The 39 Steps In America --- Part Two
Greenbriar continues its participation in the third annual For the Love of Film: The Film Preservation Blogathon, hosted by The Self-Styled Siren, Ferdy On Films, and This Island Rod. They've been linking to Alfred Hitchcock-related posts from around the Net all week, and would remind readers to please visit this link to make donations toward preserving The White Shadow, one of the first films in which Hitchcock worked.
Andre Sennwald was back eight days later (9/22/35) in pages of the Times to further celebrate The 39 Steps. This time he took
It's easy forgetting how important stage programs were to Broadway film openings. Far from mere extras, they were reviewed as separate entities by trades, and sometimes reaction was severe. The Roxy's live portion to accompany The 39 Steps was nearly as long as the feature itself and subject to much patron expectation for a ticket's worth of entertainment. Broadway prices were higher than dime and quarters for subsequent play, so were naturally judged by goodies served in addition to screen fare. Variety liked The "bang-up" 39 Steps, but gave Roxy a pan for its jumbled, lame, and lethargic stage layout, which, among other things, tendered "three sections of girls" seemingly ad-libbing with their feet to accompany "The Old Spinning Wheel." Comedian Cecil Mack had seemed funnier on previous Roxy occasion, and his meandering act was vulgar besides. The both-thumbs-to-nose gesture directed at the audience is unpardonable, and the many hells and damns don't belong, added Variety's reviewer.
That latter was interesting as I'd always assumed Broadway houses kept profanity out of stage revues. How then to justify snip of swear words out of The 39 Steps with same language issuing from footlights? --- and try imagining stranger bedfellows for Hitchcock than hillbilly balladeer Billy Hill and wife, whose act was followed by a finale of tap dancers accompanying Rhapsody In Blue. As serious a breach as these was Roxy programming of animated Mickey's Kangaroo, outed by the trade for having been exhibited around town about a year ago, according to Variety. First-run customer demand for new product went across the board --- they'd tag stale bread even at a mere seven minutes length. Variety noted a first-run Voice Of Experience short from
Still, The 39 Steps clocked two weeks at the Roxy, with its second frame $33,000 confirming status as a bonafide hit. Gaumont used giraffe art to trade-advertise heights they'd attain, critically and commercially. Review quotes were spread thin among autumn territories yet to play The 39 Steps. Maybe now even South and
Exhibitor comments were all over the map. I do not rate this picture as high as some critics have, said Leon C. Balduc of
|The World Playhouse in Reduced 80's Circumstance,|
But Still a Noble Edifice
Alfred Hitchcock's Greatest Picture! said fresh prepared poster art when The 39 Steps made 1938 repeat rounds, ongoing evidence of how far his reputation (and the film's) had come in so brief a time, and still well ahead of US landfall to do Rebecca. Janus Films by the sixties took distribution reins stateside for The 39 Steps, often pairing same in revival bookings with The Lady Vanishes, the two an ideal (and not overlong) night at art/revival houses. Janus scored non-theatrically as well for Hitchcock's by-then anointed classic, The 39 Steps renting for $80 to schools and $100 plus elsewhere. Up-from-piracy Tom Dunnahoo misunderstood The 39 Steps to be Public Domain and offered 16/8mm "BONAFIDE ORIGINALS" in his 1974 Thunderbird Films catalogue, which made me wonder at the time how in the world Tom got his hands on a so-called "35mm Production Negative" for mastering prints (had such a thing even survived into the 60's?). He offered 35mm as well for theatrical bookings --- you'd wonder what those looked like. Some legal department surely shut Dunnahoo down for his infringement, but whose?
|The Janus 1975 Catalogue Listing for The 39 Steps|
|It's 1938 and Hitchcock's "Greatest Picture!" Is Back|