Hitchcock’s North By North West

I think this sequence and this shot must be as well known as any image from the world of films.

Cary Grant waits alongside a lonely country road. A very still day with nothing going on except for a light aircraft spraying crops. As we all know events will take a more sinister turn when the crop sprayer turns aggressor – and Cary Grant has to run for his life.

Just one part of a very exciting film which sees Cary Grant on the run across the USA pursued by unkown forces who seem desperate to kill him it seems – and this is a case of mistaken identity. What a nightmare situation he is in.

In some ways this film always reminds me of another Hitchcock film – and one of my favourites – Saboteur – made in 1942 with Robert Cummings and Priscilla Lane. Here again the hero crosses the USA in a bid to escape his aggressors in a film set in wartime with the hero escaping from Nazi agents and the climax coming with a confrontation at the very top of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbour. When I first saw this years ago it sacred the life out of me – as I have never been very good with heights – and this was really a tense ending.

Aircraft factory worker Barry Kane (Robert Cummings) is wrongly accused of starting a fire at a Glendale, Calif. aircraft plant during World War II, an act of sabotage, and believes the real culpit is a man name Fry (Norman Lloyd). Kane sets out to prove his innocence by finding Fry and pursues him throughout the film. After a fast-paced hide and seek chase, the dramatic showdown between Kane and Fry takes place in the torch of the Statue of Liberty as both men struggle high above New York harbour.

Back to North By North West though and here Hitchcock uses one of his favourite actors – and a man he knew had the ability to carry off this film – namely Cary Grant.  He was – as he always was – very good. He had great ability to deliver the quick fire dialogue necessary – something that is not done at all now – both in drama such as this and comedy which he seemed able to effortlessly deliver.

Another of Hitchcock’s favourites in the fifties was of course James  Stewart who again could be relied on to deliver a performance no matter what – with films that he largely had to carry.

Two views above of Mount Rushmore where the climax of the film occurs. Although done much later I didn’t think this was anywhere near as good as the Saboteur sequence at the Statue of Liberty though.
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