If you’ve come this far and are reading this post, then you possibly believe that William J. Smith could be D.B. Cooper. Furthermore, you might believe, like I do, that he could have been the man who called Max Gunther in 1972. If this is the case, then the following blog entry may not sound as crazy as it does at first glance. If you’re a fan of Cary Grant, or the 1959 movie North by Northwest, then this post may actually be of interest in a humorous or possibly serious way. North by Northwest is considered one of the greatest movies ever made, as well as one of the greatest train & railroad related films of all time. The name of the film has even been said to be a reference to Northwest Airlines. The main character even looks like D.B. Cooper with his sunglasses, olive skin, and dark suit & tie. Whoever wrote the letters to Max Gunther had a flair for dramatics. So, using this famous film as a part of the hijacking might not be so hard to believe.
North by Northwest is a 1959 American thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, and James Mason. The screenplay was by Ernest Lehman, who wanted to write “the Hitchcock picture to end all Hitchcock pictures”.
North by Northwest is a tale of mistaken identity, with an innocent man pursued across the United States by agents of a mysterious organization trying to prevent him from blocking their plan to smuggle out microfilm which contains government secrets.
North by Northwest is listed among the canonical Hitchcock films of the 1950s and is often listed among the greatest films of all time. It was selected in 1995 for preservation in the National Film Registry by the United States Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
There are a number of parts about the D.B. Cooper hijacking that seem out of place, and even almost staged (the sunglasses, the dyed black hair, hiding in the lavatory, the flight attendant lighting his cigarettes). In the movie North by Northwest there are a series of scenes and quotes that make me think William J. Smith and D.B. Cooper were fans of the film. North by Northwest begins in New York City, and is even filmed at Grand Central, just a few miles from where William J. Smith worked. The main character is a dapper middle aged man with olive skin, slicked black hair, a dark suit, black tie, and dark sunglasses. He is running from the FBI, yet ends up helping the government in the end.
Pictures are more telling here than words, so most of this post will be photos.
Roger Thornhill is falsely accused of murdering a diplomat. The newspaper headline from November 25, 1958 describes the crime and the manhunt. Exactly 13 years later, in 1971 on the same day, the headlines will tell of the hijacker D.B. Cooper. Could D.B. Cooper have chosen the night of November 24th for a reason? One of the busiest travel days of the year (with an almost half moon) is an odd choice to hijack a plane.
Here Roger Thornhill is talking to his mother Clara from Grand Central. The dialogue goes like this:
“I’ll take the train, it’s safer”…“Because there is no place to hide on a plane if anyone should recognize me”…“You want me to jump off a moving plane?”
Here is another coincidence from the movie and the hijacking. Roger Thornhill is seen here walking through the ticket area for Northwest Orient Airlines, the same airline that D.B. Cooper would hijack in 1971. D. B. Cooper had a choice of a number of airlines he could have hijacked, yet he chose Northwest Orient.
Roger Thornhill: “If we ever get out this alive, let’s go back to New York on a train”
Eve Kendall: “Is that a proposition?”
Roger Thornhill: “It’s a proposal sweetie”
They end up surviving and the movie ends on a Southern Pacific Railroad train heading south.
Did North by Northwest in some way play a role in the D.B. Cooper hijacking? Maybe, maybe not. It would be an interesting twist if so. Another coincidence related to Cary Grant is from the 1955 Alfred Hitchcock movie To Catch a Thief starring Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, and Jessie Royce Landis (again). Bourbon plays a role in this film as well. Also, Cary Grant’s character uses an alias Mr. Smith, who happens to be from Portland, Oregon. Coincidently, actress Jessie Royce Landis appears in both films, as well as the 1970 film Airport about a man who hijacks an airplane using a briefcase bomb. Jessie Royce Landis lived in Ridgefield, CT, down the street from Max Gunther who wrote “DB Cooper: What Really Happened”. Ridgefield was also the setting for the fictitious town named Bridgefield in Cary Grant’s film “In Name Only”.
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