live blog of the last 1/2 of north by northwest

Sunday, May 3, 2009

2.00 pm: What is up w/ Hitchcock's exposition scenes? Here's one of the greatest directors of all time, and he doesn't even bother to make these scenes anything more than dull old people sitting around talking about stuff they already know.

2.30 pm: did you know Hitchcock was seriously considered to direct the first Bond film? And read Thunderball? It's bizarre but makes so much sense.

2.31 pm: Eva Marie Saint looks disturbingly like Scarlett Johansson or however the dickens it's spelled.

2.33 pm: Martin Landau attended the actor's studio w/ Steve McQueen.

2.34 pm: Landau hiding the gun he shoots Mason with. Classic Hitchcock. So much of his suspense centers around a machine.

2.35 pm: James Mason throws punches like a duck.

2.46 pm: Monogrammed matches. Touche, Roger Thornhill--and double for putting the world on hold while you put the apostrophe in "they're."

2.50 pm: just realized Eva Marie Saint's character's initials are EK--eek!

2.55 pm: apparently, in 1959, men wore only grey suits.

2.56 pm: evidently the entire last third of this movie was filmed on mattes.

3.00 pm: the fate of the free world hinges on Roosevelt's nose.

3.03 pm: James Mason also climbs like a duck.

3.05 pm: Cary Grant asks the bad guy for help. The bad guy doesn't help. Screenwriting at its best. No joke.

3.06 pm: Transition shot to Cary Grant metaphorically plunking EEK! Moral of the movie: James Mason is a duck.

3.07 pm: ducks are terrible creatures.

That's it for North By Northwest, but here's some more fun facts from Wikipedia:

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 magazine in 2006 called it both the best suit in film history, and the most influential on mens' style, stating that it has since been copied for Tom Cruise's character in Collateral and Ben Affleck's character in Paycheck. This sentiment has been echoed by writer Todd McEwen, who called it "gorgeous".

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

At the time, the United Nations prohibited film crews from shooting around its New York City headquarters. In an example of guerrilla filmmaking, 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 title, North by Northwest, is often seen as having been taken from a line in Hamlet, a work also concerned with the shifty nature of reality. Hitchcock noted this in an interview with Peter Bogdanovich in 1963. Lehman however, states that he used a working title for the film of "In a Northwesterly Direction", because the film was to start in New York and end in Alaska. 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, the two closest directions being northwest by north (NWbN) and north-northwest (NNW), with the latter traditionally taken as the title's intended meaning.