#88 The 39 Steps (1935)

Our second Alfred Hitchcock film on this list- the film that gave American audiences a taste of who Alfred Hitchcock was! Based on the John Buchan novel, The 39 Steps is when a spy hides out at an innocent man’s (Robert Donat) place, she is murdered there and this man is accused of being her murderer- leaving him on a thrilling chase in a situation that he didn’t mean to get mixed up in.


Want to know what I like about thrill rides? That you are led on an exciting journey where the stakes and the tension are high. This ride brings you to multiple locations where crazy situations occur. You want this ride to pull to a stop so you can find out how it ends. Hitchcock is brilliant in drawing up the suspense and leaving all of these questions in there that we want answers to. What I love about this film is that we all can identify with the character of Hannay because we know about as much as he does. Hitchcock does his trademark plot line of putting the innocent lead character is unexpectedly in a line of danger that carries him throughout the film. A spy gets murdered in his apartment, has no idea why she was killed, and has to run away from the authorities since they think he killed her. Hannay is looking for answers and so are we. Hannay goes through a lot to get to the bottom of things like pretending to be a milkman, a stranger’s husband, a political speaker, and being handcuffed to a stubborn, icy woman (Madeleine Carroll) who of course is a blonde because that’s how Hitchcock likes them!


I know that everyone labels the female heroine of the story to be the character of Pamela but I personally think it’s the character of Margaret. Unlike Pamela who tried to blow Hannay’s cover to the police on more than one occasion, Margaret didn’t think twice about helping out Hannay even though she knew she would suffer the devastating consequences that her much older husband would inflict on her. We don’t know Margaret’s story or why she would be married to a cruel man like that. Maybe it was an arranged marriage or maybe she had to do what she can to support herself. Whatever her story is, she’s a heroine in my book. I was very impressed with the acting of Robert Donat in which he plays an unlikely hero who can remain cool under pressure but still able to see the fear in his eyes as he has no idea what his fate will be. Even though it’s not up to Hannay to solve the mystery, he’ll go through it with courage in order to clear his name.


Another reason that proves Robert Donat was a great actor in this film is that at the time, he had a disease that made him shaky so it was hard to do long takes with him yet he was able to hold it together to do that monologue where he pretends to be a speaker. Hitchcock wanted it to be realistic for the scenes where Donat and Carroll were handcuffed together that he would actually pretend to lose the key! Write in if you would agree to this filmmaking tactic. I’m sure Carroll wasn’t as she had welts on her wrists! There’s also a little something in this film called a Mcguffin where it’s an object that moves the story along. In this film, it would be the 39 steps. What are they? You’ll have to watch the film to find out!

Enter a thrill ride as you watch Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps:


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