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Cary Grant stars in one of Hitchcock’s most famous films about a man with a mistaken identity. He is accused of committing a crime and being involved in a government plot he knows nothing of by foreign spies. The movie involves him running away from these men while trying to prove his innocence (Sterritt, 1993).
During the 1950′s there was a large push of anti-communism. By playing off of the fears of the government attempting to control a civilian’s life, Hitchcock was drawing in the audience by exploiting a fear that was very close to their own. The men who are chasing Cary Grant in the movie are foreign spies increasing the fear of outsiders that Americans already had (Derry, 1988).
At the end of the movie, the main characters are fighting on Mount Rushmore. With the anti-communist view, this struggle for power on a statue dedicated to American heroes shows the power struggle present at the time. Along with anti-communism, a common fear of the time was the fear of atomic bombs (Merritt, 2011). It is said that the famous crop scene represents a fear of planes dropping bombs and the beginning of another world war.
Many of Hitchcock’s movies emphasize trains, and North by Northwest is no exception. This is the only film, however, where a plane plays a role. In this exception from the norm, we can again see the emphasis on outside fear, as the planes are strangers in Hitchcock’s films, an outside unfamiliar source, just like the government and communism (Merritt, 2011).
This film begins to show a shift away from Hitchcocks’ earlier films about inner struggle and fear and begins to shift it towards an outward killer. It is less about the killer within and more about proving a man’s innocence and fighting for your rights.