50 years young this year, Hitchcock’s classic thriller North by Northwest gets a welcome cinema re-release from today, courtesy of the BFI. Clever, witty and suspenseful, this is easily Hitchcock’s most purely entertaining movie – and one that’s as effortlessly stylish as its hero. Cary Grant was never more debonair than when playing North by Northwest’s hapless protagonist (his natty tailoring was even voted the best suit in cinema history) and James Mason almost matches him for suavity as the villain whose minions mistake Grant’s New York advertising executive for a spy. Oh, and Eva Marie Saint is pretty elegant too as the film’s cool blonde femme fatale.
Intended by screenwriter Ernest Lehman to be “the Hitchcock picture to end all Hitchcock pictures”, the movie is packed with unforgettable moments, including the murder at the UN, the famous crop-duster sequence and the climactic chase across Mount Rushmore. It’s been dubbed “the first James Bond film” and it certainly set the template for the countless freewheeling spy thrillers that followed in its wake – but don’t let that put you off: North by Northwest remains peerless.
Showing at BFI Southbank and around the country from 19th June.