Dr. Rich Edwards

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

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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.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

I couldn’t get the second link to open for some darn reason. YouTube could not find it.

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Couldn’t open the second link for some reason! Darn

Typing this link into your browser & it should bring up the Clockwork Orange - Hogs of the Road clip!  Sorry for the confusion.

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  • 1.  The line is used as an inside joke. In fact, they do look familiar as both of them are well known actors and actress, the faces that the audiences will immediately recognize. Later on, Eva will call out that Cary's character is lying about himself, an attempt to let the audiences forget who they are in reality, and let the audiences see them as other characters in a movie, the cinematic world of North by Northwest.

 

  • 2. The matchbook draws Eva's attention into Cary's character in a romantic, seductive way. After Cary hand her the matchbook, she used it to light up the cigarette and suddenly hold his hand and blows the fire of the matchbook, similar to how a romantic dinner would conclude, and hinting that some romance might continue along the story.

 

  • 3. He use sound design to give a tone of melancholy and softness that depicts the romance that starts to build up and develop between the two characters. 
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1)  I've watched this scene many times and I never imagined Hitchcock was poking fun at the fame of the actors.  I always assumed that these lines referred to Roger poking fun at himself for being a wanted fugitive and Eve knowing who he really is.  I'm not sure if my pre-existing knowledge creates meaning but I've always had the feeling that when Cary Grant was playing Roger Thornhill, he was playing himself.  I really don't know much about Eva Marie Saint outside of this film so I can't answer this question as it refers to her.

 

2)  The use of the matchbook is interesting in that it will play such a huge part in what happens to the couple near the end of the film but it is also used by Eve in this moment to continue her seduction of Roger.  As we will learn later, she is using it to keep herself out of harm's way and he uses it later for the same purpose. 

 

3)  The soft music is indicative that there is a romantic interest but it is so soft that we still hear the ambient noises reminding us of the surroundings.  It seems to enhance the flirtatiousness of the scene.   

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!) We are used to Cary Grant playing the debonair leading man who a woman could fawn over, and Eva Marie Saint is, well, stunning, so you expect the flirtation and the double entendre.

 

2) If there was any doubt in Eve's belief of who he was, it is now confirmed, however, we cannot assume she knows it is not Kaplan (Although this is revealed later) because, as yet, we do not who she is.

 

3) The railway rumble is constant throughout the scene and the music is "dining room" mello!

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Viewers know Cary Grant's ease at being dashing and charming, even in his off-screen persona, and we almost see a natural attraction between the two.  They are well matched in this film, as viewers are treated to two of Hollywood's hottest stars together on screen.  It almost doesn't matter what they're saying as we watch them interact.

 

When the camera goes to  a close-up of the matchbook cover, we see the ROT initials, and know this prop may be significant later in the story.  According to Roger, "O stands for nothing, " which adds a bit of intrigue to his character.  Eve is using the matchbook cover to engage Roger to reveal his true identity. 

 

The music isn't overwhelming in this scene, but rather takes a backseat to the onscreen flirtation we are watching.  The tone of the music makes both characters appear playful and seductive, and the viewer gets the clear impression that some type of romance is in the cards for these two.      

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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 playing the Cary Grant film persona--handsome, debonair, perfectly groomed, savvy, and cool.  I love that he's wearing the sunglasses.  The surprise for me (and the audience) is Eva Marie Saint as a seductive woman who comes onto Grant in an extremely aggressive sexual way--not her previous image in films such as On the Waterfront.  She is very modern in this way and somewhat shocking for the 1950s.  Fun to watch the verbal sparring and SO much chemistry between them.

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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 matchbook as a device to move the plot forward.  Grant attempts to deceive Saint regarding his name and the R.O.T. matchbook confirms his true name.  It's also part of the sexy cigarette lighting, although in Grant's other hand.

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

There is romantic violin music lightly playing in the background along with the sound of the train moving forward--along with the characters' relationship.  As things heat up between them, the train horn sounds loudly, communicating the increasing sexual attraction and possibilities.

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  1.  Cary Grant was the epitome of Mr. Suave.  He is quoted as saying, “I wish I were Cary Grant” because it was a part he played, not his reality.  However, here she is in control.  She has manipulated the meeting, she knows all about him, he can’t hide, she makes the passes.  So it’s a turnabout for subtle laughs, plus no doubt what she wants sooner or later.  Of course, she’s lying to him as well and playing a part, just like he is trying to play a part of not being Thornhill.  Some levels of irony.  

     

  2.   Fire is the metaphor.  He lights it, she puts it out.  She is fluid and gentle but is moving his hand to take control.  He would have given himself away with the initials even if she hadn’t known better.  He has made up his name; he is an advertising; he is a fake in many ways.  The O is not real, just so he can have the initials ROT. 

 

The music subtle, the way the scene is subtle.  She never raises her voice, and the music doesn’t either.  The music supports her character. 

 

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1.    We know Cary Grant well and expect him to be a suave, self-assured ladies' man.  He delivers effortlessly.  We know less about Eva Marie Saint, which actually works in her favor.  She plays a sophisticated cosmopolitan young woman, very bold for the 1950s.  I think it’s easier for her to strike this perfect note because we don’t have any pre-conceived notions about her.


2.    It is confirmation of Roger Thornhill’s identity, but we don’t know at this point in the film that it will be an important prop later on.  Frankly, I was distracted because this is an incorrect monogram.  Roger O. Thornhill’s monogram would have been RTO, not ROT.  Kind of a glaring and distracting error to me. 


3.  Though I’ve seen this movie many times, I had to replay the clip to pay more attention to the sound.  Sound details were important to Hitchcock, which is very evident here.  Upon re-reviewing, it’s interesting that it may seem like there is not much sound, but there is a ton of it: the sound of the menu, crystal clinking, very soft romantic music, the tearing of the meal order from the waiter’s pad, the striking match and of course the sounds of the train.  What you don’t hear is the sound of other passengers which must have been purposeful as it makes the audience feel like not another soul is around.  This strikes me as an interesting POV technique. Hitchcock creatively (and subliminally) shows how the rest of the world can “disappear” when two people meet, have chemistry and are solely focused on each other.  Brilliant on Hitchcock’s part!


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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 is pranking the audience, openly flirting with them, in a way. It is HIM seducing US by proxy, winking the whole time,  pointing to the film itself as a fiction, a construct, a convention. Grant is played ironically and Marie-Saint is played against type.  Everything is inverted and toyed with for fun.

 

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. 

R.O.T., as in "what a lot of rot"? Or R.O.T.  as in Roger Thornton is a scoundrel, or decadent (rotten). Or, reflexively, that Thornton takes pride in being a 'dirty old man' and is really pranking himself, only to be caught in his own snare by a young woman.

Also, the use of the match and her pulling it back to blow out  the flame, gently, has explicit sexual  implications that are somewhat hampered for discussion in an open forum. I'll just say detumescence and leave it at that.

Finally, there is the ironic implication to "Mr. suave" Cary Grant, that "you're not that hot. See, I can quench that flame barely exhaling."

I see the matchbook and matches as LOADED with irony and implications. It is Hitchcock playing cat and mouse with the audience for his entertainment and ours.

 

3 How is Hitchcock using sound design in this scene? Consider music and other background sounds in your answer. 
Almost subliminal. I would say that while the violins and 'romantic' music are classical usage, they are also ironic given the inversion--young and female seducing the older male, etc.

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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 is pranking the audience, openly flirting with them, in a way. It is HIM seducing US by proxy, winking the whole time,  pointing to the film itself as a fiction, a construct, a convention. Grant is played ironically and Marie-Saint is played against type.  Everything is inverted and toyed with for fun.

 

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. 

 

R.O.T., as in "what a lot of rot"? Or R.O.T.  as in Roger Thornton is a scoundrel, or decadent (rotten). Or, reflexively, that Thornton takes pride in being a 'dirty old man' and is really pranking himself, only to be caught in his own snare by a young woman.

 

Also, the use of the match and her pulling it back to blow out  the flame, gently, has explicit sexual  implications that are somewhat hampered for discussion in an open forum. I'll just say detumescence and leave it at that.

 

Finally, there is the ironic implication to "Mr. suave" Cary Grant, that "you're not that hot. See, I can quench that flame barely exhaling."

 

I see the matchbook and matches as LOADED with irony and implications. It is Hitchcock playing cat and mouse with the audience for his entertainment and ours.

 

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

Almost subliminal. I would say that while the violins and 'romantic' music are classical usage, they are also ironic given the inversion--young and female seducing the older male, etc.

 

As it relates to North by Northwest and casting Maria-Saint against 'type':  This was Maria-Saint's firth picture:   can one say the prior 4 films defined her 'type'?

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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. We know Cary Grant is the suave, debonair playboy type. We know he will be witty and clever and charming. The same cannot be said for Eva Marie Saint. She's a little mysterious and not much is known about her. 

 

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. At this point of the movie, we don't know it, but this matchbook will be an important prop later in the film. It's a very unforgettable object. 

 

 

3. How is Hitchcock using sound design in this scene? Consider music and other background sounds in your answer. The sound is very subtle, but it nicely complements the dialogue and character development.

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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.

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

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

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

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

 

There is minimal action in this scene, so any deviation from the overall pattern of focusing on the faces of the two leads will have increased significance. In that sense, discuss how Hitchcock uses the R.O.T. matchbook as an important piece of acting business (or as a prop) in this scene. Lighting the match, holding his hand, is all alluding to the sexual tension. The closer the hands get, the closer the characters may ignite that spark of romance.

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

    

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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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.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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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. At the point that North by Northwest was made, Grant, in particular, had already appeared in Hitchcock films (Suspicion, Notorious and To Catch a Thief) in which he played opposite famous blondes (Joan Fontaine, Ingrid Bergman and Grace Kelly). So merely in context of Hitchcock films, the line 'I look vaguely familiar' may be a bit of homage to those appearances (?). 

 

There is minimal action in this scene, so any deviation from the overall pattern of focusing on the faces of the two leads will have increased significance. In that sense, discuss how Hitchcock uses the R.O.T. matchbook as an important piece of acting business (or as a prop) in this scene. After following Hitch's direction (according to lecture notes) and sitting with her hands unseen for most of the scene, Eva Marie produces a cigarette, at which point Grant responds accordingly by offering to light.  Instead of a lighter, however (which Guy Haines offered in "Strangers") Grant has monogrammed matches.  These perhaps more clearly convey the monogram of ROT and especially establish a connection that is very important later in the film when Grant writes the note in the matchbook.  The observation that 'O' stands for nothing seems to indicate the superficial nature of his life as an advertising executive, a career associated with glamour but often ridiculed by Hitchcock especially in his television series of the time.  

 

How is Hitchcock using sound design in this scene? Consider music and other background sounds in your answer. The sounds are oddly soothing, with the continuous sound of the train moving over the tracks creating an underlying rhythm accompanying the quiet 'elevator music' of the dining car.  Hitchcock is careful to include occasional sounds of the other diners laughing, sounds of silverware clinking, etc.  One of the things I love about this scene is how the soothing sounds of the train's interior and the actors' voices juxtapose with the view out of the windows of the world rushing by at a maddening pace.  The conversation is seductive, slow and steady while the world seems to be almost coming apart outside.

 

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1.    Even at the level of the dialogue, this film is playing with the idea that two Hollywood stars are flirting with each other (e.g. the line, "I look vaguely familiar.") How does our pre-existing knowledge of these stars function to create meaning in this scene. Cary Grant was the epitome of handsome elegance. Eva Marie Saint had received lots of adulation for her beauty and talent, but this was her first real role as the “cool blonde” we’d come to know from previous Hitchcock movies. Each of these characters (unlike each of us!) could be totally confident in their meeting. Each is the “alpha” of sex appeal. Thus, their flirtation and innuendo is never uncomfortable or ridiculous


2.    There is minimal action in this scene, so any deviation from the overall pattern of focusing on the faces of the two leads will have increased significance. In that sense, discuss how Hitchcock uses the R.O.T. matchbook as an important piece of acting business (or as a prop) in this scene. The personalized matchbook zeroes in on our hero’s cavalier confidence and it also affords Hitchcock another dig at David O. (the O means nothing) Selznik.


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


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