Vital Hitch #1: The 39 Steps (1935) dir Alfred Hitchcock
Aug 22, 2017
Vital Joint Presents
Vital Hitch #1
the beginning of a look back at the films of Alfred Hitchcock
The 39 Steps (1935)
“It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that all contemporary escapist entertainment begins with ‘The 39 Steps,’ ” Robert Towne, the screenwriter of “Chinatown,” once remarked of the 1935 Alfred Hitchcock thriller, which has just been rereleased by Criterion.
Hitchcock, drawing on characters and situations created by John Buchan (an action novelist he adored), concocted a classic movie-thriller recipe. He cast an innocent, amiable adventurer into espionage’s gale-tossed seas. Then he allowed this hero to sink so low that, to the public, he appears to be guilty of murder or even treason—until he rescues his good name and the security of his nation just before he’s due to fall for the third time. In this case, the reluctant hero is Richard Hannay (Robert Donat), a Canadian staying in London when agents of an espionage organization kill a glamorous spy (Lucie Mannheim) in his bachelor flat. Hannay goes on the lam to Scotland, where he searches for the spy network’s chief while eluding police who suspect him of the murder.
-Rewatching Hitchcock’s “The 39 Steps”
By Michael Sragow
July 9, 2012 New Yorker Magazine