Writer: Ernest Lehman
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Music: Bernard Herrmann
Costume design: Bergdorf Goodman for Eva Marie Saint's wardrobe
Stars: Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason
North by Northwest is a tale of mistaken identity, with an innocent man pursued across the United States by agents of a mysterious organization trying to prevent him from blocking their plan to smuggle out microfilm which contains government secrets. This is one of several Hitchcock films which feature a music score by Bernard Herrmann and an opening title sequence by graphic designer Saul Bass, and it is generally cited as the first to feature extended use of kinetic typography in its opening credits.
The screenplay was by Ernest Lehman, who wanted to write "the Hitchcock picture to end all Hitchcock pictures".
North by Northwest is listed among the canonical Hitchcock films of the 1950s and is often listed among the greatest films of all time. It was selected in 1995 for preservation in the National Film Registry by the United States Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
John Russell Taylor's biography Hitch: The Life and Times of Alfred Hitchcock (1978) suggests that the story originated after a spell of writer's block during the scripting of another film project:
Alfred Hitchcock had agreed to do a film for MGM and they had chosen an adaptation of the novel The Wreck of the Mary Deare by Hammond Innes. Composer Bernard Herrmann had recommended that Hitchcock work with his friend Ernest Lehman. After a couple of weeks, Lehman offered to quit saying he didn't know what to do with the story. Hitchcock told him they got along great together and they would just write something else. Lehman said that he wanted to make the ultimate Hitchcock film. Hitchcock thought for a moment then said he had always wanted to do a chase across Mount Rushmore. Lehman and Hitchcock spitballed more ideas: a murder at the United Nations Headquarters; a murder at a car plant in Detroit; a final showdown in Alaska. Eventually they settled on the U.N. murder for the opening and the chase across Mount Rushmore for the climax. For the central idea, Hitchcock remembered something an American journalist had told him about spies creating a fake agent as a decoy. Perhaps their hero could be mistaken for this fictitious agent and end up on the run. They bought the idea from the journalist for $10,000.
In fact, Hitchcock had been working on the story for nearly nine years prior to meeting Lehman. Otis C. Guernsey was the American journalist who had the idea which influenced Hitchcock, inspired by a true story during World War II when British Intelligence obtained a dead body, invented a fictitious officer who was carrying secret papers, and arranged for the body and misleading papers to be discovered by the Germans as a disinformation exercise called Operation Mincemeat. Guernsey turned his idea into a story about an American salesman who travels to the Middle East and is mistaken for a fictitious agent, becoming "saddled with a romantic and dangerous identity." Guernsey admitted that his treatment was full of "corn" and "lacking logic", and he urged Hitchcock to do what he liked with the story. Hitchcock bought the 60 pages for $10,000.
The film clip: "I do not discuss love on an empty stomach
The costume design:
In the film Cary Grant's character had a very simple wardrobe. Unlike his character in many of his other films who usually owns a much larger wardrobe.
Roger Thornhill interpreted by Cary Grant wore a single suit for most part of the movie, and the suit has been universally thought as one of his most iconic outfits, to the point that some even think his most iconic movie look.
It´s curious how this particular suit gained such a high reputation when Cary Grant looked equally or more debonair in his other films like To Catch a Thief (1955) or Charade. Perhaps it has something to do with that crop-dusting scene: A suit so well tailored can be so resistant in such an extreme situation.....but how many men know that more identical suits are made for the film so Cary Grant would still look unreasonably stylish after escaping from near death experience?
It's said that when interviewed by some press on how he managed to look so consistently good throughout the film, Cary Grant replied: "Very simple, six suits and many ties."
So who has made the suit? According to Vanity Fair magazine, it was Norton & Sons of London, although The Independent believed it was Quintino of Beverly Hills, yet some other sources thought it was by Kilgour, French & Stanbury. It's a shame we can not know for sure at this moment, but Savile Row certainly has done a wonderful job.
The suit is usually described as grey suit, but up close as can be seen in the following shoot, it's more like blue grey, and it's not in solid color either, but in very subtle pattern called glen plaid(Or prince of Wales) so that it adds more textural richness when viewed from different distance and angles.
After all, for audiences who loves Cary Grant film for his style, that was almost the only outfit they are going to see in more than an hour.
Eva Marie Saint's wardrobe was much larger, well designed and a pleasure to look at. All of her clothes were originally chosen by MGM but Hitchcock disliked its selections So Eva and Hitchcock went to Bergdorf Goodman in New York to select what she would wear for the film.
North by Northwest was nominated for three Academy Awards—for Best Film Editing (George Tomasini), Best Art Direction – Set Decoration, Color (William A. Horning, Robert F. Boyle, Merrill Pye, Henry Grace, Frank McKelvy), and Best Original Screenplay (Ernest Lehman)—at the 32nd Academy Awards ceremony, but unfortunately did not win any of them.