The 39 Steps (1935)

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Videos & Photos

  • Three Reasons Criterion Trailer for The 39 Steps

Movie Info & Cast

Synopsis

This classic British thriller was one of Alfred Hitchcock's first major international successes, and it introduced a number of the stylistic and thematic elements that became hallmarks of his later work. Richard Hannay (Robert Donat), a Canadian rancher on vacation in England, attends a music hall performance by Mr. Memory (Wylie Watson); in the midst of the show, shots ring out and Richard flees the theater. Moments later, a terrified woman (Lucie Mannheim) begs Richard to help her; back at his room, she tells him that she's a British spy whose life has been threatened by international agents waiting outside. Richard is certain that she's mad until she reappears at his door in the morning, near death with a knife in her back, a map in her hand, and muttering something about 39 Steps. Discovering that a group of thugs are indeed waiting outside, Richard slips away and takes the first train to the Scottish town on the dead woman's map. Richard learns that he's now wanted by the police for murder, and he must find a way to clear his name. He begins trying to do so with the help of a woman he meets en route, Pamela (Madeleine Carroll), who serves as his unwitting assistant, even after she tries to turn him in. The 39 Steps was later remade in 1959 and 1978 -- both without Hitchcock's participation.~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

Cast

  • Robert Donat
  • Madeleine Carroll
  • Lucie Mannheim
  • Godfrey Tearle
  • Peggy Ashcroft
  • John Laurie
  • Helen Haye
  • Frank Cellier
  • Wylie Watson
  • Gus McNaughton

Did You Know?

Trivia

  • The sixty-two imported sheep, upon arriving at the soundstage, immediately went to work on the bracken and bushes that had been brought with them. The infuriated crew had to replace the plants with ones hastily bought from a local nursery.
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Goofs

  • Lights visible when police search the train.
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Quotes

    • Richard Hannay: I know what it is to feel lonely and helpless and to have the whole world against me, and those are things that no men or women ought to feel.
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Atom User Reviews

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Metacritic

90

The writing and twists elevated this to a spot among the master of suspense's best. [15 Aug 2019]

Brian Lowry
CNN
100

A definitive spy thriller and one of the masterpieces of Hitchcock's British years, The 39 Steps is one of those paradigm classics that influence filmmaking for decades afterward. [21 Sep 2007, p.C10]

Metacritic review by Robert K. Elder
Robert K. Elder
Chicago Tribune
100

Like Rear Window later on, this charming, masterfully made British spy adventure from 1935 is a sigh of doubt, perhaps even a cry of anguish, disguised as a slick pop bauble.

Metacritic review by Chuck Bowen
Chuck Bowen
Slant Magazine