The 39 Steps In America --- Part One
On today and Friday (5/18, publish date of The 39 Steps --- Part Two), Greenbriar links up with the third annual For the Love of Film: The Film Preservation Blogathon, hosted by TheSelf-Styled Siren, Ferdy On Films, and This Island Rod. They'll be covering Alfred Hitchcock-related posts from around the Net with links added throughout a coming week. Please also note this link to make donations toward preserving a recently discovered early film in which Hitchcock participated.
Alfred Hitchcock got US-known in a biggest so-far way thanks to The 39 Steps, released here in August 1935 via Gaumont-British. The company had opened an American branch in Autumn of 1934 and according to their '35 annual report, was now "firmly established, and a steadily increasing business is being built up from which a considerable revenue is anticipated in the near future."
Jarratt could afford giving colonists a dose of their own arrogance --- Gaumont after all controlled nearly 450 UK venues, the largest chain over there and America's top film customer in all of Europe. Gaumont's origins went back to 1898, even though they were under a year releasing in the
Gaumont had its
The 39 Steps came draped with four-star notices from home (it had UK-played, and successfully, for several months) and that, with Hitchcock's heat off The Man Who Knew Too Much, enabled solid dates at key venues normally averse to outsider pics. So much that was foreign got stuck in art houses, then called "little theatres," but Gaumont wanted The 39 Steps to compete with
|A Break On The Set and My Question: What Are They Drinking?|
There were happy turnstiles in Cleveland, The 39 Steps right behind competing
The 39 Steps still had not played New York even as it fanned west to Denver, San Francisco, and L.A. Frisco's Paramount Theatre paired Hitchcock with Laurel and Hardy's Bonnie Scotland to a minor $9,000, while Denver's arty Aladdin followed a previous week first-run of The Man Who Knew Too Much (five days and only $800) with The 39 Steps and $3,000. A soft $5,300 was
Noteworthy during August and a first half of September 1935 was receipts dwindling as Hitchcock's thriller crossed-country, eastern ticket-sales ahead of those counted in the west. Did coasts differ in their willingness to embrace (or not) oversea product? Still, it was Gaumont's coup to get The 39 Steps into Broadway's Roxy Theatre and its 6,200 seats. Whereas The Man Who Knew Too Much had, according to The New York Times, "slipped quietly into the
Alfred Hitchcock realized early how to flatter critics as well as his audience. Fans for The 39 Steps amounted to an elite corps, and their numbers grew. The New York Times' Andre Sennwald lauded a blend of unexpected comedy and breathless terror that is strikingly effective, comparing Hitchcock with Anatole France, a name-drop new to me who turned out to be a Nobel writer and "ideal French man of letters," whose artistry Sennwald compared to Hitchcock, this a bulls-eye to snob appeal The 39 Steps would generate. Critics across town noted contrast between Gaumont's sophisticated import and crude mellers domestically offered (Hollywood, home of the machine gun school of melodrama, might safely study The 39 Steps as an example of successful, thrilling restraint, advised the Brooklyn Times Union). Agreed among critics was that finally had come a civilized and adult piece of movie-making not insulting to their intelligence.
Part Two of The 39 Steps is here.