The iconic scene from Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest
, which supposedly takes place at "Prarie Stop, Highway 41... about an hour and a half's drive from Chicago" actually was filmed near Bakersfield, CA.
In the film's most-renowned and brilliant sequence, the crop-dusting sequence, Roger is lured into the flat countryside (of Illinois or neighboring Indiana) by enemy spies on the pretext of meeting and connecting with the fabled Kaplan - his non-existent double. The dapper businessman arrives by bus at a barren road-crossing out in wide-open farm country surrounded by plowed-up dirt and cornfields, incongruously dressed in a neat suit in bright sunlight. [The actual filming site was located north of Bakersfield, CA, outside the towns of Wasco and Delano, just east of the intersection of Corcoran Road and Garces Highway (155).] He is entirely exposed and vulnerable - a modern, urban individual without any amenities or artificial resources - there isn't even background music on the soundtrack until the climax of the set-piece. Surrealistically, suspense slowly builds as cars pass through the desolate area. A truck sprays him with road dust. A car drops a man on the other side of the road from him to wait for a bus - is this man Kaplan? A buzzing crop-dusting plane is engaged in dusting a nearby field. The man remarks that it is odd to have a small plane crop-dusting a crop on a field devoid of crops:
That's funny...That plane's dustin' crops where there ain't no crops.
After the man boards a bus (a symbol of civilization) and it drives away (leaving Thornhill defenseless), the distant, innocent and harmless crop-spraying plane immediately and without warning terrorizes him, swooping down like a bird of prey out of a clear blue sky. It flies almost at ground level as it sprays machine-gun fire. Thornhill ducks for cover from the strafing attack, but there is nowhere to hide and no way to defend himself in the vast expanse of the setting - it is the third vicious attack on his life. The plane circles and returns a few times as he fails to flag down and stop a car.
Thornhill runs for cover in an open cornfield, but the bi-plane showers him with a load of poisonous, white powdery pesticide to flush him out. He returns to the road and runs in front of an approaching semi-trailer Magnum Oil truck - flagging it down and forcing it to stop. He falls under the gasoline truck's front bumper as the plane uncontrollably crashes into the truck's gas tank. After a terrific explosion, the two truck drivers shout that they should run away to avoid harm from more explosions. Other drivers in pickup trucks stop to watch the fireball, giving Roger an opportunity to jump into one of the onlookers' vacated trucks and head back to Chicago.
Category: Movie Locations