Ostensibly built into the side of Mount Rushmore, it’s hard to imagine a cooler, more creative villain’s lair than the jewel-box modernist home in which Phillip Vandamm plots and schemes in North by Northwest. Why there? One reason may be that Hitchcock and screenwriter Ernest Lehman had already settled on using the presidential peak as a location for the movie’s climax (one of the original titles for the script was said to be The Man in Lincoln’s Nose) before figuring out quite why the characters would assemble there. So that’s where Vandamm’s hideout was established.
In reality, though, this jaw-dropping home is simply an example of old-fashioned Hollywood movie magic. For obvious reasons, there is no such house on Mount Rushmore. In fact, there is no such house, period. The stunning, sleek horizontal lines of Vandamm’s getaway were inspired by and modeled after Frank Lloyd Wright’s work, and Fallingwater in Pennsylvania was particularly influential. This impossibly sophisticated lair seems hewn right out of the face of the mountain—a seamless extension of its natural surroundings. With its limestone exterior and timber accents, not to mention its expansive glass windows, the swank structure is supported by a concrete cantilever and steel beams. It looks like the high-altitude nest of a very wealthy bird of prey.