Saturday, 1 August 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1959: Cary Grant in North By Northwest

Cary Grant did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Roger Thornhill in North By Northwest.

North By Northwest is a very entertaining thriller, although I think that early long exposition that puts us ahead of Grant's character is totally unnecessary, about a man mistaken for a spy.

Cary Grant made four films with Alfred Hitchcock. The first two made in the forties were quite atypical Grant with Suspicion where he played a husband possibly planning a murder, and Notorious where he played a very cold government agent. They would re-team again a decade later with To Catch a Thief which likely is more fitting to Grant's usual style, but that film was really just a bit too breezy for its own good with the thriller elements being particular lax in nature. North By Northwest is the only time where Grant collaborated with Hitchcock as one of his wrong man on the run characters. Although he was wrong man of sorts in To Catch a Thief as a thief who just happened to be the thief the police were looking for, he certainly did not seem very worried about getting caught at any point. North By Northwest is a much stronger thriller, and in turn Grant gets a far more interesting role to play in the film. As most wrong man performances though Grant begins the film as a fairly innocuous character, while innocuous in that his biggest concern is to make sure he gets a message to his mother.

Cary Grant is completely in his element in these early scenes as he has such a delicate feather almost feather touch manner towards the proceedings. Grant is his extremely charming self as he is in such a lighter role, although this might be Grant as his most charming. He really does just brighten up the screen with his presence this time, as he makes Thornhill an immensely likable character in just a couple of these early scenes, and by couple I mean two, that by time he is kidnapped, due to a mistake by his captors, we are fully invested into his character's survival. Thornhill realizes he's become the wrong man by being greeted by a group of strange men including a well spoken yet sinister fellow (James Mason). Grant is simply superb in this role as he simply thrives so well in the material he is given. Grant not only fully shows how any average man would react to being confronted with such strange accusations, that being complete confusion, but he also injects so much humor into the proceedings. This scene might not even necessarily have been that funny, but the way Grant plays through it is remarkable. He never takes away the seriousness of the situation yet is marvelous in the way he brings out the joke that's being played on poor Roger.

Of course in perhaps the film's most overt comic scene though where Thornhill attempts to make out where he is exactly after ending up in a police station after narrowly surviving assassination via drunkenness. Well Grant's good at doing a Thomas Mitchell sort of drunk, and is quite enjoyable throughout the sequence. I've particularly loved his surprise while being in a certain daze as he attempts to drive the vehicle that was meant to ensure his demise. Due to not being able to find any exact proof his captors existence this leads Thornhill on a strange chase to try to find out who this person is that those men were so sure he was. This does lead Thornhill any where particularly helpful since one of these places ends up making him another wrong man in a murder investigation. The simple fact of it is Grant is supremely watchable and compelling just to view go through the process of the thriller. The screen could not be more his friend here, because one would be hard pressed to name a performer more at ease than Grant is here, while still keeping one invested in the story. Grant does not slack in this regard in the least and is excellent in the way he reflects every little twist that Thornhill faces in his expression. He's captivating here and flows so well with the style of the film.

Thornhill only gets further into the plot when he runs into a woman Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint) on a train who seems to have plenty of secrets of her own since she is perhaps just a little too willing to help Thornhill who by this point is a suspected murderer. Grant's flawlessness in the role only seems to continue in these scenes as maneuvers in these scenes quite adeptly. Although a lot of their talk is Bogie/Bacall sort of innuendos, Grant brings a little more to it then that as he shows the way that Thornhill is swept up a bit by her let's say eagerness. Of course after she leads him into a trap Grant is terrific in the way he projects the coldness and suspicion in Thornhill as starts to figure out she is perhaps another trick being played on him. This brings us to one of my favorite scenes of the film where Thornhill has another face off with Mason's character. Now it needs to be said that Grant has such a wonderful understanding of the tone of the film, and while quite simply the style of the dialogue. There is not a wasted line that Grant delivers that he does not bring something to. This includes Thornhill unorthodox method of getting away from potential assassins by acting as the lout at an auction, and Grant is absolutely hilarious in his realization of Thornhill's plan.

This eventually causes Thornhill to leave his position as the wrong of the film and forces him to become a bit of James Bond figure. It's easy to see why he was approached for the role of James Bond in Dr. No as he certainly shows his chops for that role in the film, particularly in the film's climax. Well Grant already has the charm in spades, and can deliver a line for all its worth. Grant here shows even more than that though in the way he does bring weight to the action sequences, which in a way shows the strength of this performance. You always care about what happens in the action sequences because you care about poor Roger Thornhill throughout, and Grant never depicts Thornhill as some sort of action hero in any of these scenes. In fact he presents him to have plenty of fear of death during these scenes, and helps heighten the tension of each. It actually seems a little odd that it took Hitchcock so long to fully utilize Grant's abilities, but at he finally managed to do so here. Grant could not be a more perfect fit for the role. He is just on top of things throughout the film as he ensures to deliver just about as much entertainment as the film has to offer through his work. Grant here shows that one does not need to bare his soul to give a great performance, since this is a great performance by Cary Grant.

85 comments:

Anonymous said...

Really like this performance, very good review. Can I ask you what do you think of Sibel Kekilli in Game of Thrones?

tahmeed chowdhury said...

Finally, a 5 for Cary Grant. Great review as always Louis, keep up the good work!

Calvin Law said...

Brilliant film and a very good performance. One of my favourite Hitchcocks and my second favourite man on the run flick after Saboteur.

houndtang said...

Good point you make about not needing to bare one's soul for a great performance. This is not a role that screams 'great acting' but it is a great star performance - hard to imagine NBNW with anyone else being as effective in the lead.

Calvin Law said...

So I just watched The Mist.

Oh my goodness that ending...

JackiBoyz said...

I have decided my winning request, since I think Stamp and Hurt will get in 84.

I will go for an actor from Nightcrawler....

Riz Ahmed - Four Lions (Bonus Best Actor 2010) one of the best comedies this decade.

luke higham said...

JackiBoyz: That's a very good replacement for Edgar Ramirez in Carlos.

JackiBoyz said...

I thought The Mist had a good ending, I think the rest of the film is a little much at times.

Calvin Law said...

I agree, it's good and very viscreal.

Four Lions is a brilliant comedy and Ahmed is excellent, as is Novak as the lovable dumb loyal friend.

Anonymous said...

Louis what is your rating and thoughts for Richard Burton in Look Back in Anger, as well as your thoughts on the film itself?

Michael McCarthy said...

Couldn't agree more here. Also, am I the only one who was more impressed with Martin Landau here than Mason?

Anonymous said...

Yes, yes, yes! Grant finally got a 5! I just knew he would get it! By the way, your thoughts on Landau and also, (if you have seen it), Alec Guinness in Our Man in Havana.

Calvin Law said...

Michael: Wouldn't go that far, but I was certainly very impressed by Landau. He was an incredibly chilling presence but also an interesting blend of humour and Elisha Cook Jr.-esque sympathy for his character.

Calvin Law said...

My ratings would be:

Grant: 4.5
Saint: 4.5
Mason: 5
Landau: 4

Anonymous said...

Michael: I'd give him a 4. I'm hoping for Mason to get a 5.

Anonymous said...

Calvin: My ratings:
Grant: 5 (My win, Stewart's my 2#. I'd love to see Grant get the win :))
Saint: 4
Mason: 5
Landau: 4

luke higham said...

Anonymous: I think it's gonna be Nakadai or Stewart. The former's review, in my opinion, was more positive than Grant's.

Anonymous said...

Luke: Oh, okay. But I still would love to see him win, that's all. Would love to see him get an Oscar. I'm still stunned how Bogart got 3 Oscars.

luke higham said...

Anonymous: I love Grant's performance and I'd be happy enough to see him win, but at the end of the day, Louis's choice for the overall, with any of his rankings mean Jack Shit to me. I care more for the ratings and whoever Louis's choice is, I do not wish to change that.

Anonymous said...

Luke: Yeah, I also don't really care, it's just I kind of wish. But you're right, it doesn't matter. I saw In a Lonely Place last night and I kind of liked it much more than I should have. I guess that Bogart's performance overwhelmed me way too much.

Michael McCarthy said...

I seem to be one of the only people here who wouldn't give Mason a 5. I thought he was good enough, but he didn't seem to do more than just what was necessary for his limited role. Landau on the other hand was a far more chilling presence, and I thought he was quite good at subtly portraying a little too much affection for Mason's character.

Anonymous said...

Michael: What are your ratings for the both of them?

Michael McCarthy said...

Landau: 4 verging on 4.5
Mason: 3.5

ruthiehenshallfan99 said...

Yes! A five for one of my favorites! Great review!

luke higham said...

RatedRStar & Calvin: Is Youtube running well at all for you, because mine isn't.

luke higham said...

RatedRStar & Calvin: Forget about it, It's fine now.

Anonymous said...

Luke: I had no problem with YouTube.

luke higham said...

Anonymous: There might've been an issue with my server or internet connection, but it's all good now.

luke higham said...

Everyone: In terms of your requests, how many have ended up with a five. I only have one so far and that was Clive Owen in Children Of Men.

Michael McCarthy said...

Two for me, Jean-Louis Barrault in Children of Paradise and Robert De Niro in The King of Comedy.

RatedRStar said...

Just one for me I think, Tony Leung Chiu Wai for Infernal Affairs =D.

Michael Patison said...

Not many at all. At the moment, the only one I can think of is Mel Gibson in Gallipoli. I could sort of cheat and say that Edward Woodward in Breaker Morant counts, but I actually requested Jack Thompson so that would be a lie.

Most of mine get 4s.

Robert MacFarlane said...

The only three I can remember me requesting and getting 5's are Hopper in River's Edge, Rockwell in Jesse James. and Williams in Insomnia.

Deiner said...

I love this performance as well. Great review Louis.

Calvin Law said...

0 5's from Louis for my requests. One of the reasons I requested James Stewart in The Shop Around the Corner, want a 5 at some point.

luke higham said...

Louis: Your Female Lead/Supporting Top 5s with ratings, plus any other 4.5s.

luke higham said...

Louis: For 1959.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

I really don't care for her performance, and I'd say it could have been the weakest of the decently sized performance if it were not for the introduction of the Sand Snakes. I don't find she really finds the charm of her character nearly enough that everyone seems so taken with here, and Tyrion becomes so foolish in regards to her. In addition to that her more emotional moments always feel a tad forced if not over the top. It does not help that her character becomes so repetitive in season 3, but she does not alleviate these problems with her performance in the least.

Anonymous:

Burton - 2.5(I've said it before, but unfortunately the more you see of Burton the less you like him as an actor. He's miscast to begin with in that Burton a little too old in his technical age, but it really does not help that he always looked at least a decade older than his actual age. In addition though Burton just does not seem right as this wannabe jazz musician, and if he wanted to kitchen sink realism he should have found a different window like the way Olivier did with The Entertainer. Burton is all wrong for the part though as his speeches reflecting his character's random anger come off as far too grandiose for such a sort of man, and it does not work in the least. There a moment or two where it feels like he has something there, but too often he goes into histrionics that seem quite unnatural for his character)

The kitchen sink style films unfortunately often depend heavily on their lead so the film suffers considerably due to Burton's miscasting. You just never believe in his character making it very difficult to believe in his story. It is easy to see how say Albert Finney could have really made this character work, but unfortunately the film is stuck with Burton who sinks the whole thing. I actually liked Bloom and Ure, and there's nothing wrong with Richardson's direction or even the story. Burton just messes the whole thing up.

Anonymous:

Guinness - 4.5(Some strong work here as well, and it is a bit fun to see Guinness play a Spy who isn't exactly George Smiley. Guinness probably was the only possible choice for this role because of the film's slightly random tone in the way it maneuvers between comedy and drama. Guinness is a master of this though and manages to make some of his screw ups quite funny while honestly conveying some real fear internalized within his character. He pulls it off as he is able to derive humor from the hapless moments while still effectively portraying the gradual maturation of his character through the experiences of his new job in a moving fashion)

Luke:

Actress:

Emmanuelle Riva - Hiroshima My Amour - 5
Simone Signoret - Room At The Top
Audrey Hepburn - The Nun's Story
Mary Ure - Look Back in Anger - 4
Doris Day - Pillow Talk - 4


Supporting Actress:

Lee Remick - Anatomy of a Murder
Chikage Awashima - The Human Condition I - 4.5
Juanita Moore - Imitation of Life - 4.5
Shelley Winters - The Diary of Anne Frank
Carolyn Jones - Career

Anonymous said...

Louis: Has Gregory Peck grown on you as an actor, Louis?

Louis Morgan said...

No not really, I feel about the same as I did before. Great in To Kill a Mockingbird has a few good performances, but also several very underwhelming ones.

Anonymous said...

Louis: What are your thoughts on John Garfield, James Dean and Arthur Kennedy as actors in general?

Anonymous said...

Louis: Oh, and your ratings and thoughts on:
Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday
Irene Dunne in Cimarron
Barbara Stanwyck and Kirk Douglas in The Strange Live of Martha Ivers
Also, was Kingsley always a 4,5 for Gandhi?

Anonymous said...

What are your thoughts on Emmanuelle Riva in Hiroshima Mon Amour? Is Audrey still a 4.5 for The Nun's Story (she deserves a 5 for me)? And Lee Remick too is still a 4.5? Also, ratings/thoughts on Susan Kohner in Imitation of Life and Thelma Ritter and Rock Hudson in Pillow Talk if you don't mind. And I still think that Simone Signoret is supporting in Room at the Top as the movie is almost never seen from her point of view and the movie is more about Joe's struggle, but anyway she's very borderline so I can see why she's leading for you.

Calvin Law said...

Glad that you loved Riva in Hiroshima Mon Amour. What were your thoughts on the film itself?

Also your thoughts on Our Man in Havana, and thoughts and ratings for the cast...unless you're planning on reviewing any of them.

Everyone else: your top 10 films of 1959?

1. Hiroshima Mon Amour
2. Anatomy of a Murder
3. Our Man in Havana
4. North by Northwest
5.The Diary of Anne Frank
6. Ben - Hur
7. Hound of the Baskervilles
8. The Human Condition I
9. The 400 Blows
10. The Nun's Story

Calvin Law said...

Also can't wait till Louis sees Loneliness of the Longd Distance Runner. It'll provide such an interesting contrast to all the other Young Angry Men kitchen sink dramas he's seen.

luke higham said...

Louis: Thoughts on Awashima and Moore.

Anonymous said...

Calvin: In my opinion, he would prefer it to all of the other kitchen sink dramas he's seen.

luke higham said...

Anonymous, Calvin & RatedRStar: In what order, do you want the remaining years to come.
1. 1976
2. 1928
3. 1962
4. 1940
5. 1995
6. 1939

RatedRStar said...

Luke:
1. 1928
2. 1976
3. 1995
4. 1940
5. 1962
6. 1939

RatedRStar said...

I feel the greatest 2 years should be the last.

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: My order is probably gonna be Louis's, though he might switch '28 and '76 around. I do agree with you that '62 should be left to the end, as most of my anticipated reviews are from those final two years.

Anonymous said...

Luke: Well, Louis could possibly start with 1976. I don't know any worthy nominees from 1928. Maybe Buster Keaton in The Cameraman and in Steamboat Bill Jr. ?

luke higham said...

Anonymous: Apart from those 2, there's Conrad Veidt in The Man Who Laughs. For Louis to watch, there's Renee Jeanne Falconetti in The Passion Of Joan Of Arc and Lillian Gish in The Wind.

Louis's likely to do a writeup instead of a lineup for 1928 Lead and Supporting.

Calvin Law said...

1. 1940
2. 1976
3. 1928
4. 1995
5. 1962
6. 1939

Anonymous said...

Luke: Oh, yeah! I forgot Veidt. He's likely the winner. Tough to choose between Falconetti and Gish.

luke higham said...

Anonymous: I'll go with Falconetti. :)

Anonymous said...

Luke: Okay, I'll just tie them both since they are great. By the way, if Louis is ever going to do Best Actors before 1928, what worthy nominees can you think of. You know, from 1920 to 1927?

luke higham said...

Anonymous: Louis's gonna do a pre-'28 lineup in the bonus rounds.

I did a list not that long ago, I'll try and find it for you.

luke higham said...

Pre-'28 Lead lineup (There's more than 5 worthy contenders)
Mine:
Max Schreck in Nosferatu (He's a 5 already, but would like to see a more in depth analysis)
Lon Chaney in The Phantom Of The Opera
Charlie Chaplin in The Kid/The Gold Rush
Buster Keaton in The General
Albert Dieudonne in Napoleon
Conrad Veidt in The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari
Plus Two from RatedRStar:
Gustav Fröhlich - Metropolis
Ivor Novello - The Lodger

Anonymous said...

Luke: Wait, I remember now.
Lon Chaney in The Phantom of the Opera (1925), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923). I don't know of another worthy Chaney performances.
Charlie Chaplin in The Kid (1921), The Gold Rush (1925)
Buster Keaton in Sherlock Jr (1924), The Navigator (1925), The General (1926)
Harold Lloyd in Safety Last! (1923)
John Barrymore in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920)
Max Schreck in Nosferatu (1922)

luke higham said...

Anonymous: Of Keaton, Louis will probably just review his performance in The General and if I were to choose between Chaney in THOND or Barrymore in Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde, I'd go with the former.

luke higham said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
luke higham said...

Ian McShane's been given a role in Game Of Thrones.

Anonymous said...

Luke: What kind of ratings do you think Louis will give to the performances you just listed? Oh, and on that choosing part between Barrymore and Chaney, it's about reviewing?

luke higham said...

Anonymous: Yeah I know, I just find Chaney's role more interesting, but aside from that, If Louis reviews Barrymore, I welcome it. :)

luke higham said...

Max Schreck in Nosferatu - 5
Lon Chaney in The Phantom Of The Opera - 5
Charlie Chaplin in The Kid/The Gold Rush - 5 for the former and a 4.5 for the latter.
Buster Keaton in The General - 4.5
Albert Dieudonne in Napoleon - 4.5/5
Conrad Veidt in The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari - 4.5/5
Gustav Fröhlich - Metropolis - 4.5/5
Ivor Novello - The Lodger - 4.5

Anonymous said...

Luke: Chaney in The Hunchback of Notre Dame could also get a 5 from him. He's just as great as Laughton's version.

luke higham said...

Anonymous: Louis's only gonna review 10 performances for the lineup, and that's why I was being a bit selective.

luke higham said...

Anonymous: That would be great. :)

Anonymous said...

Luke: It's such a pity that Chaney didn't live longer. He died too soon. He could have likely won an Oscar for Best Actor.

luke higham said...

Anonymous: In terms of Female performances, I've only got Janet Gaynor in Sunrise and 7th Heaven.

luke higham said...

Anonymous: Possibly.

Anonymous said...

Luke: What about Brigitte Helm in Metropolis?

luke higham said...

Anonymous: I would add her as well. :)

Anonymous said...

Luke: The pre-28 supporting performances don't seem to be that big of a deal.

luke higham said...

Anonymous: No, not really, Louis will post a ranking instead. Then again, I'm not entirely sure about Veidt's placement for The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari.

Anonymous said...

Luke: Veidt's rating in Dr. Caligari could possibly be a 5. Alfred Abel and Rudolf Klein-Kogge for Metropolis could be both 4,5.

luke higham said...

Anonymous: Okay then, Abel and Klein-Rogge for Supporting.

Anonymous said...

Luke: Speaking of Metropolis, I'm still stunned at its visuals.

luke higham said...

Anonymous: :)

luke higham said...

Louis: Massimo Troisi is '94 by your rules for The Postman (Il Postino).

luke higham said...

Goodnight. :)

Anonymous said...

Luke: Goodnight, Luke. :)

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Garfield - (He goes hand and hand with Spencer Tracy in that I can't help but feel underwhelmed by the majority of his performances, with some outright bad ones (you can see them both being bad together in Tortilla Flat). I'd say in the early days there I did prefer Garfield to Tracy on a whole as he did have a certain presence and intensity even though I never found it added up to much. Unfortunately he never got a chance improve in his later years like Tracy did.)

Dean - (Well I've covered all of his performances isn't that enough? To go further he's probably the most mannered performer who ever achieved stardom. That's not a bad thing necessarily as he proved that it could work out quite brilliantly in East of Eden and in much of Giant, although he could go a tad too far like in the opening scene of Rebel without a Cause. He had a one of a kind presence though, two good performances, one great one, it's a shame we never got to see where he would have gone from there)

Kennedy - (The go to character actor for nothing too special, but usually not bad either. I've yet to see a great performance from him, but he certainly had some good ones under his belt particularly his one Oscar nominated leading performance. That being said, from what I've seen, there is a certain expectation of his performances. He's usually be about just so, never striving for those heights of some other performances. I'll say it again. His villainous performances in the Mann westerns were just fine, but seem like missed opportunities when you see how they could have been done via Robert Ryan in The Naked Spur)

You can find my thoughts on Stanwyck in Van Heflin's review and I think Douglas's in the supporting results for that year. Ask me again about Russell when the man up top comes around again.

Dunne - 2(It's a nothing role and the film fails to try to capitalize on the charm she presented so well in her later performances)

And yes to Kingsley.

Anonymous:

Riva - (It's some astonishing work from her as she so naturally and effectively maneuvers through the film's unusual methods. She also keeps the emotional poignancy of anything intact even while keeping her character alive when she could have fallen into purely something symbolic. She has such a powerfully alluring chemistry Okada, but takes it further in her realization of her character's unique nature. There is something lusty freewheeling about her, but there is something so eloquently damaged about her as well. Riva brings a sympathetic air to her yet there is a selfish indifference in the same breath at times. It's fascinating work to watch, and even when she is simply speaking over images there something so remarkable about her work)

Hepburn is still a 4.5 as I have not re-watch The Nun's Story, I'll try during the supporting rounds. I moved Remick up to a five.

Kohner - 3.5(The worst lip syncing you ever saw, well not quite. As well as I felt her her final breakdown just felt a little overcooked. Having said that though she is very good in portraying the troubled relationship between the mother and daughter. As she depicts the problematic pride of her character that keeps her from recognizing her mother, while still keeping that certain underlying guilt for this behavior)

Ritter - 3(Typical Ritter shtick she's fine.)

Hudson - 3.5(Quite liked his performance here, as I found him more charming than I often do. He has quite the knack for this sort of comedy with some particularly good comedic timing actually. In addition he and Day are both good when they are in love and when they hate each other)

Louis Morgan said...

Calvin:

I thought the film itself was quite excellent actually. The sort of unorthodox stream of thought almost was worked in rather flawlessly through the love story of sorts presented through the two characters, while covering the international relations angle all the same time. It's beautifully weaved dream of sorts that's quite the unique experience.

Our Man in Havana is really quite a good spy thriller comedy with Guinness making it work so well with his performance that knows exactly when to be funny and when to be dramatic. In addition Carol Reed's direction is fantastic as he never presses either comedy or drama too hard letting them flow naturally from one to the other.

Cast:

Ives - 4(Probably the most dramatic performance in the film. Ives usually brings something just through his sheer presence which again is the case here. He is really quite moving though in depicting the doctor who will be loyal to his friend above all else.)

O'Hara - 3(I thought she was fine, but her character felt rather limited)

Kovacs - 3.5(Standard sort of role though I thought he was quite good in also finding the comedy and drama in the part rather seamlessly. He and Guinness work particularly well in this regard as they can be funny in one scene while still making said scene quite tense)

Coward - 3.5(Standard droll Coward, nothing wrong with that)

Richardson - 3(He's good but mostly there to deliver exposition)

Luke:

Awashima - (Brilliantly devious and seductive in the same exact breath. She brings a callousness to the part as she makes it clear that her manipulations are just that, but also depicts the overwhelming allure of her character making it absolutely convincing the way she sways loyalties)

Moore - (She gives a nice endearing performance of her character. She's very good in showing the sort of resilience of her character as she carries this certain optimism in every scene even when being rejected by her daughter due to her race. Moore is heartbreaking as she shows subtly how her character is hurt by this, but insists on never letting it overwhelm her)