Daily Dose #16: It’s a Nice Face, Scene from North By Northwest (1959)
This is my favorite Hitchcock film of the ones I have seen before. I think I probably saw it in childhood, but I can’t remember the exact time, but I do remember seeing it in my early 20’s and starting to realize how great Hitchcock was by getting swept up in the crop duster scene.
The diner car scene in particular is so memorable. I love that it is set on the train, with the passing scenery. It’s a brief pause in the frantic chase that is going on. He’s just barged into her compartment and kissed her to escape his pursuers. It lets the viewer catch ones breath.
Just the way Cary Grant sits down with those cheap sunglasses on, his signature, and the way he is playing the scene off of his screen image with part smirk, part grin. He orders a Gibson without even looking at her and then seems to notice her and does an almost imperceptible double take, like he is surprised.
“Do you recommend anything?”
“Mmmm. The brook trout.” Kind of a weird recommendation, and this is the first time I’ve heard the follow up line, “a little trouty, but good.” A little trouty is not good.
He reads her mind. “You feel you’ve seen me somewhere before.” The two fence with their dialogue. He’s so poised and suave with every line, but she’s young and quick and keeps catching him off guard with her feints. She’s bold and frank, he’s continually surprised, showing little, and guarded with sophisticated evasion, yet intrigued. She turns the tables on him when she responds to his comment about being lucky to be seated with her, and she tells him she tipped the steward to make it happen, a comment on the role of fate in Hitchcock’s thrillers.
He asks her, “What do you do, besides lure men to their doom on the 20th Century limited?” which echoes his later line to her after surviving the crop duster, one of my favorites.
And finally in the flirty interchange with the lighting of the cigarette, he grabs her wrist to light her cigarette, revealing ROT, he withdraws his hand, but she pulls it back to blow out the match. She matches him every step of the way. The low key background music shifts to the more emotion laden love motif.