Why is the movie called North by Northwest?
BEST EXPLANATION: The title—a nonsensical combination of words—may have come from the vague direction of travel taken by wronged-man-on-the-run Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant), who leaves New York City and ends up in South Dakota (on the face of Mount Rushmore). He’s even shown flying on a plane operated by Northwest Airlines. This explanation makes the most sense, as rejected titles for the movie included In a Northwesterly Direction (as well as clunkers like The Man on Lincoln’s Nose).
Some have suggested that the title may have been inspired by a line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, in which the prince ponders his increasingly troubled emotional state: “I am but mad north-north-west. When the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw.” It’s a perfectly logical conclusion—especially given Thornhill’s growing confusion and paranoia—but one that director Alfred Hitchcock himself refuted.
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