Filmspiration: North by Northwest

On Sunday afternoon, Dapper and I curled up under blankets on the sofa to watch the Hitchcock classic, North by Northwest. There’s no denying that Eva Marie Saint is a beauty, but some of her clothes in this film are simply divine. Take this dress as the most obvious – and stunning – example:

Betty Draper, eat your heart out!

Whilst this is certainly my favourite of her dresses, she actually sports some delightful costumes throughout:

“Don’t shoot!” Note the little boy in the background covering his ears in anticipation.

A simple but elegant day dress

Eve Kendall would almost certainly never leave the house without her hat and gloves – indeed, in the film’s climactic scene, even having kicked off her shoes, she still clings to the cliff edge in her wrist gloves:

We’ve discussed before the etiquette of dressing to show respect for those around you, of taking pride in your appearance as an extension of respecting yourself, and it occurs to me more and more frequently that, for all our girl-power feminism, we’ve lost the strength, poise and self-respect that women of this era were brought up to embody. And with them, so many beautiful but subtle rites of flirtation.

I have also begun to notice certain little gestures made by the gentlemen in movies such as this: the hand to the centre back to ensure a lady passes first, a subtle open-armed sweep to bring his lady escort into a conversation, or a hand taken to lead her forward to introduce someone. I have begun to notice them for the simple reason that they are the kinds of gestures Dapper adopts, and to which I am learning to adapt: because if you aren’t used to having chairs pulled, coats proffered and car doors opened for you, you all to often find yourself directly in the way!

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8 thoughts on “Filmspiration: North by Northwest

  1. A very interesting post. And lovely pictures! Hitchcock’s leading ladies were always nicely kitted out, thanks to Edith Head (I especially recommend Rear Window and To Catch a Thief for similar A-line excellence).

    I especially liked reading your delicate observations of gesture. Despite the queasiness of 1950s sexual politics, there’s a lot to be said for old world charm, especially when doled out by Cary. You just don’t want to be getting a taxi when he’s around.

  2. Hope your sinuses clear soon. I had sinusitis for 8 miserable weeks during pregnancy and needed two lots of antibiotics to clear it. You can sometimes have a relapse as even when you think it’s gone the infection can linger in there. Fingers crossed that they do the job for you without making you feel too ill.

  3. Eva Marie Saint was gorgeous in that film. I love North by Northwest – I often think it’s a good companion piece to Mad Men, and would love to see Roger O Thornhill in a room with Don Draper. I don’t know if I entirely agree that women of this era were brought up to embody poise and self-respect, although they were certainly brought up to behave in this way but, like Nic, I do agree that there is a lot to be said for old fashioned grace and good manners. And for Cary Grant. I do love Cary Grant 🙂

  4. We watched that film too over the weekend. My son (who’s 13) asked when it was made, I guessed at late 50s and he piped up that the only reason I knew was because I dress 50s and recognised that dress! Good lad!

  5. That rose dress is KILLER. What I always think, more than anything, is look at the fit of those clothes. I mean, I understand it’s a film and thus the delectable Eva would have been whisked into bespoke costumes – but one of the things that I despair about more than anything these days is the appalling fit of most people’s clothes. I’m not saying mine are perfect, but I would sooner die than buy something I didn’t think suited my shape. I think that’s definitely something we’ve lost – people make do with what they can find, even if it isn’t perfect. Plus – in all honesty – I think women from the 50’s and further back understood the importance of foundation. Not makeup – underwear! My Nan still wears a proper girdle and super hoiked brassiere, and she looks better in her housecoat than any woman I know!

  6. What is it about Hitchcock’s women’s wardrobes? I am hopelessly in love with Doris Day’s travel wardrobe from The Man Who Knew Too Much. Next time you watch that film, keep an eye on her shoes and accessories.

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