The 39 Steps (1935 film)

The 39 Steps (1935 film)

name = The 39 Steps

caption= original movie poster
amg_id = 1:73696
imdb_id = 0026029
writer = John Buchan (novel)
Charles Bennett (adaptation)
Ian Hay (dialogue)
starring = Robert Donat
Madeleine Carroll
Lucie Mannheim
Godfrey Tearle
director = Alfred Hitchcock
cinematography = Bernard Knowles
producer = Michael Balcon (uncredited)
Ivor Montagu (uncredited)
editing = Derek N. Twist
distributor = Gaumont British
released = June 1935 (UK)
August 1 1935 (US)
music = Charles Williams
country = United Kingdom
runtime = 86 minutes
language = English

"The 39 Steps" is a 1935 film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, based on the adventure novel "The Thirty-nine Steps" by John Buchan. The film stars Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll.

There have been three major film versions of the book. Hitchcock's original has been the most acclaimed, and remains so today: In 1999 it came 4th in a BFI poll of British films, [ [ The BFI 100] ] while in 2004 "Total Film" named it the 21st greatest British movie of all time.


Canadian Richard Hannay (Robert Donat) is at a London music hall theatre, watching a demonstration of the superlative powers of recall of "Mr. Memory" (Wylie Watson) when shots are fired. In the ensuing panic, he finds himself holding a frightened Annabella Smith (Lucie Mannheim), who talks him into taking her back to his flat. There, she tells him that she is a spy, being chased by assassins. She claims to have uncovered a plot to steal vital British military secrets, implemented by a man with the top joint missing from one of his fingers. She mentions the "thirty-nine steps", but does not explain its meaning.

That night, Smith is fatally stabbed with Hannay's bread knife, but manages to warn him to flee. He sneaks out of the watched flat disguised as a milkman and takes a train to Scotland, where she had told him she was going to visit a man. He sees the police searching the train and learns from a newspaper that he is the target of a nationwide manhunt as a murder suspect. In desperation, he enters a compartment and kisses the sole occupant, the attractive Pamela (Carroll), in an attempt to escape detection. She however frees herself from his unwanted embrace and alerts the policemen. Hannay jumps from the train onto the Forth Rail Bridge and escapes.

He stays the night with a poor older "crofter" or farmer (John Laurie) and his young wife (Peggy Ashcroft), who flirts with Hannay. The next morning, he leaves in the farmer's Sunday coat, and calls at the house the woman had told him of. There he tells his story to the seemingly respectable Professor Jordan (Godfrey Tearle), who then reveals that he is missing part of a finger. Jordan shoots Hannay and leaves him for dead, but luckily, the bullet is stopped by the farmer's hymnbook, left in a coat pocket.

Hannay goes to the local police, but they refuse to believe his story, since they know Jordan well. Hannay jumps through a window and escapes into the crowd. He tries to hide himself in a political meeting, but is mistaken for the introductory speaker; he gives a rousing impromptu speech (without knowing a thing about the candidate he is introducing), but is recognised by Pamela, who gives him up once more. He is handcuffed and taken away by "policemen". Hannay eventually realises they are agents of the conspiracy when they bypass the nearest police station. When the car is stopped by a flock of sheep blocking the road, one of the henchmen handcuffs him to Pamela, but he escapes, dragging an unwilling Pamela along.

They travel across the countryside and stay the night at an inn, the girl still not believing Hannay's story. While he sleeps, she manages to slip out of the handcuffs, but then eavesdrops on one of the fake policemen on the telephone downstairs; the conversation confirms Hannay's assertions.

She returns to the room and sleeps on a sofa. Next morning, she tells him what she heard, and is sent to London to pass it on to the police. No secrets have been reported missing however, so they do not believe her. Instead, they follow her to get to Hannay.

She leads them to Mr. Memory's show at the London Palladium. When the performer is introduced, Hannay recognises his theme music - it's the annoyingly catchy tune he hasn't been able to forget for days. Hannay puts two and two together and realises that the spies are using Mr. Memory to smuggle the secrets out: he has them memorised. As the police take him into custody, he shouts out a question: "What are the 39 Steps?" Mr. Memory compulsively begins to answer, "The Thirty-Nine Steps is an organisation of spies, collecting information on behalf of the foreign office of ...." Jordan shoots him and tries to flee, but is apprehended. The dying Mr. Memory recites the information stored in his brain, a design for a silent aircraft engine.


The film departs substantially from Buchan's novel, introducing a love interest. In this film, 'The 39 Steps' refers to the clandestine organisation itself, whereas in the book and in the other film versions, it refers to physical steps, albeit located in different places and with different significances to the plots.cite book
last = Spoto
first = Donald
authorlink =
title = The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock
publisher = Da Capo
date = 1999
pages = 145
doi = The 39 Steps (1935 film) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaisbn = 030680932X


*Robert Donat as Richard Hannay
*Madeleine Carroll as Pamela
*Lucie Mannheim as Annabella Smith
*Godfrey Tearle as Professor Jordan
*Peggy Ashcroft as Margaret, the crofter's wife
*John Laurie as John, the crofter
*Helen Haye as Mrs. Louisa Jordan, the professor's wife
*Frank Cellier as Sheriff Watson
*Wylie Watson as Mr. Memory

Hitchcockian elements

"The 39 Steps" is the first in a line of Hitchcock films based upon the idea of an innocent man on the run, including "Saboteur" (1942) and "North by Northwest" (1959).

Alfred Hitchcock cameo: A signature occurrence in almost all of Hitchcock's films, he can be seen tossing some litter while Robert Donat and Lucie Mannheim run from the theatre at the beginning of the film.




*The Great British Films, pp 24 - 26, Jerry Vermilye, 1978, Citadel Press, ISBN 080650661X

External links

*google video|-3180115995112033502|The 39 Steps
* [ Criterion Collection essay by Marian Keane]
*gutenberg|no=558|name=The Thirty-nine Steps - John Buchan's original novel
* [ "The 39 Steps" Eyegate Gallery]


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • The 39 Steps (1959 film) — Infobox Film | name = The 39 Steps caption = Theatrical release poster writer = John Buchan (novel) Frank Harvey (adaptation) starring = Kenneth More Taina Elg Brenda De Banzie Sid James James Hayter Barrie Jones Reginald Beckwith director =… …   Wikipedia

  • The 39 Steps — may refer to:* The Thirty nine Steps , a novel by John Buchan Or works adapted from the novel: * The 39 Steps (1935 film), directed by Alfred Hitchcock * The 39 Steps (1959 film), directed by Ralph Thomas * The Thirty Nine Steps (1978 film),… …   Wikipedia

  • The 39 Steps (película de 1935) — The 39 Steps Título Los 39 escalones (Argentina y España) 39 escalones (Venezuela y reedición en España) Ficha técnica Dirección Alfred Hitchcock Guion Charles Bennet …   Wikipedia Español

  • The 39 steps — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda The 39 steps Título The 39 steps Ficha técnica Dirección Alfred Hitchcock Producción Michael Balcon Ivor Montagu Guión …   Wikipedia Español

  • The 39 Steps (Bühnenwerk) — The 39 Steps (deutsch: „Die 39 Stufen“) ist ein Farce nach dem 1915 erschienenen gleichnamigen Kriminalroman von John Buchan und dem Film von Alfred Hitchcock aus dem Jahr 1935. Das Stück wurde von Patrick Barlow geschrieben, der sich in seiner… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • The 39 Steps — Filmdaten Deutscher Titel: Die 39 Stufen auch: 39 Stufen Originaltitel: The 39 Steps Produktionsland: Großbritannien Erscheinungsjahr: 1935 Länge: 82 Minuten Originalsprache: Englisch …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • The 39 Steps (play) — Infobox Play name = The 39 Steps image size = caption = Original Poster writer = Patrick Barlow chorus = characters = Richard Hanney, Woman, Man 1, Man 2 mute = setting = 1930s England/Scotland date of premiere = 17 June 2005 (West Yorkshire)… …   Wikipedia

  • Roberta (1935 film) — Infobox Film name = Roberta caption = Movie poster director = William A. Seiter producer = Pandro S. Berman writer = Jerome Kern Otto Harbach (musical Roberta ) Alice Duer Miller (novel Gowns by Roberta ) starring = Irene Dunne Fred Astaire… …   Wikipedia

  • Film anglais — Cinéma britannique Le Royaume Uni a exercé une influence dans le développement aussi bien technologique, que commercial et artistique du cinéma. Cependant, malgré une histoire jalonnée de productions à succès, l industrie est caractérisée par un… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Film britannique — Cinéma britannique Le Royaume Uni a exercé une influence dans le développement aussi bien technologique, que commercial et artistique du cinéma. Cependant, malgré une histoire jalonnée de productions à succès, l industrie est caractérisée par un… …   Wikipédia en Français

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”