North by Northwest (1959)

9.5 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Classic Hitchcock


Movie Info

Movie Name:  North by Northwest

Studio:  MGM

Genre(s):  Mystery/Suspense/Romance

Release Date(s):  July 1, 1959 (Premiere)/November 20, 1959 (UK)/December 18, 1959 (US)

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated


On the run…

Playboy ad executive Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) is picked up by Phillip Vandamm (James Mason) and his right-hand man Leonard (Martin Landau) who believe he is someone named George Kaplan. Escaping death, Roger is framed for murder and sets out to find the real George Kaplan to clear his name. Meeting a woman named Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint) as he evades police, Roger discovers that George Kaplan might be tougher to find than he first believed.

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, North by Northwest was scripted by Ernest Lehman and featured and featured Saul Bass opening titles with the first full kinetic typography (aka animated text). Following Vertigo in 1958, Hitchcock’s film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Film Editing, Best Production Design, and Best Original Screenplay (losing all to Ben-Hur).


You take me to the nicest places…

The plot of North by Northwest by nature is very stressful. I kind of hate “the framed man” type of story that the movie is based on, but North by Northwest does it best. From the odd opening with his abduction (can’t he just bring up that he left a lunch with friends with no explanation?), the frustration just grows with the frustration of the character. The reveal that Kaplan doesn’t exist further complicates matters because as a viewer you know he can never prove himself innocent…it’s like The Fugitive without any chance of capturing the one-armed man.


Hey, kid! I haven’t fired the gun yet!!!

Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint make great leads. Grant manages to keep the tension in check with his coolness, and Eva Marie Saint has some pretty provocative moments that really pushed censors at the time. The movie is really propelled by them and the tension between them is great. It is a bit odd that Eva Marie Saint takes so long to show up, but it really helps the plot once she does. James Mason makes a creepy villain, but as far as creep factor goes, his assistant Martin Landau is far creepier (and comments he makes indicates he might be another example of how Hollywood dealt with homosexuality in early days). Leo G. Carroll has a small role as “the Professor” who is the leader of the group who invented Kaplan, but I also enjoy Grant’s relationship with his mother Clara, played by Jessie Royce Landis (who was only seven years older than Grant).


It’s Hitch!!!

Visually, North by Northwest is great. It has some really great moments. I like the drunken car chase with Grant, and the fun elevator scene with her mother and his potential attackers. The movie just keeps trucking with more great scenes like the auction house and the classic end fight on Mount Rushmore. The most famous scene (allegedly taking place in Indiana…which it doesn’t resemble at all) has Grant fleeing the crop duster…the look as style in which it was shot is awesome. It almost makes up for one of the few Hitchcock ultimate fails which can be seen in the scene where Cary Grant is “shot”…a boy in the background plugs his ears way before the shot.

North by Northwest is classic Hitchcock. It is big, epic, and a thriller. It has the playboy, the beautiful blonde, and a suave villain. It is a must not only for Hitchcock fans, but fans of thrillers which Hitchcock influenced to no ends. Hitchcock followed North by Northwest by Psycho in 1960.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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