Tag Archives: Eva Marie Saint

North by Northwest

North by Northwest is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s finest films. Released in 1959, the movie tells the story of advertising executive Roger Thornhill, a man mistaken for a non-existent spy.

The story, written by Ernest Lehman, is breezy entertainment, a series of stylish set-pieces. The central plot revolves around a roll of microfilm. However, that microfilm – a McGuffin in the words of Ernest Lehman – is largely irrelevant to the enjoyment of the movie.

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Ernest Lehman made the story up as he went along and he freely admitted that occasionally he painted himself into a corner. However, he always managed to extricate himself, and his characters. The finest example of this is the scene where Eve Kendall, Eva Marie Saint, pulls a gun on Roger Thornhill, Cary Grant. If you look closely, in the background you will see a young boy, one of the extras, as he places his fingers into his ears before the gun goes off. Clearly, this was not the first take and the boy was anticipating the noise. Nevertheless, Hitchcock selected this take for the final cut of his movie.

North by Northwest developed from a series of conversations between Alfred Hitchcock and Ernest Lehman. Hitchcock wanted to make a movie that included a chase scene across the famous faces at Mount Rushmore, an idea Lehman liked. Another scene that developed from Hitchcock’s fertile imagination was the aeroplane chase scene across a barren landscape. For the best part of eight minutes nothing happens in this scene, but it is gripping nonetheless.

The casting is excellent with James Mason and Martin Landau suitability menacing as the villains. However, it’s interesting to note that Jessie Royce Landis, who played Roger Thornhill’s mother, was only one year older than Cary Grant at the time (!)

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Eva Marie Saint with Cary Grant in North by Northwest, 1959

The star of the movie, in my eyes, is Eva Marie Saint. She doesn’t appear until a third of the way into the movie, but from then on her combination of beauty, elegance and vulnerability is enchanting. One of her first lines is, “I never make love on an empty stomach.” However, the censors changed this to, “I never discuss love on an empty stomach.” Watch her lips in this scene and you will notice the subtle difference.

While directing Eva Marie Saint in North by Northwest, Alfred Hitchcock offered the following advice, “Lower your voice, don’t wave your hands around, and when you speak always look into Cary Grant’s eyes.” Advice that, in the movie, works to stunning effect.

North by Northwest was the working title for the movie. At one stage the title of The Man in Lincoln’s Nose was suggested, but thankfully that was rejected.

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Alfred Hitchcock

The movie includes many of Hitchcock’s trademarks, including a cameo appearance by the director at the very start of the film and his generous use of subtle lighting and overhead shots.

The film isn’t perfect, and the Studio worried that it went on for too long. The drunk driver scene at the start was inserted for humour, but it isn’t funny and it does go on for too long. The dramatic cliffhanger at the end, classic Hitchcock, is spoiled in my opinion by an abrupt ending and a cut that placed the characters on a train. That train then disappears into a tunnel in a metaphor for sex that was a cliché even in the 1950s.

Overall though North by Northwest is fine entertainment, and if you haven’t seen it you are in for a treat.

Dear Reader #16

Dear Reader,

This week, I made good progress with the first draft of Snow in August, Sam Smith Mystery Series book sixteen. I write the first draft of every story at a fast pace before slowing down with the second draft. The second draft is basically the story you read, after minor adjustments during two rounds of editing. Once the second draft is complete I never make radical changes. When I write, the book is about word selection, not story building. The story building takes place during the planning and storyboarding stages. Watching a documentary this week I noticed that Alfred Hitchcock used to meticulously storyboard his movies. Personally, I think it’s a great way of storytelling, whether through the medium of movies or books.

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Alfred Hitchcock

Delighted that Sam has found new readers, in Sweden 🙂

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Pictured, a view of the Stora Sjöfallet National Park

Suzan is recording audiobook versions of Escape and Victory, to complete the series. I just listened to chapter one of Escape and Suzan’s narration is excellent. Normally, I don’t like rereading or listening to my words, but Suzan‘s narration drew me into the story.

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Here’s an example of Suzan’s narration https://hannah-howe.com/audio-books/

My latest translation, the Spanish version of Victory. Irene translated all five books in this series and it was a great pleasure working with her.

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Earlier this week, I watched North By Northwest for the first time. I will write a review of the movie on another occasion, but for now would like to mention Eva Marie Saint who, in her nineties, I am pleased to say is still with us. Eva Marie Saint offered an elegant performance in North By Northwest and is the main reason for watching this movie. She also excelled in 36 Hours, a James Garner World War Two noir movie. That movie relied on a simple, but highly effective, plot device to knit the drama together. Without giving the plot away, it relied on fingers and thumbs. I love old movies and, in all truth, the old stars were a mixed bunch. Some of the stories about them would make your toes curl. But I’ve read no such stories about Eva Marie Saint. On and off screen, she exuded class.

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Eva Marie Saint with Cary Grant in North by Northwest, 1959

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx