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The 39 Steps

39 steps

This week’s old movie was Hitchcock’s 39 Steps (1935), which reminded me a lot of Ministry of Fear and North by Northwest, another Hitchcock film. Still 39 Steps is compelling and moves quickly as it shows a man who mistakenly gets caught up in spy intrigue and is innocent of a murder for which the police suspect him. I’d never seen the leading man, Robert Donat, but liked him in the role of Mr. Hanney. Dona’s charming and attractive, but not an Adonis so he can come off as an everyman.

After a strange, beautiful woman asks to go back with him to his apartment. Once inside she hides in the shadows, fearful of being seen. Men are following her. She claims to be a spy who must protect military secrets. She’s a mercenary and her tale is hard to believe. Hanney really doesn’t put much faith into her story, but he doesn’t kick her out either. When she comes to him in the middle of the night with a map and a knife stuck in her back, Hanney’s convinced. Knowing he’ll be suspected of murder he flees all the while having to elude the men who killed the beautiful spy.

Like many Hitchcock films it’s the tale of an innocent man, wrongly accused. Roger Ebert told a film class I took with him that as a boy, Hitchcock’s father wrongly suspected the young genius of some childish misdemeanor and punished him by sending him to the local police where an officer locked him up saying, “This is what we do with naughty boys.” Hitchcock believed he was 4 or 5 at the time.

The 39 Steps moves briskly in part to keep the audience from pondering unexplained questions like how did the killers get into Hanney’s apartment so quietly and why didn’t they do something to Hanney since they saw the pair enter the building.  The film delights with wit and light comedy sprinkled in with the suspense and danger.

As usual, the Criterion Collection offers a trenchant essay on the film. Well worth reading.

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. chava61
    Dec 02, 2014 @ 07:08:13

    “The 39 Steps” was an easy reader book for ESL students that my friends all read in Israel for their book report assignments.

    Like

    Reply

    • smkelly8
      Dec 03, 2014 @ 08:59:20

      My student Janet just finished the “easy reader” of it and lent it to me. It’s an exciting read. I see that Kindle has the original novel online for free.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

      • chava61
        Dec 03, 2014 @ 10:39:03

        One of my friends had me write as many questions as I could for her about the story. After she wrote her replies I checked them and this was a good way for her to practice and improve her English.

        I am glad that there is now a digital option for free online!

        Like

  2. coastalcrone
    Dec 02, 2014 @ 19:20:14

    I haven’t seen this one in years but it was good. I like your snowflakes.

    Like

    Reply

  3. smkelly8
    Dec 03, 2014 @ 09:00:07

    It still holds up. WordPress surprised me with the snowflakes. It’s a fun addition.

    Like

    Reply

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