Hitchcock includes a subtle shout-out to Ypsilanti in North By Northwest

It’s rare that Ypsilanti shows up in popular culture. For a while, we were seeing images of Ypsi pop up in films, like Drew Barrymore’s Whip It, and Robert DeNiro’s Stone, but it’s not too often that you buy a record, or see a movie, and actually hear the word “Ypsilanti” being spoken. So, I was incredibly happy last night to hear the name of our hometown mentioned in the background while watching Alfred Hitchcock’s North By Northwest with my six year old son. It happens toward the middle of the film, at the one-hour-and-four-minute mark, just as Eva Marie Saint exits the phone booth in Chicago’s LaSalle Station, where she and Cary Grant had just arrived on the 20th Century Limited.

If you’re interested in hearing how other people in American popular culture have pronounced “Ypsilanti” over the years, be sure to check out Elvis Costello’s song Sugarcane, which contains the line, “Here in Ypsilanti, they don’t wear any panties.”

And, yes, I know that Hitchcock likely didn’t go out of his way to include the shout-out to Ypsilanti. I do like the idea, however, that he might have included it purposefully… I mean, what if Ypisilanti shows up in every one of his films, and we just haven’t noticed it? What if it was a thing for him, like his famous cameos?

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  1. Danarchy 3000 by proxy
    Posted September 9, 2018 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Most viewers probably thought they were made up names- Kalamazoo, Ypsilanti, Narnia

  2. a little known fact
    Posted September 9, 2018 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    “During Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint’s first meeting on the train, she says, “I never discuss love on an empty stomach.” But as you can see pretty easily if you watch her mouth, what she actually said was, “I never make love on an empty stomach.” This was considered too saucy for a respectable movie, and Saint re-dubbed the line.”

  3. M. Track
    Posted September 9, 2018 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    Chicago-to-Detroit stops in Michigan, film clip vs Amtrak’s current “Wolverine” service:

    New Buffalo (current only)
    Lawton (clip only)
    Battle Creek
    Marshall (clip only)
    Ann Arbor
    Ypsilanti (clip only)
    Dearborn (current only)

    The film was from the 50’s; Amtrak stopped serving Ypsilanti in the 80’s.

  4. iRobert
    Posted September 15, 2018 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t know (until just now) that Nickolas Ashford lived in Ypsilanti and went to Willow Run High. He sang with a group there called The Hammond Singers. I wonder if any of the members are still living in Ypsilanti.

    From wikipedia:

    “Ashford & Simpson were a husband-and-wife songwriting-production team and recording duo of Nickolas Ashford (May 4, 1941 – August 22, 2011[1][2]) and Valerie Simpson (born August 26, 1946).[3]

    Ashford was born in Fairfield, South Carolina, and Simpson in the Bronx, New York. Afterwards, his family relocated to Ypsilanti, Michigan, where he became a member of Christ Temple Baptist Church. While there, he sang with a group called The Hammond Singers (named after the founding minister, James Hammond). Later, Nickolas attended and graduated from Willow Run High School in Ypsilanti, Michigan, before pursuing his professional career, where he would ultimately meet his wife, Valerie. They met at Harlem’s White Rock Baptist Church in 1964.”

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