North by Northwest (1959)

Another plot that makes your head spin, but after seeing Vertigo it's clear what Hitchcock likes to do (seeing 19 of his movies in a row helps too). Both plot twists serve the same function— the love interest is hiding information from the protagonist but through the job falls in love anyway.

What's great about this love interest Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint) is that she saves Roger (Cary Grant) from the police and her reveal that she paid off the waiter so he could sit with her makes us fall in love with her personality and not just her beauty.


The most frustrating thing about this film is how the first half plays out—every chance Roger gets to prove himself innocent in this almost ridiculous situation ends up making him look ridiculous and unbelievable. It helps that he's got a job where he's known to regularly bend the truth. This carefully crafted act 1 lends itself for very memorable moments, such as the elevator scene where Roger's mother Clara (Jessie Royce Landis) asks the men (Adam Williams and Robert Ellenstein) if they're the people trying to murder her son, leaving everyone in the crowded elevator to burst out laughing. Then the fake Mrs. Townsend (Josephine Hutchinson) pretending to know Roger makes me want to punch something (in a good way).


Just like in Vertigo it's remarkable how perfectly everything works out in the story. Every detail has to match up in order to pull off such an elaborate storyline, and no better person to do that than Alfred. Another great similarity to Vertigo and all Hitchcock's masterpieces is how dense the story is. Most movies now would end the movie a quarter of the way through the trouble Roger Thornhill gets himself into. Another similarity is the three-way miscommunication: Roger thinks Eve is a random passerby. Philip Vandamm (James Mason) thinks that Eve is just working for him. In reality Eve is working for the FBI. These stories exist on a balancing act between these miscommunications, and all work together.


Love the little dialogue moments that move the story along, like when Roger is in the disguise outside the train and he says to Eve: "you're the smartest girl I've ever spent the night with on a train." This savage line makes Eve sad, revealing she do actually has feelings for him, and it's not just for her job. Eve running to hug Roger at the hotel is a nice complicated moment in the story and does a good job to keep up the intrigue. Another nice story moment in the same sequence when Roger's plan is a vague "togetherness," expressing his desire to go wherever she goes. This accomplishes both of his desires—he knows he'll be safe with her and he can be with her whom he loves. Roger's line to Eve "Ever kill anyone? Cause I bet you could tease a man to death without half-trying," is another small moment so rich with subtext that hikes up the tension.


This is my first time watching 21 movies of the same director in a row (I think my previous record was three) and it's interesting to see how Hitchcock just put whatever he liked into his movies as long as it found a place in the story. There's an auction call back from Skin Game, the rocky cliffs from The 39 Steps, The Manxman, and Young and Innocent. A detective and/or someone spying exists in many of his films (although almost essential for crime films) Then of course the idea of a man wrongly accused. Also the flat land with nowhere to hide, also in The 39 Steps. Oh, not to mention action on trains. When I watch these masterpieces sometimes I can't ever imagine accomplishing a movie like this myself. It helps then to find these commonalities that may seem random but are really just the interests of the director. Then what once seemed like a far cry achievement almost becomes fun. These are movies that Hitchcock wanted to make, and he poured his personality, likes, and dislikes into them— and we are all the more thankful that he did.

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