It’s been around so long and it is so well known that, of course, a parody of it was inevitable.
Hello, everybody. Joe Morella and Frank Segers, your classic movie guys, here with you to announce that Joe has just returned from London, and was telling Frank about seeing the long running stage production there of The 39 Steps.
Joe hadn’t intended on going to the theater, but when he passed the Criterion one afternoon, and tickets were available for the matinee, he simply couldn’t resist.
Of course the show has been a hit for seven years and has been performed world wide. It’s fascinating to watch four actors (three men, one woman) play ALL the characters in the 1935 Hitchcock classic film.
But even more interesting for Joe was chatting with the man in the next seat, a New Zealander. He was obviously a fan of the novelist, John Buchan, who wrote the book. He asked Joe if he’d ever seen the other versions of the film.
Joe replied that, yes, he’d seen the 1959 Kenneth More/Taina Elg version, and thought it couldn’t hold a candle to the Robert Donat/Madeline Carroll version. He agreed. (These two principals, by the way, are pictured above.)
But then he said the best version of the original book was the 1978 Robert Powell/Karen Dotrice version from the Rank Organization, which adheres more closely to the novel. It’s a real thriller. (Joe has decided to check it out. A one-sheet blurbing this version of The 39 Steps is seen below.)
He also mentioned that Powell had reprised the role in a short series for the BBC in the 1980s. Joe will try to locate that as well. (And, then there is a 2008 BBC TV version to catch up to, directed by James Hawes and costarring Rupert Perry-Jones and Lydia Leonard.)
Apparently, in Powell’s versions, directed by Don Sharp, the story takes place during World War I, and ends not in a music hall but with a suspenseful scene of the actor as Richard Hanny hanging from Big Ben.
Until Joe can find the 1978 version, however, we’ll have to be content with re-watching the 1935 film. Which ain’t bad.