The Art of “The 39 Steps” Part 2: The Lobby Cards

30 04 2010

Following my recent post showing off theatrical posters for “The 39 Steps,” which you can see here, tonight we’ll look at two sets of lobby cards.

If you don’t know, lobby cards were a staple of theaters for many decades, stretching back at least to the 1930s up through the 1970s. They fell out of fashion at some point, and there’s probably not much chance that they’ll ever make  a comeback – these days when you go to a theater, you’ll see either posters or giant cardboard standees, but that’s about it.

You can click on these to embiggen them. The black and white ones are from the original release of “The 39 Steps” in 1935, while the color ones are from a rerelease sometime in the late 1940s, I believe. As before, I found these on the Hitchcock wiki site – but I did not bother posting two-tone versions of images that were later released in full color.

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And there’s still time to enter my “Talk Back and Win” contest, where you can win tickets to see “The 39 Steps” live on stage in New York City! Don’t delay – click here to enter!


Alfred Hitchcock Stumbles with “Number 17”

29 04 2010

“A disaster!” — Alfred Hitchcock

I can’t really disagree with Mr. Hitchcock. “Number 17,” released by British International Pictures in 1932, is a mess of a movie. A comedy-thriller, it actually is both funny and thrilling at times, but the real problem is the flat characters and incomprehensible plot.

The story begins in comfortable territory for Hitch, as a young, well-dressed man approaches an empty house. He wanders inside, only to find a dead man and a live, but terrified, tramp. Much of the movie is set in this house, and it’s drenched in deep, often distorted, shadows, a throwback to Hitch’s early influence from German expressionist films, as previously seen in “The Lodger.” Hitch also indulges in a favorite motif: stairwells that evoke a feeling of dread.

The young man is trying to find out who the dead man is and how he was killed, but before long his investigation is interrupted, first by a young woman who shows up, saying that her father asked her to keep an eye on the place, and then by a trio of shady characters claiming to want a tour of the place.

The six of them wander around the house, acting nonchalant but clearly in search of something, and eventually we learn that the trio is after a stolen diamond necklace. When they recover it, they tie up the other three – but then two more people enter the picture: one is the young woman’s father, and the other seems to be the gang’s leader.

The girl’s father fights the gang’s leader and loses, and is then locked in a bathroom. Meanwhile, the gang gets ready to make their escape, and in one of the picture’s more exciting moments, the girl and the young man, who have been tied to a banister, fall nearly to their deaths when the banister gives way.

The pair manages to escape, and while the girl tends to her father, the young man discovers that the gang has left the house, heading for a train that will take them to a ferry and, presumably, France; for some reason, they’ve taken the tramp with them. The young man commandeers a bus, and the chase is on.

There’s a lot of to-do on the train as the gang leader realizes that he’s lost the necklace; meanwhile, the bus races the train. The gang’s threats against the train crew backfires, too, and they’re left trying to run the train themselves. The train crashes into the ferry, and the gang is captured by the police.

Finally, the young man is revealed to be a police detective himself. The necklace reappears – the tramp had it all along – and the movie comes to its end after a mere sixty-five minutes, all of them baffling.

“Number 17” does have some great model work in the chase sequence toward the end, and there are some funny moments, particularly those featuring the tramp, but otherwise it is easily Hitch’s worst picture in his career to date. The story is that Hitch had wanted to make a different movie, but his bosses insisted he make this one instead. It would be Hitch’s final film for British International Pictures. His next picture, released by Gaumont, would be “Waltzes from Vienna,” which I will look at this weekend.

Like this post? Be sure to leave a comment below!

And don’t forget to Talk Back for a chance to win tickets to “The 39 Steps” live on stage in New York City right here!

Talk Back and Win Tickets to “The 39 Steps”

28 04 2010

Talk back about your favorite Hitchcock movie for a chance to win tickets to “The 39 Steps” live in New York City!

Ever since I launched “Hitchcock and Me” back in December, I’ve been telling the world about Alfred Hitchcock’s movies and what I think of each one. Now, it’s your turn!

In the comments section below, tell me about your favorite Hitchcock picture – and why! – for a chance to win two tickets to “The 39 Steps,” live at the New World Stages on West 50th Street in New York City!

I’ll pick a winner in the next several days, and we’ll announce that person’s name here in a “Hitchcock and Me” blog post!

The winner will be chosen by me, based on top-secret criteria known only to Hitch and me (and he ain’t talking). This is my blog, after all – so impress me!

The judge’s decision is final. The winner will receive a voucher good for two tickets to “The 39 Steps” live on stage on a night of his or her own choosing. Some date restrictions apply. Winner will receive only the voucher; travel, accommodations and other expenses are not included with this prize.

Downloadable “39 Steps” Radio Play

27 04 2010

If you look to the right and down a little on this page, in the box marked “Box,” you’ll see a file called “39_Steps_06_06_071…” You can click on that to listen to one of the radio versions of “The 39 Steps” like the ones I wrote about here, or you can download it and put it on your itunes and MP3 player.

I confess I don’t have much info on this version. I found it on the great site, which is a fantastic source for video and audio files, as well as documents. It’s really worth investigating – the live music archive alone is a treasure trove.

This is a truncated version of the story – it only runs 40 minutes, and jumps in right at the point where Richard Hannay sees Mr. Memory in action at the Palladium. It skips over a lot of the chase, as Hannay finds his way directly from the train to the professor’s home. Still, it’s a fun listen, so I hope you dig it!

Monsterpiece Theatre Presents “The 39 Stairs”

26 04 2010

It takes 39 days to hold a 39 Steps Fest – and that means we’ve got to have something new every day! Some days it’s big and important, and some days it’s something silly.

Tonight, it’s an old favorite from our furry friend, Alistair Cookie, as Monsterpiece Theatre presents “The 39 Stairs,” starring cute little furry Grover. Join us, won’t you?

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