North by Northwest

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(1959, directed by Alfred Hitchcock)

- inducted 2013 -

Jaws is generally credited with the birth of the blockbuster, but the groundwork for the modern action movie was laid a half-century ago by none other than Alfred Hitchcock. Coming off of 1958’s Vertigo, easily his darkest, most difficult work (and not coincidentally, a middling performer at the box office), it’s as if Hitchcock decided to give the people what they wanted by crafting the most entertaining follow-up possible, using one of his favored plot devices – mistaken identity – as a springboard for a sprawling cross-country adventure. With an assist from Oscar-nominated screenwriter Ernest Lehman, the master of suspense leapfrogs from one spellbinding set piece to the next, including a chase across Mount Rushmore and the crop-duster sequence that ranks among the most celebrated action sequences of all time. This is not to suggest that North by Northwest is merely mindless escapism, as its plotting, humor and execution is far more sophisticated than you’ll find in the countless imitators that followed. (And let’s take a moment to be thankful that the film was made long before sequelitis ran rampant in Hollywood – South by Southwest, anyone?) Still, the movie remains one of Hitchcock’s fizziest concoctions, and Cary Grant’s urbane, witty performance is the straw that stirs the drink."

~ Scott Von Doviak

Principal cast: Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason, Jessie Royce Landis, Leo G. Carroll, Josephine Hutchison, Philip Ober, Martin Landau, Adam Williams, Edward Platt, Robert Ellenstein, Les Tremayne, Philip Coolidge, Patrick McVey, Edward Binns, Ken Lynch
Screenplay by Ernest Lehman
Associate producer Herbert Coleman
Director of photography: Robert Burks
Production design by Robert F. Boyle
Film editing by George Tomasini
Original music by Bernard Herrmann
Makeup by William Tuttle
Hair stylist: Sydney Guilaroff
Sound recording supervisor: Franklin Milton
Titles designed by Saul Bass
Special effects by A. Arnold Gillespie and Lee LeBlanc
Produced by Alfred Hitchcock (uncredited)

Duration: 136 minutes
Language: English
Filmed in color (Technicolor)
Sound mix: Mono (Westrex Recording System)
Aspect ratio: 1.66:1 (VistaVision)

Produced and released in USA by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Premiered in Los Angeles, CA, on 17 July 1959

Awards and honors:
- The Muriel Awards, 2009: 50th Anniversary Award (won)
- National Film Registry selection, 1995
- Academy Awards (USA), 1959: Best Writing, Story and Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen (nominated)
- Academy Awards (USA), 1959: Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color (nominated)
- Academy Awards (USA), 1959: Best Film Editing (nominated)
- DGA Awards, Directors Guild of America, 1959: Best Direction, Alfred Hitchcock (nominated)
- WGA Awards, Writers Guild of America, 1959: Best Written American Comedy (nominated)
- National Board of Review: one of the Top Ten films of 1959