Back in London, Pamela goes to Scotland Yard – she had phoned from Scotland (unbeknownst to us or Hannay). Scotland Yard is not believing her. They want Hannay. She goes to the theater. They follow. Hannay is in the theater too. The tension is high, and the police are following her to get to Hannay. Hannay sees someone up in a box, borrows specs and sees a hand with the top knuckle of the little finger missing!
Mr. Memory is now on stage! Hannay figures it out – Mr. Memory has committed all the secret plans to memory and Hannay thinks Professor Jordan will get him out of the country after the show. Hannay is cornered by the police and he shouts out to Mr. Memory, ”What are The 39 Steps?” Mr. Memory starts to speak, “The 39 Steps is an organization of spies collecting information on behalf of the foreign office of . . .” and he is shot by Professor Jordan, who leaps from the box and eventually onto the stage (ala John Wilkes Booth) and is caught. Hannay: “Mr. Memory – what is the secret formula you were taking out of the country?” Mr. Memory: “The first feature of the engine is….renders the engine completely silent.” And he dies. The secret is safe! Hannay is innocent!
Again, this is considered by many to be the first spy movie. And here we see an innocent man, not a spy, as the leading character in the movie, along with a strong female ally. The photography is spectacular, the directing by Hitchcock flawless, and the impact on future spy movies is deep. Of course, other Hitchcock movies will have similar themes – like North By Northwest, Notorious, and The Man Who Knew Too Much.
This is a great watch for all spy movie fans. The entire movie is available on YouTube. We at SpyMovieNavigator would highly recommend every spy movie fan to view this film. It’s less than an hour and a half long and is must-see for spy movie fans.
From the book, “The 39 Steps,” by Mark Glancy – a British Film Guide – he indicates that in 1999, The 39 Steps was voted 4th in the top 100 British Films of the 20th century – one of only three films made before 1940 to be on the top 100 list.
It was an instant success in Britain because the stars, Robert Donat and Madeleine Carrol were huge stars there, and Hitchcock was extremely popular. It did well in Canada too, and in the US was successful too, but it took time since it was in competition with huge Hollywood films of 1936.
In the movie, The 39 Steps is the spy organization, and maybe the steps to build a secret engine, in the book, they are actually 39 steps leading down to a beach where the spies will meet – but it really does not matter to the story. The film version, we think, is a lot more of a thriller than actual steps!
As the first spy movie, The 39 Steps is a must for all spy movie fans. It is a fast-paced story, that holds your interest, and prepares the way for many more spy movies to come.