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Reblogged » North by Northwest (1959) — Art of the Title

north by northwest

North by Northwest (1959) — Art of the Title

For some damn bit of happenstance, the specter of director Alfred Hitchcock seems to be continually crossing my path, of late. Through the web posts I keep coming upon, or the replay of the wonderful television interview conducted by Dick Cavett, one I first watched in 1972, I stumbled upon last Sunday evening.

My last TMT may have kicked it off a couple of weeks ago. It’s fate I tell you. Especially, since what soon followed three days ago was my worst incident of vertigo to this point of my life. I’m not trying to be ironic or clever with another of Hitchcock’s masterpieces inasmuch these whirling episodes can be withering beyond belief.

No, the Master of Suspense is haunting me alright. Might as well embrace the moment, much like turning into the skid. Or, purposely trying to bring on vertigo symptoms in an attempt to fatigue its response. So with that, I’ll go with one of my favorite films by Sir Alfred. Not only did it cast my favorite actor (Cary Grant), but also employed one of the all-time best opening titles sequences.

I speak none other than of North by Northwest.

I could say something about it myself, but why bother since the good folk over at The Art of the Title brought the title sequence into true focus last year when they examined it in their stellar piece. Of course, famed graphic and title designer Saul Bass crafted the segment, one of his best works ever, I think. Per The Art of the Title:

“This progression from cold abstraction to perceived reality — symbolically reflected in the building’s façade — to up-close and personal parallels Thornhill’s journey through the film, mirroring both his plight and his changing identity over its course. It also draws the audience into human-scale conflict, where commuters do their best to ignore each other unless compelled otherwise, resulting in hostility. Bernard Hermann’s big, climactic score gives the sequence a sense of increasing urgency, turning up the volume in concert with the march of the crowd.”

I highly recommend this article for writer Ben Radatz‘s marvelous breakdown of what made the opening titles for North by Northwest so amazing. One that I never tire of watching…like the film itself. Together with the web site’s wonderful high-definition presentation of the entire sequence, what’s not to love? Okay, real vertigo vs. Vertigo.

16 Responses to “Reblogged » North by Northwest (1959) — Art of the Title”

  1. John DuMond

    NxNW is, hands down, my favorite Hitchcock film. Great cast, great writing, beautiful cinematography and an incredible score, I can’t find anything not to love about this movie. And the opening sequence is Hitch’s best, in my opinion.


    • le0pard13

      I’ve probably re-watched North by Northwest the most of any Hitchcock film over the years. We agree that NxNW represents Hitch’s best with an opening titles sequence, for sure. Thanks very much, John :-).


  2. ruth

    One of the best opening titles for sure! I LOVE that website Art of the Title, glad you reblogged this piece Michael, you have excellent taste 😀


  3. jackdeth72

    Hi, Michael:

    Those films where Hitchcock is in a playful mood are always the most memorable. And ‘North By Northwest’ is at the top of the list. Just edging out ‘Strangers on a Train’ for its first few deceptive minutes. And adding some reinforcement with clever slash and split screen opening credits.

    Story, locations, actors and soundtrack raise its bar high into the “Must See” arena. With the flirty, seductive interplay between Eva Marie Saint and Cary Grant leading the charge opposite James Mason, Leo G. Carroll and a young Martin Landau as bad guys. The only actor missing is George Sanders to lead and fill out their ranks.

    Very good stuff, my friend.

    Nicely done!


    • le0pard13

      You noted a number great things about the films, Kevin. Can’t argue with any of them. Yes, a George Sanders would really round out the bunch. I can never get enough from watching North by Northwest, that’s for sure. Many thanks, my friend.



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