For many years, I invariably described this as my favorite movie ever. The story of an ad man Roger Thornhill (played with dry wit and charm by Cary Grant) who’s mistaken for another man—one who doesn’t work on Madison Avenue—seemed like the ultimate thrill ride, with a side helping of comic relief.
From the moment Thornhill is hauled off by the bad guys to the Townsend mansion in Glen Cove to his wild and inebriated escape from his captors in a stolen car, our hero is beset with a multitude of problems, for which he scrambles to find answers.
But when a lead to the mansion’s real owner at the United Nations goes awry and Thornhill is framed for Townsend’s murder, the story picks up speed as Thornhill struggles to escape New York.
This leads to one of my favorite parts—Thornhill evading conductors on a train to Chicago. While doing so, he dines with the luscious Eve Kendall (played by Eva Marie Saint, one of a line of icy blondes favored by Hitchcock) in a scene so innuendo-filled, I could scarcely believe the movie was made in the 50s.
The question, however, is how much Thornhill can trust her. Especially after she provides him directions to that great big, wide-open field, where he gets dive bombed by a crop duster. Another one of those classic scenes that lingered in my mind long after the movie’s end.
I shall say no more of the plot, which builds in suspense and tension both as to whether Thornhill will prevail and whether he can get the girl. For me, this is the quintessential film about the innocent man thrown into the deep end, despite having done nothing to cause it. The combination of breathtaking set pieces, a romantic subplot, an endless series of twists, and a sprinkling of quirky humor make this Hitchcock classic a must-see.
Do I really have to spell it out? Two thumbs up!