Dr. Rich Edwards

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

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Today's Daily Dose is a wonderful scene aboard the 20th Century Limited train from North by Northwest with Cary Grant (Roger Thornhill) and Eva Marie Saint (Eve Kendall). 

 

I picked this scene to explore the star power and acting styles of Grant and Saint. 

 

As usual, head over to Canvas course to watch the clip, and then return here to talk about two of Hollywood's most popular stars in the 1950s in roles that have become iconic for both of them. 

 

Here are three questions to get you started on today's exploration of Hollywood stars and acting in a Hitchcock film:

 

  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 Thornhill/Grant line, "I look vaguely familiar.") How does our pre-existing knowledge of these stars function to create meaning in this scene. 
     
  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. 
     
  3. How is Hitchcock using sound design in this scene? Consider music and other background sounds in your answer. 
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Cary Grant is at the top of his form in this film, he has long since moved from romantic comedies to dramatic roles, but he is Cary Grant. Like John Wayne and others from the Golden Age of Hollywood, we go to see him, they are not actors, they were personalities. As the lecture stated, Cary Grant did not have to go shopping with Hitchcock for wardrobe. Archie Leach just put on his Cary Grant persona, and we had what we expected, well groomed, custom made clothes, expensive, always fitted out perfectly. He was not a method actor and knew what Hitchcock wanted and like Jimmy Stewart, “Just do it”. The camera loves Grant, and the audience does also.

 

Eva Marie Saint, is a method actor. She learned acting at the home of “method acting, and from Lee Strassberg, considered by many the “father” of method acting. Hitchcock did not like method actors overall, found them hard to work with, like Montgomery Clift, they clashed over I Confess. Saint, though, listened to Hitchcock, and Grant, and did it the Hitchcock way. The movies she has done, have made her a star and yet she is able to follow Hitchcock and disregard some of her method training.

 

If his actors will trust him and follow what he wants, the wardrobe, makeup, all the other external parts and listen to his story and the story boards, then they have the movie and all they have to do is deliver their lines. That's what they do here and for the time period, it sizzles with innuendo. When she puts her hand on his, holding the “rot” book of matches and then blows out the match used to light her cigarette, we know what that means, it is a cliche that goes back to silent films, yet is still fresh here.

 

http://www.nytimes.com/1992/11/08/movies/film-history-is-written-in-smoke.html?pagewanted=all

 

Garbo and Gilbert smoke and kiss

 

 

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  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. -- This is a light breach through the fourth wall and into those fans of the stars on screen; it provides them an inner connection, a moment when they can nod and say, 'yes, I know that face,' but then add, 'and what are you going to do now?'

 

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. -- Come on baby, light my fire.

 

How is Hitchcock using sound design in this scene? Consider music and other background sounds in your answer. -- It's a light scene, but the dark sunglasses on Grant and the suspiciously familiar tone of the conversation indicates a darkness boiling and a promise, very shortly to leave the pot and spill the story onto our laps. 

 

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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 Thornhill/Grant line, "I look vaguely familiar.") How does our pre-existing knowledge of these stars function to create meaning in this scene.

 

There seems an inside joke created when you consider their star power (double meaning in that sense). The audience could be getting nudged in that context for the fame Grant and Marie-Saint acquired. Not really my area of interest because society is way too caught up in fame is my feelings. I have a hard time seeing people's feelings ignored because they are not say Cary Grant. At some point fame created this monster-like system where folks use wealth and popularity to justify ignoring those who do not possesss such status. I'm also a bit of a hypocrite because I am attracted to external beauty more than internal (which takes time to learn of). Also seems the paradox of falling for onscreen beauty because its unattainable and fleeting in that it won't last...

 

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 becomes a useful deviation because it brings him in contact/closer to Eve Marie Saint for their flirting and serves as a further clue that he is not who he says is. She already knows he's on the run so the prop in my opinion is like hitting it on the nose.

 

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

 

The music is subtle but her flirting is obvious. The sounds of the train can be suggestive that the scene is in motion and their lives are now also connected. I'd say the sounds of the train-car they're in is also active and sounds of more than the two also plays into the discretion from both of them. It's awkwardness seems to be the point as well because he's not who he claims to be. There's a cat and mouse scenario only he's not the cat and more the prey in the scene. Only difference is he doesn't seem to care because of her proposition.

 

Update: this scene is hugely about sex and I can't believe I went on about inner feelings etc when clearly it's flirty before "love" and sexy time.

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"Don't be so modest" is my favorite line from this clip, spoken by Eve after she reveals to Roger she knows his true identity (and that he's wanted for murder).

 

What fascinating to me about this scene is how captivating the actors are; two people on a train with little action - but a lot is going on. Eve is presented as a confident character (chin up, staring Roger in the eyes), while Roger is at first presented as a hidden figure, eyes masked behind his sunglasses. As the shots volley back and forth between them as their dialogue continues, the framing becomes tighter and tighter. The characters become more familiar with each other (and more comfortable), and the audience feels less like we are listening in on a conversation (as with the beginning of the scene), and more like we are part of the conversation (by the end of the scene).

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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.

 

Perhaps since we are familiar with the stars, it feels like we are out with a couple of friends. With their flirtatious conversation having us think "get a room already"

 

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.

 

Our focus is on the actors and their suggestive dialogue. The matchbook is then introduced. Due to the nature of the scene and the camera pointing it out, we suspect the mtchbook may come into play further in the film.

 

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

 

Music is light. There are some relatively harmless sounds within the dining car. Seems as if the train's exterior sound plays more as the musical force, driving our two actors to the inevitable "hook up".

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  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. Just that line.."I look vaguely familiar."...Hitchcock is playing with the viewer...Who was more famous than Cary Grant....I love the cat and mouse of the actors...to me Eva Marie Saint is so in control in this scene so composed so alluring....and Cary Grant responds so well....The attraction is so subtle the dialogue perfect...seems like a lost art to me....the sexual attraction ....but it is subtle ...it does not slap you in the face

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 draws Eva Marie Saint to him literally the lighting of the cigarette so seductive and she responds but holding his hand for just a moment then pulling him him to blow out the match...you can feel the immediate attraction ...the touch so so intimate. The matchbook is the magnet!

How is Hitchcock using sound design in this scene? Consider music and other background sounds in your answer. The music is subtle and sweet almost inaudible but adds nicely to the dialogue.....I listened again and you here the click clack of the train as it rides along the track....makes you want to take a train ride...Hitchcock really did love trains

 

 

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  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 Thornhill/Grant line, "I look vaguely familiar.") How does our pre-existing knowledge of these stars function to create meaning in this scene. 

     

    I think this scene is an example of what is called "breaking the fourth wall," a theatrical convention in which an actor addresses the audience in order to heighten a dramatic or comedic effect. There are many ways of doing this, such as when Groucho Marx would turn from the other actors and speak directly to the audience, or indirectly, such as in this scene, where Cary Grant makes a self-referential comment about people thinking they have seen him somewhere before.

     

    ​Recently, my son and I watched a scene from How to Marry a Millionaire​, in which Fred Clark and Betty Grable were listening to music on a radio. Betty Grable, who at the time was married in real life to band leader Harry James, said that she would recognize that sound anywhere, and she attributed it to the Harry James Orchestra. When I heard her say that, I laughed, as I knew (as audiences at the time would have known) that Betty Grable and Harry James were married to each other. For me, this breaking of the fourth wall made me relate more to the character played Betty, as it prompted me to think about my pre-existing knowledge about Betty herself, and I enjoyed the experience of being able to recognize an "inside joke." On the other hand, my son, who did not know of the real-life relationship between Betty Grable and Harry James, did not notice any humor in Betty's comment or in the subsequent revelation by the radio announcer of the name of the band that had played the song (it was not by the Harry James Orchestra, ha ha).  

     

    ​So, this comment by Cary Grant added humor to the scene and brought in my pre-existing knowledge of his persona, which added to how I saw the character he was playing. As for Eva Marie Saint, this is the first and only time I have seen her, and so I had no pre-existing knowledge of her that could have added meaning to her scene with Grant being one of two Hollywood stars flirting with each other, but I knew that she was flirting with one.         

     

     

  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. 

     

    I am fascinated by Directors who are so obsessed with the characters in their movies that they come up with details such as the monogrammed matchbook (R.O.T.) which implies the jaded world view of the advertising executive being played by Cary Grant. When Cary reveals that the "O" doesn't stand for anything, it becomes even more obvious that Hitchcock really, really wanted us to have this association with Roger Thornhill. I suppose Hitchcock paid the same sort of attention to the details about his characters in many, if not all, of his movies. Recent examples include the Lobster tie that he designed for Bruno in Strangers on a Train ​(the lobster's strong claws were symbolic of Bruno's strong, strangling hands) and the shopping trip to Bergdorf Goodman that he made with Eva Marie Saint because he did not like the clothes designed for her by MGM. Another Director who gets into details like Hitchcock did is Quentin Tarantino, who has invented brands of cigarettes for his characters to smoke.     

     

     

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

     

    Music is one of my many weak spots. I know very little about music, so I do not feel qualified to say how it was part of the sound design in this scene. The opening music seems to be of a romantic nature, in a light-hearted, flirty way, and then after Eva Marie Saint tells Cary Grant that she knows who he is, the music changes to something that is slightly edgy. But this is at best a simplistic analysis. I look forward to reading what some of my more perceptive classmates will have to say about the music.  I have noticed that some of my cohort appear to be VERY knowledgeable about music, as several have gone so far as to include music note annotations in their comments. I wish I could understand what they meant. As for the other background sounds, I did not really notice any. I suppose there were the typical sounds one might hear in the dining car of a train, but they did not register for me. Other than the mood music, the only sound I noticed was when Eva blew out the flame of Cary's match. I thought that was a nice touch of flirting/intimacy.  

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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. 

 

I found this scene slightly humorous because indeed Hitchcock plays with the fact that both actors are indeed big stars so the audience can get some of the inside jokes.  When seated at the dining car, Eve Marie Saint is the typical cool, sexy Hitchcock blonde, she is dressed glamorous, and smokes.  Cary is wearing dark sunglasses (very movie star).  The lines "Have I seen you before" etc.  are obvious that of course the audience had.. they are super stars.  Eve's character paying off the waiter to have Cary's character seated .. similar to Hollywood star obsession. The flirting theme is interesting because Eve's character is so beautiful that she seems unattainable and vain.  It let's the audience know that this developing relationship might not be what it seems and that it will be bumpy.  There are James Bond like touches through this scene with Cary...  esp the vodka martini on the table.

 

What I find funny is Cary's like "one would think I would want to make love to you"..  The inside joke was he was a gay male.. so to gay audiences this is a bit funny.. Playing the hetero leading man but .. in private he was gay and also in a long term relationship for many years with Randolph Scott. 

 

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 lighting of the cigarette is so old Hollywood it brings to mind many famous Hollywood star couples like Bogie and Bacall.  It feels classic Hollywood seduction.  THE ROT matchbook is funny when she asks about the innitials and he says the O doesn't mean anything..  OH  LOL It is have Cary's character is trying to fit in but truly is a much more introverted guy. uncomfortable with a more forward woman.

 

The costuming fits the characters perfectly as well. 

 

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

 

The music is flirty and it works well with the background sounds of the train.  It is a sexy metaphor.  The train building speed, the flirtation and intimate setting, we know that eventually these characters will hook up. 

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(1) North by Northwest is the final of the four Hitchcock films in which Cary Grant appears.  Thus, he is very familiar to fans of Hitch’s films.  Grant’s line about looking vaguely familiar adds humor to the scene.  It also references the fact that his character is a wanted man.  The line precedes his failed attempt at introducing himself to Eve Kendall using a fake name.  She catches him immediately, citing that his picture’s been on the front page of every newspaper.  Unfortunately, I don’t know enough about Eva Marie Saint to comment on how her stardom creates meaning in this scene.

 

(2) The matches are an excuse for the actors to touch each other.  It’s gentlemanly of Grant’s character to offer to light the cigarette of Saint’s character.  She knew that he’d offer to do so if she got out a cigarette.  Because of this, I’d say she makes the first move, so to speak.  Had Eve Kendall believed Roger was really Jack Phillips, as he first introduces himself—or pretended to believe it—I wonder if Roger would have gotten out his matches, which show his real initials (R.O.T).

 

(3) For the most part, the only sound in the scene apart from the dialogue is that of the train traveling along the rails—a slight jostling sound.  The score in this scene consists of subtle romantic music at a low volume.  While romantic-sounding, the music has an innocent quality to it, which I think serves to downplay the suggestiveness of the dialogue exchanged between Roger and Eve.

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Further Reflections:  After watching the clip, please go to Twitter (#Hitchcock50) or the TCM Message Board (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.  (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.to continue your reflections on this clip. Here are a few discussion starters (though feel free to come up with your own):

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? 

I am a bit confused by the question except to say that our pre-existing knowledge is a prejudice of sorts that has us expecting the two of them to flirt. Cary Grant is, well, Cary Grant and of course we know him from Notorious and as a sex symbol. Eva Marie Saint has just finished a dramatic role in “On the Waterfront” and has played a strong, independent, woman. So we cannot be too surprised when she begins the flirtation. In addition to the line, “I look vaguely familiar,” there is the line “You have a nice face.”  To me this use of known stars is akin to AH’s use of locales that are already “starts,” of course in this case Mt. Rushmore.

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. 

“ROT” is “Roger O. Thornhill. WE do not learn what the “O” stands for. Cary Grant will not reveal it by stating that it does not mean anything. In the matchbook cover a macguffin? Of course ROT is proof that Cary Grant

How is Hitchcock using sound design in this scene? Consider music and other background sounds in your answer. We hear the sound of the train gliding across the landscape and we hear soft romantic music. He is adding to the intimacy of two people sharing a dinner table in a secluded spot (a table next to a bulkhead). 

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1) Cary Grant had the privilege to star in 4 Hitchcock films, and North by Northwest is his last film. Grant is perfect for the role as he tries to cover up his identity and prove his innocence to a woman he has just met. When Grant mentions a line about looking vaguely familiar it adds a dose of whimsical humor to the scene followed quickly by Eva Marie Saint quickly revealing his lie, and exposing his true identity thanks to the many photos of him in the papers. Other than her oozing charisma and flair I do not know much about Eva Marie Saint to shed some more light on her own stardom and the impact within the remainder of the scene. 

 

2) Oh the matches! That scene was a great interaction between the two actors, which was a beautiful way for the two characters to share a touch as their fingers brush one another. The letters ROT was an interesting characteristic to me because it almost seems like Roger's original identity has now rotted away into that of a fugitive. However, if Eve didn't already know that he was faking his true identity the matchbook would've given his true identity away knowing that the letters were his initials and unless Roger was quick on his feet to explain ROT's other meaning, etc.

 

3) The dialogue and the train tracks provide a slight jostling sound effect that adds to Roger's grand escape, and as the scene progresses the score kicks in and the sound adds a romantic connotation to the scene which hints at impending romance between Roger and Eve...

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1.  I suppose in this scene Cary Grant and Hitchcock are having a little fun with the audience, he is a well known and popular actor so lets get that out on the table and proceed with the story at hand.  We also have a bit of role reversal here regarding who is the pursuer and the pursued in this bit of double entendre/word play.  This would be a conversation more likely lead by Grant in previous films, here we have Eva Marie Saint not known as femme fatale arranging the meeting leading the flirtation and not being partcularly subtle about her intentions, but being ever so effective and sensual in this scene.

 

2.  The R.O.T.  matchbook and more importantly the match provide two points of interest.  Is it confirmation of his identity?  It also provides an opportunity for intimacy as Ms. Kendell reels in her prey.

 

3.  In this scene the music and sounds are exactly what you would expext.  Quiet romantic music and the train moviing on the tracks ever so subtle.  A deliberate strategy to keep the audience engaged in the flirtation between the couple.  No changes in tempo or surprises so as not to deflect us from their conversation.

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Honestly, I do not have much pre-existing knowledge of these two actors regarding their lives outside acting.

 

The matchbook becomes the vehicle for the two actors to legitimately touch one another, heightening their physical attraction and pushing the story forward between the two characters. It also is a moment where they stop talking; their communicating is done only through action and touch. 

 

The sound that is constant throughout the scene to me is the moving train, which makes the scene so ordinary in the film. As with other HItchcock scenes we've looked it, he loves putting ordinary people in extreme situations, and it is so with Cary Grant's character. If it was just a scene between a man and a woman on a train, there would be no importance. But because he is a man being chased by the police and bad guys for a crime he didn't commit, and has taken the time to stop and flirt with a woman he doesn't know, that makes the scene all the more interesting. 

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Remember, Eve is a spy. It's not just "love" for her at this point. She's working. She's sexy. She's confident. She's working her magic on Roger. Sucking him in. Pun intended. 

 

Hitchcock loved the absurd. The sunglasses are hysterical on Thornhill. There's no way they can disguise him. This entire film can be seen as a "Roadrunner cartoon." Hitch does whatever he wants to. The situations he puts Thornhill in keep stacking up, each one more ludicrous than the next. This is a great comedy.

 

The "O" in "R.O.T" could have several meanings. The expression "Oh!". A hole. An open mouth. The last image of Eve blowing out the match is reminiscent of "Slim" telling Bogart she's going to put her lips together and "blow". 

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I've got nothing on this scene but I wanted to give kudos to the lead in of the Lecture Video.  Very cute!

 

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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. 0423.jpg

 

       ​ As discussed in the class lecture, Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint are perfect in being complimentary to each other. They both bring their respective images as stars into this scene and we of course build onto this with our pre-existing knowledge of who they are and how we see them. Cary Grant is the suave, handsome, elegant gentlemen and Eva Marie Saint is also beautiful, elegant and sexy. Since the two stars compliment each other so perfectly we find it so easy to follow along with their flirting and hope that they are successful.

 

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. 

​                                                                     335bb0cb369725d83d93c66d90009ac7.jpg

 

        The R.O.T. matchbook provides Roger and Eve with an opportunity to flirt a little more. Roger being gallant and offering to light Eve's cigarette. She inquiring about  his monogram tries to figure out a bit more about him. Finally, as he lights her cigarette the acting business leads to her steadying his had, bringing again closer to her and than blowing out the match. I wonder if Hitchcock's years with UFA in Germany may have given him the idea for this bit with the match. In the "olde Germany" if a gentleman lit a ladies cigarette and she blew out the match, this was the signal that she was interested and would follow along with him to his room. Who can say for sure.

 

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

         ​We have the constant clickity caick of the train on the steel rails, we have the various musical themes by Bernard Herrmann which range from light dreamy to romantic to one of the reoccurring themes of the film, and we have the sounds of silverware clinking at appropriate times. Case in point is the clanking of Roger's silverware when Eve mentions "but you haven't eaten yet" as the Trout is delivered.

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  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 seen as the attractive leading man he always is in all of his films. Eva Marie Saint is basically seducing him, which many men and women viewers would like to do.

 

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 allows them to touch, vs talk.

 

How is Hitchcock using sound design in this scene? Consider music and other background sounds in your answer.Violins and train noises. Romantic music from the violins help us know this is a romantic scene...the train noises are just background to remind us of where this is taking place...one of Hitch's favorite places.

 

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1.

                     We get to enjoy archetypal Cary Grant suaveness under pressure. He's being chased

                     for murder and yet he still looks great, orders a cocktail with lunch, woos a lady, lights

                     her cigarette and even manages to leave a tip.  Also, Cary Grant liked roles where gals 

                     chased him. He didn't like the idea of his character being sexually aggressive towards

                     a woman. By having Eva Marie Saint- a new young actress whose name sounds like

                     that of a young catholic virgin! and who just played a very innocent and virtuous

                     character in On the waterfront-- by having her be the sexual aggressor in this scene

                     we not only get the idea that Cary Grant is wildly irresistible so that he can induce an

                     formerly innocent actress to chase him, but we also get the titillation of seeing our 

                     little Evie "all grown up" and playing with the big boys. 

 

 

2.                 I guess the matchbook works as a visual pivot for the scene. It bonds the characters

                    together because they touch. It "brands" Cary Grant as Roger O Thornhill. It's funny

                    and stylish. It will serve as a vector of communication between the two in the future.

                    It's funny to me that he's enough of a gentleman to light a lady's cigarette with a 

                    monogrammed matchbook when he's being chased for murder. Hitchcock uses it

                    in a way similar to the monogrammed R in Rebecca- as a visual talisman for the

                    character.

 

 

3.                 The music is surprisingly wistful and bittersweet considering the hotsexy dialogue. 

                    I think it's working to add tenderness and depth to the sexually suggestive scene.

                    It hints that there's an emotional connection being made that the characters are 

                    hiding under their amped up personas. It foreshadows a moment when they will

                    have to confront some sticky and scary feelings- intimacy and true honesty. It

                    creates a veil of safety and reprise from the forces chasing them. The sound of 

                    the train racing inexorably forward serves as a stressful rustling reminder that

                    this moment of human connection is temporary and will be torn away from them.

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Cary Grant seems to be playing his debonair-Cary-Grantness to the hilt here. Very smooth, well-dressed, genteel. Miss Saint is elegant, demure, soft spoken, beautifully coiffed and dressed. When she says she is 26, it is a little hard to believe. She seems older in demeanor. Mr. Grant, older than her in appearance.  There is no mistaking their conversation and intent. The privacy of the train compartment beckons.

 

R.O.T.    Thornhill even says "rot" in a self-deprecating , off-handed way. Maybe he's a little uncomfortable being so scrutinized.  But the initials do confirm his identity, but he knows Miss Kendall knows this already. A man lighting a woman's cigarette in a film is usually seductive or romantic or just genteel. And she holds on to his hand just a little longer that is needed.  It is an introduction of sorts. Let's get closer.

 

The clicking of the train on its tracks is calming. The music just hints at the romanticism in the air.  We don't hear anyone else's conversation at all, just the two main characters. Towards the scene's end, we hear a few bars of the theme music . It all works so well.

 

 

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I've got nothing on this scene but I wanted to give kudos to the lead in of the Lecture Video.  Very cute!

 

I also liked the opening of the Lecture Video as a play on opening of North by Northwest. Dr. Edwards's production techniques are getting more sophisticated with every course!

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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. 

 

Knowing Cary Grant as a debonair, suave playboy, that persona plays directly into this scene. Although Eva Marie Saint had just finished playing a very innocent young woman in On the Waterfront, she is still a strong and confident woman, and she holds her own (and more) with Cary Grant in this scene. 

 

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 is the only close up Hitchcock does in this scene, so, as a viewer, you know that there is something supremely important about it. It obviously shows that Cary Grant is not who he says he is. 

 

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

 

The ongoing ambient sound of the train along the tracks really adds to this scene. Additionally, the music is subtle and allows the viewer to focus on the actors and their conversation. 

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One thing I've always liked about classic Hollywood films is the way the protagonists are flirting with each other. It's subtle, classy, elegant, flirting is turned into an art, something you don't see much in modern films, because there is no censorship and everything can be said or shown. In this scene, the actors are talking about something primate and vulgar such as sex, yet they're doing this in a way you could believe they're talking about a work of art. Grant was an expert in such scenes for decades, Saint was not so experienced, but here she is at least his equal.

 

Hitchcock always liked trademark items, like the letter R in Rebecca or Guy's cigarette case in Strangers on a Train. His films are frequently cases of dubious or mistaken identities, so these items, such as the R.O.T.  matchbook here help us connect the name with the person. As for the "O stands for nothing" line, I believe it's directed to his not-so-favorite producer David O. Selznick (the "O" in his name really stood for nothing, he just made it up).

 

The background music in this scene is typical for a romantic one, and not typical of Hitchcock. However, the other background sounds, arguably connected with the moving train, are there to remind us we're still in the thrilling Hitchcock universe, given his known preference for using trains in his films.

 

 

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I also liked the opening of the Lecture Video as a play on opening of North by Northwest. Dr. Edwards's production techniques are getting more sophisticated with every course!

 

Thanks so much! As I've been sharing on Twitter at #Hitchcock50, I am working more and more with a student crew that stays with me for a long time (I've been working with editor Henry since last summer - so like Hitchcock, I'm a fan of stable production crews and keeping talented folks around me!!)

 

What I love about working with students is that in production conferences they are eager to take on new challenges, and this week of Alfred Hitchcock, Bernard Herrmann, and Saul Bass inspired Henry to do these amazing intros - he also does an homage to the Vertigo title design in the Wednesday lecture video. 

 

Another thing that is happening is that this is my third TCM course. So like making a third genre film, the third time around allows me to play with a limited number of conventions and elements. This time I am able to explore yet another way to deliver video content. In Film Noir, we shot a single talking head lecture in a classic movies theater, then last year, I was on the TNT Sport Soundstage with Vince Cellini as my partner to use a telestrator for Breakdown of a Gag, and this year for Hitchcock, I really liked the idea of a simple conversation on a plain soundstage between two film scholars and to use lots of B-roll to illustrate our points. I cannot thank Wes Gehring enough for his willingness to be a part of this project--he is truly a marvelous collaborator and a great film scholar to boot!

 

Hope you are enjoying the course!

 

PS, it takes a village to create the materials for this course. I always need to give a BIG SHOUT OUT to my many fine collaborators at TCM, Canvas, and Ball State. This course would be impossible with the hours and hours of work that goes on behind the scenes to put up these modules, create these games, and coordinate all these activities. 

 

Best, Rich

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