For Father’s Day my daughters took me down (okay, we walked) to the vintage (that means sticky seat smelly dull screen) theater here in town where they show off-the-beaten-path films, movies just days before they come to DVD, and old movies. Old movies are some of my favorites, so that is what I really like to watch and that is what my children took me to see–a showing of North by Northwest starring Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint. It is one of my favorite movies of all time, and here are some of the reasons why.
1. Cary Grant is so super cool. He is cooler than anybody else in movies and television today. Grant doesn’t even have to work at it. It flows out of him. Never mind that he is not really acting because he plays the same basic character in every movie (see Arsenic and Old Lace, Bringing Up Baby, An Affair to Remember, etc..) It doesn’t matter.
2. I like most all of Hitchcock’s films (Vertigo being an exception) but I think this one is him at his best because of the way his style and nuanced storytelling accentuates the cloak and dagger aspect of the plot. Psycho might be more famous, but North By Northwest is far better.
3. Cary Grant wears yellow boxers in the movie. Yellow.
4. The scene in the field outside of Chicago is one of the beset bits of storytelling in cinema history. It is so well done it is almost literary, in that as I watch it my mind forms words to describe the scene.
6. Martin Landau as the suspiciously jealous homosexual henchman is absolutely fantastic. A possible regret of the film is that there is not more of him in it.
7. Spy. North by Northwest was made in 1959, three years before the first James Bond movie, Dr. No, was released but six years AFTER Fleming introduced James Bond in the novel Casino Royale. There is a kindred spirit between Thornill and Bond–even their appearance. Consider the grey suit worn by Grant and how it matches so much of the look of the early Bond (particularly From Russia with Love, see also #5 above) films. Coincidence? I think not. And I like them all!
8. This film is the best ‘mistaken identity’ motif ever done. The whole plot depends on Thornhill, a Madison Avenue (paging Don Draper) advertising executive for a nonexistent CIA operative. How cool is that.
Needless to say, I enjoyed my Father’s Day because the sprouts spent it with me (I did miss Mrs. Greenbean, though). A cherry Coke and a bag of popcorn perfected the whole experience.