Alfred Hitchcock was fond of telling journalists of his long-standing plan to make a movie in which Cary Grant was on the run from the bad guys and had to hide in Abraham Lincoln’s nose (the one at Mount Rushmore, of course). He would give himself away by sneezing. The film could be entitled The Man in Lincoln’s Nose.
When Hitch finally got a chance to make the film, he had to change some of the details. The eventual title, North by Northwest, was considerably classier than Hitch’s working title. But no one is quite sure where the final title came from. Cary Grant’s travels take him almost directly west. He does go to the Northwest Airlines counter once in the film, but he doesn’t get on a plane there, let alone one that would take him north.
It took me 20 years to even wonder about the title of perhaps my favorite Hitchcock film of all — longer still to do a basic online search for answers. In the end, I suppose, the title doesn’t matter much. And judging from the acclaim that is piled on the film more than a half-century after its release, I suppose I speak for plenty of others. It’s a great film. A nonsensical title can’t change that.
You can flip that, though. You can have a vile, wretched person, lacking grace, kindness and humility, blissfully ignorant of anyone else’s needs or wishes. He looks at admonitions such as those found in Colossians 4:6, Ephesians 5:7 and Matthew 5:39 and openly scoffs. And he calls himself a Christian.
Nice title. Tragically, though, it lacks magical properties.