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Daily Dose #16: It's a Nice Face (Scene from North by Northwest)


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#1 dsanders

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Posted 07 August 2017 - 02:13 PM

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.



#2 Rejana Raj

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Posted 07 August 2017 - 09:56 AM

1.) With the "vaguely familiar" line in this film, I believe that everyone will ask "Who's that dashing debonair?", it's charming Cary Grant and everyone will say it. Likewise, this scene has a cute sensual touch which recent movies lack a lot. The visual chemistry between Mr.Grant and Miss Saint had an alluring effect and it's a perfect shot minus the physical interaction.

2.) Oh my! The ROT matchbook is the other element which brings them together for a short time. I liked this scene where Miss Saint holds Mr. Grant's hand after lightning her cigarette and then blows the match spark from his hand. It was a scene with sensual touch.

https://media.giphy....mUidi/giphy.gif

3.) The music in this scene has romantic feel and it felt like as if they were not in train but at a candle light diner as a romantic couple. I know this scene takes place in daylight but I couldn't resist its charm.

#3 MagdaK83

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Posted 06 August 2017 - 04:31 PM

That's a wondeful scene! The flirting mood, the lines the music in the background it all fts together so right but what I have to add here is this: those lines, the dialogue, you enjoy every single bit it, it is so very smart! Smart way to use words and language on film!


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#4 Suj

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Posted 06 August 2017 - 03:24 PM

1. Cary's line that he looks vaguely familiar would make the audience laugh as he is Cary Grant and familiar as a star to the audience but of course in the film he means that his face is known for being in all the newspapers.This line therefore has a double meaning for those who know Grant as a star. Eva Marie Saint also being a star, makes the audience find her familiar too and would instantly feel comfortable watching this daring scene between the two stars. Grant looks shifty and uncomfortable not only because he is worried about being watched or caught but also because he doesn't know whether Eva Marie is interested in him.. Eva Marie however is completely in control of the situation and conveys to the audience and Cary that she is interested in him while Grant can only hint at it by calling her an attractive woman who may feel uncomfortable about him showing his feelings for her. However once he does know, he relaxes in spite of his precarious situation as a hunted man.

 

2. The ROT matchbook enables Grant to make a gentlemanly chivalrous move towards Eva Marie in helping her light a cigarette but it is more of a prop to let the actress hold his hand as he withdraws it after the cigarette is lit and to show the sizzling chemistry between the two as she blows out the flame. The flame of attraction and the flame of the match have been struck at the same time!

 

3. The sound of the train on the tracks and of the cutlery and glasses clinking make the audience realise that the actors are in an ordinary situation which anyone could be in if they were travelling in a dining car of a train. The lack of sound of other people talking around them helps to emphasise that the couple are totally absorbed in each other except when Grant turns around to see if he is being watched or when he orders his food. The music soundtrack is soft and romantic to create the right mood and the train starts hooting just when Grant realises that Eva Marie is interested in him and says"I know exactly what you mean" as if it echoes his own feelings of jubilation (if that's not too strong a word for his feelings at that particular moment!)



#5 Bgeorgeteacher

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Posted 06 August 2017 - 12:32 AM

1.  Even at the level of the dialogue, this film is playing with the idea that two Hollywood stars are flirting with each other (e.g. the line, "I look vaguely familiar.") How does our pre-existing knowledge of these stars function to create meaning in this scene.  

 

It's practically impossible to totally divorce the characters from the famous stars who portray them. The movie audience would "know" Cary Grant - and that's how Hitchcock has Cary Grant play the character of Roger Thornhill.  He's handsome, suave, sophisticated, and sexy - and that's how he plays Thornhill. There is also the evident sense of humor and willingness to laugh at himself that is revealed during the scene where Mason gets him drunk and sends him off in the car along the twisty ocean road.

 

(As an aside, I wanted to put in my two cents about the ocean roads.  They might be by Manderley, in the South of France, Cornwall, Long Island, or, where they were filmed, California, but they play such a big role in so many Hitchcock films.  Joan Fontaine, Laurence Olivier, Nigel Bruce, Cary Grant, and Kim Novak, all come close to death on the edge of the ocean or ocean roads.  Please note that there are no hilly, twisty roads on Long Island.  Twisty, yes, hilly, no.)

 

I don't know, except from the lecture, what the perception was of Eva Marie Saint's star persona.  Her previous roles were of young, naive, working class women, so this may have elicited some new thinking about her.  But, that said, Eva Marie Saint fully inhabits the character of a smart, young, yet sophisticated, single professional.  It's a beautiful acting job.  She's very much like Joanne Woodward.

 

2.  There is minimal action in this scene, so any deviation from the overall pattern of focusing on the faces of the two leads will have increased significance. In that sense, discuss how Hitchcock uses the R.O.T. matchbook as an important piece of acting business (or as a prop) in this scene.   

 

The ROT matchbook first works as a way to present the humorous, sexy, side of Roger O Thornhill, a man who can make gentle fun of himself.  Then it is used by Eve Kendall as an excuse to touch Roger's hand.  It's a very sexy scene - to me - as she almost caresses his hand when she blows out the match.  Wow - that is a HOT matchbook. 

 

3.  How is Hitchcock using sound design in this scene? Consider music and other background sounds in your answer.  

 

Per his usual "touch", Hitchcock brings the theme music into the scene at exactly the right moment. It seems to waft in, just under the clickity-clack of the train wheels, and the very quiet background voices.  Those other sounds fade out as the music grows.  It is perfect timing - the music comes in precisely where it should - when Eve is talking and inviting Roger to her sleeper.  That is such a romantic and sexy scene.

 

Now I have to run and get a drink and watch North by Northwest all over again.

Ah, yes!  A very romantic scene!  



#6 Bgeorgeteacher

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Posted 06 August 2017 - 12:29 AM

You know, I hadn't even really noticed the background music in this scene from North by Northwest  until it was mentioned in this question.  I had to go back and see what I noticed.  The music is very low key and calming.  Typically, you know something quite interesting (probably terrifying) is going to happen to two characters that meet for the first time in a Hitchcock film.  This case is a little bit different...the characters are flirting, and it seems, at the moment, like that's all there is to it.  The background sound/music totally fit that mood of the scene.  Subtle, light, it's background music that blends in with the sounds of trains on the tracks, not intending to frighten anyone, for the moment!



#7 SherriW

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Posted 03 August 2017 - 11:59 PM

  1. Even at the level of the dialogue, this film is playing with the idea that two Hollywood stars are flirting with each other (e.g. the line, "I look vaguely familiar.") How does our pre-existing knowledge of these stars function to create meaning in this scene. 

Honestly, although I've heard of Cary Grant before I'm not at all familiar with his reputation. I had never heard of Eve Marie Saint.

 

2.There is minimal action in this scene, so any deviation from the overall pattern of focusing on the faces of the two leads will have increased significance. In that sense, discuss how Hitchcock uses the R.O.T. matchbook as an important piece of acting business (or as a prop) in this scene. 

 

The function of the matchbook seems to be to give the characters a reason to touch.

 

 

 

3.How is Hitchcock using sound design in this scene? Consider music and other background sounds in your answer. The music is really minimal in this scene. It's mixed with the sounds of background noise such as clinking of glasses and the sound of the train.

 

 



#8 pumatamer

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Posted 03 August 2017 - 11:57 AM

There is minimal action in this scene, so any deviation from the overall pattern of focusing on the faces of the two leads will have increased significance. In that sense, discuss how Hitchcock uses the R.O.T. matchbook as an important piece of acting business (or as a prop) in this scene. The ROT matchbook has several purposes, to draw the attention back on himself, to gauge her interest in HIM, and to just connect to her physically possibly. 



#9 iceiceblondie

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Posted 03 August 2017 - 12:22 AM

The ROT matchbook is one of my favorite minor touches in this film. It shows Cary Grant's humor and ability to laugh at himself, and even though he's in a dangerous position now it's really ludicrous. The music definitely adds a feel of romance to the film, which is nice considering it's a spy thriller!



#10 Reegstar

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Posted 02 August 2017 - 05:53 PM

1.  Even at the level of the dialogue, this film is playing with the idea that two Hollywood stars are flirting with each other (e.g. the line, "I look vaguely familiar.") How does our pre-existing knowledge of these stars function to create meaning in this scene.  

 

It's practically impossible to totally divorce the characters from the famous stars who portray them. The movie audience would "know" Cary Grant - and that's how Hitchcock has Cary Grant play the character of Roger Thornhill.  He's handsome, suave, sophisticated, and sexy - and that's how he plays Thornhill. There is also the evident sense of humor and willingness to laugh at himself that is revealed during the scene where Mason gets him drunk and sends him off in the car along the twisty ocean road.

 

(As an aside, I wanted to put in my two cents about the ocean roads.  They might be by Manderley, in the South of France, Cornwall, Long Island, or, where they were filmed, California, but they play such a big role in so many Hitchcock films.  Joan Fontaine, Laurence Olivier, Nigel Bruce, Cary Grant, and Kim Novak, all come close to death on the edge of the ocean or ocean roads.  Please note that there are no hilly, twisty roads on Long Island.  Twisty, yes, hilly, no.)

 

I don't know, except from the lecture, what the perception was of Eva Marie Saint's star persona.  Her previous roles were of young, naive, working class women, so this may have elicited some new thinking about her.  But, that said, Eva Marie Saint fully inhabits the character of a smart, young, yet sophisticated, single professional.  It's a beautiful acting job.  She's very much like Joanne Woodward.

 

2.  There is minimal action in this scene, so any deviation from the overall pattern of focusing on the faces of the two leads will have increased significance. In that sense, discuss how Hitchcock uses the R.O.T. matchbook as an important piece of acting business (or as a prop) in this scene.   

 

The ROT matchbook first works as a way to present the humorous, sexy, side of Roger O Thornhill, a man who can make gentle fun of himself.  Then it is used by Eve Kendall as an excuse to touch Roger's hand.  It's a very sexy scene - to me - as she almost caresses his hand when she blows out the match.  Wow - that is a HOT matchbook. 

 

3.  How is Hitchcock using sound design in this scene? Consider music and other background sounds in your answer.  

 

Per his usual "touch", Hitchcock brings the theme music into the scene at exactly the right moment. It seems to waft in, just under the clickity-clack of the train wheels, and the very quiet background voices.  Those other sounds fade out as the music grows.  It is perfect timing - the music comes in precisely where it should - when Eve is talking and inviting Roger to her sleeper.  That is such a romantic and sexy scene.

 

Now I have to run and get a drink and watch North by Northwest all over again.


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#11 FilmFan39

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Posted 31 July 2017 - 10:07 PM

1. Cary Grant was a very well known movie star by this point in his career and Eva Marie Saint was well on her way. The juxoposition of these two stars in this film draws the view in and makes them invested in the fate of these two characters.

 

2. It introduces Roger to the audience and gives Saint's character Eve a chance to show Rodger how charming and seductive she can truly be.

 

3.  The sound and lighting of this scene creates a mellow charming atmosphere for the two characters to meet.



#12 melissasimock

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Posted 31 July 2017 - 05:01 PM

Even at the level of the dialogue, this film is playing with the idea that two Hollywood stars are flirting with each other (e.g. the line, "I look vaguely familiar.") How does our pre-existing knowledge of these stars function to create meaning in this scene. 

 

They are both beautiful, talented, Hollywood stars.  Cary has a reputation for being sexy, charming, suave.  From Eva's TCM interview, she admits to being attracted to Cary.  In the scene Eva's character is the one who goes after Cary.  Both being big Hollywood stars, they have similar clout.  In real world Hollywood it wouldn't be unreasonable to assume Eva could approach Cary in the way.  Unlike a civilian, who probably would not, or at least would not get the same response from Cary.

 

 

There is minimal action in this scene, so any deviation from the overall pattern of focusing on the faces of the two leads will have increased significance. In that sense, discuss how Hitchcock uses the R.O.T. matchbook as an important piece of acting business (or as a prop) in this scene. 

 

It gives them an excuse to physically touch.  Eva uses her cigarette, and the blowing out of the match, very seductively.

 

 

 

How is Hitchcock using sound design in this scene? Consider music and other background sounds in your answer. 

 

I like the sound of the train traveling along the tracks.  And the silverware clanging on the plates.  The light, mellow atmospheric background music.  All things you would expect to hear if you were in the dining car of a train.  Eva and Cary's characters are still the main focus of the scene.

 

 

 

 



#13 cropel

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Posted 31 July 2017 - 12:29 PM

1. Hitchcock's use of well known stars creates that fast empathy with audiences. We see two attractive people flirting with eachother and are instantly interested and invested in what is going to happen with them. 

 

2. The matchbook serves as a prop to initiate physical touch between the two characters. The monogram is important because Grant's identity is important yet meaningless to everyone in the film (kind of like his useless middle initial)

 

3.The romantic music coupled with the background noises of a traveling train doesn't distract from the dialogue that is being spoken, but it supports the scene that we are seeing- a romantic encounter on a train.



#14 filmcat

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Posted 31 July 2017 - 07:07 AM

While I definitely have pre-existing knowledge of Cary Grant (one of my favorite stars) as a suave, sexy, charming leading man, I don't have a lot of information about Eva Marie Saint (except that I have seen this movie multiple times).  However, in this scene, Eve takes the initiative and makes a move on Roger, which is not what we would expect from a Cary Grant character!  That juxtaposition of roles makes the scene seem so much sexier and not just another seduction scene by an expert like Cary Grant.

 

Hitchcock uses the matchbook scene in three ways.  First, it introduces the ROT monogram on the matchbook which will be an important factor later in the film.  Second, as Roger explains that "rot" is his trademark and the "o" stands for nothing, it introduces a little humor into the scene and lets us see that Roger doesn't take himself too seriously.  Finally, it allows a way for Roger and Eve to touch in a very public setting and makes the seductive scene even sexier!  When she takes his hand, pulls it back, and then blows out the match -- WOW!  One of the sexiest scenes ever (and with no nudity or dirty words -- modern filmmakers should learn something from this scene).

 

Hitchcock uses sound design very subtly in this scene.  We hear the sounds of the train on the tracks, the very low background "restaurant" noises, and very, very low music (like background music would be in a restaurant).  However, the background music builds into a very romantic theme during the matchbook scene which just highlights one of the sexiest scenes ever!



#15 karenod1

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Posted 30 July 2017 - 12:55 PM

Daily Dose #16 North By Northwest

 

1.. How does pre-existing knowledge of the stars function to create meaning? I actually think that having very well known stars in a scene like this distracts the viewer from the story because we are watching the actor not the character. I think that Hitchcock handles this getting it out of the way in the beginning of the scene with the line about "you look vaguely familiar". He is telling the audience he knows that we already know these stars and to forget about that now and concentrate on who they are in the movie....which happens pretty quickly. 

 

2..I believe Hitchcock uses the matchbook for a variety of reasons...it breaks up an otherwise static scene....it introduces a bit of humor...his middle initial O stands for nothing....and it also creates more heat (pun intended) between the couple. Her move to blow out the flame indicates that she can do the same thing later in bed.

 

3. The music is softly romantic and vaguely sexy and along with the muffled sounds of the train moving and the train car it lulls us a bit and we see how comfortable these two are with each other after just a short time. 



#16 dan_quiterio

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Posted 29 July 2017 - 08:16 PM

Despite minimal action, this scene is quite revealing. It requires the dialogue to do the talking, so to speak, and we learn about both characters--Eve, in particular. She's aware of Roger's true identify, but rather than report him or fear him, she's intrigued by danger and literally flirts with it. She plays off Roger, played by Cary Grant, who we generally know to be suave, charming, and debonair. Knowing Cary, we expect him to welcome her advances, and he does. The soundscape sets the mood and atmosphere with a soft, romantic score, and the pattering of the train running over the tracks. The highlight of the scene for me is when Roger takes out his matchbook to light Eve's cigarette. It happens slowly and sensually. She holds his hand and seductively blows out the match. This relationship is just getting fired up...
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#17 lovebirding54

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Posted 29 July 2017 - 05:03 PM

My pre-existing knowledge of these two stars doesn't exactly work in this scene. Grant is typical, suave, sophisticated and a lady's man. But Eva Marie Saint I had only seen in On the Waterfront and this image doesn't match up with that at all. But the fact that she is so elegant, beautiful and sophisticated does seem to be a great match-up for Grant.

 

Hitchcock uses the matchbook in this scene to offer an opportunity for the two to become more intimate. It causes them to touch and the R O T reminds me of Rebecca where her presence is brought into a scene. We are reminded that Grant is Roger O Thornhill while pretending not to be while he is being sought after as George Kaplan. It is a comedic twist.

 

In this scene, we are reminded of the train with the sounds of it in the background. We feel the motion of the train through the background sounds. But when the music comes up into the scene it is an almost sexy soothing sound as if the relationship between them has already changed from strangers to something more.   


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#18 devin05

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Posted 29 July 2017 - 01:44 PM

Even at the level of the dialogue, this film is playing with the idea that two Hollywood stars are flirting with each other (e.g. the line, "I look vaguely familiar.") How does our pre-existing knowledge of these stars function to create meaning in this scene. 

 

It seems to be putting Cary Grant on his heels.  Sunglasses trying to hide, looking around.  But put the prospect of sex on the table, she initiates the direction, he returns to good old Cary.  He lowers his guard quits hiding.  He is willing to change his focus from looking out for people chasing him, to what is literally across the table from him.  Eva, to be honest, I didn't know much about, without the interview video.  This seems to be against personal type.  But I like to imagine Hitchcock's instructions to "lower my voice: don't use my hands: and look directly at Cary Grant" is really all she needed.  The dialogue is obvious to what is going here.  I do wonder, was the character's name always Eve, so much like Eva.  Or was it changed after casting.  So she could bring out this part of her personality.

 

There is minimal action in this scene, so any deviation from the overall pattern of focusing on the faces of the two leads will have increased significance. In that sense, discuss how Hitchcock uses the R.O.T. matchbook as an important piece of acting business (or as a prop) in this scene.

 

Comic relief.  R.O.T.  This suave man at his core either has a sense of humor and invented the middle initial for the purpose of conversations, or he didn't invent it and is willing to participate in some self-deprecating humor.   But also a issue of trust.  After she lights her cigarette, he starts to pull his hand back.  But she pulls his hand back and she being the more sexually aggressive here holds it for a little bit.  Roger must trust her to blow the match out before the flame burns his fingers.

 

How is Hitchcock using sound design in this scene? Consider music and other background sounds in your answer. 

 

Slow romantic music.  But the rocking rhythmic sound of train tracks is prelude, foreplay, you know what I mean?  A train horn sounds as she pulls out a cigarette, the seduction is complete, he knows exactly what she means.


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#19 roblevy

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Posted 29 July 2017 - 12:46 AM

Even at the level of the dialogue, this film is playing with the idea that two Hollywood stars are flirting with each other (e.g. the line, "I look vaguely familiar.") How does our pre-existing knowledge of these stars function to create meaning in this scene. 

 

It is interesting because you see Grant with sunglasses at the start, as if he is trying to hide who he is, who his identity is. then a she cleans them and puts them away the audience sees him for who he is a star, and to a lesser extent,  Roger in the film. As for Saint, she uses every inch of her clever wordplay to underscore he standing as a rising young starlet. Hitch is subconsciously playing with us in having us want to see more of these stars as each of the characters simultaneously wants to learn more of the other.

 

There is minimal action in this scene, so any deviation from the overall pattern of focusing on the faces of the two leads will have increased significance. In that sense, discuss how Hitchcock uses the R.O.T. matchbook as an important piece of acting business (or as a prop) in this scene. 

 

the matches help serve as a metaphor for the burning chemistry onscreen. it also is a prop that takes away form all the closeups, heady dialogue and innuendo. it's white color also serves as a nice departure from the colors used in the film.  it is a prop that serves as the physical connection between the actors.

 

How is Hitchcock using sound design in this scene? Consider music and other background sounds in your answer. 

 

He is using music that sounds like it is form a 1950s era romance drama. it's very light and frothy, while the action onscreen is of an entirely different context. The sound of the train moving is also important because it serves as a mechanism for having viewers know the plot is moving towards a key event. The sound of the train serves as a reminder that the characters are in a confined space where there is no easy escape while it is moving.
it also is another nod to Hitch's love of trains. 


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#20 LRH

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Posted 28 July 2017 - 05:14 AM

1.     Even at the level of the dialogue, this film is playing with the idea that two Hollywood stars are flirting with each other (e.g. the line, "I look vaguely familiar.") How does our pre-existing knowledge of these stars function to create meaning in this scene. 

Cary Grant is always the suave, debonair type.  I think it’s funny that he says he looks familiar.  Billy Wilder and Tony Curtis used this ironically in Some Like It Hot.  When Curtis was pretending to be a millionaire, he modeled his speech and voice patterns on Grant.  And when Jack Lemmon calls him out on it, he quips, “no one sounds like that!”  Well, how funny and how wrong.  He didn’t recognize the familiar voice.  Eva Marie Saint is a little unnerving if one recalls her from On the Waterfront.  It’s like Edie has grown up, dumped Terry (Marlon Brando) and is making it on her own.  She, unlike Grant, is playing against type.
 

2.     There is minimal action in this scene, so any deviation from the overall pattern of focusing on the faces of the two leads will have increased significance. In that sense, discuss how Hitchcock uses the R.O.T. matchbook as an important piece of acting business (or as a prop) in this scene.

The matchbook (and the cigarettes) allows the sexual tension to rise.  I hate smoking, but it sure is sexy when she brings his hand back with the lit match so that she can blow it out.  Hitchcock needed the matchbook to show up and be clearly identified so that it could be used later in the film when Thornhill uses it to warn her that they’re on to her.  But he gives it a double meaning by having it linked with their flirting and love making.

 

Question:  when did “make love” become censorable.  In early films, they use that phrase all the time – and it simply means something like flirting or letting someone know you like them.  And then eventually it comes to mean having sex.  Clearly by this time, it’s taken on that later meaning since it had to be censored.  Anyone know when this shift happened?

 

3.     How is Hitchcock using sound design in this scene? Consider music and other background sounds in your answer. 

The music is inobtrusive.  It sounds like it could be Muzak playing in the dining car - diegetic.  It’s vaguely sweet, calm, and cool.  So it matches their reserved, restrained flirtations.  And the noise of the railway isn’t jarring (like that line up the Hudson is – I’ve been on it many times).  Instead, it is present enough to be realistic for the scene, but it too stays out of the way of the flirty dialogue.  However, everything changes once she has made it clear that she wants to spend the night with him.  “Know what I mean?” she says.  And Thornhill says something like, “hmm, let me think.”  He knows what she means, and we know he knows and will oblige when the music changes significantly.  Herrmann’s score comes to the forefront – that sexy main love theme (reminiscent of some of the music of Vertigo in its longing and languidness).  As soon as we hear this music, we know that that they will act on their sexual desire.


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