North by Northwest & Mercedes-Benz

northbynorthwest mercedesby Gunnar Heinrich ::: img MGM/Turner via IMCDB ::: North by Northwest Mercedes-Benz 220SE carbiolet

HITCHCOCK’S North by Northwest (1958) is another one of the master’s suspenseful classics that makes superb use of period automobiles as the “vehicles” of plot driven suspense.

The film’s dialogue between Cary Grant’s character (Roger Thornhill) and a slyly evil North Shore hostess also serves as a kind of linguistics key of the day: the characters pronouncing “Mercedes” as MEHR-SE-DES instead of today’s more commonplace, MUR-SAY-DEEZ.

Commercially, Hitchcock’s use of cars must’ve gone over well with MGM execs.

The Mercedes-Benz 220SE carbio was featured in the now-iconic drunk driving chase sequence along the Long Island coast and Benz found double mention in dialogue in a subsequent scene.

Roger Thornhill vainly attempts to confront the evil hostess (“Woman” per script) in her home before incredulous detectives and Thornhill’s own unmoved mother, Mrs. Thornhill.

Hitchcock and writer Ernest Lehman waste no time in developing the plot while weaving Mercedes into the story with expertise.

northbynorthwest sceneMercedes mentioned twice too much? Nah. In the context of heated conversation, the double play works beautifully.

Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac, Edsel, Chevrolet, Pontiac, Lincoln, Jaguar, and even a Freightliner truck all find screentime and purpose in the film; though Cadillac and Mercedes feature most prominently in action scenes.

That said, the Daimler-Benz co. did enjoy a slick sleight of hand when during the finale of Thornhill’s drunken escape by Benz, a three car pileup ensues leaving the 220SE miraculously unscathed.

mercedes northbynorthwest scene

German solidity v. American tin? Nein. Bumper extension.

mercedes bumper

March 09, 2010

About the Author: Gunnar Heinrich is publisher of Automobiles De Luxe online and is executive producer of the Automobiles De Luxe Television series on PBS member station CPTV.

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