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"The 39 Steps" was one of Alfred Hitchcock's early British film successes before he left for Hollywood where he achieved even greater fame and celebrity status. The story begins with Richard Hannay (Robert Donat) enjoying a variety show at a London theatre when he meets a mysterious young woman named Annabella Smith (Lucie Mannheim) who is in trouble and seeks his help. He takes her back to his flat where she gives him some important information about a gang of spies who she says are trying to kill her. (Hannay: "It sounds like a spy story". Smith: "That's exactly what it is"). During the night she is indeed murdered with Hannay of course the chief suspect. Although innocent he goes on the run from the police taking a train to Scotland. During the train journey he meets Pamela (Madeleine Carroll) who initially thinks he is a killer but later reluctantly teams up with him when they get to Scotland and she eventually believes his story and realises that he is innocent after all. They get involved in many dangerous situations together and are trapped in one tight corner after another while trying to avoid both the villains and the police. They return to London to attempt to solve the mystery where the film reaches a dramatic but satisfactory conclusion. "The 39 Steps" was remade in colour in 1959 with Kenneth More and again in 1978 with Robert Powell but neither of these remakes can compare with the original black and white Hitchcock version. For anyone who might be interested in spotting Hitchcock's regular cameo appearance this comes quite early in the film as Hannay and the girl he meets at the theatre board a bus to go back to his flat. (Hitchcock is seen as a passer-by throwing some litter into the street). I rate this as one of Hitchcock's most entertaining films with the popular "innocent man on the run" theme he was so fond of.
Favourite lines:
Wylie Watson (Mr Memory): "Am I right sir?".
Lucie Mannheim (to Robert Donat): "I had to get away from the theatre quickly. There were two men there who wanted to kill me".
Mannheim (to Donat): "Have you ever heard of the thirty nine steps?".
Donat (to Madeleine Carroll): "There are 20 million women on this island and I've got to be chained to you".
Donat (to Carroll): "May I ask what earthquake caused your brain to work at last".
Added by classic movie buff
9 years ago on 30 July 2008 14:18

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