Tonight at the Cleveland Cinemateque, Turner Classic Movies presented Robert Osbourne and Eva Marie Saint as they participated in a question and answer session before screening North by Northwest. It proved to be a truly wonderful evening indeed. Osbourne proved to be as fine of a host as he is when introducing classic films on television and by the time Mrs. Saint took the stage still carrying herself with a movie star swagger, the crowd roared and from the second last row she still appeared to look the same as that beautiful young woman who seduces Cary Grant aboard the Chicago bound train. During her address to the crowd and the Q&A session, she appeared vibrant, witty, funny, and altogether lovely. A perfect introduction to a magnificent from a classic actress.
North by Northwest is one of those few films that I have held dear since childhood that I always make a point of seeing when I have a chance. It is mentioned in the shortlist as one of Alfred Hitchcock's best films, but never mentioned as the best, which is usually reserved for Vertigo, Psycho, or Rear Window. Still, it is no less than the most entertaining and crackling of his films. It has a wrong man's plot, one of Hitch's favorites, and involves a Madison Avenue ad man (a droll and wonderful Cary Grant) getting mistaken for a government agent by dangerous espionage types, a mistake which will put him in harm's way several times, lead him into the arms of a mysterious woman (the wonderful Mrs. Saint), and lead him across the country by way of plain, train and automobile. The plot is so silly it would surely spell disaster in any other hands, but thanks to a smart script from Ernest Lehman (West Side Story, Sweet Smell of Success), brilliant direction by the master, a bristling score by Bernard Herrmann, and wonderful acting from Grant, Saint, and James Mason as the wry and debonair bad guy. Filled with sly humor and many memorable scenes including the unforgettable crop dusting scene and the finale atop Mt. Rushmore, North by Northwest is a trip always worth the ride