Posted on HE-Plus on 7.1.19 / money exchange rate updated: In North by Northwest Cary Grant‘s Roger Thornhill drops a lot of cash on a lot of random expenses — cabs, beverages, tips, bus tickets, dry cleaning. I’ve calculated that he spends a minimum of $275 in 1958 dollars, which comes to roughly $2522 in the 2021 economy. That’s a lot to be carrying around.
The film was shot in the summer of ’58, when the only credit card was Diner’s Club and no one had ever heard of debit cards. Thornhill, on the run from the law and unable to just stroll into a local bank for a withdrawal, had to pay for everything with pocket cash.
Roger Thornhill’s NXNW expenses / final accounting:
(1) Pays for cab from Madison Avenue to the Plaza hotel — call it $10 with tip as he’s also paying the driver to take his secretary to another destination; (2) Tips Plaza Hotel/Oak Room bellboy — another $5; (3) After the DUI adventure in Glen Cove and the visit to the Townsend estate, he and Jesse Royce Landis (his “mother”) somehow get back to Manhattan, presumably by cab — probably $25 or $30. ($45 so far)
(4) Back at the Plaza, he gives his mother $50 as payment for persuading the concierge to slip her a key to George Kaplan‘s room in the Plaza ($95); (5) Tips Plaza Hotel valet, looking for information — $5; (6) Takes cab from Plaza to U.N. building — call it $10 to be safe; (7) Presumably takes another cab to Grand Central following the U.N. knifing — $5 to $7. ($117.) (8) Doesn’t buy coach seat on 20th Century Limited, but once in Chicago Thornhill takes a bus to somewhere in southern Indiana farm country. Probably $12 or $15. ($132.)
After surviving the cropduster attack, Thornhill returns to Chicago with a free “ride” (i.e., stolen pick-up truck). Visits Eve at the Ambassador East. Pays AE cleaning service to have his dusty suit “sponged and pressed” — probably $10 or $12. ($144) Probably buys fresh dress shirt, underwear and socks — figure another $20. ($164)
Flies from Chicago to Rapid City with Leo G. Carroll‘s CIA “professor” — air fare covered by government.
Pays for coffee in Mount Rushmore cafeteria — a dime. Escapes from Rapid City hospital, takes longish cab ride up to Van Damm’s Mount Rushmore rental (a Frank Lloyd Wright original) — probably at least $20 or $25. And then pays for his and Eve Kendall‘s train fare back to NYC (call it $60 for two, maybe more).
Wait…I forgot about the Gibson and the brook trout Thornhill ordered in the dining car while chatting with Eve.
That’s a grand total of $250 minimum. Add $25 in random incidentals (penny-ante stuff) and you’re talking $275. In 2021 the value of a single 1958 dollar is $9.17, which translates into $2522 but let’s call it $2600….hell, make it $3K.
Who walks around with the equivalent of $3K in their wallet or money clip?