North by Northwest (1959)
AFI 100 Years… 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) Ranking: #55
Time to get back to the good stuff! Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, and James Mason star in Hitchcock’s suave thriller about a man who is mistaken for a non-existent spy. Cary Grant is supposed to be a New York advertising executive, but he could have been a Kansas City vacuum salesman for all the difference it makes. All we see is Grant, polished, debonair, and witty as always, almost unconcerned as he immediately gets kidnapped and forced to drink a whole bottle of bourbon. Now that’s my kind of movie.
“First, a libation… bourbon.”
“You drink it. I’ve had enough stimulation for one day.”
“No, no Mother, I have not been drinking. No, these two men, they poured a whole bottle of bourbon into me!!! No, they didn’t give me a chaser.”
Cocktail #1: Gibson
Cary Grant orders this on the train’s dining car while being seduced by Eva Marie Saint. A twist on a classic martini, the Gibson is made with gin and cocktail onions rather than olives or a lemon twist. From AMC’s Mad Men.
- 2 & 1/2 oz gin
- 3/4 oz dry vermouth
- garnish: 3 or 5 cocktail onions (apparently an even number is unlucky?)
Stir gin and vermouth in a mixing glass with ice. Strain into a martini glass and add garnish. For a drier martini, try rinsing the glass with a splash of vermouth rather than adding the full 3/4 oz, or simply add the vermouth over ice, stir briefly, and pour it out before adding the gin. I’m not a huge martini drinker but I tried it with the full 3/4 oz of dry vermouth, and it was pretty good. Not as overtly salty as a dirty martini, but the pleasant tartness of the vinegar-brined onions was well-balanced and almost sweet.
Grant meets a mysterious woman (Eva Marie Saint) on a train, who takes a liking to him and helps him hide from the police, but it turns out she’s actually working with the bad guys who are after him! Dun-dun-dunnnnn!!! I just have to note that Grant’s character, Roger Thornhill, comes off as s bit gullible here; having been recently kidnapped and accused of murder, wouldn’t he be just a tad suspicious as to why a fabulously good-looking woman is so very interested in him?
In fact, Thornhill vacillates wildly between amateur super spy and complete bumbling idiot – he can easily outsmart hotel security, scale tall buildings, and finagle himself a police escort when the bad guys are breathing down his neck, but he doesn’t have the common sense to not touch a knife sticking out of someone’s back when he’s not the one that put it there?!? Buuuuut because he’s Cary Grant in an Alfred Hitchcock movie, he pulls it off flawlessly, and keeps us engaged and in suspense the whole time.
Cocktail #2: Aviation
In honor of the unforgettable plane chase scene. Grant is pursued by a seemingly innocuous crop duster, which you wouldn’t think would be able to cause that much damage, but he skillfully manages to make it crash into an oil tanker and burst into flames, making his escape while a crowd of onlookers gather to gawk at the spectacle. Courtesy of Speakeasy Cocktails.
- 2 oz gin
- 1/4 oz maraschino liquor
- 1 bar spoon creme de violette
- 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a coupe glass.
Thornhill finally realizes that his mystery woman is in league with the men who are ultimately after him, and gets upset and insults her, but it’s ok! Because she’s actually an undercover agent. Duh. Thornhill himself is rather quickly enlisted as a government agent as well, which is ALWAYS the most practical solution. Not! Blondie shoots him (with blanks) but don’t worry, she still loves him! They kiss in the woods, fool the bad guys, scale the face of Mount Rushmore, and end by making love on a train, in one of the slickest transitions I’ve ever seen on film (he pulls her up from the mountain ledge and onto the bed of their sleeper car), complete with obligatory shot of a train entering a tunnel (lol).
Whatever government agency was in charge of this whole ordeal really needs to get some better operatives… Eva Marie Saint can barely run in heels, not to mention her (lack of) rock climbing skills! 😀
And to think the following qualifies as foreplay:
“How do I know you aren’t a murderer?”
“And maybe you’re planning to murder me, right here, tonight.”