentage as Alfred Hitchcock, plus an extra $5,000 per day beginning seven weeks after the contract was signed and continuing until the production was complete. Those seven weeks expired before shooting even began, so Grant's bank account swelled by the end of principal photography. It was Grant's fourth and final Hitchcock film and the actor brought his usual debonair charm and a genuine sense of confusion and bewilderment to the part. During shooting Grant said to Hitchcock, "It's a terrible script. We've already done a third of the picture and I still can't make head or tail of it." The comment greatly amused Hitchcock because, far from being a flaw, it perfectly reflected what Grant's character was feeling as well. For the female lead, MGM tried to force Hitchcock to accept Cyd Charisse, who was under contract at the time. The idea of the attractive and talented actress as the duplicitous Eve Kendall seemed plausible, but Hitchcock wasn't interested. Meanwhile, Cary Grant wanted Italian sensation Sophia Loren, whom he had become quite smitten with while working on a previous film together, Houseboat (1958). Hitchcock surprised everyone by insisting on Eva Marie Saint. Starting with her Oscar®-winning role in On the Waterfront (1954), Saint had developed a "plain Jane" image in her choice of screen characters. Why Hitchcock thought she could sufficiently portray a sexy female spy baffled many. But Hitchcock loved the challenge of molding Saint into his idea of the mysterious blonde heroine. Just as Scottie Ferguson (James Stewart) molded Judy Barton's (Kim Novak) appearance in Vertigo (1958), Hitchcock personally supervised every aspect of Eva Marie Saint's transformation into Eve Kendall. "I watched every hair on her head," Hitchcock said about the wardrobe and pre-production tests. MGM commissioned two sets of wardrobe for Saint, both of which Hitchcock rejected because the clothes made Saint look like a "waif." Instead, Hitchcock took Saint on a shopping spree to Bergdorf Goodman's in New York City and bought the character's wardrobe right off the rack. By the way, see if you can read Saint's lips during her line "I never discuss love on an empty stomach" since the audio was supposedly dubbed over the original line "I never make love on an empty stomach." Veteran scene-stealer Jessie Royce Landis landed the showy role of Cary Grant's mother. Her casting is peculiarly amusing in light of her age: she was less than a year younger than Grant. Some sources incorrectly list her as two years older than Grant. While the story covers a wide span of the United States, filming was mostly brief location shots and extensive studio work. Hitchcock and cast started in New York in August 1958. A hidden camera was used to film Grant entering the United Nations building but they weren't able to film in the real UN lobby because it had been used somewhat inappropriately in an earlier film and all movies were forbidden there. Instead they filmed on a studio set that had been recreated as accurately as possible. (Hitchcock had gone through the real lobby with a still photographer while pretending to be a tourist and getting numerous snapshots.) The director ran into a similar problem at Mount Rushmore. The Department of Interior-which operates the monument-not only wouldn't allow filming on the actual sculpture but they also wouldn't give permission for actors to crawl over a reproduction either. A compromise was reached where the actors went between the faces instead of over them, but except for a few exteriors the whole Mount Rushmore scene was filmed at the MGM studios. (Perhaps it's a good thing that Hitchcock gave up his plan to have one of the characters erupt in a sneezing fit while hiding in a statue nose.) The famous scene of Cary Grant being chased through a cornfield by a crop duster is an example of Hitchcock at his best. It came about because he had noticed that when most directors try to make a suspenseful scene they use tight alleyways, shadows barely visible through the gloom and the slow building tension of the approaching menace. So Hitchcock did exactly the opposite: full daylight, completely open space and a very fast machine. Similarly, most directors gradually shorten each individual shot in such a scene as a way of increasing the tension, but Hitchcock kept his shots fairly uniform so that a viewer gets a better idea of how far and where Grant is running. The finished scene lasts around seven minutes with no dialogue and is as remarkable as the shower scene he devised for Psycho a year later. The studio, however, wasn't quite so appreciative. They wanted to cut the film thinking that at 136 minutes it was too long. But Hitchcock's contract prevented that, and he insisted that some of what they were trying to cut was in fact vital to the film. On release, North By Northwest proved Hitchcock knew what he was doing, when it turned out to be a big hit, breaking records at Radio City Music Hall and going on to become the sixth highest grossing film for 1959 (tied with Anatomy of a Murder) which made up for the commercial disappointment of Vertigo. The New York Times and National Board of Review chose it as one of the ten best films of the year. There were three Oscar® nominations for Best Editing, Best Art Direction and for Ernest Lehman for Best Original Screenplay. (Years later, Lehman would work with Hitchcock on Family Plot (1976), one of Hitchcock's biggest commercial successes, and another script that was never filmed.) By Scott McGee, Jeff Stafford & Lang Thompson

Pop Culture (4/2 & 9/17) - NORTH BY NORTHWEST


Pop Culture 101 - NORTH BY NORTHWEST

Hitchcock received a great deal of attention for filming in and around famous places, like the United Nations and Mt. Rushmore. But anyone familiar with Hitchcock's work at the time would have pointed out that he was simply following tradition. For his first sound feature, Blackmail (1929), Hitchcock had his principal characters climbing all over the British Museum, while later on in The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), Albert Hall in Great Britain was the setting for the hair-raising denouement. In Saboteur (1942), the hero ends up hanging off the Statue of Liberty.

North By Northwest has been hugely influential in popular culture since its release in 1959. The international espionage coupled with exciting set pieces, widescreen color photography, and on-location shooting helped inspire the look of the James Bond series, starting with Dr. No in 1962. More recently, overt hints of the famed crop duster sequence was seen in The X-Files: Fight the Future (1998), when FBI agents Mulder and Scully are chased through a cornfield by two menacing helicopters. Robert Towne's screenplay for director John Woo's Mission: Impossible II (2000) borrowed heavily from both North By Northwest and Hitchcock's Notorious (1946).

Over dinner one night, Hitchcock related to Ernest Lehman his giddy enthusiasm for what North By Northwest is really about. He said, "Ernie, do you realize what we're doing in this picture? The audience is like a giant organ that you and I are playing. At one moment we play this note on them and get this reaction, and then we play that chord and they react that way. And someday we won't even have to make a movie---there'll be electrodes implanted in their brains, and we'll just press different buttons and they'll go 'ooooh' and 'aaaah'' and we'll frighten them, and make them laugh. Won't that be wonderful?"

by Scott McGee

Pop Culture (4/2 & 9/17) - NORTH BY NORTHWEST

Pop Culture 101 - NORTH BY NORTHWEST Hitchcock received a great deal of attention for filming in and around famous places, like the United Nations and Mt. Rushmore. But anyone familiar with Hitchcock's work at the time would have pointed out that he was simply following tradition. For his first sound feature, Blackmail (1929), Hitchcock had his principal characters climbing all over the British Museum, while later on in The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), Albert Hall in Great Britain was the setting for the hair-raising denouement. In Saboteur (1942), the hero ends up hanging off the Statue of Liberty. North By Northwest has been hugely influential in popular culture since its release in 1959. The international espionage coupled with exciting set pieces, widescreen color photography, and on-location shooting helped inspire the look of the James Bond series, starting with Dr. No in 1962. More recently, overt hints of the famed crop duster sequence was seen in The X-Files: Fight the Future (1998), when FBI agents Mulder and Scully are chased through a cornfield by two menacing helicopters. Robert Towne's screenplay for director John Woo's Mission: Impossible II (2000) borrowed heavily from both North By Northwest and Hitchcock's Notorious (1946). Over dinner one night, Hitchcock related to Ernest Lehman his giddy enthusiasm for what North By Northwest is really about. He said, "Ernie, do you realize what we're doing in this picture? The audience is like a giant organ that you and I are playing. At one moment we play this note on them and get this reaction, and then we play that chord and they react that way. And someday we won't even have to make a movie---there'll be electrodes implanted in their brains, and we'll just press different buttons and they'll go 'ooooh' and 'aaaah'' and we'll frighten them, and make them laugh. Won't that be wonderful?" by Scott McGee

Trivia (4/2 & 9/17) - NORTH BY NORTHWEST


Trivia & Other Fun Stuff

North By Northwest was completed on a budget of $4 million dollars, which upset the MGM brass since the flick was supposed to cost less than $3 million. After its record-breaking engagement at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, the film went on to net a profit of $6.5 million in North America alone. It became the sixth highest grossing film for 1959 (tied with Anatomy of a Murder) which made up for the commercial disappointment of Vertigo.

North By Northwest went through a few interesting title changes during the script development. It was known at various times as Breathless, The Man in Lincoln's Nose, and In a Northwesterly Direction. MGM story editor Kenneth MacKenna suggested the final title. Some believe that the title is derived from a line in Hamlet: "I am but mad north-northwest," a line the title character uses to convince people of his sanity.

North By Northwest is the culmination of one of Hitchcock's favorite plot devices, of concluding the plot with a hair-raising fall from a great height. The proof is in the pudding: Murder! (1930), Jamaica Inn (1939), Foreign Correspondent (1940), Saboteur (1942), Rear Window (1954), and Vertigo (1958) are all marked by people plunging from high places.

Can you spot Hitchcock in his traditional cameo in North By Northwest? Hint: Hitchcock did not want audiences distracted from the complex plot, so he placed his cameo at the beginning of the film, just as his directorial credit rolls across the screen. Hitch, as his friends and associates called him, is the poor guy who misses the bus!

Roger Thornhill explains to Eve Kendall that his middle initial, "O", stands for nothing. This bit of dialogue is probably a joke at the expense of Hitchcock's former boss, famed Hollywood independent producer, David O. Selznick, whose middle initial stood for nothing. Hitchcock poked fun at Selznick in Rear Window, by making the villain bear more than a passing resemblance to Selznick.

Prior to shooting the scene where he hides in the upper berth in Eva Marie Saint's train compartment, Grant took a look at the set and felt it was poorly constructed. He demanded that it be rebuilt and Hitchcock obliged, trusting his judgment completely.

Look closely just before Eve Kendall shoots Roger Thornhill: you'll see a little boy in the background plug his fingers into his ears before Eve fires her gun. This is a rare instance where Hitchcock's omniscient eye missed a minor detail.

Hitchcock reportedly wanted to film Grant having a sneezing fit inside Lincoln's nostril.

Fifteen years after North By Northwest, Ernest Lehman and Alfred Hitchcock reunited for Family Plot (1976), Hitchcock's last film. They also collaborated on a script for an unrealized project calledThe Short Night, just before Hitchcock's death in 1980.

By Scott McGee

Famous Quotes from NORTH BY NORTHWEST

Roger Thornhill: And what the devil is all this about? Why was I brought here?
Phillip Vandamm: Games, must we?
Roger Thornhill: Not that I mind a slight case of abduction now and then, but I have tickets for the theater this evening, to a show I was looking forward to and I get, well, kind of *unreasonable* about things like that.
Phillip Vandamm: With such expert playacting, you make this very room a theater.

Roger Thornhill: No. No, Mother, I have not been drinking. No. No. These two men, they poured a whole bottle of bourbon into me. No, they didn't give me a chaser.

Phillip Vandamm: Has anyone ever told you that you overplay your various roles rather severely, Mr. Kaplan?

Man at Prairie Crossing: That's funny, that plane's dustin' crops where there ain't no crops.

Roger Thornhill: In the world of advertising, there's no such thing as a lie. There's only the expedient exaggeration.

Clara Thornhill: You men aren't REALLY trying to kill my son, are you?

Eve Kendall: It's going to be a long night.
Roger Thornhill: True.
Eve Kendall: And I don't particularly like the book I've started.
Roger Thornhill: Ah.
Eve Kendall: You know what I mean?
Roger Thornhill: Ah, let me think. Yes, I know exactly what you mean.

Eve Kendall: Roger O. Thornhill. What does the O stand for?
Roger Thornhill: Nothing.

Eve Kendall: How do I know you aren't a murderer?
Roger Thornhill: You don't.
Eve Kendall: Maybe you're planning to murder me right here, tonight.
Roger Thornhill: Shall I?
Eve Kendall: Please do.

Philip Vandamm: What possessed you to come blundering in here like this? Could it be an overpowering interest in art?
Roger Thornhill: Yes, the art of survival.
Eve Kendall: He followed me here from the hotel.
Leonard: He was in your room?
Roger Thornhill: Sure. Isn't everybody?

Philip Vandamm: This matter is best disposed of from a great height, over water.

Roger Thornhill: How does a girl like you get to be a girl like you?

Roger Thornhill: I didn't realize you were an art collector. I thought you just collected corpses.

Roger Thornhill: The only performance that will satisfy you is when I play dead.
Phillip Vandamm: Your very next role. You'll be quite convincing, I assure you.

Phillip Vandamm: That wasn't very sporting, using real bullets.

Roger Thornhill: I'm an advertising man, not a red herring. I've got a job, a secretary, a mother, two ex-wives and several bartenders dependent upon me, and I don't intend to disappoint them all by getting myself slightly killed.

Compiled by Scott McGee

Trivia (4/2 & 9/17) - NORTH BY NORTHWEST

Trivia & Other Fun Stuff North By Northwest was completed on a budget of $4 million dollars, which upset the MGM brass since the flick was supposed to cost less than $3 million. After its record-breaking engagement at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, the film went on to net a profit of $6.5 million in North America alone. It became the sixth highest grossing film for 1959 (tied with Anatomy of a Murder) which made up for the commercial disappointment of Vertigo. North By Northwest went through a few interesting title changes during the script development. It was known at various times as Breathless, The Man in Lincoln's Nose, and In a Northwesterly Direction. MGM story editor Kenneth MacKenna suggested the final title. Some believe that the title is derived from a line in Hamlet: "I am but mad north-northwest," a line the title character uses to convince people of his sanity. North By Northwest is the culmination of one of Hitchcock's favorite plot devices, of concluding the plot with a hair-raising fall from a great height. The proof is in the pudding: Murder! (1930), Jamaica Inn (1939), Foreign Correspondent (1940), Saboteur (1942), Rear Window (1954), and Vertigo (1958) are all marked by people plunging from high places. Can you spot Hitchcock in his traditional cameo in North By Northwest? Hint: Hitchcock did not want audiences distracted from the complex plot, so he placed his cameo at the beginning of the film, just as his directorial credit rolls across the screen. Hitch, as his friends and associates called him, is the poor guy who misses the bus! Roger Thornhill explains to Eve Kendall that his middle initial, "O", stands for nothing. This bit of dialogue is probably a joke at the expense of Hitchcock's former boss, famed Hollywood independent producer, David O. Selznick, whose middle initial stood for nothing. Hitchcock poked fun at Selznick in Rear Window, by making the villain bear more than a passing resemblance to Selznick. Prior to shooting the scene where he hides in the upper berth in Eva Marie Saint's train compartment, Grant took a look at the set and felt it was poorly constructed. He demanded that it be rebuilt and Hitchcock obliged, trusting his judgment completely. Look closely just before Eve Kendall shoots Roger Thornhill: you'll see a little boy in the background plug his fingers into his ears before Eve fires her gun. This is a rare instance where Hitchcock's omniscient eye missed a minor detail. Hitchcock reportedly wanted to film Grant having a sneezing fit inside Lincoln's nostril. Fifteen years after North By Northwest, Ernest Lehman and Alfred Hitchcock reunited for Family Plot (1976), Hitchcock's last film. They also collaborated on a script for an unrealized project calledThe Short Night, just before Hitchcock's death in 1980. By Scott McGee Famous Quotes from NORTH BY NORTHWEST Roger Thornhill: And what the devil is all this about? Why was I brought here? Phillip Vandamm: Games, must we? Roger Thornhill: Not that I mind a slight case of abduction now and then, but I have tickets for the theater this evening, to a show I was looking forward to and I get, well, kind of *unreasonable* about things like that. Phillip Vandamm: With such expert playacting, you make this very room a theater. Roger Thornhill: No. No, Mother, I have not been drinking. No. No. These two men, they poured a whole bottle of bourbon into me. No, they didn't give me a chaser. Phillip Vandamm: Has anyone ever told you that you overplay your various roles rather severely, Mr. Kaplan? Man at Prairie Crossing: That's funny, that plane's dustin' crops where there ain't no crops. Roger Thornhill: In the world of advertising, there's no such thing as a lie. There's only the expedient exaggeration. Clara Thornhill: You men aren't REALLY trying to kill my son, are you? Eve Kendall: It's going to be a long night. Roger Thornhill: True. Eve Kendall: And I don't particularly like the book I've started. Roger Thornhill: Ah. Eve Kendall: You know what I mean? Roger Thornhill: Ah, let me think. Yes, I know exactly what you mean. Eve Kendall: Roger O. Thornhill. What does the O stand for? Roger Thornhill: Nothing. Eve Kendall: How do I know you aren't a murderer? Roger Thornhill: You don't. Eve Kendall: Maybe you're planning to murder me right here, tonight. Roger Thornhill: Shall I? Eve Kendall: Please do. Philip Vandamm: What possessed you to come blundering in here like this? Could it be an overpowering interest in art? Roger Thornhill: Yes, the art of survival. Eve Kendall: He followed me here from the hotel. Leonard: He was in your room? Roger Thornhill: Sure. Isn't everybody? Philip Vandamm: This matter is best disposed of from a great height, over water. Roger Thornhill: How does a girl like you get to be a girl like you? Roger Thornhill: I didn't realize you were an art collector. I thought you just collected corpses. Roger Thornhill: The only performance that will satisfy you is when I play dead. Phillip Vandamm: Your very next role. You'll be quite convincing, I assure you. Phillip Vandamm: That wasn't very sporting, using real bullets. Roger Thornhill: I'm an advertising man, not a red herring. I've got a job, a secretary, a mother, two ex-wives and several bartenders dependent upon me, and I don't intend to disappoint them all by getting myself slightly killed. Compiled by Scott McGee

The Big Idea (4/2 & 9/17) - NORTH BY NORTHWEST


The Big Idea Behind NORTH BY NORTHWEST

North By Northwest made its way from script to screen in a rather roundabout way. Alfred Hitchcock and screenwriter Ernest Lehman were under contract to MGM to adapt The Wreck of the Mary Deare, based on Hammond Innes's maritime mystery novel. But Lehman had more than a few issues regarding his involvement in the project, and he approached Hitchcock with a strong suggestion that he quit the project. Unperturbed, Hitchcock said, "Don't be silly, Ernie. We get along so well together, we'll simply do something else." Lehman liked the idea, but still fretted on what to tell the MGM brass. Hitchcock smiled and said, "We won't tell them anything." For weeks, Hitchcock and his young screenwriter talked about food, fine wines, the latest scandals and everything but their still-undecided film. Finally, they got around to actually earning the money MGM was paying them every week, but neither one of the filmmakers could agree on a story idea, until Lehman simply said, "I want to do a Hitchcock picture to end all Hitchcock pictures, Hitch." The director was receptive to that idea and wistfully added, "I've always wanted to do a chase sequence across the faces of Mount Rushmore." Thus, the seed for North By Northwest was planted. So while Hitchcock was filming Vertigo (1958) the two would get together and thrash out the script and further plans for a film that was then called In a Northwesterly Direction. (Oddly enough it was also briefly titled Breathless which a year later would be the English title of the debut feature from Jean-Luc Godard, a rabid Hitchcock fan.) The resulting screenplay was tight, balanced and intricate; Hitchcock later told Francois Truffaut that, "In this picture nothing was left to chance." The script also made liberal use of the MacGuffin, Hitchcock's name for a device that keeps the story in motion even though in itself it's practically meaningless. The key MacGuffin in North By Northwest is the secret information sought by James Mason's sinister operation even though we never learn why it matters. This was Hitchcock's personal favorite, one he said had "been boiled down to its purest expression: nothing at all!" By the way, Hitchcock and Lehman never did make The Wreck of the Mary Deare. Michael Anderson ended up directing that one with Gary Cooper and Charlton Heston.

North By Northwest may have been inspired by a famous international espionage case called "The Galindez Affair." Jesus de Galindez was a Spaniard living in exile in New York City in 1956. While earning a living as a teacher at Columbia University, he was preparing a doctoral dissertation on the repressive Trujillo government in the Dominican Republic. Agents from the Trujillo government tried to bribe Galindez in order to prevent the dissertation from being published, but to no avail. On the evening of March 12, 1956, Galindez entered a Manhattan subway and disappeared without a trace. "The Galindez Affair" soon became an item of international interest, even being referred to on several occasions by President Eisenhower in press conferences. After several months though, no new leads appeared in the newspapers and the story ended without a resolution.

It is possible that Hitchcock and Lehman modeled the slightly sinister Leo G. Carroll character, head of the American Intelligence Agency, on John Foster Dulles (Secretary of State from 1953-1959) and his brother, Allen W. Dulles (head of the CIA from 1953-1961). The physical resemblance between Carroll's professor character and the two Dulles brothers is rather startling.

Lehman knew he wanted his hero to be an innocent man, possibly a sports announcer, a newspaperman, an advertising executive, or even a Frank Sinatra-type entertainer, but he couldn't figure out how the hero gets into trouble. Hitchcock ended his dilemma by recalling a story idea a New York newspaperman had once given him at a cocktail party - an idea about some government agency creating a nonexistent decoy agent to throw the villains off the trail of a real government agent. It did not take Lehman and Hitchcock long to concoct a similar phantom agent for their plot purposes.

Alfred Hitchcock, in a celebrated interview with French film critic and director Francois Truffaut, discussed the inspiration behind the famous crop duster attack. Hitchcock said: "I'll tell you how the idea came about. I found I was faced with the old cliché situation: the man who is put on the spot, probably to be shot. Now, how is this usually done? A dark night at a narrow intersection of the city. The waiting victim standing in a pool of light under the street lamp. The cobbles are washed with the recent rains. A close-up of a black cat slinking along against the wall of a house. A shot of a window, with a furtive face pulling back the curtain to look out. The slow approach of a black limousine, et cetera, et cetera. Now, what was the antithesis of a scene like this? No darkness, no pool of light, no mysterious figures in windows. Just nothing. Just bright sunshine and a blank, open countryside with barely a house or tree in which any lurking menaces could hide."

By Scott McGee & Lang Thompson

The Big Idea (4/2 & 9/17) - NORTH BY NORTHWEST

The Big Idea Behind NORTH BY NORTHWEST North By Northwest made its way from script to screen in a rather roundabout way. Alfred Hitchcock and screenwriter Ernest Lehman were under contract to MGM to adapt The Wreck of the Mary Deare, based on Hammond Innes's maritime mystery novel. But Lehman had more than a few issues regarding his involvement in the project, and he approached Hitchcock with a strong suggestion that he quit the project. Unperturbed, Hitchcock said, "Don't be silly, Ernie. We get along so well together, we'll simply do something else." Lehman liked the idea, but still fretted on what to tell the MGM brass. Hitchcock smiled and said, "We won't tell them anything." For weeks, Hitchcock and his young screenwriter talked about food, fine wines, the latest scandals and everything but their still-undecided film. Finally, they got around to actually earning the money MGM was paying them every week, but neither one of the filmmakers could agree on a story idea, until Lehman simply said, "I want to do a Hitchcock picture to end all Hitchcock pictures, Hitch." The director was receptive to that idea and wistfully added, "I've always wanted to do a chase sequence across the faces of Mount Rushmore." Thus, the seed for North By Northwest was planted. So while Hitchcock was filming Vertigo (1958) the two would get together and thrash out the script and further plans for a film that was then called In a Northwesterly Direction. (Oddly enough it was also briefly titled Breathless which a year later would be the English title of the debut feature from Jean-Luc Godard, a rabid Hitchcock fan.) The resulting screenplay was tight, balanced and intricate; Hitchcock later told Francois Truffaut that, "In this picture nothing was left to chance." The script also made liberal use of the MacGuffin, Hitchcock's name for a device that keeps the story in motion even though in itself it's practically meaningless. The key MacGuffin in North By Northwest is the secret information sought by James Mason's sinister operation even though we never learn why it matters. This was Hitchcock's personal favorite, one he said had "been boiled down to its purest expression: nothing at all!" By the way, Hitchcock and Lehman never did make The Wreck of the Mary Deare. Michael Anderson ended up directing that one with Gary Cooper and Charlton Heston. North By Northwest may have been inspired by a famous international espionage case called "The Galindez Affair." Jesus de Galindez was a Spaniard living in exile in New York City in 1956. While earning a living as a teacher at Columbia University, he was preparing a doctoral dissertation on the repressive Trujillo government in the Dominican Republic. Agents from the Trujillo government tried to bribe Galindez in order to prevent the dissertation from being published, but to no avail. On the evening of March 12, 1956, Galindez entered a Manhattan subway and disappeared without a trace. "The Galindez Affair" soon became an item of international interest, even being referred to on several occasions by President Eisenhower in press conferences. After several months though, no new leads appeared in the newspapers and the story ended without a resolution. It is possible that Hitchcock and Lehman modeled the slightly sinister Leo G. Carroll character, head of the American Intelligence Agency, on John Foster Dulles (Secretary of State from 1953-1959) and his brother, Allen W. Dulles (head of the CIA from 1953-1961). The physical resemblance between Carroll's professor character and the two Dulles brothers is rather startling. Lehman knew he wanted his hero to be an innocent man, possibly a sports announcer, a newspaperman, an advertising executive, or even a Frank Sinatra-type entertainer, but he couldn't figure out how the hero gets into trouble. Hitchcock ended his dilemma by recalling a story idea a New York newspaperman had once given him at a cocktail party - an idea about some government agency creating a nonexistent decoy agent to throw the villains off the trail of a real government agent. It did not take Lehman and Hitchcock long to concoct a similar phantom agent for their plot purposes. Alfred Hitchcock, in a celebrated interview with French film critic and director Francois Truffaut, discussed the inspiration behind the famous crop duster attack. Hitchcock said: "I'll tell you how the idea came about. I found I was faced with the old cliché situation: the man who is put on the spot, probably to be shot. Now, how is this usually done? A dark night at a narrow intersection of the city. The waiting victim standing in a pool of light under the street lamp. The cobbles are washed with the recent rains. A close-up of a black cat slinking along against the wall of a house. A shot of a window, with a furtive face pulling back the curtain to look out. The slow approach of a black limousine, et cetera, et cetera. Now, what was the antithesis of a scene like this? No darkness, no pool of light, no mysterious figures in windows. Just nothing. Just bright sunshine and a blank, open countryside with barely a house or tree in which any lurking menaces could hide." By Scott McGee & Lang Thompson

Behind the Camera (4/2 & 9/17) - NORTH BY NORTHWEST


Behind the Camera on NORTH BY NORTHWEST

Cary Grant's entrance into the United Nations Building was a bit trickier than it looks on screen. It turns out that it was prohibited to film on the grounds of the U.N. To circumvent this inconvenience, Hitchcock concealed a massive VistaVision camera inside a carpet cleaning truck and filmed Grant getting out of a cab and walking up the steps to the U.N. This establishing master shot includes actual U.N. security officers who were unaware they were being filmed.

The director ran into a similar problem at Mount Rushmore. The Department of Interior-which operates the monument-not only wouldn't allow filming on the actual sculpture but they also wouldn't give permission for actors to crawl over a reproduction. A compromise was reached where the actors went between the faces instead of over them, but except for a few exteriors the whole Mount Rushmore scene was filmed at the MGM studios. (Perhaps it's a good thing that Hitchcock gave up his plan to have one of the characters erupt in a sneezing fit while hiding in a statue nose.)

Hitchcock wanted the story to make a pit stop in Detroit, Michigan, where Roger Thornhill would drop by an automobile plant. As Thornhill and a factory worker discussed the factory foreman, a possible link to the mystery Thornhill was embroiled in, they would walk along the assembly line as a car was put together from the most basic rudimentary parts to the final panel. Then, as the car was to roll off the assembly line ready to drive, the factory worker would open the passenger door and out would roll the body of the foreman they had been discussing. Hitchcock loved the idea, as did Ernest Lehman, but neither one of them could figure out how to plausibly incorporate the scene into the story, so the idea was scrapped.

MGM put a great deal of pressure on Hitchcock to eliminate the scene in the woods, after Eve shoots Roger. MGM felt that it was an unnecessary scene that incurred the needless expense of building the set on a soundstage using 100 ponderosa pines. Hitchcock, however, felt that it was an indispensable scene because it's the first meeting between Roger and Eva since he learned she was a double agent. Hitchcock won out in the end, thanks to his contract that gave him complete artistic control of the picture, regardless of production time or cost.

Although he is best known as the composer of the score for North By Northwest, Bernard Herrmann is really indirectly responsible for the creation of the film; it was Herrmann who first introduced Ernest Lehman to Alfred Hitchcock. Their subsequent collaboration resulted in one of the most famous chase thrillers of all time.

Screenwriter Ernest Lehman took a two-week research trip through New York, the United Nations, Glen Cove, Long Island, the 20th Century Limited, Chicago, the Ambassador East Hotel, and Mount Rushmore in order to convincingly plot his narrative.

By Scott McGee & Lang Thompson

Behind the Camera (4/2 & 9/17) - NORTH BY NORTHWEST

Behind the Camera on NORTH BY NORTHWEST Cary Grant's entrance into the United Nations Building was a bit trickier than it looks on screen. It turns out that it was prohibited to film on the grounds of the U.N. To circumvent this inconvenience, Hitchcock concealed a massive VistaVision camera inside a carpet cleaning truck and filmed Grant getting out of a cab and walking up the steps to the U.N. This establishing master shot includes actual U.N. security officers who were unaware they were being filmed. The director ran into a similar problem at Mount Rushmore. The Department of Interior-which operates the monument-not only wouldn't allow filming on the actual sculpture but they also wouldn't give permission for actors to crawl over a reproduction. A compromise was reached where the actors went between the faces instead of over them, but except for a few exteriors the whole Mount Rushmore scene was filmed at the MGM studios. (Perhaps it's a good thing that Hitchcock gave up his plan to have one of the characters erupt in a sneezing fit while hiding in a statue nose.) Hitchcock wanted the story to make a pit stop in Detroit, Michigan, where Roger Thornhill would drop by an automobile plant. As Thornhill and a factory worker discussed the factory foreman, a possible link to the mystery Thornhill was embroiled in, they would walk along the assembly line as a car was put together from the most basic rudimentary parts to the final panel. Then, as the car was to roll off the assembly line ready to drive, the factory worker would open the passenger door and out would roll the body of the foreman they had been discussing. Hitchcock loved the idea, as did Ernest Lehman, but neither one of them could figure out how to plausibly incorporate the scene into the story, so the idea was scrapped. MGM put a great deal of pressure on Hitchcock to eliminate the scene in the woods, after Eve shoots Roger. MGM felt that it was an unnecessary scene that incurred the needless expense of building the set on a soundstage using 100 ponderosa pines. Hitchcock, however, felt that it was an indispensable scene because it's the first meeting between Roger and Eva since he learned she was a double agent. Hitchcock won out in the end, thanks to his contract that gave him complete artistic control of the picture, regardless of production time or cost. Although he is best known as the composer of the score for North By Northwest, Bernard Herrmann is really indirectly responsible for the creation of the film; it was Herrmann who first introduced Ernest Lehman to Alfred Hitchcock. Their subsequent collaboration resulted in one of the most famous chase thrillers of all time. Screenwriter Ernest Lehman took a two-week research trip through New York, the United Nations, Glen Cove, Long Island, the 20th Century Limited, Chicago, the Ambassador East Hotel, and Mount Rushmore in order to convincingly plot his narrative. By Scott McGee & Lang Thompson

The Critics Corner (4/2 & 9/17) - NORTH BY NORTHWEST


The Critics' Corner on NORTH BY NORTHWEST

Critical reaction to North By Northwest was overwhelmingly positive. It was praised by the critics and public alike as one of Hitchcock's great films and one of the best films of the year. This was a welcome return to positive reviews for Hitchcock, after the confused and often negative reception accorded Vertigo, 1958. (Ironically, the latter is now widely acknowledged as a masterpiece by most film historians and critics.)

Variety declared the crop duster attack sequence "a brilliant use of location," a scene that "would not have one-tenth its effect if done in a studio, no matter how skillfully contrived."

Saturday Review wrote: "Much the best Hitchcock that has come along in some years, and it is probably due to the fact that his situation, this time, has allowed him to indulge his fancy for all sorts of playfully macabre moments. If, by the way, you like to take your suspense straight, the movie has all that's necessary to keep you on the edge of your seat."

The New York Herald Tribune reported that it was "one of the wildest and most entertaining movie marathons of the summer season."

The New York Times said: "A suspenseful and delightful Cook's Tour of some of the more photogenic spots in these United States....It is all done in brisk, genuinely witty and sophisticated style."

"From the glossy '60s-style surface of Saul Bass' credit sequence to Hitchcock's almost audible chortle at his final phallic image, North by Northwest treads a bizarre tightrope between sex and repression, nightmarish thriller and urbane comedy...All in all, an improbable classic." - Helen MacKintosh, TimeOut Film Guide.

"Delightful chase comedy-thriller with a touch of sex, a kind of compendium of its director's best work, with memories of The 39 Steps, Saboteur and Foreign Correspondent among them." - Halliwell's Film & Video Guide.

"Running at over two hours, Hitch is able to pack in many memorable sequences including the famous crop-dusting scene. While each of them excels in intrigue and suspense, he cleverly links them with black humour. Hitch delivers these emotional highs and lows with perfect timing, allowing moments of relief to break out before mounting another crescendo of excitement. The effect is like a grand musical work, conducted with bravura audience manipulation." - Almar Haflidason, BBC.co.uk.

Awards & Honors

Despite all of the praise North By Northwest received, it was overlooked at Academy Award time. While the film did garner nominations for Best Original Screenplay, Editing, and Art Direction, it failed to be nominated for Best Picture, Director, Cinematography, or Score. Given the film's stellar reputation today, it seems inconceivable that it could fail to be nominated for at least Best Picture. But North By Northwest happened to be released during a crowded year, dominated by Ben-Hur (1959), which went on to win eleven Academy Awards. Other competition included The Diary of Anne Frank, The Nun's Story, Some Like It Hot, Anatomy of a Murder, and Room at the Top.

North By Northwest was completed on a budget of $4 million dollars, which upset the MGM brass since the flick was supposed to cost less than $3 million. After its record-breaking engagement at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, the film went on to net a profit of $6.5 million in North America alone. It became the sixth highest grossing film for 1959 (tied with Anatomy of a Murder) which made up for the commercial disappointment of Vertigo.

Compiled by Scott McGee & Jeff Stafford

The Critics Corner (4/2 & 9/17) - NORTH BY NORTHWEST

The Critics' Corner on NORTH BY NORTHWEST Critical reaction to North By Northwest was overwhelmingly positive. It was praised by the critics and public alike as one of Hitchcock's great films and one of the best films of the year. This was a welcome return to positive reviews for Hitchcock, after the confused and often negative reception accorded Vertigo, 1958. (Ironically, the latter is now widely acknowledged as a masterpiece by most film historians and critics.) Variety declared the crop duster attack sequence "a brilliant use of location," a scene that "would not have one-tenth its effect if done in a studio, no matter how skillfully contrived." Saturday Review wrote: "Much the best Hitchcock that has come along in some years, and it is probably due to the fact that his situation, this time, has allowed him to indulge his fancy for all sorts of playfully macabre moments. If, by the way, you like to take your suspense straight, the movie has all that's necessary to keep you on the edge of your seat." The New York Herald Tribune reported that it was "one of the wildest and most entertaining movie marathons of the summer season." The New York Times said: "A suspenseful and delightful Cook's Tour of some of the more photogenic spots in these United States....It is all done in brisk, genuinely witty and sophisticated style." "From the glossy '60s-style surface of Saul Bass' credit sequence to Hitchcock's almost audible chortle at his final phallic image, North by Northwest treads a bizarre tightrope between sex and repression, nightmarish thriller and urbane comedy...All in all, an improbable classic." - Helen MacKintosh, TimeOut Film Guide. "Delightful chase comedy-thriller with a touch of sex, a kind of compendium of its director's best work, with memories of The 39 Steps, Saboteur and Foreign Correspondent among them." - Halliwell's Film & Video Guide. "Running at over two hours, Hitch is able to pack in many memorable sequences including the famous crop-dusting scene. While each of them excels in intrigue and suspense, he cleverly links them with black humour. Hitch delivers these emotional highs and lows with perfect timing, allowing moments of relief to break out before mounting another crescendo of excitement. The effect is like a grand musical work, conducted with bravura audience manipulation." - Almar Haflidason, BBC.co.uk. Awards & Honors Despite all of the praise North By Northwest received, it was overlooked at Academy Award time. While the film did garner nominations for Best Original Screenplay, Editing, and Art Direction, it failed to be nominated for Best Picture, Director, Cinematography, or Score. Given the film's stellar reputation today, it seems inconceivable that it could fail to be nominated for at least Best Picture. But North By Northwest happened to be released during a crowded year, dominated by Ben-Hur (1959), which went on to win eleven Academy Awards. Other competition included The Diary of Anne Frank, The Nun's Story, Some Like It Hot, Anatomy of a Murder, and Room at the Top. North By Northwest was completed on a budget of $4 million dollars, which upset the MGM brass since the flick was supposed to cost less than $3 million. After its record-breaking engagement at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, the film went on to net a profit of $6.5 million in North America alone. It became the sixth highest grossing film for 1959 (tied with Anatomy of a Murder) which made up for the commercial disappointment of Vertigo. Compiled by Scott McGee & Jeff Stafford

North by Northwest


"I want to do a Hitchcock picture to end all Hitchcock pictures" is the comment screenwriter Ernest Lehman made to Alfred Hitchcock one day in 1957. With North by Northwest (1959) the ultimate Hitchcock picture is exactly what they produced. All of Hitchcock's trademark themes are here in the story of an everyday man (Cary Grant) caught up in a swirl of mysterious events (spies chasing microfilm) while being helped by a beautiful blonde (Eva Marie Saint). There's a gripping, imaginative chase scene and the entire film wraps up at an unexpected public landmark (Mount Rushmore).

North by Northwest came into existence when Hitchcock and writer Ernest Lehman hit a brick wall while working on the nautical thriller, The Wreck of the Mary Deare (1959). They messed around for a few weeks while telling the studio the project was going great until one day Lehman thought of creating a pure Hitchcock film. The director could never resist a challenge and immediately clicked with the idea, especially since he'd longed to use Mount Rushmore as a location but never had an appropriate project. So while Hitchcock was filming Vertigo (1958) the two would get together and thrash out the script and further plans for a film that was then called In a Northwesterly Direction. (Oddly enough it was also briefly titled Breathless which a year later would be the English title of the debut feature from Jean-Luc Godard, a rabid Hitchcock fan.) The resulting screenplay was tight, balanced and intricate; Hitchcock later told Francois Truffaut that "In this picture nothing was left to chance." The script also made liberal use of the MacGuffin, Hitchcock's name for a device that keeps the story in motion even though in itself it's practically meaningless. The key MacGuffin in North by Northwest is the secret information sought by James Mason's sinister operation even though we never learn why it matters. This was Hitchcock's personal favorite, one he said had "been boiled down to its purest expression: nothing at all!" By the way, Hitchcock and Lehman never did make The Wreck of the Mary Deare. Michael Anderson ended up directing that one with Gary Cooper and Charlton Heston.

From the beginning, Hitchcock and Lehman planned on casting Cary Grant as their innocent leading man even though James Stewart showed extreme interest in the project despite his ignorance of the plot. (When Stewart left to film Bell, Book and Candle (1958), Hitchcock was relieved of the unpleasant task of telling him he didn't get the role.) Thanks to Grant's contractual percentages and a daily pay rate that kicked in when the film took longer than expected for completion, the actor made quite a bit of money from his participation in North by Northwest. It was his fourth and final Hitchcock film and Grant brought his usual debonair charm and a genuine sense of confusion and bewilderment to the part. During shooting Grant said to Hitchcock, "It's a terrible script. We've already done a third of the picture and I still can't make head or tail of it." The comment greatly amused Hitchcock because, far from being a flaw, that exactly mirrored what Grant's character was feeling as well.

For the role of the woman spy there was some minor conflict. Grant pushed to have Sophia Loren because he at one time had romantic interest in her but she left to film Two Women in Italy. The studio wanted Cyd Charisse. Hitchcock of course preferred one of his trademark blondes and gave the part to Eva Marie Saint (On the Waterfront (1954), even personally picking out most of her on-screen wardrobe. By the way, see if you can read Saint's lips during her line "I never discuss love on an empty stomach" since the audio was supposedly dubbed over the original line "I never make love on an empty stomach."

While the story covers a wide span of the United States, filming was mostly brief location shots and extensive studio work. Hitchcock and cast started in New York in August 1958. A hidden camera was used to film Grant entering the United Nations building but they weren't able to film in the real UN lobby because it had been used somewhat inappropriately in an earlier film so all movies were forbidden there. Instead they filmed on a studio set that had been recreated as accurately as possible. (Hitchcock had gone through the real lobby with a still photographer while pretending to be a tourist and getting numerous snapshots.) The director ran into a similar problem at Mount Rushmore. The Department of Interior - which operates the monument - not only wouldn't allow filming on the actual sculpture but they also wouldn't give permission for actors to crawl over a reproduction either. A compromise was reached where the actors went between the faces instead of over them, but except for a few exteriors the whole Mount Rushmore scene was filmed at the MGM studios. (Perhaps it's a good thing that Hitchcock gave up his plan to have one of the characters erupt in a sneezing fit while hiding in a statue nose.)

The famous scene of Cary Grant being chased through a cornfield by a crop duster is an example of Hitchcock at his best. It came about because he had noticed that when most directors try to make a suspenseful scene they use tight alleyways, shadows barely visible through the gloom and the slow building tension of the approaching menace. So Hitchcock did exactly the opposite: full daylight, completely open space and a very fast machine. Similarly, most directors gradually shorten each individual shot in such a scene as a way of increasing the tension, but Hitchcock kept his shots fairly uniform so that a viewer gets a better idea of how far and where Grant is running. The finished scene lasts around seven minutes with no dialogue and is as remarkable as the shower scene he devised for Psycho a year later.

The studio, however, wasn't quite so appreciative. They wanted to cut the film thinking that at 136 minutes it was too long. But Hitchcock's contract prevented that, and he insisted that some of what they were trying to cut was in fact vital to the film.

On release, North by Northwest proved Hitchcock knew what he was doing, when it turned out to be a big hit, breaking records at Radio City Music Hall and going on to become the sixth highest grossing film for 1959 (tied with Anatomy of a Murder) which made up for the commercial disappointment of Vertigo. The New York Times and National Board of Review chose it as one of the ten best films of the year. There were three Oscar© nominations for Best Editing, Best Art Direction and for Ernest Lehman for Best Original Screenplay. (Years later, Lehman would work with Hitchcock on Family Plot (1976), one of Hitchcock's biggest commercial successes, and another script that was never filmed.)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Producers: Alfred Hitchcock, Herbert Coleman
Screenplay: Ernest Lehman
Cinematography: Robert Burks
Music: Bernard Herrmann
Art Direction: William A. Horning, Merrill Pye
Principal Cast: Cary Grant (Roger O. Thornhill/George Kaplan), Eva Marie Saint (Eve Kendall), James Mason (Phillip Vandamm), Jessie Royce Landis (Clara Thornhill), Leo G. Carroll (The Professor), Martin Landau (Leonard), Philip Ober (Lester Townsend)
C-137m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning. Descriptive Video.

by Lang Thompson

North by Northwest

"I want to do a Hitchcock picture to end all Hitchcock pictures" is the comment screenwriter Ernest Lehman made to Alfred Hitchcock one day in 1957. With North by Northwest (1959) the ultimate Hitchcock picture is exactly what they produced. All of Hitchcock's trademark themes are here in the story of an everyday man (Cary Grant) caught up in a swirl of mysterious events (spies chasing microfilm) while being helped by a beautiful blonde (Eva Marie Saint). There's a gripping, imaginative chase scene and the entire film wraps up at an unexpected public landmark (Mount Rushmore). North by Northwest came into existence when Hitchcock and writer Ernest Lehman hit a brick wall while working on the nautical thriller, The Wreck of the Mary Deare (1959). They messed around for a few weeks while telling the studio the project was going great until one day Lehman thought of creating a pure Hitchcock film. The director could never resist a challenge and immediately clicked with the idea, especially since he'd longed to use Mount Rushmore as a location but never had an appropriate project. So while Hitchcock was filming Vertigo (1958) the two would get together and thrash out the script and further plans for a film that was then called In a Northwesterly Direction. (Oddly enough it was also briefly titled Breathless which a year later would be the English title of the debut feature from Jean-Luc Godard, a rabid Hitchcock fan.) The resulting screenplay was tight, balanced and intricate; Hitchcock later told Francois Truffaut that "In this picture nothing was left to chance." The script also made liberal use of the MacGuffin, Hitchcock's name for a device that keeps the story in motion even though in itself it's practically meaningless. The key MacGuffin in North by Northwest is the secret information sought by James Mason's sinister operation even though we never learn why it matters. This was Hitchcock's personal favorite, one he said had "been boiled down to its purest expression: nothing at all!" By the way, Hitchcock and Lehman never did make The Wreck of the Mary Deare. Michael Anderson ended up directing that one with Gary Cooper and Charlton Heston. From the beginning, Hitchcock and Lehman planned on casting Cary Grant as their innocent leading man even though James Stewart showed extreme interest in the project despite his ignorance of the plot. (When Stewart left to film Bell, Book and Candle (1958), Hitchcock was relieved of the unpleasant task of telling him he didn't get the role.) Thanks to Grant's contractual percentages and a daily pay rate that kicked in when the film took longer than expected for completion, the actor made quite a bit of money from his participation in North by Northwest. It was his fourth and final Hitchcock film and Grant brought his usual debonair charm and a genuine sense of confusion and bewilderment to the part. During shooting Grant said to Hitchcock, "It's a terrible script. We've already done a third of the picture and I still can't make head or tail of it." The comment greatly amused Hitchcock because, far from being a flaw, that exactly mirrored what Grant's character was feeling as well. For the role of the woman spy there was some minor conflict. Grant pushed to have Sophia Loren because he at one time had romantic interest in her but she left to film Two Women in Italy. The studio wanted Cyd Charisse. Hitchcock of course preferred one of his trademark blondes and gave the part to Eva Marie Saint (On the Waterfront (1954), even personally picking out most of her on-screen wardrobe. By the way, see if you can read Saint's lips during her line "I never discuss love on an empty stomach" since the audio was supposedly dubbed over the original line "I never make love on an empty stomach." While the story covers a wide span of the United States, filming was mostly brief location shots and extensive studio work. Hitchcock and cast started in New York in August 1958. A hidden camera was used to film Grant entering the United Nations building but they weren't able to film in the real UN lobby because it had been used somewhat inappropriately in an earlier film so all movies were forbidden there. Instead they filmed on a studio set that had been recreated as accurately as possible. (Hitchcock had gone through the real lobby with a still photographer while pretending to be a tourist and getting numerous snapshots.) The director ran into a similar problem at Mount Rushmore. The Department of Interior - which operates the monument - not only wouldn't allow filming on the actual sculpture but they also wouldn't give permission for actors to crawl over a reproduction either. A compromise was reached where the actors went between the faces instead of over them, but except for a few exteriors the whole Mount Rushmore scene was filmed at the MGM studios. (Perhaps it's a good thing that Hitchcock gave up his plan to have one of the characters erupt in a sneezing fit while hiding in a statue nose.) The famous scene of Cary Grant being chased through a cornfield by a crop duster is an example of Hitchcock at his best. It came about because he had noticed that when most directors try to make a suspenseful scene they use tight alleyways, shadows barely visible through the gloom and the slow building tension of the approaching menace. So Hitchcock did exactly the opposite: full daylight, completely open space and a very fast machine. Similarly, most directors gradually shorten each individual shot in such a scene as a way of increasing the tension, but Hitchcock kept his shots fairly uniform so that a viewer gets a better idea of how far and where Grant is running. The finished scene lasts around seven minutes with no dialogue and is as remarkable as the shower scene he devised for Psycho a year later. The studio, however, wasn't quite so appreciative. They wanted to cut the film thinking that at 136 minutes it was too long. But Hitchcock's contract prevented that, and he insisted that some of what they were trying to cut was in fact vital to the film. On release, North by Northwest proved Hitchcock knew what he was doing, when it turned out to be a big hit, breaking records at Radio City Music Hall and going on to become the sixth highest grossing film for 1959 (tied with Anatomy of a Murder) which made up for the commercial disappointment of Vertigo. The New York Times and National Board of Review chose it as one of the ten best films of the year. There were three Oscar© nominations for Best Editing, Best Art Direction and for Ernest Lehman for Best Original Screenplay. (Years later, Lehman would work with Hitchcock on Family Plot (1976), one of Hitchcock's biggest commercial successes, and another script that was never filmed.) Director: Alfred Hitchcock Producers: Alfred Hitchcock, Herbert Coleman Screenplay: Ernest Lehman Cinematography: Robert Burks Music: Bernard Herrmann Art Direction: William A. Horning, Merrill Pye Principal Cast: Cary Grant (Roger O. Thornhill/George Kaplan), Eva Marie Saint (Eve Kendall), James Mason (Phillip Vandamm), Jessie Royce Landis (Clara Thornhill), Leo G. Carroll (The Professor), Martin Landau (Leonard), Philip Ober (Lester Townsend) C-137m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning. Descriptive Video. by Lang Thompson

Ernest Lehman (1915-2005)


Ernest Lehman, the acclaimed screenwriter who did everything from stranding Cary Grant in a cornfield (North by Northwest) to seeing Julie Andrews help the Von Trap family escape the Nazis in (The Sound of Music) died on July 2 in Los Angeles following an undisclosed illness. He was 89.

Born on December 8, 1915 in New York City, Lehman graduated from New York's City College with a degree in English. After graduation he found work as a writer for many mediums: radio, theater, and popular magazines of the day like Collier's before landing his first story in Hollywood for the comedy, The Inside Story (1948). The success of that film didn't lead immediately to screenwriting some of Hollywood's biggest hits, but his persistancy to break into the silver screen paid off by the mid-'50s: the delicious Audrey Hepburn comedy Sabrina (1954, his first Oscar® nomination and first Golden Globe award); Paul Newman's first hit based on the life of Rocky Graziano Somebody Up There Likes Me; and his razor sharp expose of the publicity world based on his own experiences as an assistant for a theatre publicist The Sweet Smell of Success (1957).

Lehman's verasitily and gift for playful dialogue came to the fore for Alfred Hitchcock's memorable North by Northwes (1959, his second Oscar® nomination); and he showed a knack for moving potentially stiff Broadway fodder into swift cinematic fare with West Side Story (1961, a third Oscar® nomination); The Sound of Music (1965); Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966); and Hello, Dolly! (1969, the last two being his final Oscar® nominations for screenwriting).

Lehman took his turn as a director when he adapted Philip Roth's comic novel Portnoy's Complaint (1972) for film, and despite some good reviews, it wasn't a commercial hit. He wrote just two more screenplays before retiring: an underrated comic mystery gem for Hitchcock Family Plot (1976); and the big budget Robert Shaw espionage drama Black Sunday (1977). Lehman served as president of the Writers Guild of America from 1983-85. After going zero for five with his Oscar® nominations, the Academy made it up to him in 2001, by presenting him with an honorary Academy Award for his "body of varied and enduring work." Lehman is survived by his wife Laurie and three children.

by Michael T. Toole

Ernest Lehman (1915-2005)

Ernest Lehman, the acclaimed screenwriter who did everything from stranding Cary Grant in a cornfield (North by Northwest) to seeing Julie Andrews help the Von Trap family escape the Nazis in (The Sound of Music) died on July 2 in Los Angeles following an undisclosed illness. He was 89. Born on December 8, 1915 in New York City, Lehman graduated from New York's City College with a degree in English. After graduation he found work as a writer for many mediums: radio, theater, and popular magazines of the day like Collier's before landing his first story in Hollywood for the comedy, The Inside Story (1948). The success of that film didn't lead immediately to screenwriting some of Hollywood's biggest hits, but his persistancy to break into the silver screen paid off by the mid-'50s: the delicious Audrey Hepburn comedy Sabrina (1954, his first Oscar® nomination and first Golden Globe award); Paul Newman's first hit based on the life of Rocky Graziano Somebody Up There Likes Me; and his razor sharp expose of the publicity world based on his own experiences as an assistant for a theatre publicist The Sweet Smell of Success (1957). Lehman's verasitily and gift for playful dialogue came to the fore for Alfred Hitchcock's memorable North by Northwes (1959, his second Oscar® nomination); and he showed a knack for moving potentially stiff Broadway fodder into swift cinematic fare with West Side Story (1961, a third Oscar® nomination); The Sound of Music (1965); Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966); and Hello, Dolly! (1969, the last two being his final Oscar® nominations for screenwriting). Lehman took his turn as a director when he adapted Philip Roth's comic novel Portnoy's Complaint (1972) for film, and despite some good reviews, it wasn't a commercial hit. He wrote just two more screenplays before retiring: an underrated comic mystery gem for Hitchcock Family Plot (1976); and the big budget Robert Shaw espionage drama Black Sunday (1977). Lehman served as president of the Writers Guild of America from 1983-85. After going zero for five with his Oscar® nominations, the Academy made it up to him in 2001, by presenting him with an honorary Academy Award for his "body of varied and enduring work." Lehman is survived by his wife Laurie and three children. by Michael T. Toole

Quotes

What happened with your first two marriages?
- Eve Kendall
My wives divorced me.
- Roger Thornhill
Why?
- Eve Kendall
They said I led a dull life.
- Roger Thornhill
I tipped the steward five dollars to seat you here if you should come in.
- Eve Kendall
Is that a proposition?
- Roger Thornhill
I never discuss love on an empty stomach.
- Eve Kendall
You've already eaten!
- Roger Thornhill
But you haven't.
- Eve Kendall
Now you listen to me, I'm an advertising man, not a red herring. I've got a job, a secretary, a mother, two ex-wives and several bartenders that depend upon me, and I don't intend to disappoint them all by getting myself "slightly" killed.
- Roger Thornhill
And what the devil is all this about? Why was I brought here?
- Roger Thornhill
Games, must we?
- Phillip Vandamm
Not that I mind a slight case of abduction now and then, but I have tickets for the theater this evening, to a show I was looking forward to and I get, well, kind of *unreasonable* about things like that.
- Roger Thornhill
With such expert playacting, you make this very room a theater.
- Phillip Vandamm
No. No, Mother, I have not been drinking. No. No. These two men, they poured a whole bottle of bourbon into me. No, they didn't give me a chaser.
- Roger Thornhill

Trivia

'Stewart, James' was very interested in starring in this movie, begging Hitchcock to let him play Thornhill. Hitchcock claimed that Vertigo (1958)'s lack of financial success was because Stewart "looked too old". MGM wanted Gregory Peck, but Hitchcock cast Cary Grant.

It was journalist Otis L. Guernsey Jr. who suggested to Hitchcock the premise of a man mistaken for a nonexistent secret agent. He was inspired, he said, by a real-life case during WW2 when some secretaries at a British embassy in the Middle East, for fun, invented a nonexistent agent and successfully tricked the Germans into looking for him.

Hitchcock couldn't get permission to film inside the U.N., so footage was made of the interior of the building using a hidden camera, and the rooms were later recreated on a sound stage.

The final chase scene was not shot on Mount Rushmore; Hitchcock couldn't gain permission to shoot an attempted murder on a national monument. The scene was shot in the studio on a replica of Mount Rushmore. Everything is shot carefully, so as to avoid associating the faces of the monument with the violence.

Rather than go to the expense of shooting in a South Dakota woodland, Hitchcock planted 100 ponderosa pines on a MGM soundstage.

Notes

Working titles for the film were In a Northwesterly Direction, In a North West Direction, The Man on Lincoln's Nose, The CIA Story and Breathless. The film's opening title sequence, designed by Saul Bass, features the M-G-M logo with the company's lion mascot in black and white against a bright green screen. The next screen is also bright green, with dark angled lines on a north-westerly diagonal slant. Cast and crew names enter and exit from the top and bottom of the frame, imitating the movement of elevators going up and down and stopping on various floors. Midway into the credits, the lines dissolve into the windows on the front of the United Nations building, reflecting New York City street traffic below. The credit sequence closes with crowds of people hurrying in and out of the subway and city buildings. Director Alfred Hitchcock makes his signature onscreen appearance as his credit appears, hastening to reach a bus, only to have it drive away after slamming its doors in his face.
       According to an undated letter from New York Tribune editor Otis Guernsey in the biographical file on Alfred Hitchcock at the AMPAS Library, Guernsey and Hitchcock had discussed a plot idea based upon an American salesman accidentally being drawn into an espionage drama due to mistaken identity. In a synopsis, Guernsey includes a romance between the American and a woman who is a double agent, and has the salesman eventually break the dangerous spy ring. Guernsey indicates in his letter to Hitchcock that he could not develop the idea further, despite having worked on a 65-page treatment. According to information in a documentary on the making of North by Northwest, Hitchcock and writer Ernest Lehman were initially to complete an adaptation of The Wreck of the Mary Deare (see below) for M-G-M, but when Lehman expressed frustration while developing the script, Hitchcock suggested that Lehman work with him on the mistaken identity-espionage plot that the director would sell to M-G-M
       North by Northwest was the first film Hitchcock made with M-G-M. Information in the film's production file at the AMPAS Library indicates that Hitchcock suggested including a chase scene at Mount Rushmore and a murder at the United Nations. After Lehman began work on the script for North by Northwest, Hitchcock requested that Guernsey divest himself of all interests in the story. Guernsey willingly relinquished all participation in the ultimate development of the script. Modern sources reveal that while Hitchcock failed to elaborate on the source of the film's title, he denied that it was in any way connected to the Shakespeare line from Hamlet: "I am but mad north-north-west. When the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw." The direction of "north by northwest" is not a legitimate point on a compass.
       A documentary on the making of the film indicates that during pre-production, Hitchcock considered casting as "Roger Thornhill" James Stewart, with whom the director had recently made several films, but concluded the actor might present too serious a demeanor for the part. Hitchcock then turned to Cary Grant, with whom he had made three films. The documentary adds that M-G-M suggested Cyd Charisse for the role of "Eve Kendall," but the director preferred Eva Marie Saint. Jesse Royce Landis, who played Roger's mother, was nearly a year younger than Grant. Hollywood Reporter casting information adds Chuck Courtney, Skip McNally, Francis De Sales and Rufe Davis to the cast, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Hitchcock makes his customary cameo appearance as a man rushing to catch a bus.
       The film was shot on location in New York, Chicago and South Dakota according to production information in the AMPAS files. In modern interviews, Hitchcock indicated that although Lehman and production designer Robert Boyle were allowed to tour and sketch the interior of the United Nations building, shooting inside and outside was prohibited. Using a camera hidden inside a van, Hitchcock was able to photograph Grant and Adam Williams ("Valerian") exiting cabs and walking up the steps to the entrance of the U.N. building. Shots of real-life ambassadors were included in the film, but actors played all diplomatic roles. In 2005, the Sidney Pollack-directed Universal Pictures release The Interpreter became the first film allowed to be shot inside the U.N.
       Correspondence in the M-G-M Collection at the AMPAS Library indicates that the studio reproduced with great accuracy the interior of the U.N., but that at the request of U.N. officials, the Delegates' Lounge was renamed the Public Lounge. Further correspondence from the M-G-M legal department indicates concern about securing rights for the use of the image of the Mount Rushmore monuments. Officials representing the National Park Service objected to an early script draft that included a scene in which Eve and Roger slide down Lincoln's nose. Establishing shots of the monument and the balcony outside of the tourist cafeteria were allowed. All other shots on and around the monument and "Vandamm's" modern-style ranch were photographed at the M-G-M studios, utilizing matte paintings and other visual effects.
       After the film's premiere, a July 1959 Daily Variety article indicated that the U.S. Department of the Interior complained that the agreement between the National Park Service and M-G-M had been violated. The agreement in part stated: "No scenes of violence will be filmed near the sculpture, on the Talus Slope below the sculpture, or any simulation or mockup of the sculpture or Talus Slope, or any public-use area of Mount Rushmore." Upon lodging a complaint with M-G-M and the MPAA, the Department of the Interior requested that the acknowledgment for the cooperation of the U.S. Department of the Interior and the National Park Service in the actual filming of scenes at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, S.D., be removed so that audiences would not believe the scenes were shot on the monument. Although some prints were released with the acknowledgment, later prints did not include it.
       In the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the PCA expressed concern over the script's characterization of "Leonard" as effeminate and repeatedly asked for the "flavor of homosexuality" surrounding his character to be downplayed. The PCA also recommended that Eve not be labeled outright as Vandamm's mistress and objected to some lines of dialogue implying Eve's promiscuity. The description and the dialogue remained in the film.
       The crop-dusting scene, one of the most famous and recognized in Hollywood films, was shot northwest of Bakersfield, CA, near the community of Wasco. In numerous contemporary interviews Hitchcock described his intention to create a scene that would derive suspense by using the opposite of standard espionage dramas where the hero is placed in jeopardy on a dark city street full of potential danger behind every corner. Hitchcock and Lehman placed Roger in a completely open field, in broad daylight, with no avenue of escape or cover and had the threat come from the least expected source. Early drafts of the script had Roger hiding behind a telephone pole, but that was later deleted and only the cornfield remained as possible cover. The script indicates that "Licht," one of Roger's kidnappers, is on the plane, firing shots at Thornhill. The film never shows who is on the plane (Later, the headline of the paper in Eve's room states: "Two Die in Crop Duster Crash, Driver Survives"), but Licht does not appear in the film from that point on.
Another scene that has been written about extensively is the film's conclusion in which the scene cuts quickly from Roger struggling to pull Eve up the dangerous monument cliff side, to Roger pulling Eve up onto their train berth and addressing her as "Mrs. Thornhill." The final shot of the film is the train speeding into a tunnel. According to biographies on Grant, during production the star repeatedly expressed confusion over the film's plot, which he found implausible and unclear. Grant purportedly worried that the film would be a failure and was delighted with an enthusiastic response at a preview of the film. North by Northwest has become one of the popular of Hitchcock thrillers. Fans of the film enjoy pointing out the glaring gaffe in the scene where Eve shoots Roger, of a little boy extra seated in the cafeteria who covers his ears before the shots are fired. North by Northwest was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Screenplay, Best Film Editing and Best Art Direction.

Miscellaneous Notes

Voted One of the Year's Ten Best by the 1959 New York Times Film Critics.

Voted One of the Year's Ten Best Films by the 1959 National Board of Review.

Released in United States 2009

Released in United States March 1987

Released in United States October 2009

Released in United States Summer July 1959

Re-released in United States August 13, 1999

Re-released in United States November 1, 1996

Re-released in United States October 20, 1999

Shown at Chicago International Film Festival (Special Presentation) October 8-22, 2009.

Formerly distributed theatrically in the US by MGM.

Released in USA on video.

Selected in 1995 for inclusion in the Library of Congress' National Film Registry.

Re-released in Paris August 8, 1990.

VistaVision

Released in United States 2009 (Shown at AFI/Los Angeles International Film Festival (Special Presentations) October 30-November 7, 2009.)

Released in United States March 1987 (Shown at AFI/Los Angeles International Film Festival (UCLA Movie Marathon: A Tribute to Cary Grant) March 11-26, 1987.)

Released in United States Summer July 1959

Re-released in United States August 13, 1999 (L.A. Cecchi-Gori Fine Arts Theater; Los Angeles)

Released in United States October 2009 (Shown at Chicago International Film Festival (Special Presentation) October 8-22, 2009.)

Re-released in United States October 20, 1999 (Film Forum; New York City)

Re-released in United States November 1, 1996 (Film Forum; New York City)