the suit


North by Northwest isn’t a film about what happens to Cary Grant, it’s about what happens to his suit. The suit has the adventures, a gorgeous New York suit threading its way through America. The title sequence in which the stark lines of a Madison Avenue office building are ‘woven’ together could be the construction of Cary in his suit right there — he gets knitted into his suit, into his job, before our very eyes. Indeed some of the popular ‘suitings’ of that time (‘windowpane’ or ‘glen plaid’) perfectly complemented office buildings. Cary’s suit reflects New York, identifies him as a thrusting exec, but also arms him, protects him: what else is a suit for? Reflects and Protects: a slogan Cary’s character, Roger Thornhill, might have come up with himself.

But, as Thoreau wrote, ‘A man who has at length found something to do will not need to get a new suit to do it in.’ Cary may cut quite a figure but as a person he is meaningless, so far. We find him in the Suit, but certainly he has not found himself, or ‘what to do’.

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