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


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#41 Ann56

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Posted 24 July 2017 - 03:01 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. 

First, we know how extremely well known and popular these two actors were at the time, so the line is somewhat tongue-in-cheek.

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 R.O.T. matchbook gives us an indication of Thornhill’s comic style… the initials being the word ROT gives us a clue that he can be “rot-ten” when it comes to women.  It is both a prop and a way to give the audience information about the characters.  The fact that she brings his hand back to her to blow out the candle, with the matchbook facing her, show the audience that she is willing to be with him even though it is an indication of his character.

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

The rolling of the train wheels, the light airy, somewhat romantic music continues through the scene until Eve lets Roger know that she is available and brings out her cigarette.  At the point the whistles blow, indicating that this is an important part of the scene, and then the music goes back to the light, airy somewhat romantic music.  



#42 Robinv

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Posted 24 July 2017 - 11:59 AM

1. These stars were known for their beauty and desirability. Putting them in this playful, flirty position allows the audience to imagine if these 2 stars really met how they might act towards one another.

2. I don't think the match book really means anything. I think it is used as a prop to continue the realization of his real identity.

3. I think all the sounds are understated so that the audience focuses on the flirtatious dialogue between Grant and Saint. There are the usual sounds that we might hear in a dining car. (Dining music, dishes and the sound of the train on the tracks)
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#43 Popcorn97

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Posted 24 July 2017 - 09:26 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.          Well what this scene is not telling is they met prior to this scene. And she has seen his face on news papers.
  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 is the mcguffin of the scene. They are just talking about the matchbook but it really means nothing.  All thru this scene both Carry and Eve are just talking about sex the entire time in other ways.
  3. How is Hitchcock using sound design in this scene? Consider music and other background sounds in your answer.                                                                             --1)The sound of the train is one sound, 2) the other sound is the sound of dishes, 3) the other sound is the background music (maybe music the dining car is playing?)  4)then one of the main musical themes of the film.

Trains and Hitchcock - 39 Steps, Lady Vanaishes, Shadow of a Doubt, North By Northwest


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#44 Jennifer Anne

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Posted 23 July 2017 - 03:32 PM

1. I have always felt that Eva Marie Saint is behaving like every person wishes they could if "accidentally" seated opposite Cary Grant. Oh to be that confident at 26. In all seriousness though, Hitchcock seems to be letting us "eavesdrop" on what we, the viewers, may imagine would happen if two of the biggest male and female movie stars of the time wound up bored on a train. Saint's aggressive, forthright manner is a subversion of how we would expect a conventional 1950s woman to act in this situation, but as a glamourous movie star we are accepting of her behaviour. That Grant begins wearing sunglasses so not to be "recognized" also plays into the mythology of the successful, Hollywood superstar.

2.  "ROT" enables the matchbook to stand in for Grant's identity, while reminding us that his character is a murder target and may soon be "rotting" himself. Saint confidently maneuvers Grant's hand and the matchbook towards her demonstrating how she is very much in control of the situation. She is the one bringing Grant to his death as evinced by her deliberate blowing out of the match. At the same time, the sequence plays out as a seduction; the matchbook gives her an excuse for physical contact with Grant, more of which is certain to follow.

3. The sound design reflects what one would hear if actually seated in a dining car: the most prominent sound is the the rhythmic movement of the train over the tracks and the clattering of dishes. The orchestral music adds an air of romance and is faint, acting as ambient music in a restaurant. I noticed that as soon as Grant pulls out his R.O.T. initialled matchbook there are a few faint train whistles in the distance. The overall atmosphere is quietly romantic and yet fused with uncertainty.
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#45 msmukmuk

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Posted 23 July 2017 - 03:02 PM

1) & 2) In this scene, Hitchcock is reminding us that he knew how to pick movie stars for his characters.Cary Grant clearly defines the irresistible, charming, handsome leading man. I also interpret that line to mean," you've seen me in other Hitchcock films. Yes that's me'. Even hiding behind sunglasses, Grant cannot disguise himself from any of us. Eva Marie Saint had just acquired instant fame from "On the Waterfront" and was experimenting with a new role as the "sexy spy lady". Their flirty dialogue and personal interchange is quite risque for 1959 censors. Their banter is so intense that the viewer forgets that these actors are playing roles.The sexual tension builds with her intense eye contact and with his subtle gestures of full seduction.he knows he's got her! The sex act begins when she pulls his hand toward her mouth and blows out the match. 

 

3) The music in this scene is soft toned ,slightly romantic and understated. The background noises are the expected ones on a train ride. The audience is therefore forced to focus on their intense conversation and flirtation.



#46 fediukc1991

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Posted 23 July 2017 - 02:07 PM

Cary Grant is so handsome and charming. Eva Marie Saint is chic and beautiful. Hitchcock uses both actors as an important prop by having them looking each other in a flirting, playful way. We hear a romantic but faint piece of music over and under the train.



#47 ElaineK

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Posted 23 July 2017 - 02:06 PM

This scene focuses on Eva Marie Saint and introduces her to Grant's character and the audience.

She is another Hitchcock blond, and her face, voice, and movements are examined by the camera.

Many directors attempted to circumvent the production code's strictures, as Hitchcock does here with mild innuendo.  Grant is mostly in motion in this film, and this scene gives him a chance to sit down, talk to his co-star, and get to know her.  

 



#48 ajprice-1

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Posted 23 July 2017 - 09:56 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 was the epitome of handsome elegance. Eva Marie Saint had received lots of adulation for her beauty and talent, but this was her first real role as the “cool blonde” we’d come to know from previous Hitchcock movies. Each of these characters (unlike each of us!) could be totally confident in their meeting. Each is the “alpha” of sex appeal. Thus, their flirtation and innuendo is never uncomfortable or ridiculous

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 personalized matchbook zeroes in on our hero’s cavalier confidence and it also affords Hitchcock another dig at David O. (the O means nothing) Selznik.

3.    How is Hitchcock using sound design in this scene? Consider music and other background sounds in your answer. All we hear is a faint and romantic bit of Muzak over, under, and through the sounds of the train moving over the track.


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#49 CaseInPoint

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Posted 22 July 2017 - 10:07 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. At the point that North by Northwest was made, Grant, in particular, had already appeared in Hitchcock films (Suspicion, Notorious and To Catch a Thief) in which he played opposite famous blondes (Joan Fontaine, Ingrid Bergman and Grace Kelly). So merely in context of Hitchcock films, the line 'I look vaguely familiar' may be a bit of homage to those appearances (?). 
  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. After following Hitch's direction (according to lecture notes) and sitting with her hands unseen for most of the scene, Eva Marie produces a cigarette, at which point Grant responds accordingly by offering to light.  Instead of a lighter, however (which Guy Haines offered in "Strangers") Grant has monogrammed matches.  These perhaps more clearly convey the monogram of ROT and especially establish a connection that is very important later in the film when Grant writes the note in the matchbook.  The observation that 'O' stands for nothing seems to indicate the superficial nature of his life as an advertising executive, a career associated with glamour but often ridiculed by Hitchcock especially in his television series of the time.  
  3. How is Hitchcock using sound design in this scene? Consider music and other background sounds in your answer. The sounds are oddly soothing, with the continuous sound of the train moving over the tracks creating an underlying rhythm accompanying the quiet 'elevator music' of the dining car.  Hitchcock is careful to include occasional sounds of the other diners laughing, sounds of silverware clinking, etc.  One of the things I love about this scene is how the soothing sounds of the train's interior and the actors' voices juxtapose with the view out of the windows of the world rushing by at a maddening pace.  The conversation is seductive, slow and steady while the world seems to be almost coming apart outside.

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#50 Hawk223

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Posted 22 July 2017 - 09:18 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's difficult to truly piece together the context of these actors at the specific time of 1959, but my understanding of Grant as having some challenges with fame and identity add to the inconspicuous goal he has in the scene. Saint I knew from On the Waterfront of course, but I'm not sure I have a great deal of background knowledge on her to add to the scene. Her eye contact with Grant is very consistent and adds to the flirtation.

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.

Again, Saint's eye contact is engaging, and I feel we're waiting for Grant to remove his sunglasses. The matchbook allows them to have physical contact. Overall, it's an intriguing/steamy scene, as we don't yet understand Saint's involvement but are to believe she simply finds Grant attractive.

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

Initially we hear more of the railroad track monotony, but eventually the music adds to the romance of the scene.

#51 Soonya

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Posted 22 July 2017 - 07:01 PM

The scene is humorous in a sexy way. For example, the line “I look vaguely familiar.” is funny because we know they are both famous stars that are recognized wherever they go. The humor as understatement continues as she compliments his good looks. Then there is the innuendo - you are what type - that type and we all think “fast” while the auditors hear “honest” and when she denies it and he said he is glad because honest women are frightening, the keepers of the moral code should find that statement more objectionable than if she had said the other. I think of me trying to get my parents to let me do something by first asking to do something so out there that my chances of getting my real wish would be greatly improved when I lost the battle for the ridiculous.

Wow! That was steamy. The hand holding, the profile of her face blowing out the match. Over the top - I better wait for my hubby to get home to watch the rest of the movie. If there was another point to the scene, I’ll have to wait until my next viewing to ferret it out.

The music is unobtrusive, romantic, beautiful - like the rest of the setting. Like the minimal action, it allows us to focus more fully on the faces of the leads and the risque dialogue. If possible, Eva Marie Saint is more beautiful from the side than full face. 



#52 dizzy.miss.lizzy

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Posted 22 July 2017 - 02:45 PM

This scene has a lot of meaning, considering the popularity of Cary Grant. Everyone knows and loves Cary Grant. It should just be a given! He is often associated with being a ladies' man and at least played a lot of characters like that. Roger Thornhill is clearly liking the attention from Eve, who understandably is showing interest in him. I think her character's role is relatable, while he almost seems to be playing himself. His character is very natural and very Cary Grant (A+ casting), while she does a fantastic job of playing the "sexy spy lady." I also like how everyone pointed out that he's wearing sunglasses for a good amount of time in this clip. That's another example for why this is so similar to a celebrity's life. Hitchcock had to have been aware of these similarities, because their conversation in the very beginning is an allusion to this. "I look vaguely familiar" and "It's a nice face" is something I can imagine happening in real life.

 

At first, the matchbook doesn't seem to have any significance other than a means of directing the conversation and creating actions where there is obvious chemistry. But of course as the story continues, it has an important play in the plot. Another Hitchcock touch where everything has to have a role in the plot, whether it be the setting and location or a prop.

 

The sound in this clip is used tastefully--not overbearing the scene but also not nonexistent. We can hear the train vaguely in the background, as well as the music. When the music finally comes into the foreground, the conversation has stopped and she's lighting a cigarette. This shows to the audience, again, that there is obvious chemistry between these characters and, if we hadn't already, we get the idea that there's going to be a romance.


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#53 riffraf

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Posted 22 July 2017 - 02:13 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. 

 

Cary Grant is the polar-opposite.  Everyone knows Cary Grant.  He’s already an icon and his own archetype.  In this playful scene, it’s like Cary Grant is playing a man who is doing his best impression of Cary Grant.  His ‘nice face’ and his ‘recognition in public’ is Hitchcock’s nod to Grant’s status in the mind of the audience.  There’s no doubt he’s going to ‘get the girl’ – he’s Cary Grant for Heaven’s sake!

 

I certainly agree!  I would also point out as does Michael Caine in his brief commentary played periodically on TCM, "...that we shouldn't get hung up on his looks, because he never did!"  A wonderful short tribute on Youtube:

    https://youtu.be/cPvmpS4HOpU


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#54 RepublicPics

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Posted 22 July 2017 - 01:27 PM

By this film, Cary Grant had already made three other films with Alfred Hitchcock, so was more than vaguely familiar to the audience.  Eva Marie Saint was also a huge star, so the audience is drawn to their celebrity as well as to the film itself.

 

The bits in this scene (e.g., Thornhill wearing the sunglasses, looking around nervously and the ROT matchbook) break  up what is really a static scene of dialogue.  The matchbook also also serves to further open the door to dialogue that is filled with double entendres.  Separately, I wonder if the "O" (which Thronhill says stands for nothing) is another in joke:  David O. Selznick famously added the O. to his name, even though he later said it stood for nothing.

 

The sound design, including the rhythmic rocking of the rolling stock on the tracks, and soft woodwinds in the score, underscores the dialogue suggesting seduction is on the characters' mind.

 



#55 mariaki

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Posted 22 July 2017 - 11:44 AM

Before I finish the lesson and reply to the assigned discussion questions, I wanted to comment on the Osborne interviews which were so revealing.  

 

Both Novak and Saint commented on how Hitchcock was concerned with every detail of outward appearance much more so than the internal character. I think this points to the fact that the interior of the men is what drives the films this week. The women remind me of all the furniture in the room that Fred Astaire dances with. They exist for the man to interact with as catalysts, obstacles, frenemies on the hero's journey.  Of course, the women are hugely important to the films but not their depth of character as much as how the men react to them. Detailed appearance is important because we have to read the women the same way the men do.

 

Novak thought it odd that Hitchcock watched her through the camera, but to me, that makes perfect sense.  He is looking at the message expressed in the frame, not the wide set. What is in that frame is what makes the movie- the matchbook, the color of a sweater, the skyline, the books in the bookcase.  I'm not saying that the women are only of equal important to a book of matches or the color of a sweater, but I feel that Hitch designs the women, much more so than an average dressing of a character,  so that every minute detail adds to the meaning conveyed in the mise-en-scene. 

 

It was also quite interesting how both Saint and Novak discussed their wardrobe. It seems Hitch believed "clothes make the 'man'" because the actors described how putting on certain clothes- the external formation- caused their character to form internally. The idea of him sitting on a plush sofa in Bergdorf's as a bunch of models stroll by is such a chuckle.

 

 I have seen Saint being interviewed by Osborne before, but never Novak. Her fragility brought a tear to my eye. I loved her and Stewart in Bell, Book, and Candle also. 


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#56 Craig0904

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Posted 22 July 2017 - 11:39 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. 

In my opinion, the general-public is only now getting to know who Eva Marie Saint is.   This is early on in her career so there isn’t much pre-existing knowledge.  She gets to play a role; whatever role she needs to play.  She is playing a beautiful femme-fatale named Eve.  Is it mere coincidence?  Eve - the first woman; guilty of the original sin?  The character is complex – she obviously wants him (sexually) and it’s as if she’s daring him to breach that icy wall she’s constructed between them.  She’ll be had, but on her own terms.

Cary Grant is the polar-opposite.  Everyone knows Cary Grant.  He’s already an icon and his own archetype.  In this playful scene, it’s like Cary Grant is playing a man who is doing his best impression of Cary Grant.  His ‘nice face’ and his ‘recognition in public’ is Hitchcock’s nod to Grant’s status in the mind of the audience.  There’s no doubt he’s going to ‘get the girl’ – he’s Cary Grant for Heaven’s sake!

 

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. 

I love this scene.   It’s one of those quiet Hitchcock scenes that establish a relationship between the characters. It’s light and romantic and humorous. It also provides playfulness and sexual tension.   The matchbook, in my opinion, is just a break from the ‘back and forth’ between the two characters.  For me, the cigarette and the match are even more important.   These two props take us beyond foreplay.   The relationship has gone beyond playful at this point – it’s become lusty and combustible.  Even with that little bit of dubbing, I’m surprised it still passed the censors!  This scene is scorching hot.

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

Really, I feel the music and sound in this scene are gratefully underplayed.  In this scene we really should be paying all of our attention to these two characters – their faces, their voices.  As far as effects go there’s not the cliché clickety-clack of the train tracks – you can hear just enough of that to know we’re on a train.  When you do hear the music, it’s soft, and sexy.  It supports the action without upstaging it.   I’ll be curious to see how the rest of you handle this question.

 


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#57 Dubbed

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Posted 22 July 2017 - 02:48 AM

Upon my first viewing of North by Northwest, this specific scene lingered within my mind. Cary Grant’s use of sunglasses for roughly a third of the scene makes him appear famous, as though he's someone to be noticed. He does not resemble Roger Thornhill, a character in a film, he resembles Cary Grant, the movie star. Eva Marie Saint’s interaction with Grant is heavily flirtatious, and he is readily receptive. Their exchange feels natural in a sense of their knowing how to navigate that kind of attention, which Hollywood stars are accustomed to having lobbed at them very often.

The matchbook is directly utilized in crafting a scenario to involve skin to skin contact amongst Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint after very suggestive dialogue. Characters often times light cigarettes after a love scene within a film. Here, the verbal entanglement of Grant and Saint is designed as their love scene (to a certain degree), therefore, striking a match and having a smoke is the only way to finish such an encounter.

The musical​ tone is of a light-hearted romantic feel, as it hints at a potential budding romance in between the two characters. The music helps set the atmosphere, but it doesn't overshadow the more important verbal exchange. The sounds of the train traveling across its tracks specifically​ anchors the journey of Grant's character, as we can both hear and see that he's in motion with his attempts to free himself from the accusations. Hitchcock allows the sound design to be secondary, which helps craft the realness of this scene. We aren't overwhelmed and engulfed by anything that would take attention away from the very playfully flirtatious conversation in between the two leads, and the sheer inventiveness of North by Northwest is another great entry into Hitchcock's oeuvre.
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#58 LThorwald

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Posted 22 July 2017 - 12:25 AM

1.  Our pre-existing knowledge of Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint as stars adds a layer of depth to the scene.  One could imagine that Cary Grant would attempt to travel incognito on a train, much as his character is doing.  Eva Marie Saint was already an Oscar winner by this time but was not nearly the star that Grant was.  She is seducing him, and her attraction is clear, but her motives are not.  One could imagine a beautiful young actress being attracted to the older male star, something that has happened many times in fact.  Particularly watching it now, so many years later, one can appreciate more how intertwined Thornhill and Grant are.  

 

2.  Well beyond the obvious symbolism of a fire being lit, much as their attraction is beginning to burn on screen, there is the way the matchbook is filmed.  The precise way she grips his hand, pulling it closer, the way his hand is posed, with thumb protruding, as she coyly blows out the match.  This may be the must sexually suggestive image in any Hitchcock film.  At the same time that Hitchcock is using the matches to advance their feelings, he is also planting a seed in our minds, for that matchbook will become an even more important prop in the concluding scenes.  Brilliant payoff by Hitchcock and screenwriter Ernest Lehman.

 

3.  The two predominant sounds are the rhythmic noise of the train and Bernard Herrmann's score.  There is no conversational lull from other tables, we hear only our two leads talking.  Although there are a few other sounds, like the clink of silverware on plate, that add a little reality.


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#59 Cscharre

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Posted 21 July 2017 - 10:14 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. For Grant, he knows he's famous and worshiped by many fans at the time. The above line plays to that. Not to mention, Saints dialogue here is a fantasy of many women at the time. To out talk Grant. Make him feel that she is the star and he's the one who should idealize her.

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. Lighting the match, holding his hand, is all alluding to the sexual tension. The closer the hands get, the closer the characters may ignite that spark of romance.

How is Hitchcock using sound design in this scene? Consider music and other background sounds in your answer. The train, to me, is more important. He's running. Do we try to listen closely for a stopping of the brakes or do we keep an ear out for footsteps that may slowly creep up to catch him? It keeps us waiting for the next shoe to drop.

#60 HEYMOE

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Posted 21 July 2017 - 10:07 PM

​1. Grant does indeed have a very pretty face, and his character is typically suave and witty, just like he is in this scene. He is often times in comedies though, so that is one difference. I have not seen any of Eva Marie Saint's other movies, but based on how Cary told her she would not have to cry in this one, I assume that she was more used to playing more outwardly emotional characters, much different from this role. This gives the audience both sides of the spectrum - seeing one actor doing what he does best, and the other completely reversing roles and trying something new, but amazing.

 

​2. The ROT matchbook is key to the plot later on, and does allow Grant to admit he is the wanted murderer, Thornhill, without actually saying it. It also gives Eve the chance to touch Thornhill and add to the seduction she needs to get him into bed.

 

​3. The sound design makes the train seem ordinary and realistic, with dishes clanking, and the sound of the tracks as well as the shaking set. There is background music, subtle, yet romantic, which shifts to one of the main musical themes of the film (the love/romance/seduction theme) when Thornhill has grasped the meaning of Eve's hints about not liking her book, and it being a very long night.

 

​P.S. This film also reminds me of Saboteur, and I think that should be added to the list of double chase movies like The 39 steps. Also, did anyone else notice that the camera shifted to close-ups as soon as Thornhill was told he was seated there on purpose? I think it was because it introduced a level of intimacy to the two characters.

In response to: [Also, did anyone else notice that the camera shifted to close-ups as soon as Thornhill was told he was seated there on purpose? I think it was because it introduced a level of intimacy to the two characters.]

I went back to the clip, and I see what you mean. Your explanation is reasonable and could very well be.

I also picked up this oddity- why was Roger Thornhill allowed to say, "... I have no desire to make love to her." Yet, Eve Kendall was prohibited from saying, "I never make love on an empty stomach." The Curator's Notes explains Eve's quotes but never explains Roger's. Just wondering why the double standard by the Production Code Officials.


Edited by HEYMOE, 22 July 2017 - 02:55 PM.

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