Film + Talk
The 39 Steps is a 1935 British thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll. The film is loosely based on the 1915 adventure novel The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan.
Richard Hannay witnesses a hit-and-run involving a woman pushing a pram. Looking in the pram he sees a gun instead of a baby. He tracks the woman down and she reveals that she is a secret agent trying to stop foreign spies leaving the country with important military secrets. Later that night she is murdered in Hannay’s flat. Hannay takes it on himself to thwart the enemy agents. This involves travelling to Scotland and keeping one step ahead of the police who are looking for him in connection with the murder of the woman.
The British Film Institute ranked it the fourth best British film of the 20th century. In 2004, Total Film named it the 21st greatest British movie ever made, and in 2011 ranked it the second-best book-to-film adaptation of all time. In 2017 a poll of 150 actors, directors, writers, producers and critics for Time Out magazine saw it ranked the 13th best British film ever.
Filmmaker and actor Orson Welles referred to the film as a “masterpiece”