North by Northwest

If you didn’t already know, Hollywood Forever Cemetery shows movies in the cemetery during the summer season. Morbid? Naaahhh. The cemetery is showing North by Northwest on the 29th of May, so check it out! In the meantime, here are some fun facts about the film and pics to go along with it.

–James Stewart was very interested in starring in this movie, begging Alfred Hitchcock to let him play Thornhill. Hitchcock claimed that Vertigo (1958)’s lack of financial success was because Stewart “looked too old”. MGM wanted Gregory Peck, but Hitchcock instead cast Cary Grant, who, ironically, was actually 4 years Stewart’s senior.

–While filming Vertigo (1958), Alfred Hitchcock described some of the plot of this project to frequent Hitchcock leading man and “Vertigo” star James Stewart, who naturally assumed that Hitchcock meant to cast him in the Roger Thornhill role, and was eager to play it. Actually, Hitchcock wanted Cary Grant to play the role. By the time Hitchcock realized the misunderstanding, Stewart was so anxious to play Thornhill that rejecting him would have caused a great deal of disappointment. So Hitchcock delayed production on this film until Stewart was already safely committed to filming Otto Preminger’s Anatomy of a Murder (1959) before “officially” offering him the “North by Northwest” role. Stewart had no choice; he had to turn down the offer, allowing Hitchcock to cast Grant, the actor he had wanted all along.

–It was journalist Otis L. Guernsey Jr. who suggested to Alfred Hitchcock the premise of a man mistaken for a nonexistent secret agent. He was inspired, he said, by a real-life case during WW II, known as Operation Mincemeat, in which British intelligence hoped to lure Italian and German forces away from Sicily, a planned invasion site. A cadaver was selected and given an identity and phony papers referring to invasions of Sardinia and Greece. A British film, The Man Who Never Was (1956), recounted the operation.

–Alfred Hitchcock couldn’t get permission to film inside the UN, so footage was made of the interior of the building using a hidden camera, and the rooms were later recreated on a soundstage.

–The final chase scene was not shot on Mt. Rushmore; Alfred Hitchcock couldn’t gain permission to shoot an attempted murder on a national monument. The scene was shot in the studio on a replica of Mt. Rushmore. Everything is shot carefully, so as to avoid associating the faces of the monument with the violence.

–Rather than go to the expense of shooting in a South Dakota woodland, Alfred Hitchcock planted 100 ponderosa pines on an MGM soundstage.

–Eva Marie Saint’s line, “I never discuss love on an empty stomach,” is dubbed over the line you can see her speaking on film: “I never make love on an empty stomach.”

–Alfred Hitchcock had planned a sequence where Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) hid in Lincoln’s nose and had a sneezing fit. Park officials would not allow this to be filmed, but Hitchcock tried again and again. Finally, someone asked Hitchcock how he would feel if it were the other way around and Lincoln was having a sneezing fit in Cary Grant’s nose. Hitchcock immediately understood and the scene was never filmed.

–Cary Grant got $450,000 for this movie – a substantial amount for the time – plus a percentage of the gross profits. He also received $315,000 in penalty fees for having to stay nine weeks past the time his contract called for.

–While on location at Mt. Rushmore, Eva Marie Saint discovered that Cary Grant would charge fans 15 cents for an autograph.

–One day, Martin Landau noticed that Alfred Hitchcock was giving instructions to Cary Grant, James Mason and Eva Marie Saint. When he asked Hitchcock about this, the director basically said if he didn’t talk to actors, they were doing fine; when he talked to them, it was because they did something wrong.

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Join the Discussion!

  1. That is one of my favourite movies! I love this one – I have it on vhs, btw am loving your songs going on in here

  2. I haven’t seen that movie but I’ll make sure to see it.

    Besides anything with Cary Grant is something I’ll watch, I love him!!

  3. Great post Kori. North By NW is one of favorite films. This role by Cary proved he would have made an excellent Bond. Great facts you posted too. A lot I didn’t know about.

  4. these are fun; i went last year on july 4th and you got to see the fireworks in the sky during the show.

  5. My husband’s best friend’s father, John MacQuiddy, was the pilot of that plane! John was a professional cropduster. He’s now quite ill but still kickin’ it in the San Diego area. That was some flying, wasn’t it?!

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