The Hitchcock Players: Cary Grant, North by Northwest | Film reviews, news & interviews
The Hitchcock Players: Cary Grant, North by Northwest
Grant is a wry anchor at the core of Hitchcock's joyously ludicrous spy thriller
The final collaboration between Grant and Hitch also happens to be some of the helmer’s most deft, joyously irreverent work, light of touch and bereft of sentiment. Grant stars as a slick Mad Ave exec who’s mistaken for a spy and pursued across the US by a cabal of shadowy agents, a state of affairs that he takes impressively in his debonair stride.
“Not that I mind a slight case of abduction now and then,” his Roger Thornhill quips drily, “but I have tickets for the theatre this evening.” A line like this could easily play as posturing, but Grant walks just the right razor’s edge between blasé and resigned, and we buy it. For this man, being violently pursued for a crime he didn’t commit is more of an inconvenience than a traumatic life event, and it certainly won’t put a dampener on his one-liners.
Mistaken identity, attempted murder by forced drunk driving, a climax that takes place on Mount Rushmore… North by Northwest is so genuinely, unashamedly ludicrous that it scarcely has the right to be as irresistible as it is, and Grant’s faultless handle on Thornhill is as much to thank as Hitchcock’s wry, assured grasp on Ernest Lehman’s script. He’s as bemused – and frequently as amused – by the series of unfortunate events that befalls him as we are, and maintains an edge of tongue-in-cheek incredulity even when being run off the road by armed thugs or attacked by a crop-dusting plane.
By seeming to acknowledge the insanity that surrounds him and taking droll pleasure in it, Grant implicitly allows the audience to revel in it too. He transforms North by Northwest into a glorious contradiction; a thoroughly improbable yarn with a thoroughly probable hero at its core.
- North by Northwest will screen at the BFI Southbank from August 3
Watch a clip from North by Northwest
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?
Fifth time around, and still nothing is impossible for Tom Cruise
theartsdesk recommends the half-dozen top movies out now
The earnest 1979 TV series where Nigel Kneale’s professor bowed out
Dziga Vertov's dazzling 1929 opus captures a day in the life of an idealised Soviet city
Long overdue tribute to a forgotten British film-maker
Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts confront mid-life anxieties in Noah Baumbach's wry comedy
Jake Gyllenhaal is the human punchbag seeking redemption in Antoine Fuqua's boxing drama
Robert Carlyle's debut as director is confident, and darkly comic
'I'll be back': Arnold Schwarzenegger stars in an unusually low-key zombie movie
Drab lead dominates overlong chronicle of a DJ in the Nineties French dance music scene
Portrait of a contemporary New York marriage needs some fixing-up
Gore Vidal and William F Buckley, Jr change the terms of TV debate in 1968