Each of Alfred Hitchcock's leading ladies, or his "icy blondes" as they are called, are timeless portrayals of women in suspense films who do not fall into the "victim" stereotype. The character of Eve Kendall is no victim. She's introduced as a cunning double spy but when her feelings for Roger get in the way, her job becomes much more dangerous.
In the beginning, however, the candidates for the role were stacked high. MGM Studios wanted Hitchcock to cast Cyd Charisse while Cary Grant lobbied for Sophia Loren to portray "Eve." Hitchcock already had his own ideas on who should be cast.
In the tradition of his icy blondes, Hitchcock tried to cast Grace Kelly once again, but the Princess of Monaco had to decline because the country did not want their Princess to be a movie star. Actresses Virginia Mckenna as well as Vera Miles were asked, but they obviously did not make the cut. Hitchcock seriously considered Elizabeth Taylor for a short time until he came across Eva Mary Saint. It is unknown exactly why or how Hitchcock found Saint perfect for the role, but at the time, it was no secret that Eva Marie Saint had made an impression on Hollywood. In her break-out role, Saint won the "Best Supporting Actress" Oscar for her portrayal as "Edie Doyle" for "On The Waterfront" (1954) only five years prior.
Once she was chosen, Saint wanted to make sure she made the right impression. Her mother had read somewhere that the director's favorite color was beige and he liked to see women wearing gloves. Saint did just that. She wore a beige-colored dress with white gloves to the luncheon where she met both the director and his wife. No doubt, the impression gave Hitchcock validity in his choice.
In pre production, Hitchcock paid close attention building the character with Saint. Mostly it was because of the wardrobe that MGM Studios had made for the film. The director was notorious for being a perfectionist did not like any of the clothes. He took it upon himself to escort Saint to Bergdorf Goodman in New York for her to personally select her character's clothing. One of the first dresses that caught her eye was the black dress embellished with red roses, which Saint wears in the auction scene. In various interviews Saint often jokingly refers to Hitchcock as her "sugar daddy." He personally coached the actress into making her voice sound lower and huskier. He also made the decision that her shoulder-length hair should be cut much shorter because it gave her an exotic look. In recent interviews, Saint lovingly refers to the role as the "sexy spy lady."
Although Hitchcock has a reputation for having a certain obsession with his leading ladies, most famously with Tippi Hedren, Saint has no such stories. Instead, the enthusiastic actress has nothing but good things to say about working with him when she attends screenings of "North By Northwest" (1959).