The 39 Steps, 1935 – ★★★★½

#38 in the Reverse Hitchcock project.

John Buchan’s novel puts our hero Richard Hannay (Robert Donat) in mortal danger when a mysterious female spy in black finds herself with a dagger in her back, in his flat, shortly after he has met her at the music hall.

On the run, he meets sulky blonde Madeleine Carroll on a train, but has to break and escape when she threatens to give him away. Events across the country conspire to reunite them, though, where they eventually become handcuffed together to their mutual discomfort – and the audience’s amusement at that scene with the stocking.

This is such a rich film, with a wide array of characters populating the fringes (notably Peggy Ashcroft as the unhappy crofter’s wife, dreaming of the well-dressed ladies in town, but cowed by her Bible-bashing and domestically violent husband – played well by John Laurie).

It’s a wrong man theme, and one which Hitchcock referred to again and again over the years. Donat gives Hannay an air of strictly English bewilderment at his predicament while keeping a sense of amusement.

The scene where Hannay addresses a political rally due to a mistake of identity prefigures Holly’s book club appearance in Reed’s ‘The Third Man’.

Incidentally the bad guy’s distinguishing feature has been used several times in lesser films which followed this, while the Mr Memory close (not in the novel) is a clever twist, and the spy theme cropped up in comic fare such as ‘Let George Do It’ (1940) and ‘The Goose Steps Out’ (1942).

Vía Letterboxd – loureviews

Advertisements

About Louise Penn

Writer, reviewer, editor, creative. Blogger since 2011. View all posts by Louise Penn

Comments are disabled.

Comet Over Hollywood

Home for classic movie lovers

The Wee Writing Lassie

The Musings of a Writer / Freelance Editor in Training

Ailish Sinclair

Stories and photos from Scotland

The Book Dragon

Bargain Fantasy Book Reviews and Recommendations

KatieGloria

Bailey and Me 💙

Lady Don't Fall Backwards

Orders must be obeyed without question at all times.

monstagigz

Get the most in-demand tickets cheapest

Bipolar-Ilari

bipolar mixed type, ocd, social phobia

%d bloggers like this: