Friday, February 21, 2014

North By Northwest (1959)

Cary Grant...Alfred Hitchcock...Booze and Cocktails...Where do I start. North by Northwest (1959) is a movie that, though I've watched a number of times, is quite the treasure when it comes to booze and cocktails. Cary Grant plays Roger O. Thornill, a Mad Men type advertising executive before the term Mad Men became a common part of the English language. Thornhill fits the bill by being a hard liquor drinking, womanizing son of a gun who gets involved in a case of mistaken identity and murder with competing spies led by Philip Vandamm (James Mason) and the mysterious spy who simply goes by the name of The Professor (Leo G. Carroll). His attempts to clear his name takes him across the country from New York City to Mount Rushmore, South Dakota and points in between. Even while on the run, Thornhill finds the company of a beautiful woman in the form of Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint) and a couple of cocktails. Onward we go in the world of North by Northwest.

The first instance of cocktails in the movie happens at the Oak Bar in the currently closed Oak Room which is located in the landmark Plaza Hotel in Midtown New York City. Thornhill is there for a meeting and the gentlemen who are there to meet him are already into their liquid meeting. It looks like they are having dirty Gin Martinis. 
When one of the men states that "We've gotten a head start here, Mr. Thornhill" [Referring to the drinks], he responds with "That won't last long".

Thornhill comes to the realization that his secretary will not be able to contact his mother as per his request. As he looks around for one of the stewards, he inadvertantly catches the attention of two agents who are looking for a George Kaplan. The steward that Thornhill calls over to ask about sending a telegram (yes folks, a telegram. This is 1959 after all) is paging George Kaplan, which further adds to the confusion. He is taken by the agents to meet Vandamm in Glen Cove, Long Island.

Vandamm believes that Thornhill is Kaplan, even though Thornhill shows him his identification and tells Vandamm who he is. Unconvinced, Vandamm directs his agent Leonard (Martin Landau) to serve Thornhill aka Kaplan a drink. As Leonard opens the cabinet, he offers the following: Scotch, Rye, Bourbon, Vodka. From what I can tell, the first row of bottles are Chivas Scotch, Old Overholt Rye, an unrecognizable bottle of bourbon and Smirnoff Vodka. 

Thornhill demands to be taken back to town to which Leonard suggests that his ride has already been arrainged but first, a libation is in order. Naturally Leonard picks the unrecognizable bottle of bourbon. Thornhill is held down and forced to drink the entire bottle of bourbon.

He is next placed in a car with the belief that he would drunkenly run himself off of the road and over the cliff. That's quite the inventive way to do so. I don't think today's plotlines would go so far as to do this to someone. But I digress. Unknown to the his assailants, Thornhill is quite the drinker and due to his tolerance, he is able to escape certain death. I hate to gloss over a chunk of the plot, but they don't contain either booze or a cocktail. I will say things happen and the steps are put in motion for his trying to find Kaplan and to clear his name. I'll let you watch the movie to find out the missing plotlines.

Thornhill sneaks aboard the New York Central Railroad 20th Century limited train leaving Grand Central Station to Chicago. As you can see to the right, the ad called for a train ride leaving from New York City to Chicago in just 16 hours. (For more information on the 20th Century Limited, check out the 20th Century Limited page on the American-Rails webpage). 

As per the images of the train in the movie, the ride was quite comfortable down to a full dining car with cocktails if desired. It is here when Thornhill officially meets Ms. Eve Kendall, who bribes the train steward $5 dollars to seat Thornhill at her table. While at the table, Thornhill orders a Gibson. 

Now I want to go into depth on the Gibson in a separate post. But for now, simply put, the Gibson is a variation on your classic Martini. It is made with Gin (or Vodka), Dry Vermouth and unlike a standard martini that would have a lemon twist, or a dirty martini that would have an olive garnish, the Gibson has either a plain or pickled Pearl Onion. You can clearly see the onion in the picture.

Once again, I jump ahead in the movie to Eve Kendall's hotel room (after the iconic scene with the cropduster) where Thornhill says he needs a drink. He asks for a Scotch and water with no ice. She serves herself a scotch and water with ice. 

At this point Kendall tells Thornhill to just leave her and to never see her again. Obviously Thornhill doesn't and continues on getting himself in trouble right down to the end of the movie.

Here ends the booze references but hey, I suggest watching the rest of the movie. You don't want to miss the rest of the flick. So what are you waiting for. Go get it and have yourself a couple of cocktails while you're at it.

Until Then Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla