North by Northwest

North by Northwest

Overview
North by Northwest is a 1959 American thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock
Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock, KBE was a British film director and producer. He pioneered many techniques in the suspense and psychological thriller genres. After a successful career in British cinema in both silent films and early talkies, Hitchcock moved to Hollywood...

, starring Cary Grant
Cary Grant
Archibald Alexander Leach , better known by his stage name Cary Grant, was an English actor who later took U.S. citizenship...

, Eva Marie Saint
Eva Marie Saint
Eva Marie Saint is an American actress who has starred in films, on Broadway, and on television in a career spanning seven decades. She won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the drama film On the Waterfront , and later starred in the thriller film North by...

 and James Mason
James Mason
James Neville Mason was an English actor who attained stardom in both British and American films. Mason remained a powerful figure in the industry throughout his career and was nominated for three Academy Awards as well as three Golden Globes .- Early life :Mason was born in Huddersfield, in the...

, and featuring Leo G. Carroll
Leo G. Carroll
Leo Gratten Carroll was an English-born actor. He was best known for his roles in several Hitchcock films and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Topper.-Early life:...

 and Martin Landau
Martin Landau
Martin Landau is an American film and television actor. Landau began his career in the 1950s. His early films include a supporting role in Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest . He played continuing roles in the television series Mission: Impossible and Space:1999...

. The screenplay was written by Ernest Lehman
Ernest Lehman
Ernest Lehman was an American screenwriter. He received 6 Academy Award nominations during his screenwriting career...

, who wanted to write "the Hitchcock picture to end all Hitchcock pictures".

North by Northwest is a tale of mistaken identity, with an innocent man pursued across the United States by agents of a mysterious organization who want to stop his interference in their plans to smuggle out microfilm containing government secrets.

Author and journalist Nick Clooney
Nick Clooney
Nicholas Joseph "Nick" Clooney is an American journalist, anchorman, and television host. He is the brother of the late singer Rosemary Clooney, and father of actor and film director George Clooney.-Early life:...

 praised Lehman's original story and sophisticated dialogue, calling the film "certainly Alfred Hitchcock's most stylish thriller, if not his best".

This is one of several Hitchcock movies with a music score by Bernard Herrmann
Bernard Herrmann
Bernard Herrmann was an American composer noted for his work in motion pictures.An Academy Award-winner , Herrmann is particularly known for his collaborations with director Alfred Hitchcock, most famously Psycho, North by Northwest, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and Vertigo...

 and features a memorable opening title sequence
Title sequence
A Title Sequence is the method by which cinematic films or television programs present their title, key production and cast members, or both, utilizing conceptual visuals and sound...

 by graphic designer Saul Bass
Saul Bass
Saul Bass was a Jewish-American graphic designer and filmmaker, best known for his design of motion picture title sequences....

.
Discussion
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Quotations

Ah, Maggie, in the world of advertising, there's no such thing as a lie. There's only the expedient exaggeration. You ought to know that.

[to The Professor] 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.

The Master of Suspense presents a 3000-mile chase across America!

The Master of Suspense weaves his greatest tale!

It's a deadly game of "tag" and Cary Grant is "it"!

It's love and murder at first sight!

From the killer plane in the cornfield to the cliff-hanger on George Washington's nose, it's suspense in every direction!

Encyclopedia
North by Northwest is a 1959 American thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock
Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock, KBE was a British film director and producer. He pioneered many techniques in the suspense and psychological thriller genres. After a successful career in British cinema in both silent films and early talkies, Hitchcock moved to Hollywood...

, starring Cary Grant
Cary Grant
Archibald Alexander Leach , better known by his stage name Cary Grant, was an English actor who later took U.S. citizenship...

, Eva Marie Saint
Eva Marie Saint
Eva Marie Saint is an American actress who has starred in films, on Broadway, and on television in a career spanning seven decades. She won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the drama film On the Waterfront , and later starred in the thriller film North by...

 and James Mason
James Mason
James Neville Mason was an English actor who attained stardom in both British and American films. Mason remained a powerful figure in the industry throughout his career and was nominated for three Academy Awards as well as three Golden Globes .- Early life :Mason was born in Huddersfield, in the...

, and featuring Leo G. Carroll
Leo G. Carroll
Leo Gratten Carroll was an English-born actor. He was best known for his roles in several Hitchcock films and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Topper.-Early life:...

 and Martin Landau
Martin Landau
Martin Landau is an American film and television actor. Landau began his career in the 1950s. His early films include a supporting role in Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest . He played continuing roles in the television series Mission: Impossible and Space:1999...

. The screenplay was written by Ernest Lehman
Ernest Lehman
Ernest Lehman was an American screenwriter. He received 6 Academy Award nominations during his screenwriting career...

, who wanted to write "the Hitchcock picture to end all Hitchcock pictures".

North by Northwest is a tale of mistaken identity, with an innocent man pursued across the United States by agents of a mysterious organization who want to stop his interference in their plans to smuggle out microfilm containing government secrets.

Author and journalist Nick Clooney
Nick Clooney
Nicholas Joseph "Nick" Clooney is an American journalist, anchorman, and television host. He is the brother of the late singer Rosemary Clooney, and father of actor and film director George Clooney.-Early life:...

 praised Lehman's original story and sophisticated dialogue, calling the film "certainly Alfred Hitchcock's most stylish thriller, if not his best".

This is one of several Hitchcock movies with a music score by Bernard Herrmann
Bernard Herrmann
Bernard Herrmann was an American composer noted for his work in motion pictures.An Academy Award-winner , Herrmann is particularly known for his collaborations with director Alfred Hitchcock, most famously Psycho, North by Northwest, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and Vertigo...

 and features a memorable opening title sequence
Title sequence
A Title Sequence is the method by which cinematic films or television programs present their title, key production and cast members, or both, utilizing conceptual visuals and sound...

 by graphic designer Saul Bass
Saul Bass
Saul Bass was a Jewish-American graphic designer and filmmaker, best known for his design of motion picture title sequences....

. This film is generally cited as the first to feature extended use of kinetic typography in its opening credits.

The title refers not to a compass position, but Thornhill's flight north to Rapid City on Northwest Airlines. See the full discussion below.

Plot


Roger Thornhill, a twice-divorced Madison Avenue
Madison Avenue (Manhattan)
Madison Avenue is a north-south avenue in the borough of Manhattan in New York City, United States, that carries northbound one-way traffic. It runs from Madison Square to the Madison Avenue Bridge at 138th Street. In doing so, it passes through Midtown, the Upper East Side , Spanish Harlem, and...

 advertising
Advertising
Advertising is a form of communication used to persuade an audience to take some action with respect to products, ideas, or services. Most commonly, the desired result is to drive consumer behavior with respect to a commercial offering, although political and ideological advertising is also common...

 executive (Cary Grant
Cary Grant
Archibald Alexander Leach , better known by his stage name Cary Grant, was an English actor who later took U.S. citizenship...

), is mistaken for "George Kaplan" when he summons a hotel bellhop
Bellhop
A bellhop, also bellboy or bellman, is a hotel porter, who helps patrons with their luggage while checking in or out. Bellhops often wear a uniform , like certain other page boys or doormen...

 who is paging Kaplan, and is kidnapped by Valerian (Adam Williams) and Licht (Robert Ellenstein
Robert Ellenstein
Robert Ellenstein was an American film, television and theatre actor.The son of Meyer Ellenstein, a Newark dentist, Robert Ellenstein grew up in that New Jersey city and saw his father go on to become its two-term mayor. He served in the Air Corps during World War II: earning a Purple Heart during...

). The two take him to the house of Lester Townsend on Long Island
Long Island
Long Island is an island located in the southeast part of the U.S. state of New York, just east of Manhattan. Stretching northeast into the Atlantic Ocean, Long Island contains four counties, two of which are boroughs of New York City , and two of which are mainly suburban...

. There he is interrogated by a man he assumes to be Townsend, but who is actually foreign spy Phillip Vandamm (James Mason
James Mason
James Neville Mason was an English actor who attained stardom in both British and American films. Mason remained a powerful figure in the industry throughout his career and was nominated for three Academy Awards as well as three Golden Globes .- Early life :Mason was born in Huddersfield, in the...

). Thornhill repeatedly denies he is Kaplan, but Vandamm refuses to believe his men picked up the wrong man. He orders his right-hand man Leonard (Martin Landau
Martin Landau
Martin Landau is an American film and television actor. Landau began his career in the 1950s. His early films include a supporting role in Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest . He played continuing roles in the television series Mission: Impossible and Space:1999...

) to get rid of him.

Thornhill is forced to drink bourbon in an attempt to stage a fatal road accident. However, he pushes one thug out of the car and drives off. After a perilous drive, he is arrested for drunk driving
Driving under the influence
Driving under the influence is the act of driving a motor vehicle with blood levels of alcohol in excess of a legal limit...

. He is unable to get the police, the judge, or even his mother (Jessie Royce Landis
Jessie Royce Landis
Jessie Royce Landis was an American actress.-Career:She was born Jessie Royce Medbury in Chicago, Illinois. Landis was a stage actress for much of her career...

) to believe what happened to him, especially when a woman at Townsend's residence says he got drunk at her dinner party; she also remarks that Lester Townsend is a United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 diplomat.

Thornhill and his mother go to Kaplan's hotel room, but cannot find anyone there who has seen him. While in the room, Thornhill answers the phone; it is one of Vandamm's henchmen. Narrowly avoiding recapture, Thornhill takes a taxi to the General Assembly building
United Nations headquarters
The headquarters of the United Nations is a complex in New York City. The complex has served as the official headquarters of the United Nations since its completion in 1952. It is located in the Turtle Bay neighborhood of Manhattan, on spacious grounds overlooking the East River...

 of the United Nations, where Townsend is due to deliver a speech. Thornhill meets Townsend face to face and is surprised to find that the diplomat is not the man who interrogated him, and Townsend expresses surprise that anybody else has been living in his house. Before they can talk any more, Valerian throws a knife, striking Townsend in the back. He falls forward, dead, into Thornhill's arms. Without thinking, Thornhill removes the knife, making it appear to onlookers that he is the killer. He flees.

Knowing that Kaplan has a reservation at a Chicago
Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

 hotel the next day, Thornhill sneaks onto the 20th Century Limited
20th Century Limited
The 20th Century Limited was an express passenger train operated by the New York Central Railroad from 1902 to 1967, during which time it would become known as a "National Institution" and the "Most Famous Train in the World". In the year of its last run, The New York Times said that it "...was...

. On board, he meets Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint
Eva Marie Saint
Eva Marie Saint is an American actress who has starred in films, on Broadway, and on television in a career spanning seven decades. She won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the drama film On the Waterfront , and later starred in the thriller film North by...

), who hides Thornhill from policemen searching the train. She asks about his personalized matchbook
Matchbook
A matchbook is a small paperboard folder enclosing a quantity of matches and having a coarse striking surface on the exterior...

s with the initials ROT; he says the O stands for nothing. They flirt, but are interrupted by police officers boarding the train. Unbeknownst to Thornhill, Eve is working with Vandamm and Leonard, who are in another compartment. Upon arriving in Chicago, Thornhill borrows a porter's
Porter (railroad)
A porter is a railway employee assigned to assist passengers aboard a passenger train or to handle their baggage; it may be used particularly to refer to employees assigned to assisting passengers in the sleeping cars....

 uniform and carries Eve's luggage through the crowd, eluding police. Eve (who is revealed to be Vandamm's lover) lies to Thornhill, telling him she has arranged a meeting with Kaplan. She gives him directions to the place.

Thornhill travels by bus to an isolated crossroads, with flat countryside all around and only scarce traffic. Another man is dropped off at the bus stop, but turns out to be unconnected to Thornhill; the man leaves on a bus after observing that a nearby biplane
Biplane
A biplane is a fixed-wing aircraft with two superimposed main wings. The Wright brothers' Wright Flyer used a biplane design, as did most aircraft in the early years of aviation. While a biplane wing structure has a structural advantage, it produces more drag than a similar monoplane wing...

 is "dusting crops where there ain't no crops." Moments later, the plane turns toward Thornhill. To his terror, it dives at him, passing him at an altitude of only a few feet, forcing him to throw himself to the ground; immediately after that, someone on the plane opens fire on Thornhill with an automatic weapon, just missing him. This process is repeated several times. Thornhill flees to the cover of a cornfield, but the plane dusts it with pesticide, forcing him out. Desperate, Thornhill steps in front of a speeding gasoline tank truck
Tank truck
A tank truck or road tanker is a motor vehicle designed to carry liquefied loads, dry bulk cargo or gases on roads. The largest such vehicles are similar to railroad tank cars which are also designed to carry liquefied loads...

, making it stop. The plane crashes into the tank truck and explodes. When passing drivers stop to see what is going on, Thornhill steals a pickup truck and drives back to Chicago.

Thornhill returns to the hotel, where he is surprised to learn that Kaplan had already checked out when Eve claimed to have spoken to him. Suspicious, he goes to Eve's room to question her. She lets him get cleaned up as she leaves. From the impression of a message written on a notepad, Thornhill learns her destination: an art auction. There, he finds Vandamm, Leonard, and Eve. Vandamm purchases a pre-Columbian Tarascan statue and departs. Thornhill tries to follow, only to find all exits covered by Vandamm's men. He escapes from them by placing nonsensical bids, making such a nuisance of himself that the police have to be called to remove him.

Thornhill tries to remain safely in police custody and identifies himself as a wanted fugitive, but the officers are ordered to take him to Midway Airport
Midway Airport
Chicago Midway International Airport , also known simply as Midway Airport or Midway, is an airport in Chicago, Illinois, United States, located on the city's southwest side, eight miles from Chicago's Loop...

 instead of a police station. He meets the Professor (Leo G. Carroll
Leo G. Carroll
Leo Gratten Carroll was an English-born actor. He was best known for his roles in several Hitchcock films and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Topper.-Early life:...

), an American spymaster who is after Vandamm. The Professor reveals that George Kaplan does not exist: he was invented to distract Vandamm from the real government agent — Eve, who was already in a relationship with Vandamm when alerted by the Professor to Vandamm's espionage activity. As Eve's life is now in danger, Thornhill agrees to help the Professor in order to protect her.

They fly to Rapid City, South Dakota
Rapid City, South Dakota
Rapid City is the second-largest city in the U.S. state of South Dakota, and the county seat of Pennington County. Named after Rapid Creek on which the city is established, it is set against the eastern slope of the Black Hills mountain range. The population was 67,956 as of the 2010 Census. Rapid...

, where Thornhill (now pretending to be Kaplan) meets Eve and Vandamm in a crowded cafeteria at the base of Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a sculpture carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore near Keystone, South Dakota, in the United States...

. He offers to let Vandamm leave the country in exchange for Eve, but is turned down. When he tries to keep her from leaving, Eve shoots Thornhill and flees. He is taken away in an ambulance. At a secluded spot, however, he emerges unharmed, having been shot with blanks
Blank (cartridge)
A blank is a type of cartridge for a firearm that contains gunpowder but no bullet or shot. When fired, the blank makes a flash and an explosive sound . Blanks are often used for simulation , training, and for signaling...

. To his dismay, he learns that, having proven her loyalty and made herself a fugitive, Eve will accompany Vandamm out of the country that night. To keep him from interfering further, Thornhill is locked in a hospital room.

Thornhill manages to escape and goes to Vandamm's mountainside home, slipping inside undetected. He learns that the Tarascan statue contains secrets on microfilm. While Eve is out of the room, Leonard fires the gun she used at Vandamm, demonstrating how the shooting was faked. Vandamm decides to throw Eve out of the airplane when they are flying over water. Thornhill manages to warn her by writing a note inside one of his ROT matchbooks and dropping it where she can find it.

On the way to the airplane, Eve grabs the statue and joins Thornhill. Leonard and Valerian chase them across the top of the Mount Rushmore monument. Valerian lunges at the pair, but falls to his death. Eve slips and clings desperately to the steep mountainside. Thornhill grabs her hand, while precariously holding on with his other hand. Leonard appears and treads on his hand. They are saved when the Professor has a police marksman shoot Leonard, who falls to his death, and Vandamm is arrested.

The scene transitions from Thornhill pulling Eve up to safety on Mount Rushmore to him pulling her, now his wife, onto an upper bunk on a train. The final shot shows their train speeding into a tunnel.

Cast


  • Cary Grant
    Cary Grant
    Archibald Alexander Leach , better known by his stage name Cary Grant, was an English actor who later took U.S. citizenship...

     as Roger Thornhill
  • Eva Marie Saint
    Eva Marie Saint
    Eva Marie Saint is an American actress who has starred in films, on Broadway, and on television in a career spanning seven decades. She won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the drama film On the Waterfront , and later starred in the thriller film North by...

     as Eve Kendall
  • James Mason
    James Mason
    James Neville Mason was an English actor who attained stardom in both British and American films. Mason remained a powerful figure in the industry throughout his career and was nominated for three Academy Awards as well as three Golden Globes .- Early life :Mason was born in Huddersfield, in the...

     as Phillip Vandamm
  • Leo G. Carroll
    Leo G. Carroll
    Leo Gratten Carroll was an English-born actor. He was best known for his roles in several Hitchcock films and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Topper.-Early life:...

     as The Professor
  • Jessie Royce Landis
    Jessie Royce Landis
    Jessie Royce Landis was an American actress.-Career:She was born Jessie Royce Medbury in Chicago, Illinois. Landis was a stage actress for much of her career...

     as Thornhill's mother Clara
  • Martin Landau
    Martin Landau
    Martin Landau is an American film and television actor. Landau began his career in the 1950s. His early films include a supporting role in Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest . He played continuing roles in the television series Mission: Impossible and Space:1999...

     as Leonard
  • Philip Ober
    Philip Ober
    Philip Ober was an American actor.Ober often appeared in roles as a straight man in farcical circumstances. One of his most memorable stage role was in Lawrence Riley's Broadway hit Personal Appearance opposite Gladys George. From 1954 to 1967 he frequently appeared in television series...

     as Lester Townsend
  • Josephine Hutchinson
    Josephine Hutchinson
    Josephine Hutchinson was an American actress.She was born in Seattle, Washington. Her mother, Leona Roberts, was an actress best-known for her role as "Mrs. Meade" in Gone with the Wind. Through her mother's connections, Hutchinson made her film debut at the age of thirteen in The Little Princess,...

     as Mrs. Townsend
  • Adam Williams as Valerian
  • Patrick McVey
    Patrick McVey
    Patrick McVey was an American actor who starred in three television series between 1950 and 1961, Big Town, Boots and Saddles, and Manhunt.-Early life and career:...

     as Sergeant Flamm
  • Ed Platt as Victor Larrabee


Alfred Hitchcock's cameo is a signature occurrence in most of his films. In North by Northwest he can be seen missing a bus at the end of the opening credits.

Landis, who played Thornhill's mother, was in reality the same age as Cary Grant. She also played his future mother-in-law in To Catch a Thief
To Catch a Thief
To Catch a Thief is a 1952 thriller novel by David Dodge. John Robie is a retired American jewel thief, formerly known as Le Chat , who now spends his time tending to the rose garden in his villa on the Côte d'Azur. Following a series of recent jewel robberies on the Riviera that resemble his...

.

James Stewart
James Stewart (actor)
James Maitland Stewart was an American film and stage actor, known for his distinctive voice and his everyman persona. Over the course of his career, he starred in many films widely considered classics and was nominated for five Academy Awards, winning one in competition and receiving one Lifetime...

 was the original choice to play Thornhill, but as Hitchcock and Lehman developed the script, Hitchcock decided that Thornhill was more a Cary Grant type. Hitchcock was planning to reunite with Stewart during his next (ultimately unproduced) film, The Blind Man.

MGM wanted Cyd Charisse
Cyd Charisse
Cyd Charisse was an American actress and dancer.After recovering from polio as a child, and studying ballet, Charisse entered films in the 1940s...

 for the role played by Eva Marie Saint. Hitchcock stood by his choice.

Origins



John Russell Taylor
John Russell Taylor
John Russell Taylor is an English critic and author. He is the author of critical studies of British theatre; of critical biographies of such important figures in Anglo-American film as Alfred Hitchcock, Alec Guinness, Orson Welles, Vivien Leigh, and Ingrid Bergman; of Strangers in Paradise: The...

's official biography of Hitchcock, Hitch: The Life and Times of Alfred Hitchcock (1978), suggests that the story originated after a spell of writer's block
Writer's block
Writer's block is a condition, primarily associated with writing as a profession, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work. The condition varies widely in intensity. It can be trivial, a temporary difficulty in dealing with the task at hand. At the other extreme, some "blocked"...

 during the scripting of another movie project:

Alfred Hitchcock had agreed to do a film for MGM, and they had chosen an adaptation of the novel The Wreck of the Mary Deare
The Wreck of the Mary Deare
The Wreck of the Mary Deare is a novel written by British author Hammond Innes and later a movie starring Gary Cooper. It tells the story of the titular ship, which is found adrift at sea by John Sands. Sands boards it hoping to claim it for salvage, but finds the first officer, Gideon Patch, still...

by Hammond Innes
Hammond Innes
Ralph Hammond Innes was a British novelist who wrote over 30 novels, as well as children's and travel books....

. Composer Bernard Herrmann
Bernard Herrmann
Bernard Herrmann was an American composer noted for his work in motion pictures.An Academy Award-winner , Herrmann is particularly known for his collaborations with director Alfred Hitchcock, most famously Psycho, North by Northwest, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and Vertigo...

 had recommended that Hitchcock work with his friend Ernest Lehman
Ernest Lehman
Ernest Lehman was an American screenwriter. He received 6 Academy Award nominations during his screenwriting career...

. After a couple of weeks, Lehman offered to quit saying he didn't know what to do with the story. Hitchcock told him they got along great together and they would just write something else. Lehman said that he wanted to make the ultimate Hitchcock film. Hitchcock thought for a moment then said he had always wanted to do a chase across Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a sculpture carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore near Keystone, South Dakota, in the United States...

.

Lehman and Hitchcock spitballed more ideas: a murder at the United Nations Headquarters
United Nations headquarters
The headquarters of the United Nations is a complex in New York City. The complex has served as the official headquarters of the United Nations since its completion in 1952. It is located in the Turtle Bay neighborhood of Manhattan, on spacious grounds overlooking the East River...

; a murder at a car plant in Detroit; a final showdown in Alaska
Alaska
Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait...

. Eventually they settled on the U.N. murder for the opening and the chase across Mount Rushmore for the climax.

For the central idea, Hitchcock remembered something an American journalist had told him about spies creating a fake agent as a decoy. Perhaps their hero could be mistaken for this fictitious agent and end up on the run. They bought the idea from the journalist for $10,000.


Lehman would sometimes repeat this story himself, as in the documentary Destination Hitchcock
Destination Hitchcock: The Making of North by Northwest
Destination Hitchcock: The Making of North by Northwest is a 2000 documentary film about the making of Alfred Hitchcock's classic thriller film North by Northwest...

that accompanied the 2001 DVD release of the film. In his 2000 book Which Lie Did I Tell?
Which Lie Did I Tell?
Which Lie Did I Tell?: More Adventures in the Screen Trade is a work of non-fiction first published in 2000 by novelist and screenwriter William Goldman...

, screenwriter William Goldman
William Goldman
William Goldman is an American novelist, playwright, and Academy Award-winning screenwriter.-Early life and education:...

, commenting on the film, insists that it was Lehman who created North by Northwest and that many of Hitchcock's ideas were not used. Hitchcock had the idea of the hero being stranded in the middle of nowhere, but suggested the villains try to kill him with a tornado
Tornado
A tornado is a violent, dangerous, rotating column of air that is in contact with both the surface of the earth and a cumulonimbus cloud or, in rare cases, the base of a cumulus cloud. They are often referred to as a twister or a cyclone, although the word cyclone is used in meteorology in a wider...

. Lehman responded, "but they're trying to kill him. How are they going to work up a cyclone?" Then, as he told an interviewer; "I just can't tell you who said what to whom, but somewhere during that afternoon, the cyclone in the sky became the crop-duster plane."

In fact, Hitchcock had been working on the story for nearly nine years prior to meeting Lehman. The "American journalist" who had the idea that influenced the director was Otis C. Guernsey, a respected reporter who was inspired by a true story during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 when a couple of British secretaries created a fictitious agent and watched as the Germans wasted time following him around. Guernsey turned his idea into a story about an American traveling salesman who travels to the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

 and is mistaken for a fictitious agent, becoming "saddled with a romantic and dangerous identity." Guernsey admitted that his treatment was full of "corn" and "lacking logic." He urged Hitchcock to do what he liked with the story. Hitchcock bought the sixty pages for $10,000.

Hitchcock often told journalists of an idea he had about Cary Grant
Cary Grant
Archibald Alexander Leach , better known by his stage name Cary Grant, was an English actor who later took U.S. citizenship...

 hiding out from the villains inside Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

's nose and being given away when he sneezes. He speculated that the film could be called "The Man in Lincoln's Nose" (Lehman's version is that it was "The Man on Lincoln's Nose") or even "The Man who Sneezed in Lincoln's Nose," though he probably felt the latter was insulting to his adopted America. Hitchcock sat on the idea, waiting for the right screenwriter
Screenwriter
Screenwriters or scriptwriters or scenario writers are people who write/create the short or feature-length screenplays from which mass media such as films, television programs, Comics or video games are based.-Profession:...

 to develop it. At one stage "The Man in Lincoln's Nose" was touted as a collaboration with John Michael Hayes
John Michael Hayes
John Michael Hayes was an American screenwriter, who scripted several of Alfred Hitchcock's films in the 1950s, and subject of the book "" by Steven DeRosa.-Early life:...

. When Lehman came on board, the traveling salesman – which had previously been suited to James Stewart
James Stewart (actor)
James Maitland Stewart was an American film and stage actor, known for his distinctive voice and his everyman persona. Over the course of his career, he starred in many films widely considered classics and was nominated for five Academy Awards, winning one in competition and receiving one Lifetime...

 – was adapted to a Madison Avenue advertising executive, a position which Lehman had formerly held. In an interview in the book Screenwriters on Screenwriting (1995), Lehman stated that he had already written much of the screenplay before coming up with critical elements of the climax.

Production


The filming of North by Northwest took place between August and December 1958 with the exception of a few re-takes that were shot in April 1959.

This was the only Hitchcock film released by MGM. It is owned by Turner Entertainment
Turner Entertainment
Turner Entertainment Company, Inc. is an American media company founded by Ted Turner. Now owned by Time Warner, the company is largely responsible for overseeing its library for worldwide distribution Turner Entertainment Company, Inc. (commonly known as Turner Entertainment Co.) is an American...

 – since 1996 a division of Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc., also known as Warner Bros. Pictures or simply Warner Bros. , is an American producer of film and television entertainment.One of the major film studios, it is a subsidiary of Time Warner, with its headquarters in Burbank,...

 – which owns the pre-1986 MGM library.

Filming


At Hitchcock's insistence, the film was made in Paramount
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures Corporation is an American film production and distribution company, located at 5555 Melrose Avenue in Hollywood. Founded in 1912 and currently owned by media conglomerate Viacom, it is America's oldest existing film studio; it is also the last major film studio still...

's VistaVision
VistaVision
VistaVision is a higher resolution, widescreen variant of the 35mm motion picture film format which was created by engineers at Paramount Pictures in 1954....

 widescreen process, making it one of the few VistaVision films made at MGM.

The car chase scene in which Thornhill is drunkenly careening along the edge of cliffs high above the ocean, supposedly on Long Island
Long Island
Long Island is an island located in the southeast part of the U.S. state of New York, just east of Manhattan. Stretching northeast into the Atlantic Ocean, Long Island contains four counties, two of which are boroughs of New York City , and two of which are mainly suburban...

, was actually shot on the California coast. However the Townsend estate is actually a Long Island Gold Coast mansion that is now the Old Westbury Gardens
Old Westbury Gardens
Old Westbury Gardens is the former estate of John Shaffer Phipps , heir to a U.S. Steel fortune, in Nassau County, New York. It has been open to the public for tours since 1959....

.

At the time, the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 prohibited film crews from shooting around its New York City headquarters. In an example of guerrilla filmmaking
Guerrilla filmmaking
Guerrilla filmmaking refers to a form of independent filmmaking characterized by low budgets, skeleton crews, and simple props using whatever is available...

, Hitchcock used a movie camera hidden in a parked van to film Cary Grant and Adam Williams exiting their taxis and entering the building.

The cropduster sequence, meant to take place in northern Indiana
Indiana
Indiana is a US state, admitted to the United States as the 19th on December 11, 1816. It is located in the Midwestern United States and Great Lakes Region. With 6,483,802 residents, the state is ranked 15th in population and 16th in population density. Indiana is ranked 38th in land area and is...

, was shot on location
Location shooting
Location shooting is the practice of filming in an actual setting rather than on a sound stage or back lot. In filmmaking a location is any place where a film crew will be filming actors and recording their dialog. A location where dialog is not recorded may be considered as a second unit...

 on Garces Highway (155) near the towns of Wasco
Wasco, California
Wasco is a city in the San Joaquin Valley, in Kern County, California, United States. Wasco is located northwest of Bakersfield, at an elevation of 328 feet...

 and Delano
Delano, California
Delano's climate is characteristic of the San Joaquin Valley. The weather is hot and dry during the summer and cool and damp in winter. Frequent ground fog known regionally as "tule fog" can obscure vision. Record temperatures range between 115°F and 14°F...

, north of Bakersfield in Kern County, California
Kern County, California
Spreading across the southern end of the California Central Valley, Kern County is the fifth-largest county by population in California. Its economy is heavily linked to agriculture and to petroleum extraction, and there is a strong aviation and space presence. Politically, it has generally...

 (35°45′38.81"N 119°33′41.52"W). Years later, in a show at the Pompidou Center called "Hitchcock and Art: Fatal Coincidences", an aerial shot of Grant in the cornfield, with a "road cutting straight through the cornrows to the edge of the screen", was said to draw on Léon Spilliaert
Leon Spilliaert
Léon Spilliaert was a Belgian symbolist painter and graphic artist.Spilliaert was born in Ostend, the oldest of seven children of Léonard-Hubert Spilliaert, who was a perfumer, and Léonie . From childhood he displayed an interest in art and drawing. A prolific doodler and autodidact, he was...

's "Le Paquebot ou L'Estran", which features "alternating strips of sand and ocean blue bands stretch[ed] to the edge of the canvas."

The aircraft seen flying in the scene is a Naval Aircraft Factory N3N Canary, a World War II Navy pilot trainer sometimes converted for cropdusting. The aircraft that hits the truck and explodes is a wartime Stearman
Stearman Aircraft
Stearman Aircraft Corporation was an aircraft manufacturer in Wichita, Kansas. Although the company designed a range of other aircraft, it is most known for producing the Model 75, which is commonly known simply as the "Stearman" or "Boeing Stearman"....

 (Boeing Model 75) trainer. Like its N3N lookalike, many were used for agricultural purposes through the 1970s. The plane was piloted by Bob Coe, a local cropduster from Wasco. Hitchcock placed replicas of square Indiana highway signs in the scene. In an extensive list of "1001 Greatest Movie Moments" of all time, the British movie magazine Empire
Empire (magazine)
Empire is a British film magazine published monthly by Bauer Consumer Media. From the first issue in July 1989, the magazine was edited by Barry McIlheney and published by Emap. Bauer purchased Emap Consumer Media in early 2008...

in its August 2009 issue ranked the cropduster scene as the best.

The shootout on Mount Rushmore at the end of the film was filmed on a replica constructed in Hollywood.

Set design


The house at the end of the film was not real. Hitchcock asked the set designers to make the set resemble a house by Frank Lloyd Wright
Frank Lloyd Wright
Frank Lloyd Wright was an American architect, interior designer, writer and educator, who designed more than 1,000 structures and completed 500 works. Wright believed in designing structures which were in harmony with humanity and its environment, a philosophy he called organic architecture...

, the most popular architect in America at the time, using the materials, form and interiors associated with him. The set was built in Culver City, where MGM's studios were located.

Costuming


The gray suit worn by Cary Grant throughout almost the entire film has taken on somewhat iconic status. A panel of fashion experts convened by GQ in 2006 called it both the best suit in film history, and the most influential on men's style, stating that it has since been copied for Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise
Thomas Cruise Mapother IV , better known as Tom Cruise, is an American film actor and producer. He has been nominated for three Academy Awards and he has won three Golden Globe Awards....

's character in Collateral
Collateral (film)
Collateral is a 2004 crime thriller film starring Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx. It was directed by Michael Mann and written by Stuart Beattie. It was Mann's first feature film to be shot mostly with high-definition cameras. Mann had previously used the format for portions of Ali and for his CBS drama...

and Ben Affleck
Ben Affleck
Benjamin Géza Affleck-Boldt , better known as Ben Affleck, is an American actor, film director, writer, and producer. He became known with his performances in Kevin Smith's films such as Mallrats and Chasing Amy...

's character in Paycheck
Paycheck (film)
Paycheck is a 2003 film adaptation of the short story of the same name by science fiction writer Philip K. Dick. The film was directed by John Woo and stars Ben Affleck, Uma Thurman and Aaron Eckhart...

. This sentiment has been echoed by writer Todd McEwen
Todd McEwen
Todd McEwen is an American writer. A graduate of Columbia University, he has been a resident of Scotland since 1981 and is married to novelist Lucy Ellmann. He has published four novels: Fisher's Hornpipe , McX: A Romance of the Dour , Arithmetic and Who Sleeps with Katz...

, who called it "gorgeous," and wrote a short story "Cary Grant's Suit" which recounts the film's plot from the viewpoint of the suit. There is some disagreement as to who tailored the suit; according to Vanity Fair
Vanity Fair (magazine)
Vanity Fair is a magazine of pop culture, fashion, and current affairs published by Condé Nast. The present Vanity Fair has been published since 1983 and there have been editions for four European countries as well as the U.S. edition. This revived the title which had ceased publication in 1935...

magazine, it was Norton & Sons
Norton & Sons
Norton & Sons is a Savile Row bespoke tailor founded in 1821 by Walter Grant Norton. The firm is located on the East side of the street, at No. 16....

 of London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, although according to The Independent
The Independent
The Independent is a British national morning newspaper published in London by Independent Print Limited, owned by Alexander Lebedev since 2010. It is nicknamed the Indy, while the Sunday edition, The Independent on Sunday, is the Sindy. Launched in 1986, it is one of the youngest UK national daily...

it was Quintino
Quintino
Quintino is a Latin-derived male given name meaning "the fifth".- People :* Quintino Bocaiúva - Brazilian journalist and politician* Quintino Vilas Boas Neto - Portuguese artist...

 of Beverly Hills.

Eva Marie Saint's wardrobe for the film was originally entirely chosen by MGM. Hitchcock disliked MGM's selections and the actress and director went to Bergdorf Goodman
Bergdorf Goodman
Bergdorf Goodman is a luxury goods department store based on Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan in New York City. The company was founded in 1899 by Herman Bergdorf and was later owned and managed by Edwin Goodman, and later his son Andrew Goodman....

 in New York to select what she would wear.

Editing and post-production


In François Truffaut
François Truffaut
François Roland Truffaut was an influential film critic and filmmaker and one of the founders of the French New Wave. In a film career lasting over a quarter of a century, he remains an icon of the French film industry. He was also a screenwriter, producer, and actor working on over twenty-five...

's book-length interview, Hitchcock/Truffaut (1967), Hitchcock said that MGM wanted North by Northwest cut by 15 minutes so the film's length would run under two hours. Hitchcock had his agent check his contract, learned that he had absolute control over the final cut, and refused.

One of Eva Marie Saint's lines in the dining car seduction scene was redubbed. She originally said "I never make love on an empty stomach," but it was changed in post-production to "I never discuss love on an empty stomach." It is said that the censors felt the original version was too risqué.

Release


The trailer for North by Northwest features Hitchcock presenting himself as the owner of Alfred Hitchcock Travel Agency and telling the viewer he has made a motion picture to advertise these wonderful vacation stops.

The world premiere took place at the San Sebastian International Film Festival
San Sebastián International Film Festival
The San Sebastián International Film Festival is an annual FIAPF A category film festival held in the Spanish city of San Sebastián .-History:The festival was founded in 1953...

.

Reception


Time
Time (magazine)
Time is an American news magazine. A European edition is published from London. Time Europe covers the Middle East, Africa and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong...

magazine called the film "smoothly troweled and thoroughly entertaining." A. H. Weiler of The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

made it a "Critic's Pick" and said it was the "year's most scenic, intriguing and merriest chase"; Weiler complimented the two leads: "Cary Grant, a veteran member of the Hitchcock acting varsity, was never more at home than in this role of the advertising-man-on-the-lam. He handles the grimaces, the surprised look, the quick smile, ... and all the derring-do with professional aplomb and grace, In casting Eva Marie Saint as his romantic vis-à-vis, Mr. Hitchcock has plumbed some talents not shown by the actress heretofore. Although she is seemingly a hard, designing type, she also emerges both the sweet heroine and a glamorous charmer."

During its two-week run at Radio City Music Hall
Radio City Music Hall
Radio City Music Hall is an entertainment venue located in New York City's Rockefeller Center. Its nickname is the Showplace of the Nation, and it was for a time the leading tourist destination in the city...

, the film grossed $404,056, setting a record in that theater's non-holiday gross.

Time Out London, reviewing the film nearly a half-century after its initial release, said:
Fifty years on, you could say that Hitchcock’s sleek, wry, paranoid thriller caught the zeitgeist
Zeitgeist
Zeitgeist is "the spirit of the times" or "the spirit of the age."Zeitgeist is the general cultural, intellectual, ethical, spiritual or political climate within a nation or even specific groups, along with the general ambiance, morals, sociocultural direction, and mood associated with an era.The...

 perfectly: Cold War shadiness, secret agents of power, urbane modernism, the ant-like bustle of city life, and a hint of dread behind the sharp suits of affluence. Cary Grant’s Roger Thornhill, the film’s sharply dressed ad exec who is sucked into a vortex of mistaken identity, certainly wouldn’t be out of place in Mad Men
Mad Men
Mad Men is an American dramatic television series created and produced by Matthew Weiner. The series premiered on Sunday evenings on the American cable network AMC and are produced by Lionsgate Television. It premiered on July 19, 2007, and completed its fourth season on October 17, 2010. Each...

. But there’s nothing dated about this perfect storm of talent, from Hitchcock and Grant to writer Ernest Lehman (Sweet Smell of Success
Sweet Smell of Success
Sweet Smell of Success is a 1957 American film noir made by Hill-Hecht-Lancaster Productions and released by United Artists. It was directed by Alexander Mackendrick and stars Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Susan Harrison and Martin Milner. The screenplay was written by Clifford Odets, Ernest Lehman...

), co-stars James Mason and Eva Marie Saint, composer Bernard Herrmann and even designer Saul Bass, whose opening-credits sequence still manages to send a shiver down the spine.


North By Northwest currently holds a 100% "certified fresh" rating on the review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes
Rotten Tomatoes
Rotten Tomatoes is a website devoted to reviews, information, and news of films—widely known as a film review aggregator. Its name derives from the cliché of audiences throwing tomatoes and other vegetables at a poor stage performance...

 based on 58 reviews. The site's consensus calls the film "Gripping, suspenseful and visually iconic" and claims it "laid the groundwork for countless action thrillers to follow."
The film also ranks at number 98 in Empire
Empire (magazine)
Empire is a British film magazine published monthly by Bauer Consumer Media. From the first issue in July 1989, the magazine was edited by Barry McIlheney and published by Emap. Bauer purchased Emap Consumer Media in early 2008...

magazines list of the 500 Greatest Films of All Time..

Themes and motifs


Hitchcock planned the film as a change of pace after his dark romantic thriller Vertigo
Vertigo (film)
Vertigo is a 1958 psychological thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring James Stewart, Kim Novak, and Barbara Bel Geddes. The screenplay was written by Alec Coppel and Samuel A...

a year earlier. In his book-length interview Hitchcock/Truffaut (1967) with François Truffaut
François Truffaut
François Roland Truffaut was an influential film critic and filmmaker and one of the founders of the French New Wave. In a film career lasting over a quarter of a century, he remains an icon of the French film industry. He was also a screenwriter, producer, and actor working on over twenty-five...

, Hitchcock said that he wanted to do "something fun, light-hearted, and generally free of the symbolism permeating his other movies." Writer Ernest Lehman has also mocked those who look for symbolism in the film. Despite its popular appeal, the movie is considered to be a masterpiece for its themes of deception
Deception
Deception, beguilement, deceit, bluff, mystification, bad faith, and subterfuge are acts to propagate beliefs that are not true, or not the whole truth . Deception can involve dissimulation, propaganda, and sleight of hand. It can employ distraction, camouflage or concealment...

, mistaken identity
Mistaken identity
Mistaken identity is a defense in criminal law which claims the actual innocence of the criminal defendant, and attempts to undermine evidence of guilt by asserting that any eyewitness to the crime incorrectly thought that they saw the defendant, when in fact the person seen by the witness was...

, and moral relativism
Moral relativism
Moral relativism may be any of several descriptive, meta-ethical, or normative positions. Each of them is concerned with the differences in moral judgments across different people and cultures:...

 in the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

 era.

The central theme is that of theatre and play-acting, wherein everyone is playing a part, no one is who they seem, and identity is in flux. This is reflected by Thornhill's line: "The only performance that will satisfy you is when I play dead." Significantly (and ironically), Thornhill is a successful advertising executive, a man who makes his living by distorting reality and deceiving the public. In the role of Thornhill, Grant was distressed with the way the plot seemed to wander aimlessly, and he actually approached Hitchcock to complain about the script. "I can't make heads or tails of it," he said (unwittingly quoting a line that Thornhill utters in the film).

The title North by Northwest is often seen as having been taken from a line (I am only mad north by northwest. When the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw.) in Hamlet
Hamlet
The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, or more simply Hamlet, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601...

, a work also concerned with the shifty nature of reality. Hitchcock noted this in an interview with Peter Bogdanovich
Peter Bogdanovich
Peter Bogdanovich is an American film historian, director, writer, actor, producer, and critic. He was part of the wave of "New Hollywood" directors, which included William Friedkin, Brian De Palma, George Lucas, Martin Scorsese, Michael Cimino, and Francis Ford Coppola...

 in 1963. Lehman states that he used a working title for the film of "In a Northwesterly Direction," because the film's action was to begin in New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

 and climax in Alaska
Alaska
Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait...

. Then the head of the story department at MGM suggested "North by Northwest," but this was still to be a working title. Other titles were considered, including "The Man on Lincoln's Nose," but "North by Northwest" was kept because, according to Lehman, "We never did find a [better] title." The Northwest Airlines reference in the film plays on the title. The title is not an actual compass direction
Boxing the compass
Boxing the compass is the action of naming all thirty-two points of the compass in clockwise order. Such names are formed by the initials of the cardinal directions and their intermediate ordinal directions, and are very handy to refer to a heading in a general or colloquial fashion, without...

, the two closest directions being northwest by north (NWbN) and north-northwest (NNW), with the latter traditionally taken as the title's intended meaning.

The plot of this film involves what Alfred Hitchcock calls a "MacGuffin
MacGuffin
A MacGuffin is "a plot element that catches the viewers' attention or drives the plot of a work of fiction". The defining aspect of a MacGuffin is that the major players in the story are willing to do and sacrifice almost anything to obtain it, regardless of what the MacGuffin actually is...

", a physical object that everyone in the film is chasing but which has no deep relationship to the plot. Late in North by Northwest, it emerges that the spies are attempting to smuggle microfilm containing government secrets out of the country. They have been trying to kill Thornhill, whom they believe to be the agent on their trail, "George Kaplan." Indeed, the fictitious Kaplan himself could be the "MacGuffin" of the film as Thornhill, as well as the villains, spend most of the movie vainly trying to track him down.
There are similarities between this movie and Hitchcock's earlier film Saboteur
Saboteur (film)
Saboteur is a 1942 Universal film directed by Alfred Hitchcock with a screenplay written by Peter Viertel, Joan Harrison, and Dorothy Parker. The movie stars Priscilla Lane, Robert Cummings, and Norman Lloyd...

(1942), whose final scene atop the Statue of Liberty
Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty is a colossal neoclassical sculpture on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, designed by Frédéric Bartholdi and dedicated on October 28, 1886...

 foreshadows the Mount Rushmore scene in the later film. North by Northwest is part of a long line of "wrong man" films by Hitchcock, in which the protagonist is mistaken for the criminals, then hunts them down while running from both criminals and police. Films with these plot elements include The 39 Steps
The 39 Steps (1935 film)
The 39 Steps is a British thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, loosely based on the adventure novel The Thirty-nine Steps by John Buchan. The film stars Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll....

(1935), Young and Innocent
Young and Innocent
Young and Innocent is a 1937 British film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Nova Pilbeam, Derrick De Marney and John Longden...

(1937), Saboteur
Saboteur (film)
Saboteur is a 1942 Universal film directed by Alfred Hitchcock with a screenplay written by Peter Viertel, Joan Harrison, and Dorothy Parker. The movie stars Priscilla Lane, Robert Cummings, and Norman Lloyd...

(1942), To Catch a Thief
To Catch a Thief
To Catch a Thief is a 1952 thriller novel by David Dodge. John Robie is a retired American jewel thief, formerly known as Le Chat , who now spends his time tending to the rose garden in his villa on the Côte d'Azur. Following a series of recent jewel robberies on the Riviera that resemble his...

(1955), and Frenzy
Frenzy
Frenzy is a 1972 British thriller film produced and directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and is the penultimate feature film of his extensive career. The film is based upon the novel Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square by Arthur La Bern, and was adapted for the screen by Anthony Shaffer. La Bern...

(1972).

North by Northwest has been referred to as "the first James Bond
James Bond
James Bond, code name 007, is a fictional character created in 1953 by writer Ian Fleming, who featured him in twelve novels and two short story collections. There have been a six other authors who wrote authorised Bond novels or novelizations after Fleming's death in 1964: Kingsley Amis,...

 film" due to its similarities with splashily colorful settings, secret agents, and an elegant, daring, wisecracking leading man opposite a sinister yet strangely charming villain. Based on the strength of North by Northwest, Hitchcock was seriously considered to direct the first conceived Bond film by Ivar Bryce (co-owner of Xanadu Productions), Ian Fleming
Ian Fleming
Ian Lancaster Fleming was a British author, journalist and Naval Intelligence Officer.Fleming is best known for creating the fictional British spy James Bond and for a series of twelve novels and nine short stories about the character, one of the biggest-selling series of fictional books of...

, and Kevin McClory
Kevin McClory
Kevin O'Donovan McClory was an Irish screenwriter, producer, and director. McClory was best known for the 1983 James Bond film Never Say Never Again, which was the result of a long legal battle between McClory and Ian Fleming over the writing credits and later the film rights to...

. Hitchcock read the script that would eventually become Thunderball
Thunderball (film)
Thunderball is the fourth spy film in the James Bond series starring Sean Connery as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond. It is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Ian Fleming, which in turn was based on an original screenplay by Jack Whittingham...

and was interested in directing it. Later the team shared doubts about Hitchcock's involvement because of his minimum salary requirement and the amount of control over the picture they would have to give up. Hitchcock ultimately passed on the Bond film to direct Psycho
Psycho (1960 film)
Psycho is a 1960 American suspense/psychological horror film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins. The film is based on the screenplay by Joseph Stefano, who adapted it from the 1959 novel of the same name by Robert Bloch...

.

The film's final shot – that of the train speeding into a tunnel during a romantic assignation onboard – is a famous bit of self-conscious Freudian symbolism
Free association (psychology)
Free association is a technique used in psychoanalysis which was originally devised by Sigmund Freud out of the hypnotic method of his mentor and coworker, Josef Breuer....

 reflecting Hitchcock's mischievous sense of humor. In the book Hitchcock / Truffaut (p. 107-108), Hitchcock called it a "phallic symbol... probably one of the most impudent shots I ever made."

Home media


North by Northwest was released on the Blu-Ray Disc format in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 on November 3, 2009 by Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc., also known as Warner Bros. Pictures or simply Warner Bros. , is an American producer of film and television entertainment.One of the major film studios, it is a subsidiary of Time Warner, with its headquarters in Burbank,...

 with a 1080p/VC-1
1080p
1080p is the shorthand identification for a set of HDTV high-definition video modes that are characterized by 1080 horizontal lines of resolution and progressive scan, meaning the image is not interlaced as is the case with the 1080i display standard....

. This release is a special 50th anniversary edition. A 50th anniversary edition on DVD
DVD
A DVD is an optical disc storage media format, invented and developed by Philips, Sony, Toshiba, and Panasonic in 1995. DVDs offer higher storage capacity than Compact Discs while having the same dimensions....

 was also released by Warner Bros.

Awards


North by Northwest was nominated for three Academy Awards
Academy Awards
An Academy Award, also known as an Oscar, is an accolade bestowed by the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to recognize excellence of professionals in the film industry, including directors, actors, and writers...

 for Film Editing
Academy Award for Film Editing
The Academy Award for Film Editing is one of the annual awards of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Nominations for this award are closely correlated with the Academy Award for Best Picture. Since 1981, every film selected as Best Picture has also been nominated for the Film Editing...

 (George Tomasini
George Tomasini
George Tomasini was an American film editor, born in Springfield, Massachusetts who had a notable collaboration with director Alfred Hitchcock, editing nine of his movies in the decade 1954-1964...

), Art Direction
Academy Award for Best Art Direction
The Academy Awards are the oldest awards ceremony for achievements in motion pictures. The Academy Award for Best Art Direction recognizes achievement in art direction on a film. The films below are listed with their production year, so the Oscar 2000 for best art direction went to a film from 1999...

 (William A. Horning
William A. Horning
William A. Horning was a multiple Academy Award winner. He was married to Esther Montgomery until his death....

, Robert F. Boyle
Robert F. Boyle
Robert Francis Boyle was an American film art director and production designer.Born in Los Angeles, Boyle trained as an architect, graduating from the University of Southern California . When he lost his job in that field during the Great Depression, Boyle found work in films as an extra...

, Merrill Pye
Merrill Pye
Merrill Pye was an American art director. He was nominated for an Academy Award in the category Best Art Direction for the film North by Northwest.-External links:...

, Henry Grace
Henry Grace
Henry Grace was an American set decorator. He won an Academy Award and was nominated for twelve more in the category Best Art Direction.As an actor he had a role as Dwight D...

, Frank McKelvy), and Original Screenplay (Ernest Lehman
Ernest Lehman
Ernest Lehman was an American screenwriter. He received 6 Academy Award nominations during his screenwriting career...

). All three Oscars went instead to Ben-Hur
Ben-Hur (1959 film)
Ben-Hur is a 1959 American epic film directed by William Wyler and starring Charlton Heston in the title role, the third film adaptation of Lew Wallace's 1880 novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. The screenplay was written by Karl Tunberg, Gore Vidal, and Christopher Fry. The score was composed by...

. The film also won, for Lehman, a 1960 Edgar Award
Edgar Award
The Edgar Allan Poe Awards , named after Edgar Allan Poe, are presented every year by the Mystery Writers of America...

 for Best Motion Picture Screenplay.
In 1995, North by Northwest was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry
National Film Registry
The National Film Registry is the United States National Film Preservation Board's selection of films for preservation in the Library of Congress. The Board, established by the National Film Preservation Act of 1988, was reauthorized by acts of Congress in 1992, 1996, 2005, and again in October 2008...

 by the Library of Congress
Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is the research library of the United States Congress, de facto national library of the United States, and the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. Located in three buildings in Washington, D.C., it is the largest library in the world by shelf space and...

 as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

In June 2008, the AFI revealed its "Ten top Ten" – the best ten films in ten "classic" American film genres – after polling over 1,500 people from the creative community. North by Northwest was acknowledged as the seventh best film in the mystery genre.

American Film Institute
American Film Institute
The American Film Institute is an independent non-profit organization created by the National Endowment for the Arts, which was established in 1967 when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act...

 recognition
  • AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies
    AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies
    The first of the AFI 100 Years… series of cinematic milestones, AFI's 100 Years…100 Movies is a list of the 100 best American movies, as determined by the American Film Institute from a poll of more than 1,500 artists and leaders in the film industry who chose from a list of 400 nominated movies...

     – #40
  • AFI's 100 Years... 100 Thrills
    AFI's 100 Years... 100 Thrills
    Part of the AFI 100 Years… series, AFI's 100 Years…100 Thrills is a list of the top 100 heart-pounding movies in American cinema. The list was unveiled by the American Film Institute on June 12, 2001, during a CBS special hosted by Harrison Ford....

     – #4
  • AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains
    AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains
    AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains is a list of the 100 greatest screen characters chosen by American Film Institute in June 2003. It is part of the AFI 100 Years… series. The series was first presented in a CBS special hosted by Arnold Schwarzenegger...

    :
    • Phillip Vandamm – Nominated Villain
  • AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores
    AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores
    Part of the AFI 100 Years… series, AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores is a list of the top 25 film scores in American cinema. The list was unveiled by the American Film Institute in 2005.-The List:-External links:**...

     – Nominated
  • AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) – #55
  • AFI's 10 Top 10
    AFI's 10 Top 10
    AFI's 10 Top 10 honors the ten greatest American films in ten classic film genres. Presented by the American Film Institute , the lists were unveiled on a television special broadcast by CBS on June 17, 2008....

     – #7 Mystery Film

Influences


The movie title is reported to have been the influence for the name of the popular annual live music festival South By Southwest
South by Southwest
South by Southwest is an Austin, Texas based company dedicated to planning conferences, trade shows, festivals and other events. Their current roster of annual events include: SXSW Music, SXSW Film, SXSW Interactive, SXSWedu, and SXSWeco and take place every spring in Austin, Texas, United States...

 in Austin, Texas, started in 1987, with the name idea coming from Louis Black, editor and co-founder of the local alternative weekly The Austin Chronicle as a play on the Hitchcock movie title.

The Family Guy
Family Guy
Family Guy is an American animated television series created by Seth MacFarlane for the Fox Broadcasting Company. The series centers on the Griffins, a dysfunctional family consisting of parents Peter and Lois; their children Meg, Chris, and Stewie; and their anthropomorphic pet dog Brian...

episode "North By North Quahog
North by North Quahog
"North by North Quahog" is the first episode of season four of Family Guy, following the revival of the series three years after its cancellation in 2002...

" not only parodies the film's title but also recreates a few of the film's iconic scenes including the biplane attack and the chase across Mt Rushmore.

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