the 39 steps (1935) d'alfred hitchcock. V.o. anglaise

Les 39 Marches (The 39 Steps) est un film britannique réalisé par Alfred Hitchcock, sorti en 1935, adapté du roman éponyme de John Buchan.

Synopsis

À Londres, le Canadien Richard Hannay rencontre, au terme d'un spectacle musical interrompu bien singulièrement, une demoiselle qui se prétend poursuivie. Il accepte de la cacher chez lui, où l'on assassine cette dernière. Craignant d'être accusé, il comprend qu'il ne pourra prouver son innocence de ce meurtre que s'il s'implique dans une intrigue d'espionnage. Il n'a que deux indices, une phrase qu'elle lui a dite, « les 39 marches », et le nom d'un lieu en Écosse

Fiche technique

Distribution

Remarque : 2nd doublage entre parenthèses (1985)

Appréciation critique

  • « Maître des sensations fortes et du suspense, de l'humour incongru et de l'horreur à froid, Hitchcock se sert de sa caméra, comme un peintre de son pinceau, stylisant son histoire et lui apportant des nuances que le scénariste aurait difficilement pu soupçonner… », New York Times, 1935.
  • « À son aise, sûr de séduire, Hitchcock multiplie les beautés. Il est détendu. À la plénitude de la matière correspondent tout naturellement la plénitude du scénario et la plénitude de la mise en scène… », Claude Chabrol et Éric Rohmer, Éditions universitaires, 1957.
  • « Le héros est un homme, pas un "Christ", et cet homme ne connaît que la femme qui le sauvera. Chez Hitchcock, ce sont toujours les femmes qui sauvent… », Noël Simsolo, Hitchcock, cinéma d'aujourd'hui, 1969.
  • « Les 39 Marches marque son époque d'une manière indélébile. En simplicité, économie et technique cinématographique pure, il dépasse même Le Faucon maltais de John Huston. Ce film comporte déjà, et c'est assez surprenant, tous les thèmes que le réalisateur développera et perfectionnera par la suite… », Donald Spoto, L'Art d'Alfred Hitchcock, Edilig, 1976.
  • « Tout est réussi dans le film. Le couple Donat/ Carroll est l'un des plus efficaces de la saga hitchcockienne, la poursuite échevelée à souhait, et le rocambolesque tient ici sa vraie place dans la stylistique de l'œuvre: une des premières… », Marc Cerisuelo, Dictionnaire des films, Larousse, 1990.

Autour du film

  • Porté par le succès de L'Homme qui en savait trop, première version, suivie d'un "remake" par lui-même en 1956, Hitchcock réalise un des films les plus enlevés et les plus célèbres de sa période anglaise qui éveillera enfin l'attention du public américain.
  • Si le film doit assurément à son duo d'acteurs qui se répondent parfaitement (Madeleine Carroll ouvrant une longue lignée de blondes hitchcockiennes), c'est surtout à l'écriture très serrée de son scénario multipliant les situations singulières que le film doit son rythme remarquable. À l'image de l'exposition qui place immédiatement le spectateur face à un meurtre et un MacGuffin6 bien intriguant.
  • Le film est construit autour de la thématique chère à Hitchcock d'un homme commun soudain accusé à tort et poussé à la fuite pour prouver son innocence, thématique exploitée aussi dans Jeune et innocent, Cinquième Colonne, La Maison du docteur Edwardes et bien sûr La Mort aux trousses. Ce dernier est souvent présenté comme le 39 Marches américain, ce qui n'est pas légitime car c'est bien avec la sous-estimé Cinquième Colonne qu'Hitchcock tenta de retrouver cette alchimie (construction, rythme, multiplications des situations [dont la reprise malheureusement moins aboutie de la scène des menottes]) handicapé par un couple d'acteurs n'ayant pas l'éclat de Donat et Carroll.
  • Le film constitue la deuxième d'une longue série de collaborations prolifiques avec le scénariste Charles Bennett qui signe pour Hitchcock L'Homme qui en savait trop, Les 39 Marches, Agent secret, Jeune et innocent et Correspondant 17. L'auteur, dont on reporte qu'il a son caméo dans le film, avancera avec amertume (Hitchcock n'ayant jamais mis en avant l'apport de ses collaborateurs) que les apports du réalisateur sur le traitement des scénarios furent toujours mineurs, ce dont on peut douter devant la multiplicité des collaborations et la régulière qualité de ceux-ci tout au long de sa carrière.
  • Un des apports les plus significatifs du scénario sur le roman7, avec lequel il prend de nombreuses libertés, est la création du personnage de Pamela sans qui le film ne serait pas ce qu'il est.
  • Humour macabre du cinéaste, le premier jour de tournage, Robert Donat et Madeleine Carroll se retrouvent à jouer la scène où ils sont attachés l'un à l'autre par une paire de menottes. Après plusieurs prises, Alfred Hitchcock s'éclipsa en prétendant qu'il avait perdu la clé. Il ne reviendra les délivrer qu'en fin d'après-midi.
  • Caméo : apparition d'Alfred Hitchcock à la septième minute du film. Ce dernier est un passant qui dépasse Robert Donat et Lucie Mannheim lorsqu'ils prennent le bus à la sortie du théâtre.
  • L'Affaire Francis Blake : cet album de Blake et Mortimer reprend l'intrigue principale du film.

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The 39 Steps is a 1935 British thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll. Very loosely based on the 1915 adventure novel The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan, the film is about an everyman civilian in London, Richard Hannay, who becomes caught up in preventing an organization of spies called the 39 Steps from stealing British military secrets. After being mistakenly accused of the murder of a counter-espionage agent, Hannay goes on the run to Scotland with an attractive woman in the hopes of stopping the spy ring and clearing his name.

Contents

Plot

At a London music hall theatre, Richard Hannay (Robert Donat) is watching a demonstration of the superlative powers of recall of "Mr. Memory" (Wylie Watson) when shots are fired.[1] In the ensuing panic, Hannay finds himself holding a seemingly frightened Annabella Smith (Lucie Mannheim), who talks him into taking her back to his flat. There, she tells him that she is a spy, being chased by assassins, and that she has uncovered a plot to steal vital British military information, masterminded by a man with the top joint missing from one of his fingers. She mentions the "39 Steps", but does not explain its meaning.

Later that night Smith, fatally stabbed, bursts into Hannay's bedroom and warns him to flee. He finds a map of the Scottish Highlands clutched in her hand, showing the area around Killin, with a house or farm named "Alt-na-Shellach" circled. He sneaks out of the watched flat disguised as a milkman and boards the Flying Scotsman express train to Scotland. He learns from a newspaper that he is the target of a nationwide manhunt for Smith's murderer. When he sees the police searching the train, he enters a compartment and kisses the sole occupant, Pamela (Madeleine Carroll), in a desperate attempt to escape detection. She frees herself from his unwanted embrace and alerts the policemen, who stop the train on the Forth Bridge. Hannay escapes, however.

He walks toward Alt-na-Shellach, staying the night in the house of a poor crofter (John Laurie) and his much younger wife (Peggy Ashcroft). Early the next morning, she sees a police car approaching and warns Hannay. Hannay flees, wearing the crofter's coat. At a bridge, he finds a sign for Alt-na-Shellach. He arrives at the house of the seemingly respectable Professor Jordan (Godfrey Tearle) and is let in after saying he has been sent by Annabella Smith. The police arrive, but Jordan sends them away and listens to Hannay's story. Jordan then reveals that he is missing part of a finger; he shoots Hannay and leaves him for dead.

Luckily, the bullet is stopped by the crofter's hymn book in the coat pocket. Hannay drives into town and goes to the sheriff, who does not believe the fugitive's story since he knows Jordan well. Hannay's right wrist is handcuffed, but he jumps through a window and escapes by joining a Salvation Army march through the town. He tries to hide at a political meeting and is mistaken for the introductory speaker. He gives a rousing impromptu speech — without knowing anything about the candidate he is introducing — but is recognised by Pamela, who gives him up once more. He is taken away by "policemen" who ask Pamela to accompany them. They drive past the police station, claiming they have orders to go directly to Inveraray, but Hannay realises they are agents of the conspiracy when they take the wrong road. When the men get out to disperse a flock of sheep blocking the road, Hannay escapes, dragging the unwilling Pamela (to whom he is handcuffed) along.

They make their way across the countryside and stay the night at an inn. While he sleeps, Pamela manages to slip out of the handcuffs, but then overhears one of the fake policemen on the telephone, confirming Hannay's assertions. She returns to the room and sleeps on a sofa. The next morning, she tells him what she heard. He sends her to London to alert the police. No secret documents have been reported missing, however, so they do not believe her. Instead, they follow her.

Pamela leads them to the London Palladium. When Mr. Memory is introduced, Hannay recognises his theme music—the annoyingly catchy tune he has been unable to forget for days. Hannay realises that the spies are using Mr. Memory to smuggle the secrets out. As the police take him into custody, he shouts, "What are the 39 Steps?" Mr. Memory compulsively answers, "The 39 Steps is an organisation of spies, collecting information on behalf of the Foreign Office of ..." Jordan shoots him and tries to flee, but is apprehended. The dying Mr. Memory recites the information stored in his brain—the design for a silent aircraft engine—and is then able to pass away peacefully, saying "I'm glad it's off my mind."

The film fades to an image of Hannay and Pamela's clasped hands as they stand at the side of the stage while the hurriedly ushered-on chorus line dance to an orchestrated version of the Jessie Matthews song "Tinkle Tinkle Tinkle".

(Hitchcock had worked with Jessie Matthews on the film Waltzes from Vienna and reportedly did not like her very much, but as well as the fade-out music to "The 39 Steps", he also used an orchestrated version of her song "May I Have The Next Romance With You" in the ballroom sequence of his film Young and Innocent.)

Cast

Adaptation

The script was originally written by Charles Bennett, who prepared the initial treatment in close collaboration with Hitchcock; Ian Hay then wrote some dialogue.

The film's plot departs substantially from John Buchan's novel, with scenes such as in the music hall and on the Forth Bridge absent from the book. Hitchcock also introduced the two major female characters, Annabella the spy and Pamela, reluctant companion. In this film, The 39 Steps refers to the clandestine organisation, whereas in the book and the other film versions it refers to physical steps, with the German spies being called "The Black Stone" .[2] By having Annabella tell Hannay she is travelling to meet a man in Scotland (and produce a map with Alt-na-Shellach house circled) Hitchcock avoids the coincidence in Buchan's novel where Hannay, with the whole country in which to hide, chances to walk into the one house where the spy ringleader lives.

Production

The 39 Steps was a major British film of its time. The production company, Gaumont-British, was eager to establish its films in international markets, and especially in the United States, and The 39 Steps was conceived as a prime vehicle towards this end. Where Hitchcock's previous film, The Man Who Knew Too Much, had costs of £40,000, The 39 Steps cost nearly £60,000. Much of the extra money went to the star salaries for Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll. Both had already made films in Hollywood and were therefore known to American audiences. At a time when British cinema had few international stars, this was considered vital to the film's success.[3]:p. 29 Hitchcock heard Scottish industrialist and aircraft pioneer James G. Weir commuted to work daily in an autogyro, and worked the aircraft into the film.[4]

Reception

It was voted the best British film of 1935.[5]

It was the 17th most popular film at the British box office in 1935-36.[6]

Of the four major film versions of the novel, Hitchcock's film has been the most acclaimed. In 1999, the British Film Institute ranked it the fourth best British film of the 20th century;[7] in 2004, Total Film named it the 21st greatest British movie ever made, and in 2011 ranked it the second-best book-to-film adaptation of all time.[8]

The 39 Steps was one of Orson Welles' favorite Hitchcock films, and of it he said: "oh my God, what a masterpiece." In 1939, Welles starred in a radio adaption of the same source novel with The Mercury Theatre on the Air.

The film currently holds a 98% rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 44 reviews.[9] Its critics' consensus reads: "Packed with twists and turns, this essential early Alfred Hitchcock feature hints at the dazzling heights he'd reach later in his career."

Hitchcockian elements

The 39 Steps is the second film (after the silent film The Lodger) in a line of Hitchcock films based upon an innocent man being forced on the run, including Saboteur (1942) and North by Northwest (1959).

Alfred Hitchcock cameo: A signature occurrence in most of Hitchcock's films. About 6 minutes and 33 seconds toward the beginning of the film, both Hitchcock and the screenwriter Charles Bennett can be seen walking past a bus that Robert Donat and Lucie Mannheim board outside the music hall. The bus is on London Transport's number 25 route, which runs from Oxford Street through the East End and on to Leytonstone. As Glancy points out, this was familiar ground to Hitchcock, who lived in Leytonstone and then in Stepney (in the East End) as a youth. The director's appearance can thus be seen as an assertion of his connection with the area, but he was by no means romanticising it. As the bus pulls up he litters by throwing a cigarette packet on the ground.[3]:p. 45 Hitchcock is also seen briefly as a member of the audience scrambling to leave the music hall after the shot is fired in the opening scene.

In the middle of the film, Hannay is shot in the chest with a revolver at close range, and a long fade out suggests that he has been killed. This jarringly unusual development – the main character is apparently killed while the story is still unfolding – anticipates Hitchcock's Psycho (1960), and the murder of Marion Crane in the Bates Motel. Hannay, however, was not truly dead. In the next scene it is revealed that a hymn book in his coat pocket prevented the bullet from killing him.[3]:p. 63

The film established the quintessential English 'Hitchcock blonde' Madeleine Carroll as the template for his succession of ice cold and elegant leading ladies.[10] Of Hitchcock heroines as exemplified by Carroll, film critic Roger Ebert wrote: "The female characters in his films reflected the same qualities over and over again: They were blonde. They were icy and remote. They were imprisoned in costumes that subtly combined fashion with fetishism. They mesmerised the men, who often had physical or psychological handicaps. Sooner or later, every Hitchcock woman was humiliated".[11]

Although most of the film is shot on location, there is the occasional unconvincing painted backdrop reminiscent of other Hitchcock films, and the accuracy of the actors' accents is very variable.

Adaptations to other media