Sunday, March 26, 2006

Be prepared


Naturally, I don't have to say anything about the genius of North by Northwest. It's a truism of modern culture-vulturehood that it is a work of genius, so it would be interesting for me to get all controversial on yo' asses and contest this assessment. Only that would be insane. Of course it's a work of genius.

This here is just a wee fragment of worship for Cary Grant and his everyman alter-ego, Roger O-stands-for-nothing Thornhill.

Late in the movie, Thornhill has learned that The Icy Heroine (the gorgeously attired Eva Marie Saint) is going to be leaving the country with The Villain (James Mason, usurped as the world's greatest and most paradigmatic bad dude only by Basil Rathbone). Right now, Mr Thornhill is in a hospital room with the CIA man who's been masterminding the whole thing that got him ensnared in the first place.

He's playing along with the government man, innocence smoothing the lines in his immaculate tan. He casually and efficiently gets into the new set of clothes he's been brought. Even more causally still, he gets rid of his chaperone on a pretext (he asks for a quart of scotch. Only in 1959!).

Quick! Now's his chance! He grabs the first new shoe from the box, pulls it on without bothering with the laces, hopping up and down on one leg. On with the second shoe, smacking the heels against the hospital linoleum.

And is he out the window the second his shoes are on? Is he hell.

He picks up a white handkerchief, folds it, and puts it in his trouser pocket. Now out the window.

Oh, yeah. That's what I call a man.

4 comments:

Mrs X said...

In his "N by N-W" (Themes out of School, 1981), Stanley Cavell comments on Cary Grant's face (and hero status) by comparing it with the Mount Rushmore Memorial. It all starts with Hitchcock's dissolve from Grant who's trying to shave with Eve Kendall's mini-razor, to the Big Faces of the Memorial. Supreme. Unmissable.

Tom Bozzo said...

I appreciate this appreciation, Xtin.

I also would envy ROT for his encyclopedic knowledge of gratuities and his ability to at least feign an afternoon's work after multiple-martini lunches.

Xtin said...

Stanley Cavell is also a real man, no doubt about it. And Tom? You've got that professional-with-martinis demeanour down to a ... well, T.

Scrivener said...

I appreciate not only the appreciation for N by N-W, but also for Stanley Cavell. Cavell is an absolute favorite of mine, in fact. About a year ago, I made friends with an Aussie blogger because she and I were the only ones who listed Cavell in our Blogger profiles.

I love that essay in themes out of school, too. Every time I watch the movie, I think about that scene where the drone of the airplane engines drown out the conversation.