Part Two of my ongoing series, "Sam Adams Talks With Actresses of a Certain Age About Working With Alfred Hitchcock and Vincente Minnelli" is my highly enjoyable-in-retrospect, slightly terrifying-at-the-time, interview with the great Eva Marie Saint, who remains as spirited and sharp-witted as ever. The ostensible occasion for our talk was her visit to Philadelphia, where she was to be interviewed on stage by the doubtable Ben Mankiewicz before a screening of North by Northwest. As her time in town was short, I was advised to speak with her beforehand by phone, and told I'd have 15 minutes. That's less time than I'd normally accept, but given that she's Eva Marie effing Saint — of NXNW, On the Waterfront, and many more indelible performances — I could hardly say no.
As it turns out, our time wasn't limited, although I wasn't aware of the fact until I'd rushed headlong through a series of her greatest hits and realized that no one was going to cut us off. So I started our conversation in a slightly agitated state, amplified by the fact that, as noted above, she is Eva Marie effing Saint. And boy, did she pick up on it. This is, after all, a woman who matched wits, and charm, with Cary Grant on screen and at the very least held her own, and no way was she going to let a loosely phrased question or the slightest hint of disingenousness get by her. So when, rather than saying, "Remember that overblown piece of junk The Sandpipers?" I told her I had a soft spot for the film, her response was, "You have a soft spot for that? Have you seen it lately?" If, in reading our "Random Roles" for the A.V. Club, you get a mental picture of her as a tennis racket and me as a somewhat dingy ball, you're on the right track.
Of course, an interviewer would rather have an engaged subject than a polite one, and that she was — delightfully, and, to use her word, "naughtily," so. She didn't let Cary Grant get away with anything either. When I dropped by the hotel where she was doing brief roundtable interviews during her Philadelphia visit, she asked me for my business card, which, living as I do in the post-print era, I don't carry. So, when I broke a rule and asked her to autograph my Blu-ray of North by Northwest, she naturally signed it, "To Sam — ALWAYS bring your card!!"