Filming ‘North By North West’

Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘North By North West’ was released in 1959

At Mount Rushmore

Cary Grant plays an ad-man caught up in international espionage in 1959’s North By Northwest 

This is a Studio S3et at MGM Studios in Hollywood for the rear projection shot
ABOVE – That same set – In Colour

ABOVE – Cary Grant watches, as does Director Alfred Hitchcock as the plane sequence is being filmed on location

The crop duster scene from ‘North by Northwest’ was filmed along Highway 41 in downstate Indiana.

Hitchcock’s 1959 suspense thriller “North by Northwest” is one of those must-see films

BELOW – Later in the film – in fact the climatic sequence partly filmed on this large and impressive Studio set.

A convincing set for the final film sequence
Decorative orange line in page layout

The Sets from “North by Northwest”

North by Northwest movie opening titles MGM Pictures

Old Westbury Gardens

Townsend estate exterior

Cary Grant is a successful Madison Avenue ad man named Roger Thornhill, whose life gets turned upside down when he gets mistaken for an undercover CIA agent. He’s first taken to this large estate on Long Island.

The estate where they filmed the exteriors for those scenes is Old Westbury Gardens, which is on the North Shore of Long Island in New York.

The interiors shown in the movie were sets built on a separate soundstage.

Townsend entry hall 2
When Thornhill gets locked in the library, he quips:
“Don’t worry about me. I’ll catch up on my reading.”
A living room filled with furniture and a fireplace

Screenwriter Ernest Lehman says Grant was a perfectionist who often complained about various parts of the script or the way things were being filmed and lobbied to get them changed.

North by Northwest turned out to be Grant’s biggest box-office success.

Cary Grant inside Townsend library

Scenes at the U.N.

UN exterior in North by Northwest
Hitchcock wasn’t allowed to film outside the U.N. so they “stole” a shot of Cary Grant walking in.
The people walking around in the shot didn’t know they were being filmed.
The interior of the U.N. was just a matte painting:
UN interior painting

The actual matte painting:

U.N. matte painting on display

Mount Rushmore

cars parked in lot below Mount Rushmore

The screenplay was written by Ernest Lehman.

Hitchcock told him, “I always wanted to do a chase scene across the faces of Mt. Rushmore,” and that was the starting point for the movie.

Lehman recalled, “I wanted to write the Hitchcock picture to end all Hitchcock pictures. I wanted something that had wit, sophistication, glamour, action, and lots of changes of locale.”

After word got out that there would be a fight scene and a couple of deaths on the monument, government officials barred them from filming there.

The crew flew back to Hollywood, where Mount Rushmore had to be recreated at MGM.

Mt Rushmore park bldg 1
Mt Rushmore park bldg 2
Mt Rushmore-park building goof

The Vandamm House on Mount Rushmore

North by Northwest Hitchcock movie Vandamm house 3
ABOVE – Cary Grant at the house – a Matte Shot

In the film this house is known as “The Vandamm House” after James Mason’s character, Phillip Vandamm.

exterior of Modernist Vandamm House in North-by-Northwest Movie
The House does not exist and was an excellent Matte Shot
North by Northwest Hitchcock movie Vandamm house 2

The MGM researchers had to get special permits and Park Service escorts just to visit the area in order to photograph and measure it.

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