A man in London tries to help a counterespionage agent. But when the agent is killed and the man stands accused, he must go on the run to both save himself and also stop a spy ring which is trying to steal top secret information.
Richard Hannay is a Canadian visitor to London. At the end of "Mr Memory"'s show in a music hall, he meets Annabella Smith who is running away from secret agents. He accepts to hide her in his flat, but in the night she is murdered. Fearing he could be accused on the girl's murder, Hannay goes on the run to break the spy ring. Written by
Claudio Sandrini <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Though it follows the general outline of John Buchan's book and captures much of its spirit, this movie version often diverges from the printed one. In the book, the Robert Donat character has a South African background. Here, he's Canadian. The book has no female heroine. The Madeleine Carroll character was added to the movie to provide a romantic interest, apparently in hopes of making the story more appealing to female patrons. There are no scenes in a music hall in the book and thus no "Mr. Memory" character. The explanation this character gives for the term "39 Steps" is different from that provided in the book. See more »
During the scenes where Hannay and Pamela are hiding under the waterfall to escape the police, Hannay's free hand is in his pocket on the close ups, but against the rock behind him in the long shots. See more »
Music hall announcer:
Ladies and Gentleman, with your kind attention, and permission, I have the honor of presenting to you one of the most remarkable men in the world.
Heckler in Audience:
How remarkable? He's sweating!
See more »
Nearly every era in Hitchcock's directing career has incredible strengths. When we view a later film like "North by Northwest" we are tempted to say that "The 39 Steps" is simply a training film for the bigger budget, star studded film that came later. This is not true. This movie stands on its own. With wonderful actors like Robert Donat and Madeline Carrol, we are led on an intense ride, culminating in a crowded theater. There are amazing shots of the characters weaving their way through crowds, close ups used strictly for the purpose of moving the plot. With Hitchcock there is no excess. He is a poet with a camera. As the tension mounts and Donat's character becomes swept away in its arms, we are taken with it. His wisecracking character is out of words and must act, just as Cary Grant did in the aforementioned film. There is something lurking and we have to find out who it is and why does he need to know what he knows? I've seen this many times and will see it again.
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