The title North by Northwest is often seen as having been taken from a line in Hamlet, a work also concerned with the shifty nature of reality. Hitchcock noted this in an interview with Peter Bogdanovich in 1963. Lehman however, states that he used a working title for the film of "In a Northwesterly Direction," because the film's action was to begin in New York and climax in Alaska. Then the head of the story department at MGM suggested "North by Northwest," but this was still to be a working title. Other titles were considered, including "The Man on Lincoln's Nose," but "North by Northwest" was kept because, according to Lehman, "We never did find a [better] title." The Northwest Airlines reference in the film plays on the title. The title is not an actual compass direction, the two closest directions being northwest by north (NWbN) and north-northwest (NNW), with the latter traditionally taken as the title's intended meaning.
The title for the film came to Quentin Tarantino via a patron at the now-famous Video Archives. While working there, Tarantino would often recommend little-known titles to customers, and when he suggested _Au revoir, les enfants (1987)_, the patron mockingly replied, "I don't want to see no reservoir dogs!"
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