“I’m just lonesome. I guess I need a little mothering.”

Above: “The sculpture at Mount Rushmore is built on land that was illegally taken from the Sioux Nation in the 1870s. The Sioux continue to demand return of the land, and in 1980 the US Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians that the Black Hills were stolen and awarded $102 million in compensation. The Sioux have refused the money and demanded return of the land. This conflict continues, leading some critics of the monument to refer to it as a “Shrine of Hypocrisy”.” (Wikipedia)

From: Cary Grant – a Brilliant Disguise (2020), by Scott Eyman:

“IN 1958, Alfred Hitchcock once again dropped into Grant’s life with a script that carried with it the usual bountiful terms…

North by Northwest (the sixth top grossing picture of 1959) was a difficult proposition from the beginning, because Hitchcock was making his movie at MGM, and the corporate culture at MGM was in steadfast opposition to a director such as Hitchcock. Traditionally, MGM was a studio devoted to stars shepherded by powerful producers. Directors were more or less interchangeable…

The project went through a number of titles In a Northwesterly Direction, In a Northwest Direction, The CIA Story, Breathless, The Man in Lincoln’s Nose before finally settling on North by Northwest…

The picture was so expensive that Hitchcock had to jettison his planned credit sequence and have Saul Bass concoct the titles out of stock footage of New York City.

Hitchcock and Ernest Lehman worked smoothly together, allowing for numerous narrative dead ends they had to surmount. As with his hero Roger Thornhill, Lehman wrote the story without any particular idea of where the narrative was going, which turned out to be beneficial. “Since I never knew where I was going,” said Lehman, “I was constantly painting myself into corners, and then trying to figure out a way out of them. As a result, the picture has about ten acts instead of three, and if I’d tried to sit down at the beginning and conceive the whole plot, I could have never done it.

Everything was written in increments: moving it a little bit forward, then a little bit more, a page at a time. “Okay, you’ve got him out of Grand Central Station. Now he’s on the train, now what? Well, there’s no female character in it yet. I better put Eve on the train. But what should I do with her?” Always asking, “What do I do next?” So, in the end, the audience never knows what’s coming next, because I didn’t either…”

Grant was careful not to do any complaining around his costar. “If Cary had any problems, he never showed it,» said Eva Marie Saint…her experience of working with Grant was entirely positive. On the set, Grant invited everyone to help make a scene work, even a rookie like Martin Landau, who was making his first movie but who was treated as a full equal by the star. “You just always felt that he was with you every minute,” said Eva Marie Saint. “Not only for his close-ups, but for your close-ups too.”…

Hitchcock gave Eva Marie Saint only three specific directions and those came before the start of production: Lower your voice; don’t use your hands; look into Cary’s eyes at all times. “He wasn’t being facetious,” remembered Saint. “That really worked, certainly on the train…well, all the scenes, looking right at him.”…

The dialogue on the train sequence, as Ernest Lehman noted, isn’t really dialogue, it’s repartee, or if you prefer, foreplay…

…Grant’s suit had been made by Kilgour, French & Stanbury on Savile Row.

The Beverly Hills tailor Quintino made five or six copies for use in the movie. According to the clothing historian Matt Spaiser, the suit was made of light worsted Wool in a blue/gray fine glen plaid pattern. There were darts to shape the front, and the shoulders were padded. “The trousers are very similar to what Sean Connery wore in the Bond films,” wrote Spaiser, With a long rise, double forward pleats, turn-ups and side adjusters. Connery’s adjusters had buttons, but Grant’s were two strips of cloth tightened with a clasp.

…Little things became big things. Grant was eating a lot of salads to maintain his weight, and nobody in Bakersfield had ever heard of a salad, which increased his general disgruntlement…

…Once it was edited, Grant had a private showing and gave editor George Tomasini notes, the primary one being to shorten his scene in the police station.

“One day on the MGM backlot, Grant passed the hairstylist Sydney Guilaroff, who asked how things were going. An obviously gloomy Grant mumbled, “I don’t know.” Later that day he came over to Guilaroff, who was working on Eva Marie Saint’s hair. “I’m just lonesome,” he said.
“I guess I need a little mothering.””

He also noted his dislike of the scene where he’s driving drunk. He thought he looked “baggy.”

North by Northwest started shooting on August 27, 1958, and didn’t finish until a week before Christmas, with the costs adding up to $4.3 million- more than a million over budget. Besides the money, MGM was worried about the running time. The picture was a lengthy 2 hours and 16 minutes, and MGM tried to get Hitchcock to trim it -the scene in the woods between Grant and Saint after she feigns shooting him at Mount Rushmore became the focus of the disagreement. Looking at the scene dispassionately, MGM might have had a point, but Hitchcock had Final Cut…

Bernard Herrmann had just finished the score for the pilot episode of The Twilight Zone when Hitchcock hired him to compose the music for North by Northwest. Herrmann chose to use a driving Spanish dance rhythm known as the fandango for the main title.

“Hitchcock’s cameo in North by Northwest (1959) occurs about 2 minutes into the film.
During the opening title sequence, which shows New Yorkers rushing home from work, Hitchcock just misses catching his bus. The cameo was filmed near to 347 Madison Avenue, New York City.” (The Hitchcock Zone) “At the end of the opening title credits sequence in a bustling NYC, missing a city bus (green and yellow) that slams its door in his face, anticipating a similar scene later in the countryside near a cornfield when a bus door shuts on Roger O. Thornhill (Cary Grant).” (Filmsite.org)

It didn’t seem to make much sense for a movie that takes place entirely in America, but Herrmann had a genius for music embodying a movie’s psychological DNA. Herrmann’s inspiration became clear when he explained that his use of the fandango was inspired by Grant’s “Astaire-like agility,” which was never more apparent than in the crop-dusting sequence, where he sprints through the cornfield like an Olympic athlete…

Ernest Lehman’s script initially strips away much of what had been working for Grant for nearly thirty years. In Grant’s other pictures for Hitchcock, his character feigns innocence, even as he carries a full ration of moral or practical guilt. Roger Thornhill actually is innocent, but he’s also a glorified salaryman in a great suit, worried about inconsequential appointments and responsibilities. His initial befuddlement is sharpened by the desperate, forced improvisation of being pursued across the country because of a case of vastly mistaken identity. It is only then that the traditional Cary Grant character comes into focus, including his contempt for the woman he loves, who happens to be a double agent recruited to sleep with the enemy–a direct lift from Notorious.

…”[Hitchcock] once told me, If a director can get eighty five percent of a writer’s intentions onto the screen, the writer should consider himself very fortunate, » said Ernest Lehman. “Well, he got a hundred percent of North by Northwest up on the screen!”
North by Northwest would be the last time Grant worked with Hitchcock, and in retrospect he knew how lucky he had been.

…Beneath glad-handing public statements, each of them implicitly understood the other’s strong and weak points. They also understood their shared covert natures. In 1966, Hitchcock was speaking to a group of young English writers when he told them that likability was a quality that could not be faked in movies. The public, he said, had adored Grace Kelly because she was indeed likable. And for all of Hitchcock’s efforts, they had rejected Tippi Hedren because she was not. There was, he said, only one actor in the world so formidably skilled that he could fake a charm he did not in fact possess. Any guesses?
“Cary Grant?” offered one young man.
“Correct,» said Hitchcock.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: