Daryl H. Thornhill, grandson of Roger Thornhill, has paid a visit to a hallowed place — a place where his ancestor was nearly murdered by machine-gun fire from a cropdusting biplane. Daryl is standing at “Prairie Stop, Highway 41” — actually an area near the intersection of Garces Highway and Corcoran Road near Wasco, a suburb of Bakersfield. Daryl is standing by the side of the road, taking shots with his iPhone 6 Plus. A SUV appears from nowhere, stops and a rural-type fellow in a brown suit gets out. Thornhill and Brownsuit regard each other from a distance of 60 feet or so. Thornhill decides to walk over and break the ice.
The only area that even remotely resembles the North by Northwest location, and it’s located about a mile south of the alleged shooting spot.
Thornhill: Hi. (pause) Hot day.
Brownsuit: Seen worse.
Thornhill: (Beat) Have you ever seen a film called North by Northwest?
Brownsuit: Can’t say I have ’cause I haven’t.
Thornhill: Well, a couple of websites say they shot a famous scene from that film right here, right on this spot. 12168 Corcoran Road.
Brownsuit: Can’t trust what you read on the web.
Thornhill: My thought exactly. It’s flat out here, but otherwise the area bears almost no resemblance to the area in the film. No corn crops, no tilled soil, no telephone poles. The area in the film looked like rural Illinois or Indiana. This looks like….well, not classic farmland at all. Desert scrub, fruit trees. It looks more like the area outside Ravenna in Antonioni’s Red Desert.
Brownsuit: Red Desert?
Thornhill: Another movie.
Brownsuit: (Pause) Where ya from?
Thornhill: Los Angeles. Drove up last night.
Brownsuit: You came all that way just to come here?
Thornhill: Afraid so.
Brownsuit: (looking at something) That’s funny.
Brownsuit: That guy’s watering fruit trees where there ain’t no fruit trees.
Thornhill: (Half-talking more to himself) I don’t know why local farmers and landowners can’t respect the fact that this area is a very special place for film buffs. And for me personally. My grandfather told me stories when I was a kid. But here I am and they’ve made almost no attempt to preserve the way everything looked in 1958.
Brownsuit: The nerve.
Ratty desert scrub bush growing near “Prairie Stop, Highway 41”? I don’t think so.