Dr. Rich Edwards

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

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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 had a well known movie persona by this time, the leading man, the ladies man etc. and was usually the one playing the seducer. Eva Marie Saint, at this time was playing virginal roles for the most part, so having the roles reversed creates a different type of meaning particularly to a 1959 audience.

 

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. It gives Eva Marie Saint an opportunity to touch Grant's hand and then pull it back to blow out the match creating more sexual tension.

 

3. How is Hitchcock using sound design in this scene? Consider music and other background sounds in your answer. The sounds in the film are the one's you would expect to hear in a dining car on a moving train, silverware clinking, train moving on the tracks, conversations in the background and the train horn.  The music doesn't overwhelm the background sounds or the low conversation.

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You basically know that heat will be in the scene as soon as they talk. Grant being the experienced older man and the daring young woman, create the ideal for fantasy that hitch often played with.

 

Rot matchbook is another sales tool for the ad man with everything. Like a name on a bar, this book of matches, reminds you of where you been, need I say more.

 

I think hitch must have honeymooned on a train. Maybe Alma and hitch could hear the train from their first flat, or the sounds of trains arouses something in him. I love the scene but the music needs upgrade.

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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. 

I don't know how much this is really there. Obviously he is referring alternately to the line 'you look familiar' as well as the subtext that his picture has been spread around and he is in the mode of concealing his identity.

 

Certainly we know Cary Grant and are expecting his witty banter, so there is that.

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. 

It is a setup for the 'throw away' line: 'It stands for nothing', which may be meant to underline that Thornquist is an everyman (even though he has the face of Cary Grant).

 

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

The backgound music is there, but almost unnoticeable. The train sounds are pronounced. The table sounds are also very loud. I think this is meant to add to the sense of realism in the scene.

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I think our pre-existing knowledge of these two stars function to create meaning in this scene by us knowing we will have a definite story and performance to look forward to.  As we listen to their dialogue it lets us know it is the stepping stone to their heightened relationship in this film.

I absolutely love that piece of dialogue exchange -- "What does the O stand for?".  And as he lights her cigarette, "Nothing.".  Great stuff.  I think Hitchcock uses the ROT matchbook as an important piece of acting or prop in this scene because perhaps it will unfold later on or maybe it is a McGuffin. In either case, it carries the film forward with Hitchcock's masterful signature intrigue, suspense and entertainment.

The sound design -- the clacking of the train against the tracks as it moves along and the very soft background music and the cup hitting the saucer is all the music we hear but we do not hear because of listening to their dialogue and watching their faces; but the sound design it is there and if it were not perhaps it would be noticeable but this subdued music background, the conversation, the landscape rolling by, is like a nice light dessert after dinner -- not too heavy but just right and satisfying.

 

 

 

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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.

 

The flirting is emphasized by the role reversal and that she's picking him up. By this time, we know that Cary Grant is a ladies man and from the interview I love Eva Marie Saint's description of the sexy spy lady.

 

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 this adds to the sexual tension as she blows out the match.

 

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

 

Music is at a minimum, the main sounds that we hear are the conversation with the background noise of dishes clinking against the sound of the train.

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North by Northwest (1959) Assault by bourbon and the ensuing drunk driving scene in Laura's Mercedes.  An excellent example of Cary Grant playing an inebriated, innocent, victim in a serious predicament (about to be killed), so serious there are moments of humor in this well edited chase.

 

 <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/IlY5kaZC2N0?list=PLBMXypKe8j52w3wlUoJx8fEizP3-7EF8L" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

 

In contrast to Malcolm McDowell and his droogs in a stolen Durango 95 playing "Hogs of the Road" in A Clockwork Orange (1971).  Lots of similarities yet I think Roger Thornhill caused more damage.

 

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/0zmE4o2bnsg?list=PLBMXypKe8j52w3wlUoJx8fEizP3-7EF8L" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

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  1. Even at the level of 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. The stars of this film are making fun of their popularity and that once a person is recognizable, they immediately try to make fun of the idea that once you are being stopped by someone that wants to be all over you, it sort of creates trust on the person that is outside of the star system that can convey the simplicity and ordinary circumstances that would feel complex and understandable.

     

  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. To convey a sense of trust and to provide some humor into the sequence to give it that naturalistic quality that conveys the perfect chemistry between the two main stars. Once Thornhill lights Kendell's cigarette and he tries to blow it out, he leans his hand towards her and she blows it out. Therefore the trust is accepted and Thornhill is in safe hands.

 

How is Hitchcock using sound design in this scene? Consider music and other background sounds in your answer. Hitch uses sound design to convey the mood and atmosphere of the scene in a setting to give us that feeling of where the audience is at for this sequence. The music also brings that light fluttery touch between the two actors as they are talking, as well as the overall mood on the train that gives it a bustling and robust flow.

 

Edited by BLACHEFAN
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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’s reputation in films is as the irresistible leading man, so it’s only natural that viewers would expect any character he plays to be the object of a woman’s desires.  With his handsome looks, impeccable tailoring, and engaging repartee, he would have a tough time avoiding attention from females.  Eva Marie Saint I only knew of from On The Waterfront, and in that film, she played the good girl next door; quite the opposite of Eve Kendall.  It was a surprise seeing her as the femme fatale, pursuing Grant, keeping up with him line for line.  She changed my mind about her immediately after this scene.  She was outstanding as the sexy spy!

 

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 thought focusing on the matchbook provided an opportunity to find out a little about Roger.  He tells Eve the O stands for nothing - so why does he have it?  Does it make Roger more important to have a middle initial?  He likens his initials to “rot” which suggests he doesn’t think highly of himself.  Maybe it’s his way of giving Eve a heads up that if she gets involved with him, she’ll be disappointed.  Also, I think the viewer is getting a heads up to pay attention to the matchbook as it will come back later in the film.

 

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

 

The moving train, the clinking of silverware and dishes, paper receipt tearing, mellow music in the background – all normal, ordinary noises we would hear on a train dining car; all done subtly to allow the dialog to shine.  Hitchcock, as we have studied, was known to prefer visuals over sound to tell a story; and yet in this case, he focuses on the dialog between the two leads, using close-ups of each of their faces as they speak.  The dialog is smoldering and in more ways than the obvious, because each character is trying to conceal an underlying secret (wanted man, spy lady) that could ignite.

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I agree with others that the matchbook gives Cary Grant (Roger Thornhill) a chance for some Debonair yet self-deprecating humor. Perhaps I'm overanalyzing it but I also think I see a tinge of sadness when he says his initias are ROT and the O stands for nothing. Perhaps at this time when his life is in danger he's also going through some self evaluation. The matchbook in the scene bring some together on many levels especially a sensual one .

*Spoiler Alert* The way the matchbook draws them together in this scene is possibly foreshadowing for how it's used to warn her in a scene towards the end of the movie. It is a reoccurring connection between the two of them. Possibly an indication that ROT no longer stands for just rot. Or like I said maybe I'm just overthinking it and it was Hitchcock's way of making us understand why she would immediately recognize the matchbook

Absolutely!  I too had thoughts about Roger Thornhill, in spite of being on the run and trying to figure out why and how he's where he's at, that maybe his life should be more than dealing with bar tenders, ex wives and taking his mother to the theater.  I think it was an eye opener for him.  And just take a long look at Eva Marie Saint.  I rest my case.  

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By this time in his career, Hitchcock could access the most glamorous and sophisticated movie stars.  Audiences knew these actors.  Cary Grant epitomized suave and debonair, clever and amusing.  Eva Marie Saint was known through television and for her Best Supporting Actress award for On the Waterfront.  She was a Broadway actor and she was smart and beautiful.    

I don’t remember when I first saw North by Northwest on the big screen.  Maybe at IU when James Naremore and Harry Geduld were Comparative Lit professors; where I attended the film portion of their classes.  I sat in a hard, wooden chair in Woodburn Hall transported to Hitchcock’s universe.   And, I knew his actors.    

When Cary Grant delivers that line “I look vaguely familiar” Hitchcock gave me permission to juxtapose Roger Thornhill with Cary Grant.  It didn’t take me out of the film, but added this other layer of realism where Cary Grant was talking to me.  I don’t know about anyone else in that darkened theatre, but that’s what happened to me. 

The subtle sound under the dialogue consists of the occasional clacking of the train wheels and the soothing, almost inaudible, orchestral track of Bernard Herrmann’s score that rises into the melancholy theme when Eve takes Roger’s hand to blow out the match. 

Then there is the business with the matchbook.  The first view is a quick cut, just a glance, the gentlemanly behavior of lighting a lady’s cigarette.  She sees his monogram.  Cut to extreme close-up.  She asks, “What does the ‘O’ stand for?”  He answers dismissively, giving it a glance.  “Nothing.”  Then just before she sensuously draws his hand toward her, we, once more, see him holding the matchbook with his monogram prominently displayed.  

We dismissed it, because Roger told us it was nothing, and that business got lost in all the other business and misdirection until, like Chekhov’s gun (or Hitchcock’s crop duster), Hitchcock brings it gloriously and perfectly back into play, because everything has a purpose.

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"This is pretty good!"

 

Towards the end of my academic career, I was teaching a class and referred to Cary Grant. Not one of the students knew who he was! So I stopped our discussion and put up the train scene from North by Northwest on our classroom screen. By the end of the clip, the students were silent for a moment and then one young man said, "Hey, that was pretty good!" Then another student looked at me and, breaking the news gently in case I might be shocked, said, "Did you notice how some of that dialogue was pretty risqué?" North by Northwest never gets old. It sparkles like a diamond. It doesn't go to my heart's core like Vertigo does, but it brings joy. It makes being scared a pleasure.

 

Cary Grant is just so wonderful to look at and listen to. It IS such a nice face! The real life Grant and the character ROT are not just suave and gorgeous, though. Both have a certain insecurity and sadness that make us care about them. For me, the big surprise is Eva Marie Saint. In On the Waterfront and Hatful of Rain, she is lovely but completely unglamorous and a sincere, good woman rather than a come-hither icon of allure. But Hitchcock knew what he was doing! She is cool and secretive but ultimately secretly vulnerable and much more in love than Grant can believe for long stretches of the film. Saint has the depth to make us believe her transformation.

 

Their performances are key to making a film where high style reaches a level of intensity where light becomes heat. So, of course we have a book of matches and a flame. Practically speaking, that matchbook is important for the audience to know about in view of later scenes. But the lighted match shows what they are feeling and it leads to the lovely moment when their hands meet. It suggests that there is much more connection between these people than an upcoming one night stand.

 

Recalling this scene, I remember the dialogue, not the score. But, wait! That yearning, longing motif with the strings underscores the idea that there is more going on here than a sexy spy mystery.

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It is a nice face… Cary Grant. It has a voyeuristic feel to it watching these two flirt with each other. An added fascination that they are famous stars. It's a very fun, playful and sexy scene.

There is indeed minimal action in this scene. Two stand outs: I like when the waiter serves Cary Grant's food… Perfect timing after her "I never make love on an empty stomach" line. Cary says "but you have eaten",Eve says:but you have not. And that is the exact time the waiter puts down Cary Grant's food. And yes Cary Grant fumbling with the matchbook is very sweet and shows he is nervous and anxious towards this very forward young lady.

The background music also gives us a feel of being there. What one might here at dinner in a train headed for romance.

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This is pure joy to watch the art of seduction by these two handsome actors. Their chemistry is extraordinary. I couldn't help compare the flirting between Grace Kelly and Cary Grant in "To Catch a Thief". Their flirting was adolescent compared to this. Eva Marie Saint was in total control with her eye contact and lack of outward emotions. Hitchcock definitely had an innate ability to cast stars that would captivate the audience. The subtle sound design played right along with this **** for tat

seduction dual. This is my favorite part of the whole movie. It hooked me.

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1. Gary Grant has one of the best faces that has ever graced the Big Screen. He is suave and debonair and by now had well established his Star Power. Like the lady says "Its a nice face. Eve Marie Saint was an Academy Award winning actress who was know to audiences as well. Here she plays the sexy spy who is picking up the man in a role reversal. Hitchcock was using the best actors/actresses to draw audiences to the cinema knowing that people would expect a high quality film as well. The chemistry between Gary Grant and Eve Marie Saint is smoldering. 

 

2. The matchbook is used first to bring these two characters together. It gives them the opportunity to touch each other as they flirt with each other. Eve blowing out the match adds to the sexual tension that is heating up between them. It also establishes that the matchbook belongs to Roger so when it is seen again later in the movie it will be remembered that it belongs to him. Many people can pick up a matchbook at places they have visited, but this matchbook has Roger's initials on it.

 

3. In this scene we here the sounds of the train going down the tracks, dishes clinking in the dining car and soft music in the background. These are the sounds one would expect to hear as one is traveling on a train and having a meal in the dining car. The music is subtle so it does not distract us from the conversation between the two characters. There is no need for loud or suspenseful music to add tension to this scene. So we can focus on the witty and flirty exchange between the two of them.

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Daily Dose #16  It's a nice face.

 

It's the wrong time, and the wrong place,

but your face is charming, yes it's a nice face....

 

 

North by Northwest is in my top 5 Hitchcock movies.  And contrary to what the lecture video implied, Ian Fleming did not write James Bond as Cary Grant.  However, the Producers of the Bond film had Cary Grant in mind when they were casting the first Bond film before they decided to go with an "unknown" for the role in Dr. No, the first Bond film.

 

One of the things I find great about this course is the now I have a greater appreciation for this film.  As pointed out by Professor Edwards, this is a spy thriller, one which harkens back to Hitchcock's sextet of thrillers in the mid to late 1930's.  North by Northwest has all the elements from those pictures packed and improved by budget, production values, locales, and casting choices.  

 

1. The double chase - Cary Grant is being pursued by the police while chasing James Mason & Co.

 

2. The picaresque adventure structure.  As implied by the title, we start in the City and proceed North by Northwest via Train, Bus, and Car with the climax on a familiar and famous landmark, in this case, Mount Rushmore.

 

3. The incorporation of romance and sexual themes

.... just look at the scene in today's Daily dose for and example.

 

4. The elements and the world of the spy thriller.  

The scenes that first comes to mind is the escape from the mansion and the dinner on the train.  Both of which I could see the basis for many a Bond film scene over the next 50 years.

 

5.  The elements of romantic and screwball comedy

Cary Grant was at ease in almost any genre, including the above.  The drollness of some his delivery is pure joy.

6. The use of the McGuffin.

What's that?

A McGuffin.

What's it used for?

Shooting Lions in Scotland.

There are no Lions in Scotland.

Then that's no McGuffin...

 

And now, onto our regularly scheduled questions and answers.

 

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.

 

  If at all, it's an inside joke, many of which Cary Grant used in many of his movies - For example referring to his friend Archie Leach (The Front Page and at least one other which co-starred Katherine Hepburn), Grants birth name.  As I had not seen On the Waterfront when I first saw this film, Eva Marie Saint was a complete stranger to me.

So, on the whole, I would say any pre-existing knowledge only added to a great script being delivered by great actors.

 

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 gives us insight into Roger's character  ("It's my trademark - Rot."  "...What does the O. stand for?"  "Nothing") and the lighting of the cigarette allows the characters to physically touch. Plus it is symbolic of the "flame of attraction" between the two characters.  As for Eva Marie Saint smoking, we should ask Dr. Freud about that...

 

post-74193-0-69763500-1500604286_thumb.png

 

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

  

 

      Well, I can speak from experience that the sound and rhythm of a moving train is hypnotic, especially when it shared by two.  The music is a love theme, violins and other strings, this is a love scene, not a spy scene.  It is two people involved in seduction by one of the other.  At the point where the unspoken agreement is reached (roughly 3:22 into the scene) and Eva reaches for the cigarettes, the train whistle sounds....seems somebody needs to let off some steam!

 

Walt3rd

 

p.s.  Trivia for Today - did you know Cary Grant was really Left-handed?  Any scenes which required a close-up of his hand writing (with the right hand) was always done by a double!

post-74193-0-69763500-1500604286_thumb.png

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1. In Alfred Hitchcock’s 1959 VistaVision masterpiece (his only MGM film), “North By Northwest;” many of us classic film aficionados know about Cary Grant and his usual role as the “leading man” in Hollywood features.   During Grant’s interaction (as Roger O. Thornhill) with Eva Marie Saint’s characterization of Eve Kendall, it is almost as if Eve recognizes Cary Grant instead of the “Thornhill” character (though the character is trying to mask his identity with sunglasses to avoid the villains in the film).  This is clearly the meeting/encounter of two Hollywood icons (in the passenger car scene). 

 

 

2. Roger Thornhill’s monogramed “R.O.T.” matchbook serves as a key clue for a latter scene (near the conclusion of the film).  In the passenger car scene, he mentions to Eve that the “O” stands for nothing and comparing the initials “R.O.T.” to the word “Rot” (possibly as an early warning sign).

 

3. Hitchcock’s sound design elements (the source sound effects in the dining car and Bernard Herrmann’s mellow source music orchestrations) were utilized in a clever way, so that the sound effects and source music score will not overpower the conversation between Roger (Cary Grant) and Eve (Eva Marie Saint).  This might have served as a clue for the audience to pay close attention to the conversation between Eve and Roger in the dining car, serving as a key element to the story (with the interior source sound effects and Herrmann’s source music score).  

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​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.

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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. 

     

    Hitchcock was very aware of appearances and of his stars' appearances - no drinking from styrofoam cups; always acting the scene.  I feel like stars were meant to always be playing a part and audiences wanted that to be their actual persona.  It reminds me of the beginning scene in Singing in the Rain where Gene Kelly as Lockwood and Jean Hagen as Lamont, are supposed to behave as if they are a couple even off screen, but they really can't stand each other.

     

  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. 

     

    It may show how Roger is into appearances - but is assumed to be someone else.  He dresses just so, has a matchbook designed with initials that spell out a word that is not the nicest word, but could be a good conversation piece; he is suddenly thrown into a world where appearances are not what they seem.

    Another definition of "rot" is rubbish, nonsense.  This entire escapade across the country is based on a MacGuffin, which we never come to find out what it really is (film?) and so it is all nonsense.

     

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

     

    The music is very soothing; train sounds in the background; again is very calming.  It is as if this scene can really happen to anyone - a simple dining car with pleasantries discussed over a dinner of brook trout.  The dialogue is taking precedence in this scene.  And so are the innuendos, such as her pulling his hand back to blow out the match.  I can see why they censured some of the dialogue - :)

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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. 

 

I feel like I'm going off on a tangent with this first part here, because I don't think this was really what this question was asking for, but let me see if I can get this thought to make sense. The idea that rooted itself in my head after I read this discussion question and considered it as I watched the scene has to do with how we everyday folks tend to feel about people that are very famous. For example, take someone like Cary Grant. 

 

Because he's famous, I know quite a bit about him as a person. I know where he was born, where he grew up, and lots of other details about his life. In a weird way, I almost feel like I know Cary Grant, even though I've never met or spoken to the guy. If he were still living and wound up in a situation with me where he was kind of a captive audience (i.e. seated next to each other on a plane or a train), I'd have a little bit of an advantage. I know a lot more about him than you normally would about someone you just met, but he would know zero about me. I feel like that's the position Roger is in as we watch this scene, more or less. Eve definitely knows a lot more about him than he does her. She even already knows he's a wanted man. That dynamic adds some interest to the scene for sure.

 

There's also the very well-known personas of these stars to consider. Both are icons in every sense of the word and were back when this was made as well. Allowing their off screen personas to bleed into these characters and vice versa (i.e. with Hitch making sure Eva Marie Saint drank from the right cups off camera) helps me immerse myself in this world. It's also simply interesting to watch two beautiful people that would clearly be objects of desire to anyone that laid eyes on them flirting this way. It makes the interaction and chemistry between these two characters feel incredibly powerful for sure.

 

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. 

 

It serves a kind of dual purpose for me in this scene. First of all, it's a really smooth and interesting way to let us know a little bit about Roger without him having to bore Eve (or us) with a lot of small talk, because we all know that's how things go down in real life. The fact that his initials spell ROT is interesting, as is the way he seems like he's joking about it and laughing it off, but not totally. There's something Roger doesn't really like about himself, or his life, or both. The fact that the "O" is just an initial that stands for nothing is interesting. If the "nothing" weren't part of the equation, he literally wouldn't be ROT anymore.

 

It's also a great prop for allowing the two characters to connect physically without it seeming too forced or cliche. I already thought that whole flirtatious back and forth was pretty hot before he pulled out the matchbook, but then when she touches his hand as he lights her cigarette with a match from it? My jaw literally came open and I thought: "Dang! Go ahead, girl." She totally dropped the mic when she reached for his hand again so she could blow the match out. She's got game for sure.

 

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

 

The music doesn't really stand out that much to me, but I think that's the point. It recedes comfortably into the background so we can just hear the ambient noise around us -- people talking at other tables, tea cups clicking as they're placed in saucers, the sound of the train on the tracks, and so forth. It raises the sense of realism in this scene and makes me feel more present in it than I think I would be otherwise. I might as well be sitting there with them as a third person. I almost feel like an intruder -- like I'm being a Nosy Nellie.

 

I also almost get the impression that the screen presence and chemistry between Eva Marie Saint and Cary Grant is so loud and attention-grabbing on its own that it's drowning the background music out a little. It's like everything in that department was simply scaled back so these two could properly shine. It makes the scene and the interaction between them feel really intimate.

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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. 

 

It gives you the sense that they are adept at making fun of their famous personas. Cary Grant is obviously having fun of almost satirizing his famous good looks, demeanor, and classic charm. Eva Marie Saint brilliantly handles herself and her status as the cool and subtle blonde with a seductive edge, which she often didn't show in her later career. This is the sex scene, but only with dialogue, which is pretty erotic I might add. It proves that you don't need to show the act to get the point across. Sometimes suggestion speaks more volumes than any physicality ever could. Hitchcock was a master at getting past the censors.

 

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. 

 

In terms of the R.O.T. matchbook, you could suggest that Thornhill is a man who doesn't think too highly of himself. This is apparent of how he says the word 'rot'. More importantly, the matchbook symbolizes the heat between them, which continues to sizzle and generate even more steam. The gesture of when she blows out the match adds to the fire. This is how chemistry should be filmed. You take it more seriously than in other movies. And then the tension follows both of them to Eve's cabin where the fire definitely continues. 

 

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

 

The sound, especially the train comes in at exactly the right time that it's supposed to. it doesn't take away from your attention on Grant and Saint. It doesn't hurt that Bernard Herrmann's music adds to the level of seduction taking place. There is only minimal noise in the background, which is unusual when you're on a train. You expect to hear sounds of other passengers talking and eating, but the way Hitchcock directs the scene, you only hear the dialogue of Grant and Saint, as you're supposed to. The entire scene is able to breath more, despite the subtle eroticism taking place. Both of the stars are allowed to properly be in full view and the main focus.

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Daily Dose #16: It's a Nice Face

Scene from North by Northwest (1959)

 

 

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.

 

- Hitchcock uses two of his most glamorous leads who have genuine on-screen chemistry. Eva Marie Saint, blonde, sexy and plays her character exquisitely. She does as Hitchcock request of her- lowers her voice; doesn't use her hands and looks directly into Cary Grant eyes. Cary Grant on the other hand, is a smooth nonchalant , flirtatious controlled gentleman who knows what has to be done in not just this scene but every part he plays.

 

 

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. 

 

- Hitchcock uses the R.O.T. matchbook as an important piece of business acting in this scene by creating a trademark for Grant - his names initials are on both sides of the book so as to not miss the advertised name and to make sure everyone knows who he is. This scene is also used to allow Eva Marie Saint to holds Cary Grants' hand a little bit too long and uses the moment as a sexual confrontation.

 

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

 

- Although the train tracks can be heard along with passing scenes of the old telephone poles along water scenes and mountainous terrain as well as trees, the soft sounds of the music playing in the background is a smooth and soothing treat for a dinner date. It lowers at times to allow actors to be heard. The sound then picks up a bit.

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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. 

These were both big Hollywood stars so the audience is used to the sexy banter that Cary Grant takes part in a lot of times in his prior movies. Also, the female reaction to him is predictable too and Eva Marie Saint certainly has the class to pull of the role of a seductress. They both are such classy actors that this kind of repartee is predictable.

 

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 the initials of the character Roger Thornhill. You can see her react but quickly recover and ask what the O stands for. She explains she already knew who he was before he sat down with her. ROT is a chance for Roger to mock himself and it leads to one of the  sexiest lightings of a cigarette I've ever seen! 

 

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

The music in the background is sexy muzak appropriate for the cocktail/dinner hour. Works perfectly for the smooth talking that ensues. Cool, smooth tunes.

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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.

We know of their former works...so it is somewhat type casting for both. Normally that is seen as a bad thing from an actors POV...in this case ...it is what makes the scene come off so perfectly.

 

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 momentarily distracts from the sexual tension that is building. But in the end it adds to that tension in the provocative way Eve blows the match out.

 

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

I didn't notice any music or background sounds...perhaps due to my fixation on the dialogue. I think the dialogue stands alone...needs no help in making the scene work. If there were any additional sounds I missed them. :) Probably because I was mesmerized by Eva Marie Saint.

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This scene is so classy and so very sexy. I could not take my eyes off of Cary Grant or Eva Marie Saint. The dialogue between the two stars was everything in this scene. She listened to the three things Hitch ask of her! Everything about this scene is so subtle, yet so Hitchcock!

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1) The two leads as beautiful as ever does have genuine chemistry that is often cannot manufacture. This is what we call X factor. Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint had it spades. Cary Grant had owned his persona of suave sophistication since the 1930s and Saint had been a model, a successful stage actress before her Oscars award. They were at the heights of their fame and beauty. Combined they made an electric scene in the dining car. The chemistry between Grant and Saint is unmistakeable. The attraction is heightened by the erotic banter however subtle it was. This is coupled by the fact the two leads genuinely liked each other and respected each other. Therefore, the palatable hint of sexual attraction is there. The audience can and will feel the energy and heat generated from the looks, the smiles, and winks of these two devastatingly beautiful leads.

 

2) The scene is very quiet and subtle. The use of the matchbook is brilliant as it is to the audience's eye just a matchbook. It is not noticed until Roger (Grant) picked it up to light her cigarette. Then Kendall (Saint) noticed the initials and asked "what's the O for" to which he replied nothing. It is Grant as Roger to mock himself and his screen persona. As the conclusion of the scene, we see Saint blow out the match. Very erotic and sexy.

 

3) We hear the everyday noises such as the train, dishes clanking and murmurs. The accompanying score is low and soft so we can hear the two leads conversation. The sound design only enhances the scene or rather love scene of the two leads.

 

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