North By Northwest (1959)
Like Kelly, I will shamefully admit that I had never watched North By Northwest until this past week. And like Kelly I’ll be free to admit that this was a HUGE MISTAKE on my part.
What a film. In it, the dapper Madison Avenue executive Roger Thornhill is mistaken for undercover agent George Kaplan and before he knows it he’s mixed up in a cross-country trek involving kidnapping, murder, international spies, the heads on Mount Rushmore, and of course, romance.
Was the cast perfect? Maybe. I mean, has anyone ever been as cool and suave as Cary Grant? I doubt it. James Mason was at his breathlessly sinister best, a young Martin Landau was excellent as the creepy henchmen, and Eva Marie Saint was perfect as the beautiful (and deceptive) Eve Kendall. An aside: I couldn’t get over how much Saint reminded me of Anya (Emma Caufield) from Buffy. Also, I bought into Grant’s and Saint’s attraction waaaayyy more than I did with say the one between Paul Newman and Julie Andrews in Torn Curtain.
Probably the most iconic scene (which I’d seen out of context before) was when Thornhill is lured out to a barren field in Indiana and attacked from the air by a crop-dusting biplane. The filming is fantastic – the pale sky against the brown dirt and Grant in his fine suit. The slow turns of the biplane arcing into the sun are absolutely filled with menace.
Things I liked most: The biplane attack. Thornhill avoiding assassins by causing a ruckus at an art auction. James Mason’s cool confidence. The snappy dialog. Thornhill’s desperate attempts to break up Mason’s getaway.
Things I didn’t like: Was there anything? I’m still thinking about it…
Things that are still with me: The realization that I will never, ever be as cool as Cary Grant.