By Thomas Myler
Whenever Cary Grant was asked why he charged 15 cents for an autograph, he would say the funds would go to charity. Those who knew him were not so sure. Even though he was one of the richest stars in Hollywood at the height of his career, Grant was notoriously tight with money.
When the shooting one of his best movies North By Northwest ran over schedule, he was pleased no end as his contract called for $10,000 for every extra day he worked. MGM executives were not too happy about that, and urged director Alfred Hitchcock to speed things up.
Hitch’s reply could not be printed in a family magazine but it was short and far from sweet. A conscientious moviemaker at the best of times, Hitch continued at his own pace and finished the film which is considered a classic. It got three Oscar nominations in 1959 and is listed at number six in The Greatest Movies Ever: The Ultimate Ranked List of the 101 Best Films of All Time.
In his Classic Film Guide, Simon Rose describes it as ‘the ultimate comedy-thriller, a delicious blend of thrills, humour, mystery and great chases. It’s full of memorable scenes. A movie that’s pretty damn perfect’.
Co-starring Eva Marie Saint, James Mason, Martin Landau and Leo G Carroll, North by Northwest is a tale of mistaken identity. It has an innocent advertising man, played by Grant, pursued across the United States by agents of a mysterious organisation trying to prevent him from blocking their plan to smuggle out microfilm that contains government secrets. Interestingly, Jessie Royce Landis, who plays Grant’s mother, was only one year older than the actor.