North by Northwest" up on the big screen in none other than Grauman's Chinese Theater. And not only was that great - thinking of all those other films that have appeared there in the past and the stars who might have sat in the very seat I was sitting in before me - the screening was hosted by Mr. TCM himself, Robert Osborne, with special guests Eva Marie Saint and Martin Landau. As they came out to talk before the film, all three were cheered like rock stars by the hundreds of loving movie fanatics in the audience, me included.
"North by Northwest" (1959) is considered by many to be one of Hitchcock's finest. The ever-brilliant and charming Cary Grant stars as Roger O. Thornhill, a New York advertising man who is accidently mistaken for a non-existent government spy by bad guy James Mason, sidekick Landau, and the rest of his crew. Kidnapped, almost killed, and then chased over the US from New York to South Dakota, Grant tries to find out the truth while falling in love with the girl caught in the middle of it all (Saint). It's a chase filled with some of the most iconic, suspenseful images in movie history, including the crop-duster scene in the middle of nowhere and the climatic perilous chase across the faces of Mt. Rushmore.
Cary Grant was always Hitchcock's first choice to play the lead role. However, some have said Jimmy Stewart was his first pick. That story's actually false. After working with Stewart in "Vertigo," Hitchcock felt Stewart just looked too old on screen, unlike Grant. So, his first choice and favorite leading actor got the role. (By the way, Grant was four years older than Stewart.)
On the Waterfront." Landau on the other hand was still trying to make a name for himself at the time. He was performing in a stage production of Paddy Chayefsky's "Middle of the Night" with Edward G. Robinson, when one night, Hitchcock came to see the show. (In a funny coincidence, Saint pointed out that she did a production of "Middle of the Night" with Robinson as well, for "The Philco Television Playhouse" in 1954.) After seeing his performance, Hitchcock invited Landau to the studio for a meeting. He walked Landau around all the production offices, showing him the entire storyboard, and then finally turned to him and said "You're playing Leonard." And thanks to the freedom Hitchcock gave his actors, Landau made a bold choice about his character that made his performance simply classic. Because of the way he interpreted one of his lines, "call it my woman's intuition," Landau decided to play his character as gay. It's a subtle performance that was the start of a great career.
(Post-tidbit: Hitchcock wasn't able to get permission from the UN to shoot at their buildings in New York City, so in one of the first versions of guerrilla film-making, Hitchcock hid a camera in a van across the street so he could shoot Grant and his pursuer getting out of their respective taxis to enter the UN.)