Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Election Day 2009: Mount Rushmore + North By Northwest = Kids Off The Couch

Election Day 2009: Mount Rushmore + North by Northwest = Kids Off The Couch
50th Anniversary of Alfred Hitchcock's Classic Thriller

Without any pressing issues on the ballot today, our thoughts drift to Presidents who were elected on previous Election Days. Four presidential greats are memorialized on Mount Rushmore, so why not take this chance to quiz your kids on this unique American tourist site? Then, treat them to one of Hitchcock's masterpieces, the climax of which features Eva Marie Saint and Cary Grant scrambling around the faces of the four presidents. The film, celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this week, ranks 55th on the AFI's list of the 100 Greatest American Movies.

Quick quiz:
Whose faces are etched in stone? (Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln).
Under what President was the monument commissioned, and under which recent president was the park declared a National Historic Park? (Calvin Coolidge in 1925 and George H.W. Bush in 1991).
Why was the monument erected? (To promote tourism in the Black Hills of South Dakota).
What is the controversy surrounding the monument? (The Lakota Indians believe the Black Hills land belongs to them and have responded with plans to erect a monument to Crazy Horse, nearby).

North By Northwest
The 1959 thriller stars Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, Martin Landau and James Mason in one of Alfred Hitchcock's most elegant and memorable thrillers about a NY ad exec (Grant) who is mistaken for a government agent and chased by foreign spies. On the run, he teams with one of the better looking spies (Saint, fresh from her Oscar win for On the Waterfront) to double-cross the crooks. Who can forget the sight of Grant being chased by a crop duster, or Eva Marie dangling precariously in her skirt and heels from Rushmore? The famous scene of the train going into the tunnel once the lovers are reunited is classic (and hopefully over your tween's heads), Bernard Herrmann's score is terrific, and we particularly love the cat-and-mouse cleverness in the scene where Grant lets a kidnapped Saint know he's hiding in the house where she is being held. Kids over 10 are ready to handle the suspense of this excellent film although parents will need to do a bit of dancing around the issue of Saint using her female wiles to do her job.

Want more?
A newly remastered DVD of North By Northwest is a great holiday gift, and worth stocking in your home library. Click here to purchase the new 50th Anniversary edition from Warner Home Library. DVD extras include documentaries about Hitchcock, Grant and a commentary by late screenwriter Earnest Lehman. Mount Rushmore is also featured in National Treasure: Book of Secrets.

Click here to learn more about the making of Mt. Rushmore, which was completed on October 31, 1941. Click here to read a Wall Street Journal article about the complexity of issues behind the monument.

Don't forget to vote!

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