North By Northwest (1959)

 ●  English ● 2 hrs 19 mins

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Madison Avenue advertising man Roger Thornhill finds himself thrust into the world of spies when he is mistaken for a man by the name of George Kaplan. Foreign spy Philip Vandamm and his henchman Leonard try to eliminate him but when Thornhill tries to make sense of the case, he is framed for murder. Now on the run from the police, he manages to board the 20th Century Limited bound for Chicago where he meets a beautiful blond, Eve Kendall, who helps him to evade the authorities. His world is turned upside down yet again when he learns that Eve isn't the innocent bystander he thought she was. Not all is as it seems however, leading to a dramatic rescue and escape at the top of Mt. Rushmore. Will Thornhill succeed in escaping with his life and proving himself innocent?

Cast: Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason

Crew: Alfred Hitchcock (Director), Robert Burks (Director of Photography), Bernard Herrmann (Music Director)

Rating: Not Rated (India)

Genres: Adventure, Mystery, Thriller

Release Dates: 26 Sep 1959 (India)

Tagline: It's love and murder at first sight!

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Did you know? Features two actors who would go on to head spy agencies in their own 1960s television series. Edward Platt would star as "Chief" in Get Smart (1965), and Leo G. Carroll would star as "Mr. Waverly" in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1964) and its spin off The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. (1966). Read More
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as Roger O Thornhill
as Eve Kendall
as Phillip Vandamm
as Valerian
as Captain Junket
as Victor Larrabee
as Clara Thornhill
as Mrs. Townsend
as Charley - Chicago Policeman
as The Professor
as Auctioneer
as Leonard
as Sergeant Flamm
as Dr. Cross
as Lester Townsend




Production Company
Associate Producer



Screenplay Writer

Camera and Electrical

Director of Photography


Music Director


Art Director
Production Designer


Film Type:
Colour Info:
Sound Mix:
Dolby Digital, Dolby SR, Mono
Frame Rate:
24 fps
Aspect Ratio:
1.85:1 (Flat)
It's love and murder at first sight!
It's a deadly game of "tag" and Cary Grant is "it"!
The Master of Suspense weaves his greatest tale!
The Master of Suspense presents a 2000-mile chase across America!
Alfred Hitchcock takes you.... North by Northwest!
Revealing Mistakes
The film was actually shot from mid - late August through September, 1958.

Revealing Mistakes
The first exterior shot of the train depicts a pink sunset. Yet, it is broad daylight in the following dining-car scene.

Revealing Mistakes
Every indication is given throughout the film that the action takes place in the summer - the trees in NYC are in full flower, ditto the foliage at the Long Island estate, the Indiana cornfield landscape is scorched, the way people are dressed, especially in the Chicago as well as South Dakota scenes, etc. - yet the newspaper which the Professor and his colleagues read recounting the murder of Lester Townsend carries a late November date.

Revealing Mistakes
The shot of Thornhill's car racing past the police car during his drunken escape is run at a higher than normal speed: the movements of the police officer are hurried and jerky and the red light atop the car is flashing at a much faster rate until Thornhill's car passes, at which point the film abruptly reverts to normal speed, as the cop moves and the light flashes at a noticeably slower (i.e. normal) rate.

Revealing Mistakes
In the Chicago P.D. patrol car after Thornhill's arrest at the auction house, the cop on Thornhill's right forgets to lean as they simulate a turn. Cary Grant can be seen giving the errant actor a poke in the arm.

Revealing Mistakes
During the scene in the diner at Mount Rushmore, a young extra boy in the background anticipates the surprise gun shot, fired by Eve. The diners are supposed to be unaware this is going to happen but the young extra boy covers his ears way before she draws the gun. The young extra boy must have known there would be a loud bang from the blank-filled pistol from previous takes and therefore covered his ears on the "printed" take.

Factual Mistake
Roger Thornhill orders a "Gibson" cocktail on the train with Eva Marie Saint, his glass is filled with a 'brown' colored liquor as he puts it to his mouth; a "Gibson" is a gin and vermouth mix with an onion garnish, therefore it would be a 'clear' cocktail not brown.

Factual Mistake
When the Mercedes carrying Roger is balanced on the rocky cliff, the left rear wheel is spinning in the air. Moments later, the car drives back on to the road. In a rear wheel drive car from the 1950's, all of the torque would be delivered to the free wheel, making it impossible for the car to move without being pushed or pulled.

Errors in Geography
As the drunken Roger is placed in the car by the kidnappers, waves can clearly be seen crashing into a rocky coast line with a large drop to the sea. The scene takes place in Glen Cove, New York, as evidenced by the police car, but there is nowhere on Long Island that has a coastline like this.

Errors in Geography
Thornhill sees the car with Eve and the others arrive and stop on the same level as him while he's on the observation deck outside the cafeteria at Mt. Rushmore. The parking lot is actually a couple hundred feet below.

In the interior shots of the police car after Thornhill gets removed from the auction, there is no rear view mirror. However, in the external shot at the airport when they get out, there is a mirror.

When Roger is kissing Eve in her train compartment, he removes his hands from the back of her head twice.

In "George Kaplan's" room at the Plaza Hotel, we see a close-up shot of Thornhill pressing the call button for the maid. Visible in this shot is a telephone with a coiled cord. But in all other shots that show that phone, it has a straight, non-coiled cord.

Thornhill is taken from Mt. Rushmore in an ambulance with a hatchback-style rear gate, which is the correct rear door for an ambulance conversion of a station wagon. When he arrives in the forest to meet Eve, he emerges from a station wagon with a standard lower tailgate and upper hatch - not an ambulance.

Thornhill complains that he only has one suit for his stay in Chicago, yet when he heads out into the prairie he has a different colored suit on. Director Alfred Hitchcock claimed that it was actually the same suit that just looked a different color due to film color-matching techniques. However, according to Eva Marie Saint, Cary Grant loved clothes and didn't want to see the blue suit from the hotel scene in Chicago trashed from crawling round in the dirt to avoid the crop duster. So, a different suit was used for that scene (which happened to be a different color).

When Thornhill is about to get out of the cab leaving his secretary there, the cab behind is bright orange. After he gets out, the cab behind is a different color and make of car.

When Thornhill is writing the message on the matchbook, the message takes up three lines and reads "They're onto / you - I'm in / your room." When Eve opens the matchbook below, the message takes up four lines and reads "They're on to / you / I'm in your / room." The matches also change from being half full to totally full.

When Thornhill and his secretary are in a cab in front of the Plaza Hotel, a 1958 Ford cab is parked behind them. But when Thornhill exits the taxi, the car behind them has changed to a 1957 Dodge.

Audio/Video Mismatch
When Thornhill escapes from the Mt. Rushmore house and runs over to the black Ford, he is shown opening the car door and just starting to get in while on the soundtrack the sounds of the door being closed and the ignition being turned on are heard.

Audio/Video Mismatch
Eve's line "I never make love on an empty stomach" is overdubbed with "I never discuss love on an empty stomach".

Audio/Video Mismatch
The airstrip at Vandamm's place clearly seems to be a gravel strip. Yet, as the plane touches down, a brief tire screech is heard, as from a plane setting down on a concrete or asphalt strip.

Character Error
The right side mirror on the bus that picked up the other man along the Indiana highway is in two different positions. As the bus approaches, it is adjusted correctly. When the man gets on and the bus pulls away, the mirror is turned and pointing toward the front of the bus, where it would be useless to the driver.

Audio/Video Mismatch
When Eve and Roger are kissing after the porter leaves the compartment there is no movement nor is there any noise from the train. You can even hear Eve leaning against the wall of the compartment as it creaks as Roger presses against her.
At the auction, Thornhill remarks that Van Damme, Kendall, and Leonard resemble a scene worthy of Charles Addams. Addams created the macabre yet debonair characters of the various Addams Family TV series and movies.

Alfred Hitchcock had planned a sequence where Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) hid in Abraham Lincoln's nose and had a sneezing fit. Park officials would not allow this to be filmed, but Hitchcock tried again and again. Finally, someone asked Hitchcock how he would feel if it were the other way around and Lincoln was having a sneezing fit in Cary Grant's nose. Hitchcock immediately understood and the scene was never filmed. However, "The Man in Lincoln's Nose" was used as a "gag" working title.

Features two actors who would go on to head spy agencies in their own 1960s television series. Edward Platt would star as "Chief" in Get Smart (1965), and Leo G. Carroll would star as "Mr. Waverly" in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1964) and its spin off The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. (1966).

The scenes where the crop duster is chasing and shooting at Thornhill were filmed with a real airplane while the scene where the plane crashes into the fuel truck was done using large models of both truck and plane.

In an interview, Alfred Hitchcock's daughter, Patricia Hitchcock, reveals that her husband worked at the time of the filming for Magnum Oil. "Magnum Oil" is the name on the fuel truck in the famous crop duster/oil truck scene.

Ranked #7 on the American Film Institute's list of the 10 greatest films in the genre "Mystery" in June 2008.

In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #55 Greatest Movie of All Time.

MGM tried to persuade Alfred Hitchcock to use their Ultra-Panavision system which utilized a 65mm negative with a slight anamorphic squeeze. When projected, the image would be free of grain and quite wide. Hitchcock reportedly balked at using this large format, and instead insisted on going with Vistavision which was the format used in several of his Paramount productions. Going with Ultra-Panavision would have meant Bernard Herrmann's score would have been heard in magnetic stereo. The Vistavision prints utilized optical mono sound. Ironic that the version shown now has an entirely new soundtrack mixed in stereo.

In a TCM interview, according to screenwriter Ernest Lehman (who worked in close collaboration with Alfred Hitchcock), the working title was "In A Northwesterly Direction." The head of the Story Department at MGM said, "Why don't you call it 'North by Northwest'?" Lehman says that he and Hitch adopted that as the new working title, always assuming that they'd come up with something better.

Cary Grant was initially reluctant to accept the role of Roger Thornhill since at 55 he was much older than the character.

In the video release version of the film, Eva Marie Saint says that Cary Grant's opening scene abduction from his hotel business lunch date was shot on a Hollywood sound stage. Actually it was shot on location in the famed Oak Room of New York's Plaza Hotel, where Grant retained a room during production there.

This is the only film Alfred Hitchcock made for MGM.

MGM wanted Alfred Hitchcock to cast Cyd Charisse for the part of Eve Kendall, but Hitchcock insisted upon Eva Marie Saint.

During their escape, Roger says to Eve, "I see you've got the pumpkin," meaning Vandamm's statue containing microfilm. The line references the 1948 Alger Hiss case, in which Whittaker Chambers led federal agents to government microfilms, allegedly supplied to him by Hiss, that Chambers had hidden in a pumpkin on his farm.

Among the problems that the Production Code found with this film was the effeminacy of the henchman Leonard (Martin Landau).

If the fictional Thornhill had plans, as he stated, to attend the Winter Garden Theatre when the movie opened in the U.S. in July of 1959 (when he was kidnapped from the Oak Room), his tickets would have been for "West Side Story." But Thornhill, possibly, implies it was "My Fair Lady" that he had tickets for when he started to sing, while drunk in the Mercedes, "I've grown accustomed to your bourbon..."

The famous presidential portraits on Mount Rushmore were originally intended to extend down to waist level. Work was stopped in 1941 when funding ran out.

Famed art director/special effects artist Albert Whitlock who worked on several Hitchcock films (not this one) painted a painting of Mount Rushmore and superimposed the face of Alfred Hitchcock into the rock sculptures on the mountain as a joke. The painting exists in a private collection.

Roger Thornhill's mother tells him jokingly, "Pay the two dollars," after he futilely attempts to shed light on his kidnapping and be exonerated from his DWI charge. The line is a reference to a Depression-era Willie Howard vaudeville sketch written by Billy K. Wells. A man is in court to pay a $2 fine for spitting on the subway, but his lawyer insists on fighting the case. As the lawyer incurs greater and greater sentences, his defendant keeps pleading, "Pay the two dollars!" This sketch also appeared in Ziegfeld Follies (1945) with Edward Arnold portraying the attorney.

Eleven years after being mentioned in Rope (1948) as making an excellent villain, James Mason was finally cast by Alfred Hitchcock as such in North by Northwest (1959).

Cary Grant got $450,000 for this movie - a substantial amount for the time - plus a percentage of the gross profits. He also received $315,000 in penalty fees for having to stay nine weeks past the time his contract called for.

Ernest Lehman became the film's scriptwriter following a lunchtime meeting with Alfred Hitchcock, arranged by their mutual friend, composer Bernard Herrmann. Hitchcock originally wanted him to work on his new project The Wreck of the Mary Deare (1959) (which was eventually made instead by Michael Anderson), but Lehman refused. Hitchcock was so keen to work with him that he suggested they work together on a different film using Mary Deare's budget (without MGM's approval) even though he had only three ideas to set Lehman on his way: mistaken identity, the United Nations building, and a chase scene across the faces of Mt. Rushmore.

Jessie Royce Landis was only 7 years older than Cary Grant, who plays her son.

The crop dusting biplane which crashes and burns while attempting to kill Cary Grant as he's waiting to meet the mythical 'Mr. Kaplan' at the desolate Prairie Stop is supposedly flown by James Mason's henchman, Licht, played by character actor Robert Ellentstein. Alfred Hitchcock knew that it would be much more menacing if the pilot were never actually seen, and if Grant's Roger Thornhill was threatened by a faceless, impersonal machine. The plane gets destroyed, and Licht is killed, while his character simply disappears from the rest of film without any further mention ever being made of him, or an explanation of his absence being given.

In the DVD documentary, Eva Marie Saint recounts how Alfred Hitchcock, dissatisfied with the costumes the studio had designed for her, marched her to Bergdorf Goodman and personally picked out clothes for her to wear.

The train station scene was shot in New York City's Grand Central Terminal. Among the onlookers watching the scene being filmed were future directors George A. Romero and Larry Cohen.

Roger O. Thornhill claims that the "O" stands for "nothing". This is a reference to David O. Selznick, whose "O" also signified nothing.

James Mason suffered a severe heart attack shortly after filming ended.

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

It was journalist Otis L. Guernsey Jr. who suggested to Alfred Hitchcock the premise of a man mistaken for a nonexistent secret agent. He was inspired, he said, by a real-life case during WW II, known as Operation Mincemeat, in which British intelligence hoped to lure Italian and German forces away from Sicily, a planned invasion site. A cadaver was selected and given an identity and phony papers referring to invasions of Sardinia and Greece. A British film, The Man Who Never Was (1956), recounted the operation.

When Martin Landau first sees Cary Grant, he says, "He's a well-tailored one." All of Landau's suits for the film were made by Grant's personal tailor.

The day before the scene where Thornhill is hidden in an upper berth was to be filmed, Cary Grant took a look at the set which had been built and told Alfred Hitchcock that it had been constructed sloppily and would not do for the film. Hitchcock trusted Grant's judgment so completely that he ordered the set rebuilt to better standards without ever checking the situation for himself.

James Stewart was very interested in starring in this movie, begging Alfred 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 instead cast Cary Grant, who, ironically, was actually 4 years Stewart's senior.

Alfred Hitchcock planned to shoot a scene in the Ford automobile plant in Dearborn, MI. As Thornhill and a factory worker discussed a particular foreman at the plant, they would walk along the assembly line as a car was put together from the first bolt to the final panel. Then, as the car rolled off the line ready to drive, Thornhill would open the passenger door and out would roll the body of the foreman he had just been discussing. Hitchcock loved the idea of a body appearing out of nowhere, but he and screenwriter Ernest Lehman couldn't figure out a way to make the scene fit the story, so it never came to fruition.

Thornhill appears on the left side of the screen for almost the entire movie.

One day, Martin Landau noticed that Alfred Hitchcock was giving instructions to Cary Grant, James Mason and Eva Marie Saint. When he asked Hitchcock about this, the director basically said if he didn't talk to actors, they were doing fine; when he talked to them, it was because they did something wrong.

Eva Marie Saint had to re-dub a particular line during post-production, to satisfy censors. The original line was "I never make love on an empty stomach", but was changed to "I never discuss love on an empty stomach".

Less than eight feet of film was cut from the final release. Eight feet is about 5 seconds.

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

While on location at Mt. Rushmore, Eva Marie Saint discovered that Cary Grant would charge fans 15 cents for an autograph.

While filming Vertigo (1958), Alfred Hitchcock described some of the plot of this project to frequent Hitchcock leading man and "Vertigo" star James Stewart, who naturally assumed that Hitchcock meant to cast him in the Roger Thornhill role, and was eager to play it. Actually, Hitchcock wanted Cary Grant to play the role. By the time Hitchcock realized the misunderstanding, Stewart was so anxious to play Thornhill that rejecting him would have caused a great deal of disappointment. So Hitchcock delayed production on this film until Stewart was already safely committed to filming Otto Preminger's Anatomy of a Murder (1959) before "officially" offering him the North by Northwest (1959) role. Stewart had no choice; he had to turn down the offer, allowing Hitchcock to cast Grant, the actor he had wanted all along.