In December of 1964, I saw one of my favorite films for the first time. I have written previously about The Prize with Paul Newman, Elke Somner and Edward G. Robinson. It featured a superb, sophisticated score full of adventure and romance, reflecting the talent of Jerry Goldsmith early in his film career. Based on a novel by Irving Wallace it had a wonderfully witty and fast moving screenplay by Ernest Lehman (1915-2005).
Which brings us to September of 1959 and the first time I experienced Alfred Hitchcock’s classic North by Northwest. NBNW was a story of mistaken identity, romance, comedy and suspense. Probably Hitchcock’s most entertaining film. It sported a score full of adventure and romance by Bernard Herrmann who scored many Hitchcock classics including Psycho, Vertigo and Torn Curtain; although the TC score was dropped for one done by John Addison.
Bernard Herrmann brings us to Ernest Lehman. EL wrote the original screenplay for NBNW. He was introduced by BH to AH and this led to the creation of NBNW. NBNW was originally a hodgepodge of set piece screen scenes that Hitchcock wanted to include in a film but had no idea how to tie together. The killing at the U.N. building. The middle of nowhere scene where Cary Grant is attacked by a crop duster. The chase across the face of Mt. Rushmore. All ideas for scenes Hitchcock wanted to film that all came together in Lehman’s delightful screenplay.
The new BluRay edition recreates the 2009 DVD release except in high definition picture and sound. The extras include interviews and background info. The film also features a full voice over retrospective by Ernest Lehman with all kinds of neat stories and insights to the film. From 1959 to 1965 Lehman not only wrote TP and NBNW but also penned screenplays for West Side Story and The Sound of Music despite the fact he can’t sing. He sure could write.
It took me a while to figure it out, having been generally well behind everybody else in school but, The Prize was basically a remake of North by Northwest. How close these two films are, can best be seen in mirror image spots from both films. In NBNW Cary Grant ends up at an art gallery auction. The bad guys seemingly have him trapped there and are waiting for him to emerge from any exit to kill him. He figures out a clever way to escape. In TP, Paul Newman finds himself in a nudist hall in Sweden wearing only a towel during a meeting of the local naked people. The killers wait in the back room to do him in. His way out of the situation is the same one CG used in the art gallery.
Both NBNW and TP run over 130 minutes which is a little long. Other than that they are both perfect entertainment. In all respects. Don’t miss NBNW on BluRay. It looks terrific. TP is also on a limited edition DVD from Warner Brothers Archives.
Rated 4.0 for NBNW and 4.0 for TP for a total of 8.0 out of 4.0. I told you I wasn’t real good in school.