I know there’s been a lot of Hitchcock discussion on this thread- I think I’ve even participated in some of it myself, but I’m looking to engage with people on a particular film for a project for a Film Criticism class I’m taking.
So, what do you guys think about North by Northwest, and even Hitchcock at all (if you feel like it)? I’m interested in praise and criticism, interpretation, pretty much anything you’ve got. I feel like there’s a lot to talk about with this movie, hopefully!
I’ll start out- it’s one of my favorite Hitchcock movies, the suspense is built-up really well, and it’s clearly shot beautifully. It’s also interesting to note Thornhill’s interactions with women- he spends much of the movie talking to his unseen mother, and his banter with Eve Kendall is conducted on much the same note, if I remember correctly.
Well, I’m not sure I agree that Thornhill spends “much” of the movie speaking to his unseen mother. Yeah, there are a couple of phone calls where we only see his end of the conversation, but she does appear in the memorable person of Jessie Royce Landis. I like their bantering scenes, what a wonderful chemistry they have.
That’s an interesting point about his relations with his mother and Eve, the sort of playful banter they engage in.
… and how do you beat the crop duster scene.
Roscoe- I’d completely forgotten about his mother’s appearance! I’ll admit, it’s been about a year since I last saw this film and that escaped my memory completely. Thanks for pointing that out to me. I think that while “much” of the film is, admittedly, an overstatement, he does often refer to her, even when they’re not speaking. It’s always interesting to me to note how concerned he is with her- especially in the context of other Hitchcock films, say, Psycho.
The best book on Hitchcock is by Robin Wood and his favorite Hitchcock film is NxNW. Try to check it out.
I love it. It’s among my favorite Hitchcock’s (along with Marnie, Shadow of a Doubt and The Birds), and easily the most captivating. Robert Burks’ cinematography is a marvel. That heightened technicolor clarity is gorgeous. Combine that with impeccable art direction. I want to live in that world.
This along with Notorious are my two favorite Hitchcock movies. I think I’m going to get the new dvd that comes out in a week.
Mothers can be trouble in Hitch films- think of Marnie and Psycho too. Cary Grant was about the same age as mother. Saul Bass’ credits and Bernd Herrmann’s score are great, + yes Robert Burks. This is the most entertaining film of all time. The chemistry between Grant and Eva Marie Saint at her loveliest is tingling. Her scent is ravishing..Hitch is a whizz at sexual chemistry (eg Grant and Bergman in Notorious) Plot implausibilities matter not a jot. The architecture of the baddies’ lair is great. The suspense is killing with the ROT matches..the film makes great use of aerial shots, eg looking down on the UN building is a hint of terror to come from a height- the 2 famous setpiece scenes, and of course we have it later in Birds. Often i’ve thought of the pre-cropdusting scene when waiting by the side of a road, and the scene with Grant in the woods with Eva Marie Saint comes to mind too in a local wood here with Californian trees. The film changes tack with disclosure long before the end, a typical Hitch device, eg Vertigo and Psycho..this is the peak of his innocent man on the run theme (i really like 39 Steps too)
Hitch and Lang (even more so) like the letter M. His leading ladies’ characters at this time (Eve Kendall an exception) often begin with M, Madeleine, Marion Crane, Melanie, Marnie (did he have a crush on Madeleine Carroll?).
Here again we have someone banged up wrongly by the coppers, Hitch himself never forgot being put in the cells as a nipper- though as it’s in the cold war still well some authority figures do things right
Its Hitchcock’s best, it is entertaining, smooth, and the spy genre at its best, done by the master. Its better than most of his films including, Rear Window, Vertigo, and To Catch a Thief. At least for me it is.
Like many Brits, Hitch also had a thing about trains. The world’s first locomotive engine was at Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, the first passenger railway was from Swansea to Mumbles, Wales. But the current rail system in Britain has gone to pot compared to some more advanced neighbours and others
The other night i dreamed Hitch was passing in one of his brief film cameos
oh Eva Marie Saint’s dresses are lovely too.
this is one of the few films ive seen that i label “perfect”. for me, its absolutely flawless execution. classical hollywood cinema at its finest, and hitch at the lofty top of his game.
It was one of the first Hitchcock movies I watched along with “The Birds” and “Vertigo”. I absolutely loved it! Classic in every sense of the word, it will probably live on forever.
Amazing! One of my favorite, among “Notorious!”, “Lady Vanishes”, “Psycho”, “Rear Window”, “Vertigo”, and “The Man Who Knew Too Much”.
And Bernard Herrmann’s tempestuous score! Tympanis, winds, trombones, strings, all slashing and whirling!! One of the best scores ever written.
A great piece of movie-making: fast, funny, entertaining and never once insults the intelligence, There are some really subversive moments about the government pimping women and treating people as objects.
Hitchcock and Ernest Lehman had been hired by MGM to do a film of “The Wreck of the Mary Deare” — a big best-seller. But as soon as they started working they realized they wren’t really interested in it. So they asked MGM if they could make another film to fulfill their contract obligation, and MGM agreed. Hitchcock had begun to talk with Lehman about ideas he’d had over the years for outrageous action-thriller sequences. The problem was trying to fit them into a movie. So Lehmann came up with the a plot that made it possible for Hitch’s imagination to run riot will with all sorts of things — the crop-dusting sequence of course, but also the stabbling at the U.N., the kidnaping from the PLaza hotel, and the climax on Mount Rushmore. Add Cary Grant and yoou’ve got yourself perfection.
This is, In my opinion, one THE best Hitchcocks. Look up David Thompson’s essay on it. Ye sees it as one of the greatest screwball comedies ever made. So do I.
For me, this is the most purely enjoyable Hitchcock film. It’s just fun. And perfectly cast (love Martin Landau). Eva Marie Saint’s Eve Kendall might be my favorite Hitchcock blonde (she’s competing with Grace Kelly in Rear Window and To Catch a Thief and Ingrid Bergman in Notorious ). She plays every single moment perfectly.
Thanks all of you very much for your opinions and suggestions. I’ll be checking out the Robin Wood book and David Thomson’s essay.
What I found interesting too, and all of your comments about trains and transportation reminded me, was the idea of physical mapping paralleled with mapping one’s identity. It’s almost as if, in a post-WW2 world (and maybe I’m bringing my own film theory preferences into this) it becomes more difficult to assert or assess one’s identity and place, to figure out who you are and where you belong. The constant moving, heading from place to place is really interesting as Roger/Eve/Vandamm all change roles.
Ashley, can you elaborate on how Roger/Eve/Van Dam change roles? I don’t see what you mean.
>>(did he have a crush on Madeleine Carroll?)<<
I don’t think so, even though she was one of his “cool blondes.” I seem to recall that when he was contemplating a film on the Titanic he made a comment along the lines of having had experience with iceburgs because he’d directed Carroll. He certainly had a crush – or possibly soemthing more on Ingrid Bergman and Grace Kelly … and something like an obsession with Tippi Hedren. (See the Donald Spoto book.)
Absolutely, sorry I wasn’t clearer before- in Roger’s case it’s not so much changing roles as it is being mistaken for the wrong (imaginary) person. I’d argue, though, that towards the end of the movie there’s some reluctant ownership of his different position (I’m not sure if position is the right word, but hopefully you know what I mean). In Eve’s case, there’s a lot of changes in what the audience perceives her role to be. She goes from interesting train companion to bad guy’s arm candy to secret double agent and finally ends up as wife. Vandamm is more acting out different personages- he pretends to be Mr. Townsend (am I getting the name wrong? I think that’s it) and it takes us a little while before we find out who he really is.
Mostly that interests me because of all the location changes- I think that somehow mapping of physical space is tied to mapping one’s identity. I don’t really know how, I’ll have to give that some thought.
in addition, kaplan is the greatest of all the hitchcock macguffins. the truest, most literal representation of a macguffin.
I could tell you a hundred pages about it not only because it is my favorite movie ever but because i have to take an exam about it !
Well for the themes you could talk about the Oedipus complex of Thornhill which is replaced by his love for Eve, then, the travel from east to west which is like the conquest of the west and which is symbolized through many shots of the movie. I can talk about the vision of the plice which is representedd as useless and purely stupid because Hitch was scared byt he police. it comes from the day when his father brings him to the police station and he spent one night in a cellar. If you look at all his films, you’ll rarely see a very good policeman who understands everything and stops the bad guy.
Well, I guess the most interesting thing is the representation of cinema or theatre in the movie trough different scenes :
- First, in Mr Townsend’s house : Thornhill makes “this very room a theatre” (as Vandam says) where Vandamm is the director (he arranges the light…) and Thornhill the actor.
- Then Thornhill plays the part of Kaplan when he puts on his suit at Plaza Hotel when he is in the room with his mother and for the rest of the movie.
- He also wears a “costume” at chicago’s train station…
There are other metaphorical allusions on this theme in the movie, those are just examples.
Well, I think I’ll stop there, but if you want more, I could go on !
theres no oedipus complex with thornhill and his mother. its a more humorously competitive complex. they like to best each other. this is brought out by the fact that the actress playing the mother was actually younger than cary grant. they act more like friends than mother and son.
how is the travel from east to west like the conquest of the west? did you come up with that, or did you just hear it from someone else and believe it? what shots in the movie symbolize this conquest?
yes, there is a strong motif of performance throughout the film. this motif becomes reflexive on numerous occasions. it climaxes at the finale, when the house maid notices thornhill through his reflection on the tv screen.
You know Bobby, the whole thing with analysis is to believe it or not…some do and some don’t…It remains very personal even if you hear it from somebody else because the whole movie is working on what you see in it. This is the condition to the catarsis of the audience.
You don’t believe there is an oedipus complex in North by Northwest, it is your right. I’m must agree with you on the conquest of the west it is a bit exagerate but it is something I heard from several people and when somebody asks, I can mention it even though I don’t agree myself.
As for the oedipus complex, of course it is not seriously treated and it is not the main theme of the movie, but I believe it is there somewhere. Don’t forget Hitch was fond of psychology…
I’m surprised by the oedipus complex being attached to the film, even given Hitch’s interest in psychology, and its frequency in cinema; the Grant-mother relationship here hadn’t struck me as that. I would have to give it more thought, but for now i’m more on Bobby’s wavelength
Wel, of course, I agree with you Kenji. The first time I watched it, I didn’t think of it either. But what I am studying is the whole film in every detail and so, when you spend one hour talking about five minutes of the movie, that is something you notice…=D
A lifelong Hitchcock fan, the great Peter North has decided to title his forthcoming memoir North by Northwest…Northeast…Southwest…Southeast – FULL STEAM AHEAD!