Crop duster question
I've always wondered: what causes the crop duster to crash into the bus?
Just flies too low, doesn't it? Carey Grant is under the truck, the pilot gets a bit desperate, makes a mistake, and boom!
That's how I always read it, in any case.
The alternative answer is: because the scene needs an ending.
Because the writer wrote the pilot to be a complete and utter moron.
They'd have been better just landing the plane, getting out and shooting him. Instead the pilot flies the plane ridiculously low towards a truck, to the point that I almost feel they're trying to commit suicide.
The pilot was probably so preoccupied with chasing Grant (the script notes that a second man is doing the shooting) that he probably misjudged how close the truck was and -- had Grant NOT stopped the truck, it would have driven on by like the cars Grant couldn't flag down before then. Then the truck wouldn't have been an obstacle. The pilot didn't expect the truck to stop and couldn't pull out in time.
That final crash and explosion was well timed, shot and edited:
"Real on location" A low angle on the plane swerving and wobbling, trying to avoid the truck, with the truck in the foregrond to show us where it is.
"The crash": A model truck, with a Cary Grant doll beneath it, and a model plane crashes into the model truck. No explosion yet.
"The exploson" -- "real on location." A real plane has been place next to a real truck and the explosion is triggered.
I just watched the movie and this scene was pretty impressive. I couldn't tell if it was really Grant ducking under a real plane or not. When he was running from the explosion it looked legit. I can see why that is such a famous part of the Hitchcock lore.share
I just watched the movie and this scene was pretty impressive.
Yes it was. And it remains totally unique. A lot of it is "traditional action" -- Grant running from the plane, the machine-gun fire, the explosive finale -- but a lot of it simply could not be done today: the long, long, LONG wait with Cary Grant by the roadside, "waiting for something to happen," as suspense AND comedy build together in the Hitchocck tradition. The "wide open spaces." The high shot over those spaces as the tiny bus rolls down the highway and drops off a tinier Grant. Grant and the farmer facing each other across the road. The great line: "That crop duster's dustin' crops where there ain't no crops." And then the shots of Grant reacting as the plane gets closer and closer and closer....
I couldn't tell if it was really Grant ducking under a real plane or not.
In the "big shot of the scene," when he is running down the road straight at us with the plane swooping right in behind him...he was REALLY there, the plane was REALLY behind him. A zoom lens made the plane seem closer , but as Grant said "I wasn't worried. If the plane had hit me, it would have gone right through me and crashed into the camera truck with Hitchocck, right in front of me."
When he hit the ground in a ditch in one shot, the plane was process footage behind a ditch built on a studio soundstage.
When he was running from the explosion it looked legit.
Yes. They "parked" a real plane IN a real truck as wreckage and then ignited a real explosion for Grant to run away from.
Note that when "Grant" is crawling out from under the truck and the plane afire, "Grant" is a very big man and you can't see his face. That was Grant's STUNT MAN. Then there is a cut to Grant himself running away from the explosion and wreckage.
I can see why that is such a famous part of the Hitchcock lore.
Oh, yeah. The shower scene in Psycho stands as the most famous set piece in Hitchcock --- and he released Psycho LESS THAN A YEAR after North by Northwest!(what a one-two punch) -- but the crop duster isn't far behind it, and the Mount Rushmore chase in NXNW is right there, too(I prefer it to the crop duster, but both are fine.)
There are many things to "study" in the crop duster scene: the compositions, the camera angles, the TIMING of shots(rather mathematical -- 3 seconds, 6 seconds, 12 seconds) the "flow" of the action. The juxtaposition of suave Cary Grant in a business suit in "the wide open prarie" (Westerner James Stewart wouldn't have been quite so "wrong.")
A couple of things about "the very end" of the crop duster scene:
ONE: There is no music in the entire scene -- nine minutes or so -- UNTIL the plane crashes into the gas tanker and THEN Bernard Herrmann's scores comes exploding onto the soundtrack to match the visual crash. Beauty!
TWO: Grant cleverly makes his escape in a farmer's beat up white pick up truck(with a refrigerator in the back) and drives off as the farmer futilely chases him.
The next shot is of that beat up truck illegally parked at night on the "Chicago Great White Way," as confused cops ticket it. What a perfect "script connector." What a contrast from the open prairie.
In the movie, Grant has driven that truck maybe 50 miles from Indiana to Chicago. In real life, the truck was filmed near Bakersfield, California(for Grant to steal it) and THEN movies 2,000 miles to Chicago. I'll bet two different trucks were used...