North by Northwest (1959)

North by Northwest
Cary Grant Pursued

'North by Northwest' is an espionage suspense thriller made in 1959, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and starring Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint and James Mason, with Leo G. Carroll and Martin Landau.

As with many Hitchcock movies, it is a tale of mistaken identity, with an innocent man, Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) being mistaken for a fugitive government agent, and, aided by a mysterious and beautiful blonde, Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint), is pursued across the country by a group of spies, meeting plenty of danger and adventure along the way.

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The movie was nominated for three Academy Awards, Ernest Lehman for Best Story and Screenplay, George Tomasini for Best Film Editing and Best Color Art Direction/Set Decoration, but won none. It is however regarded as a classic of the genre. It is hugely entertaining and is one of Hitchcock's most sophisticated and stylish works.

The plot is typically Hitchcockian - fast-moving, confused and improbable - and is signposted by the film's title: there is no specific N by NW on a compass, just as in the film the hero makes a directionless journey looking for a character who doesn't exist. The central theme of the movie concerns deception and mistaken identity. An innocent man is caught up in a web of intrigue in which everyone is playing a part and nobody is who they seem to be. But by the end of the film we don't care, we just sit back and enjoy.

Main Cast

Cary Grant ... Roger O. Thornhill
Eva Marie Saint ... Eve Kendall
James Mason ... Phillip Vandamm
Jessie Royce Landis ... Clara Thornhill
Leo G. Carroll ... The Professor
Josephine Hutchinson ... Mrs. Townsend
Philip Ober ... Lester Townsend
Martin Landau ... Leonard
Adam Williams ... Valerian
Edward Platt ... Victor Larrabee
Robert Ellenstein ... Licht
Les Tremayne ... Auctioneer
Philip Coolidge ... Dr. Cross
Patrick McVey ... Sergeant Flamm - Chicago Policeman
Edward Binns ... Captain Junket


Director ... Alfred Hitchcock
Producer ... Herbert Coleman (associate producer), Alfred Hitchcock (uncredited)
Production Company ... MGM
Story and Screenplay ... Ernest Lehman
Original Music ... Bernard Herrmann
Cinematography ... Robert Burks (director of photography)
Film Editing ... George Tomasini
Format ... Color (Technicolor)
Release date(s) ... July 17, 1959
Running time ... 136 minutes

Academy Awards

No Wins:
3 Unsuccessful Nominations:
Art Direction/Set Direction ... William A. Horning, Robert Boyle, Merrill/Henry Grace, Frank McKelvy
Film Editing ... George Tomasini
Best Writing, Story and Screenplay - written directly for the screen ... Ernest Lehman