A man in London tries to help a counterespionage agent. But when the agent is killed and the man stands accused, he must go on the run to both save himself and also stop a spy ring which is trying to steal top secret information.
Richard Hannay is a Canadian visitor to London. At the end of "Mr Memory"'s show in a music hall, he meets Annabella Smith who is running away from secret agents. He accepts to hide her in his flat, but in the night she is murdered. Fearing he could be accused on the girl's murder, Hannay goes on the run to break the spy ring. Written by
Claudio Sandrini <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The "commercial traveler" played by Gus McNaughton who reads the newspaper article aloud on the train describes the woman who discovered the body as "charwoman Elizabeth Riggs," but when we see the article in closeup a moment later, that sentence states simply that "a cleaner" discovered the body. See more »
Music hall announcer:
Ladies and Gentleman, with your kind attention, and permission, I have the honor of presenting to you one of the most remarkable men in the world.
Heckler in Audience:
How remarkable? He's sweating!
See more »
Alfred Hitchcock followed up his first international success, The Man Who Knew Too Much with an even better film, The Thirty Nine Steps. Hitchcock must have had a particular fondness for this film because I see elements of it North By Northwest, Saboteur, and Torn Curtain.
There is no director in the history of the cinema who liked a good chase film better than Alfred Hitchcock. This one's a beauty with a wrongly accused of murder Robert Donat, running from London to Scotland and back again to find some spies to clear his name. Along the way Donat picks up a lovely and first unwilling traveling companion in Madeleine Carroll who is arguably the first of his blonde heroines.
Donat and Ronald Colman rivaled for roles somewhat, they seem always to be cast as the same type of characters. Of course Donat worked primarily in the UK and on stage while Colman was strictly a movie actor since the silent days. Colman is the only other guy who could have done this and other Donat parts. It's a pity there are none like either of these guys around today.
When Geoffrey Tearle thinks he's disposed of Donat by shooting him, Donat's life got saved by a hymn book in his breast pocket. Whether that was a device in the original novel by John Buchan or something Alfred Hitchcock improvised the inspiration for it was definitely taken from the attempted assassination of former President Theodore Roosevelt in 1912. While running for president on the Progressive ticket that year, Roosevelt was shot in the chest in Milwaukee. What saved his life was a copy of his speech and an eyeglass case in his breast pocket.
The whole thing here is how the espionage is being carried out and I won't reveal it. But if you've seen Torn Curtain remember why Paul Newman was the only guy they could send on that espionage mission.
This is probably Hitchcock's best film from his pre-Hollywood period and shouldn't be missed.
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