Favourite scenes: “North by Northwest”

One of the memorable scenes in North By Northwest ,in the airport where the Professor (Leo G. Carroll )  sets the record straight about Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint ).

In the Northwest terminal of Chicago’s Midway airport, the Intelligence Agency chief needs the help of Roger O. Thornhill (Cary Grant) so he starts explaining to Thornhill what Eve’s role really is in relation to Vandamm (James Mason), and about the MacGuffin ( Government secrets being taken out of the country)


Cary Grant, Leo G. Carroll

Part of the conversation is drowned out by the planes’ engines ( presumably the part where the Professor tells Thornhill what he wants him to do at Mount Rushmore.)

Even as he explains Eve’s position, the Professor is still keeping Thornhill in the dark about the ultimate outcome – Eve flying off with Vandamm.


Cary Grant

Thornhill’s belated realisation that he had been all wrong about Eve Kendall – not his fault , but now he fears for her safety.


Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint.

This isn’t the happy ending -not quite yet! Roger thinks he and Eve are now free to pursue their relationship- until she tells him she is due to re-join VanDamm.


Martin Landau, James Mason

Two comments, wonderfully delivered by James Mason :

Games –  must we?!”

And , near the end of the thriller: ”This matter is best disposed of from a great height – over water!”

(The ‘matter’ being Eve Kendall.)


Ken Lynch, Cary Grant, Patrick McVey

Two bored cops ,having arrested Thornhill at the auction, suddenly find they are transporting America’s most wanted man!


Question: Did Eve realise she was sending Thornhill to his death at the Prairie bus stop, Highway 41. Or can we hope she didn’t know what Vandamm had planned.


Also love this ad: “…..run from the cops,killers,secret agents, beautiful agents……..and see if you can do all this without wrinkling your suit!”


We’ll never really know how the film was called NORTH BY NORTHWEST. It isn’t a compass setting ( though Northwest by North is). It was described as a working title during filming. I doubt it  had anything  to do with HAMLET’s reference ( “I am but mad north-north-west).

Hitchcock , in 1963, said:

“It’s a fantasy. The whole film is epitomised in the title -there is no such thing as north-by-northwest on the compass.”

In the scene  I described above at the airport, there is reference to Northwest Airlines.



Bernard Hermann ’s  fantastic overture over Saul Bass’s opening titles. Intense, driving and conveying the subsequent chase Cary Grant endures across America. 






6 responses »

  1. Does this movie actually have a weak or poor scene in it? It’s just so polished and entertaining, and Hitchcock’s audacity is in full flow. The drowning out of what is such vital dialog for the characters but pure tedium for viewers is beautifully done. But really, there are so many set pieces and memorable moments – the whole thing could serve as a virtual handbook on how to shoot a slick romantic thriller.

  2. Indeed, Colin. All scenes perfect for me!
    Herman’s score adds so much to the thrill factor.
    I still find it extraordinary that the next Hitchcock couldn’t be more different – Psycho. Maybe North by Northwest signalled the end of the classic era. It does for me.

  3. My only problem is that his mother is played by an actress who is more or less HIS age. Otherwise, a wonderful film.

  4. And to be slightly facile – the red dress that Eva-Marie Saint wears during the auction sequence is simply sensational! This is one of my favourite films and a real “classic” – a word that is overused these days.

    • I think this film is high in most classic film fans’ favourites. From the very beginning till the end, it takes you on a glorious ride with Cary Grant.
      THAT dress! So beautiful.

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