It’s not so much Cary Grant’s gradually-alarmed suaveness. Or Eva Marie Saint’s vulnerable sultriness. Or James Mason’s muted villainy. Or the thumping crop-dusting scene. Or even Hitchcock’s consummate organizational skills and punctuating sense of comic timing.
No, it’s how all these pieces are made to lock step in a representation of a long-gone classiness, the rule of politeness in an otherwise coarse storm. Good is sometimes bad; bad has its good side; the middle — in which where misunderstanding lives — is infinite.
Plot: unremarkable Manhattan ad man Roger O. Thornhill is mistaken for a spy named George Kaplan and his life is made to veer out of control by Mason-led forces of darkness. Generous and fine, Hitch sets up a mistaken-identity premise and delivers an exceptionally fine ride, menacing and fun.