Dr. Rich Edwards

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

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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.

 

Cary Grant was a HUGE star at this time, ane people come to expect certain things from him:

 

  1. They expect him to be suave, charming, sophisticated
  2. They expect he will become involved in a romance
  3. They expect he will be a decent man
  4. They expect he will be the male lead
  5. They expect a certain amount of charming humor

 

Cary is indeed suave, charming, and sophisticated in this film, and even pokes fun at his image at several moments:

 

                Do I look heavy? I feel heavy. Make a note: ‘Think thin.’

 

He does indeed get involved in a romance. But because Eve Kendal is a ‘femme fatale’, THAT becomes the obstacle to the relationship.  How can Cary Grant fall in love with a ‘bad’ woman?

 

He is a decent man, but they play with it a little by making him seem a little shallow. ‘Ex-wives and several bartenders to support.’

 

He is the male lead, and we expect him to succeed in his mission, we expect him to outwit the bad guys (which he does many times – the drunk driving scene, the auction).

 

And of course he has lots of charming humor: ‘R.O.T. The ‘O’ stands for nothing.’

 

 

Eva Marie Saint was at the start of her carreer, but her two early hits ‘On The Waterfront’ and Raintree County’ lead people to expect certain things from her.

 

  1. They expect her to be sweet, innocent and vulnerable
  2. They expect her to become romantically involved with the lead

 

In this case they play AGAINST type. She is  not innocent, but very ‘experienced’. She is not vulnerable (until we know the truth), but deadly. She is not warm and sweet, but cool and sexy.

She does become romantically involved with the lead, but we see it is not ‘real’, but a seduction. (Until later when we know the truth)

 

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 is when Eve suggest that he come to her room because she is bored ‘I don’t particularly like the book I’m reading’, that the cigarettes come out. She pulls out the cigarette and he takes the bait. It is here that she is shown in profile, because we are only seeing one side of her true nature. We think she is innocent, but she is really devious. However, this is ironic since deep down she IS innocent and only ACTING devious for the mission. So which side are we seeing?

 

Of course the cigarette has sexual connotations, as a phallic symbol, which also suggests that SHE is in control of the sexual relationship and using HIM, which she is.

 

The flame indicates the passion that will develop between the two.

 

 

Roger’s monogrammed matchbook says a lot. First of all, what kind of vain man has monogrammed matchbooks? And yet, his humor is self depracatory ‘The ‘O’ stands for ‘nothing’. It is an odd combination where he is concerned with his appearance yet makes fun of himself. And of course his appearance is part of the maguffin. He is mistaken for George Kaplan. So his appearance that he worries about is what got him into trouble.

 

The ‘O’ stands for ‘nothing’ also means he is our ‘ordinary’ man. He is just one of a number of men in the advertising business. It’s like saying he’s just another lawyer in New York.

 

The ‘O’ also is a joke, because he is NOT George Kaplan.

 

The ‘O’ is also Hitchcock’s supreme self-referential joke that the maguffin is nothing.

 

 

Finally it is the matchbook that plays a crucial role in the plot at the end. It is fantastic that a monogrammed matchbook, associated with one’s ‘vanity’ or ‘appearance’, should be the key at the end that says  ‘I Roger Thornhill am here’.

 

 Finally I have to mention ‘lure men to their doom on the 20th Century Ltd.’ Which of course is what she actually IS doing – luring him to his doom. It is like Hanney’s comment to the female agent when she says she wants him to take her to his apartment. He says ‘it’s your funeral…’ Clever foreshadowing by Hitchcock.

 

 

 

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 on the tracks. It is a subtle background sound but suggests a turbulence in their relationship while at the same time being real.

 

The music is soft and elegant – the same kind we would hear in a hollywood movie set in a restaurant in a romance film. It is quiet besides the dialogue, except for the occasional clink of china cup and spoon. In other words we are not in a Chuck-E-Cheese, but an elegant setting.

 

When eve sets her lure – the cigarette – we get the ‘love theme’. This is ironic, for of course it is not a real romance but rather a seduction of Roger to send him to his doom. And yet again deep down inside it IS the romance, for she is only playing a part.

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Our pre-existing knowledge of the leading stars in North by Northwest functions in a way to fill-in any character references or traits that has yet to be defined within the story.  With the persona of Cary Grant who is obviously well mannered, well dressed and extremely handsome comes to this picture with pedigree of likeable film roles such as Houseboat (1958), Monkey Business (1952), Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948) and of course To Catch a Thief (1955) so that by this time he is well known by movie audiences as to the types of rolls he is capable of and maybe more importantly before he even makes an appearance on screen, the audience is more than sympathetic to his character and anxious for him to succeed in whatever situation occurs.  Likewise the same pre-existing audience knowledge of a director like Alfred Hitchcock comes with the advantage, or burden of what moviegoers are expecting to see.  As side note to this point, I would suggest that this is the very reason a number of audience members and a few of my fellow classmates had difficulty dealing with Vertigo (1958) where not only is our “everyman” James Stewart (Scotty Ferguson) a dark and damaged character, the entire story is one of Hitchcock’s darkest pictures where the audience is left with no one to root for.

 

Hitchcock uses the R.O.T. matchbook as an important prop enabling Cary Grant to inject a bit of humor into what had previously been a tense, hide-n-seek scene with the police.  As he informs Eva Marie Saint, “that’s his trademark, rot!  And the O stands for nothing.”  This also gives an additional motivation for the two of them to get closer and make physical contact as he lights her cigarette.  Besides, it’s going to be a long night.

 

Hitchcock’s sound design in this scene for the dining car is a soft and mellow music, setting the mood for a romantic dinner accompanied by the muffled sounds of the train tracks.  The ambient sounds of the other people in the car and table noises have been conveniently eliminated so that we can concentrate on the more important romance. 

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To me Eva Marie Saint is more in control of the scene. She is the perfect Hitchcock blonde, very sexy

and a spy.

There is immediate attraction between the two characters and the dialogue is subtle yet very suggestive.

 

Cary Grant ever the movie star, his eyes first masked behind sunglasses.

As they become more familiar and comfortable with each other, the glasses come off and their sexual

banter,going back and forth becomes more intense. When he offers to lite her cigarette, she draws

him in and touches his hand to blow out the match, you can just feel the attraction.

 

The music feels light and breezy, and you can hear the train rolling along the tracks, within the

dining car, the sounds get more intense you know they will have a romantic encounter

at some point.

 

This is a great scene and reminds me so much of Bogie and Bacall, and the tremendous chemistry

they had together.

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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 handsome, debonair, manly, smart, witty, sly, and a class act. (And other dreamy adjectives.)

 

Eva Marie Saint is ladylike, gentile, strong, clever, beautiful, sweet, and fashionable.

 

The pair are much like their character counterparts. Roger is a dapper ad man with the ability to think fast on his feet and a creative streak. Grant’s innate qualities readily lend themselves to this persona. It doesn’t have to be invented or created just for the movie. Likewise, Eve’s sophisticated elegance and sense of calm are readily reachable by Saint who just melts herself into the role.

 

The pair are visibly: physically, emotionally, and mentally well-matched. And we know (or can surmise) that both are inherently "good".

 

 

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.

 

We are introduced to the R.O.T. matchbook as a prelude to its “use” later in the film that will clue in Eve to his presence.

 

Additionally, it confirms that he *is*, in fact, Roger O. Thornhill, instead of George Kaplan. (George wouldn’t have the initials “R.O.T.” on a matchbook. No one would want the word “rot” on their possessions unless it was their actual initials.)

 

Roger also tells us that the “O” stands for nothing… just like a MacGuffin — the unfortunate adventure he is on.

 

And, when Eve sees the matchbook, she fully accepts and understands Roger as being the man he says (and we know) he is. She knows he’s not the murderer. Or, at least, we think she is aware of that, for some reason.

 

If you go a little father, you can imagine the heat of the flame that lights Eve’s cigarette as the burning desires between her and Roger as they give each other smoldering looks. Etc. :-)

 

Side note: Switching the camera angle from "standing next to Roger, looking at Eve when she speaks" to "standing next to Eve, looking at Roger when he speaks" helps to give us the impression of being on both of their sides. In other words... we feel a sense of balance... and equality between them. We want things to end well for both of them.

 

 

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

 

We get the monotonous sounds of a train gliding along the track. Plus, soft romantic music setting the tone and pace of their flirtatious conversation. At one point, we hear a train door (that connects the cars) open and close. Eve seems to look around a bit as if looking to see who is entering or leaving the dining car. We hear a clinking of silverware, and dishes being set on the table.

 

Keeping the background sounds low means Roger and Eve can have a quiet, personal, low-volume, private conversation with each other. Are we eavesdropping? Maybe. Can others hear what they’re saying — and is Eve putting Roger in danger by repeating his name out loud? I guess not. No one seems to notice. It goes to show you can be in a crowd and still be alone. (And you can be famous/infamous with your name and face all over the news and still be unknown.)

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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

 

I enjoyed the first two courses (film noir and slapstick), and I am definitely enjoying this one about Hitchcock.

 

I just hope you and your production team are already thinking about the next course!

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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. 

 

 

There is sexual tension in almost every Hitchcock film that I have watched.  Sometimes it is subtle; other times, more overt.    He introduces this tension almost immediately in The Pleasure Garden.  He also uses it in Downhill, The Ring, and even another silent film, The Farmer's Wife, and finally in The Lady Vanishes and Rear Window, to name just a few.  However, in this scene in North by Northwest, Hitchcock really ratchets up the tension between Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint. (Of course, he pushes this tension even further with the scene leading up to the shower scene in Psycho)  I like knowing that there were censorship issues with the line about making love on an empty stomach.  It is clear that the line was over dubbed, and I might have missed the original words had I not known about it in advance.  I can understand the concern with lines like that considering that the current film rating system did not take effect until November 1, 1968 (one month after the release of Night of the Living Dead--R.I.P. George A. Romero).  But even by changing the words to "discuss love" there is still sexual tension between the characters, largely because of how Hitchcock always seems to establish the dynamic between men and women in his films.  Men seem to be the more dominant gender in Hitchcock's films, as was the case in most of his silent films, Rebecca, and especially in Notorious, where we once again clearly see Cary Grant in control over Ingrid Bergman (even though he does have a vulnerable side).  I learned in the Eva Marie Saint interview that she was in love with Cary Grant or at least really adored him and was enamored by him.  She was even flattered that he asked to adjust her lighting.  And Grant had already established his sexuality in Notorious, so the tension between them on screen seemed genuine, perhaps because it was to some extent?  And when Grant says he looks vaguely familiar, is this a line other women have used in the past when making a pass at him or flirting with him?  Does the line convey a sense of arrogance on his part because he knows he is attractive to women?  Yet, I think Grant likes that he has met his sexual match with Eva Marie Saint with their banter.

 

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 intensifies the sexual tension between the characters because it forces (or at least naturally allows for) physical contact.  They prolong the hand holding once he has lit her cigarette, and she is SO sexy when she pulls his hand closer and blows out the match.  Much sexier than talking openly about sexual activity so common (too common) in some films today?  Even the discussion of the letter O in his name and what it means.  Does it mean nothing, as he says? Does he include it to add class or mystery to his image?  Or is there something he is not telling her yet?

 

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

 

 

I like that Hitchcock seems to keep the sound effects to a minimum and even seems to use the musical score as an "understatement."  We know the music is there, and it is perfect for the scene in helping to establish the sexual tension and interchange between the characters.  It is even somewhat romantic.  You don't need a strident score that opened Vertigo or a score that emphasizes a murder scene in a shower.  It is subtle and germane to the scene in the train car.  Similarly, Hitchcock only includes sound effects that you would naturally hear in a dining car on a train: an occasional whistle, the clanking tracks, dishes and cups.  Minimizing the sound effects and music allows us to focus on the dialogue, which is key to establishing the relationship between the characters and the tension.  We see the sexual tension develop, and we also learn that perhaps neither person is being completely honest with the other person.  On a personal note, I love Hitchcock's use of dialogue and its role in establishing or advancing plot and character.  It is sad that many people today seem not to have the patience to watch a film with so much dialogue.

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This is a great scene, one of the sexiest seduction dialogues on record. Yes, there is minimal action in this scene, which helps us focus on the conversation and the small details.  As someone else noted, R.O.T. is Thornhill's "trademark", which is significant in the advertising business presumably identifying him as his unique self. Cary Grant has loads of trademarks, too, and this role is vintage for his suave and debonair character type. It sets up the mistaken identity at several levels. How could anybody think this wasn't Roger Thornhill? How could we not know this is Cary Grant? Hitch is asking us not once but twice to get into the plot premise and "buy" the mistaken identity gambit. Just play along, you'll thank me later.

 

One thing bugs me about this scene. Supposedly they're on a train going from New York to Chicago, therefore traveling more or less west, so that the view out the train window is south. So why are we getting primarily water and bridges over water out the window? is this supposed to be Lake Erie, or what? Why is it even so light out if it's supposed to be the overnight train? I've traveled that route many times, once even by train, and hate it that it's so unrealistic. We're not supposed to care, I know. Or am I missing something?

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Oops! I meant George A. Romero in my post.  Been watching too much Game of Thrones!

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1. Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint are both good actor/actress. I feel like while she is flirting with him he is just eating it up if you will (I know I would).

 

2.In this scene, The R.O.T matchbook is an important prop I think because it makes you think about "What is the O for?".

 

3.  The soft music in the background as the sounds of the train rolling on the tracks, I believe  has a soothing sound that kind of sets the mood for this scene..

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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. 

First, the sunglasses are a Hollywood cliche for a star. The whole conversation about people thinking hes is vaguely familiar or someone they have seen before - we do recognize faces of starts and not always there name. Cary Grant - I Don't think you would forget him. Also the allusion to women and his having to preten he doesn't want to make love them. Who wouldn't want CG to make love to you? Eva Marie comes across as a classy, intelligent and straightforward woman which I believe she was/is. She's not playing games - other than clever dialogue games - and get right to the point. She wants him.

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 brings the two leads physically together - touching hands - and lighting the match is symbolic of lighting passion. She blows the light out but does it so lovingly and sedctively - that breathy blow is wonderful.You get the picture of what is going to happen - no graphic scene needed.

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

The music is soft and somewhat seductive. The sound of the train on the tracks lulls us into a trance - a dream - a lovely diversion from the chase Grant is involved in. The camera focuses on the two leads - not extreme close up - but close enough so we don't really notice anything or anybody else. There us a complete absence of any other conversations going on. The scene outside the train windows is going by fast, nothing standing out or distracting. It's just these two people on a train and a lot of time to kill.

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1.     In this sequence of North by Northwest, the train lunch scene is so important in truly setting the viewer up for a very confusing ride when trying to figure out the legitimacy of everything coming out of everyone’s mouth except Roger’s. The exchange of, “I know, I look vaguely familiar…” is on the first level plot oriented in that he is probing as to whether Eve, knows who he is. On the second level, it is perhaps a tool that deals in the actual psychology of Hitchcock towards his audience. Hitch knows the audience knows these two stars well and they will sympathize and feel for the both of them individually, but most importantly the audience will want a romance to ensue between them, whatever the outcome. Some film scholars, in trying to seem witty or clever, may analyze this line as almost breaking the 4th wall in that if the audience were to answer this question, then yes, “both of these people look familiar”. However, I don’t think there is too much to this; because as a viewer, you stay with the characters and simply take the line to mean as I stated above. The “meaning” however, is critical. We as audience want them to have a romance, we want there to be substance for the both of them to this relationship a sort of truth underlying a web of confusion and lies, true identities rather than aliases.


2.     The use of R.O.T on the matchbook is also a tool of true identity vs. an alias. He is vain enough to have the matchbook covers made, but not truthful enough to have a meaning to the middle initial. Symbolically, the “O” stands for the confusion and misdirection of how each character may or may not put faith in the other. It means, “nothing” just as this whole exchange between the Eve and Roger may mean nothing. Later we see that the matchbook becomes a tool of faith and truth in the film as Roger uses it to signal to Eve that he is legitimate, his feelings are too, and that he is in the house of the criminals to save her.


3.     In terms of sound, there isn’t much music. All the sounds are natural sounds that would cue any passenger as to what is happening in and around the train. We hear just as Eve does that the train is stopping and there is some drama going on outside-they are looking for Roger, but this all comes later than this clip. So the music is low in volume, calming and romantic. It is sweet and makes the suggestion that there are real feelings being created between Roger and Eve. 


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It is interesting that two well known stars - actors that Hitchcock chose because of their star power - are sitting discussing the vague familiarity of Cary Grant.

 

Roger Thornhill initially lies about who he is, and is called out by Eve, who is aware of him through the newspapers. He's an advertising man who puts his initials on a matchbook, spelling "rot" with an O that "stands for nothing" by his own account. It is an interesting way for him to advertise himself. Regardless, Eve makes sure it is known she doesn't care about these things by grabbing his hand and softly blowing out the match.

 

 

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The greatest sense I get from this  famous scene in NORTH BY NORTHWEST is sophistication, well-played by superstars of the day; Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint. He wears the superstar sunglasses (seen in very few films prior), wears his own clothes, and mentions his face is “recognizable”. She confirms and adds that he also has a “nice face”. The entire scene is really a back and forth between close-ups on these two, so other than what we can read on their faces, we must gather much of our clues from their dialogue (surprising for Hitchcock). This back and forth close up is only interrupted by an even CLOSER look at the matchbook, something which will become extremely important later (back to Hitchcock style to teach us how to visually “read” a scene). Saint is curious as to what R.O.T. stands for but since she knows his first and last name, she inquires only about the “O”. His reply that it stands for “nothing”, really indicates that there is deceit somewhere here, but we are not sure if it is him or her who is withholding or desperately trying to discover information about the other (spy double chase). Are we really to believe that his important “trademark” stands for nothing? I enjoy how one of the icebreakers in this scene is Grant saying “Well, here we are again”. A playful hint at the joke that we are once again in a Hitchcock film, intimately with strangers, and well, on a train. Not to mention, Grant also having been in a previous Hitchcock film (NOTORIOUS) hints again at his personal life merging with this character. 

 

 

The music is subtle here which adds to the sophisticated nature of the setting. These two are well dressed and in high style, and the dining room echoes that of high society. We are in first class, contrasted with the dull and drab outside scenes of really openness and nothingness. We are close together, having dinner with these two, and I believe I can hear the normal but subdued, sounds of silverware and plate clanking.

 

Today is also my birthday! I'm inspired to hop on a train somewhere.........

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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 pure style and class. I don't have a good feel for Eva Marie Saint. The give and take between the two is remarkable. Grant's character is on the run, but Saint's character here is on the hunt. Perhaps the scene is putting their public personas in sharp contrast to their characters.

     

  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 matches and matchbook become the source of the character's physical contact in the scene. Grant says ROT is his trademark, a piece of self-deprecating humor. Saint pulls the match close to light her cigarette and pulls his hands back to blow the match out sensuously. It builds the romantic tension in a static scene. 

     

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

     

    The sound is subdued. The music is romantic and the sound of the train makes a relaxing sound bed. It is nondescript and I think that it causes the dialog to be emphasized.

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I enjoyed the first two courses (film noir and slapstick), and I am definitely enjoying this one about Hitchcock.

 

I just hope you and your production team are already thinking about the next course!

I agree with the replies.  I also do online courses and the preparation is the key to success.  That, along with rich-media and other support material, like instructor notes, makes the whole experience worth-while.  Another thing to note is that there are over 16K students in the course so managing the material and the course structure while the course is running is a massive task.  Congrats on a well done 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.

 

Those lines about familiarity and “having that effect upon people” demonstrate H’s humor at work—of course Grant has an effect upon people, particularly women.  In fact, his lines introduce the narrative naturally and launch the sequence of sexual innuendos within the vignette. 

 

 

Further, this banter between EMS and CG harmonizes perfectly, simply because their sexuality remains on display, both within the world of the film and within the world at large, and as they are fully objects of desire, we see H’s logic in the pairing:  recall functions 2 & 3 from Bruce Babington’s framework.

 

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 furthers the sexual banter and functions as the catalyst for physical contact between Roger and Eve: consider how Eve controls Roger’s hand when he lights her cigarette.  Once he lights her cigarette, he begins to draw back his hand, but she grasps it with the lighted match, pulls it close to her, and blows out the flame. 

 

This is heady stuff, and like the exercise girl’s seductive pose in Rear Window, I’m surprised but delighted that Hitchcock was able to get away with it.

 

This scene in some ways reminds me of that subtle sensuality of the carriage/glove scene in Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence:  the possibilities inherent with hands. 

 

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

 

I had some great thoughts here, but my first posting went awry and I lost all my text.  That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it . . .

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1. There is no avoiding the fame and popularity of these actors at the time. The scene is full of flirtatious innuendo that seems to be a Hollywood inside joke. We know Cary from many roles both dramatic but especially comedic. He has been known to dole out one-liners and play the comedic foil. Eva was an Academy Award Winner for On the Waterfront. Her portrayal in that film is a woman who cares immensely but is not going to be pushed around. She takes the lead vis-a-vis dialogue and character. She seems to be in charge. This scene is verbal playfulness with two actors who know they are at their peaks of their craft. It is almost as if it was just friendly bantering and not scripted.

 

2. The ROT matchbook seems to be a metaphor for Grant. He's an ad man and dishes out rot to sell products and services. He said that the "O" doesn't stand for anything so that means he has created a moniker indicative of who he is, how he works and maybe how he plays. It says something about how he sees himself. It is the only fairly descriptive item in the scene. There is no focus on the table settings although the 20th Century Limited has specially designed china and service pieces. It is obvious that this little item over which there is lots of discussion will loom large in our story.

 

3. Sound design - The scene takes place on a train so there is going to be that constant low clacking noise of train wheels as they glide on the tracks. It sets a rhythm and pace for the scene. We can feel the train roll along. Softer music plays in the background. The gentle rocking of the train coupled with the soft music creates a scene of sensuality ripe with possibilities. As Eva leaves, we can hear the sound of utensils on plates. It is almost as if that noise signals that this scene is over and we need to move to the next frame.

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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. 

 

Grant is wearing sunglasses and his arms are on the table. Eva Marie is drinking coffee and keeps her arms off the table.  He only takes off the sunglasses, revealing his eyes, when she says that he has a nice face.  I love how he his life is in danger, but he has the "umph" to flirt!  It reminds me of Grants role in "An Affair to Remember" (1957).  His voice, tone and words almost mimic scenes from that movie.  "Typical" Cary Grant, a man on the prowl!

 

 

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. 

 

Grants lighting Eva Maries cigarette gives the characters a chance to touch each other and see their hands up close it also give Eva Marie an opportunity to "blow" out the match. 

 

 

 

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

 

The sound of the training moving and light music in the background.  It creates a very normal, casual scene. 

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The clip just wont play for me, so this is from memory.   The characters here seem very close to our public perceptions of the stars themselves:  sophisticated, cool, and sexy.  They are equal in status and sure of themselves.

 

The matchbook gives them something to do with their hands;  first he fiddles with it, explains it, and then it is used to express sensuality in the connection of their hands while lighting cigarettes.  Remember the lighting of cigarettes in Now Voyager?  A lot said in a few expressive movements.  The way the camera focuses on the ROT matchbook alerts us to its future importance.

 

The rhythmic train sounds and the muted clatter of table service as they talk serves as background to their travel.  The sounds are quiet until the end of the scene when the characters become active.  It provides a needed lull in the action of the chase.

 

 

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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. 

First, the sunglasses are a Hollywood cliche for a star. The whole conversation about people thinking hes is vaguely familiar or someone they have seen before - we do recognize faces of starts and not always there name. Cary Grant - I Don't think you would forget him. Also the allusion to women and his having to preten he doesn't want to make love them. Who wouldn't want CG to make love to you? Eva Marie comes across as a classy, intelligent and straightforward woman which I believe she was/is. She's not playing games - other than clever dialogue games - and get right to the point. She wants him.

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 brings the two leads physically together - touching hands - and lighting the match is symbolic of lighting passion. She blows the light out but does it so lovingly and sedctively - that breathy blow is wonderful.You get the picture of what is going to happen - no graphic scene needed.

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

The music is soft and somewhat seductive. The sound of the train on the tracks lulls us into a trance - a dream - a lovely diversion from the chase Grant is involved in. The camera focuses on the two leads - not extreme close up - but close enough so we don't really notice anything or anybody else. There us a complete absence of any other conversations going on. The scene outside the train windows is going by fast, nothing standing out or distracting. It's just these two people on a train and a lot of time to kill.

 

 

To add to your point in #2, "You get the picture of what is going to happen - no graphic scene needed." Hitchcock loves playing with the audience and in the ending of this movie, perhaps a tease to the censors. As our lead characters are back in the train, in their stateroom and we all know what is about to happen, the scene cuts away to the train going into a tunnel. I get a chuckle every time I see it and I am sure this is what Hitchcock was going for.

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To me Eva Marie Saint is more in control of the scene. She is the perfect Hitchcock blonde, very sexy

and a spy.

There is immediate attraction between the two characters and the dialogue is subtle yet very suggestive.

 

Cary Grant ever the movie star, his eyes first masked behind sunglasses.

As they become more familiar and comfortable with each other, the glasses come off and their sexual

banter,going back and forth becomes more intense. When he offers to lite her cigarette, she draws

him in and touches his hand to blow out the match, you can just feel the attraction.

 

The music feels light and breezy, and you can hear the train rolling along the tracks, within the

dining car, the sounds get more intense you know they will have a romantic encounter

at some point.

 

This is a great scene and reminds me so much of Bogie and Bacall, and the tremendous chemistry

they had together.

Very much like the Hawks film. I don't think Hitchcock was big into homages, but if he ever did one, it might have been here. Probably not, though.

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July 20, 2017 – Hitchcock lecture Part 16

 

1. To preface, I'm not too familiar with these actors. I haven't seen many films in their era, unfortunately, to fully understand this question. Though I can see that it's two very attractive people flirting with each other. We are invested in what they say and feel because the preceding films they’ve worked on have already established a mythology for the audience about these two characters—we automatically empathize with them without seeing much backstory in the film. 

 

2  The ROT matchbook allows for the two characters to physically touch each other for the first time. Because there’s minimal action, the touch is very significant, and even a little sensual.

 

3. The music is romantic, as if the two are out on a date. The train sounds fill the silent voids, but lowers in volume when they speak. When the two genuinely connect for the first time, around when the ROT matches are pulled out, the music cue changes to an even more romantic theme. 

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Daily Dose #16...North By Northwest 1959

 

From the notes of Dr. Edwards I understand the train's name is 20th Century Limited...I can hear the train on the tracks & it sounds real to me.  A slowly moving train & the film behind it looks nice. It looks like an industrial area... working class area.

 

North By Northwest is another "double chase" wrongly accused man on the run & with a woman usually. 39 Steps had the same theme & Hannay (Robert Donat) had two women for a while who picked him up then one died & that started the "double chase" scenes. 

 

I agree that this movie great filmed in the Paramount widescreen VistaVision format...probably just so the airplane scene could be made in the spectacular way it was filmed. That's my favorite scene in the whole movie.

 

Eva Maria Saint said Hitchcock told her to 'lower her voice & look Grant in the eye'...also to hit the 'scene points' & aim for the 'points of drama'...looked like that advice worked for the  actors & for Hitchcock. Kim Novak said in her interview video that Hitchcock told her to use the character from inside. Yelling & screaming did not work. Maybe more of today's directors should use Hitchcock advice.

 

The music in the background of North By Northwest is almost non-existent...soft...soft...soft. There's pink flowers on the tables in the dining car & white table clothes...big  train windows...and a man & a woman sitting together.  Grant says she is honest & she says he is dishonest...she is a spy & he is a salesman with an ordinary life...Hitchcock's favorite character...the ordinary man brought into dangerous circumstances.

 

The props in this scene are funny...the over sized sun glasses Grant used to hide behind. We would not know he is already on the run in this scene...looks like the action is yet to occur but it has already started & the plot is rolling...already set in motion just like the train is in motion ... slowly rolling along on its tracks. 

 

She is a 'spy lady' Saint called herself in the TCM interview...so perhaps she is the dishonest one.

 

NOTE:  She is supposed to be only 26 ...the actors looked older than their roles back then I think...the men too. I read somewhere that Jimmy Stewart said he was too old to play the boyfriend of Grace Kelly..I think it was Kelly ...maybe in Rear Window...I read this years ago...the studios wanted STARS already known to bring in the box office money so they used famous actors...also, Kim Novak in Picnic...William 'Bill" Holden said he was too old for the part of her boyfriend.

 

I love the R-O-T scene with match...it's his name...is that what he said?   R-O-T...poor ordinary guy having lunch with a spy. What country does she spy for? I'll have to re-watch the movie because I've forgotten these little details. Little detail like what country the main characters spy for & why.

 

The match scene is delicious the way she cradles his hand & the flame...another character in a movie I watched a few days ago had a similar scene (...Mr. & Mrs. Smith?) & she said 'match me'

Grant 'matched' Saint...'if you know what I mean'...

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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. 

a)    We are comfortable with these faces (“it’s a nice face”) – and that is what Hitchcock wants from his stars: the ability of the audience to connect emotionally.

 

 

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. 

a)    The initialized matchbook further proves Thornhill’s 1st identification to be a lie – and this has LAYERS of meaning: 1) Cary Grant’s character is NOT Jack Phillips; 2) He is NOT Kaplan; 3) He is NOT a murderer; and… 4) Eva Marie Saint’s character is NOT an industrial designer.

 

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

a)    The diegetic sound of the rhythmic rail ride, and the foley stage (glass clinks, etc.), work together to settle us in for the ride. And is the MUSIC Diegetic? It seems to come from the rail car? Can all the passengers hear it? It seems like it – but the romantic strings work as non-diegetic sound to accompany the romantic banter of the stars.

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  1. 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. 
  2. How is Hitchcock using sound design in this scene? Consider music and other background sounds in your answer. 

 

The R.O.T. matchbook allows Eva Marie Saint to touch Cary Grant's hand as he is lighting her cigarette, but more importantly, it's a foreshadowing of what will happen later in the film. The matchbook reappears when Cary Grant is at James Mason's house overlooking Mt. Rushmore. He uses it to get the message to Eva Marie Saint that "they are on to you and don't get on that plane..."

 

The sounds are very subtle in the train dining scene: the rhythmic pattern of the train, the soft music and the clatter of dishes as dinner is being served. Its a romantic scene and the background sounds supplement the dialogue between the two.

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