The article ended there, pointing out that every Australian should concern himself deeply with affairs in Vietnam. I solemnly promised I would. In the heat of the moment, I wrote an essay hotly breathing the fire of patriotism, but unfortunately almost completely incoherent and illegible. Mr Demetre ascended to new heights of wrath, adequate to have repulsed the North Vietnamese army single-handed. I decided that it might be prudent to forget the matter completely, and it would be five years before my knowledge of Vietnam was in any way expanded. Although expanded beyond my wildest imaginings it was destined to be.
VANDAMM: Has anyone ever told you that you overplay your various roles rather severely, Mr. Kaplan? First, you’re the outraged Madison Avenue man who claims he has been mistaken for someone else. Then you play a fugitive from justice, supposedly trying to clear his name of a crime he knows he didn’t commit. And now, you play the peevish lover, stung by jealousy and betrayal Seems to me you fellows could stand a little less training from the F.B.I. and a little more from the Actors’ Studio.
THORNHILL: Apparently the only performance that’s going to satisfy you is when I play dead.
VANDAMM: Your very next role. You will be quite convincing, I assure you.
James Mason to Cary Grant in the outstanding North By Northwest, possibly the very best of Alfred Hitchcock’s comedy thrillers. Grant is an innocent adman mistaken for an undercover agent who proves to be a man who never was. From the moment Alfred misses the bus in New York in the opening scene, the chase is on. Legendary is the scene where Grant is buzzed by a crop-duster, as is the climatic sequences scrambling over the faces of the four presidents of Mt Rushmore. It’s marvellous stuff and offers the most economic ending in cinema history—Grant about to haul Eva Marie Saint up the president’s eyebrow to safety becomes hauling her into the upper bunk of the sleeper compartment whereby the train rushes disgustingly into the tunnel under the The End credit. Full of tricks and gags and McGuffins, as he called them, it is the master at his peak.
But Hitchcock did have another of his problems with titles. In the film the characters travel from New York to Chicago and on to Mt Rushmore, which means they are always going roughly due West. They are never at any time travelling North by North-west. This has never been explained that I know of.