Dr. Rich Edwards

Daily Dose #7: Mr. Memory (Opening Scene from The 39 Steps)

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1.     Now that you have seen multiple openings to Hitchcock's British films, how does this opening both fit a pattern you have seen previously as well as deviate from other opening scenes? 

Surely I’m not the only one that thought of “Golden Curls To-Night?”

2.     Do you agree or disagree with Rothman's assessment that Hitchcock in this film is focused on introducing a more innocent character than in previous opening sequences of his films? 

I agree – IF you mean innocent as in “innocent bystander” – i.e. the common man in an ordinary place, giving the sense that this could happen to any of us.

3.     Reflect on the role of yet another public space opening a Hitchcock film--this time a music hall--the prominence of a performer (Mr. Memory), and the reactions of the audience in the film to Mr. Memory's act. How does these on-screen elements play into the Hitchcock touch as described by Gene Phillips? 

The setting reinforces the idea that we (the common persons) can not escape the fate of being pulled, by sheer chance, into a dangerous adventure.

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1. Much like his earlier films crowds are a part of the opening of the movie. Give a sense that Hannay is one of the common folk. Good Canadian....Just Sayin...

2. I agree Hitch is introducing a more innocent character. Smiling and having a good time with others in the theater. Does not look like someone who is out for anything but an enjoyable evening.

3. Hannay is shown to be an ordinary person in ordinary circumstances. He is in an ordinary setting. The opening scene does not introduce the MacGuffin and unimportant facts, like why is "Mr. Memory" there and what role does he play will not become known till later in the film. The reactions of the audience to Mr. Memory are typical of people out for an evening of fun. They play into Phillip's that the basic elements of a Hitchcock film are on view.    

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1. Now that you have seen multiple openings to Hitchcock's British films, how does this opening both fit a pattern you have seen previously as well as deviate from other opening scenes? 

 

Patterns:

  • Location is an “everyday” place with lots of people in it.
  • People from all walks of life are present — young (baby crying) and old.
  • There is an audience watching a show/theater performance (The Pleasure Garden; 2 showgirls at party in The Ring, etc.).
  • Man in trench coat and hat as in The Lodger.
  • “MUSIC HALL” flashing before us similar to “TO-NIGHT GOLDEN CURLS”
  • Protagonist has a pleasant disposition.
  • Lighting on protagonist’s face is bright. (Brighter than the rest of the scene.)

 

Deviations:

  • The audience is “part of” the show they are watching — interacting with it/the people in it.
  • Strangers interacting with each other in laughter.
  • The announcer on stage is speaking directly to the audience sharing information and asking them to join in.
  • Merry music playing at the beginning that is part of the show, not just incidental music applied to the movie.
  • People are having fun with each other, cracking jokes.
  • Camera pans the crowd — from the POV of the stage (not the announcer or a performer) — as announcer speaks off-screen from the stage.
  • Silly jokes thrown in (“Mr. Memory has left his brain to the British Museum.”)
  • Details about the protagonist: We know where he’s been/where he’s going/what he’s interested in because he asks Mr. Memory the distance between Winnipeg and Montreal (3x). Mr. Memory then notifies us that the scene is not taking place in Canada by nodding and saying “Ahh, a gentleman from Canada. You’re welcome, sir,” to the protagonist.

 

2. Do you agree or disagree with Rothman's assessment that Hitchcock in this film is focused on introducing a more innocent character than in previous opening sequences of his films? 

 

From what I’ve seen so far, I don’t think the character seems more “innocent”. He does have a jovial, smart, wistful look about him. Lighthearted. Unencumbered by the ebbs and flows of life. Not worried. Not feisty. Not moody.

 

3. Reflect on the role of yet another public space opening a Hitchcock film--this time a music hall--the prominence of a performer (Mr. Memory), and the reactions of the audience in the film to Mr. Memory's act. How does these on-screen elements play into the Hitchcock touch as described by Gene Phillips? 

 

Ahh. I seem to have commented on this above. :-)

 

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1. The opening scene of The 39 Steps does seem to fit the pattern of other openings in several ways. I was reminded of the flashing To-night Golden Curls in The Lodger by the flashing Music Hall letters. This film begins in a public place as so many Hitchcock films begin. One of the differences I noticed is that the emphasis on faces we have seen in previous openings is less. We don't see faces until the show begins. 

2. I am not sure if I agree with Rothman's assessment that Hitchcock is introducing us to a more innocent character than in previous openings. What could be more innocent that the golden haired girl screaming and then murdered in The Lodger? In The Man Who Knew Too Much we are introduced to the villain in the opening scene, but the audience doesn't know that. In fact Abbott comes across as a likeable, jovial guy, not a guilty one. Am I the only one that thinks Robert Donat comes across as a bit smug, not innocent? That stated, I would like to reserve judgement until I watch the entire film. I have never seen this film and I am not certain how the opening plays into the eventual action and investment in the characters.

3. This scene plays into the elements of the Hitchcock touch. I will state a few: At the time a music hall performance and the audience there were the most ordinary of places and individuals. If our hero comes from the audience, he/she will probably be an ordinary person thrust into extraordinary circumstances. If something bad is going to happen in the music hall, it is definitely a place where normal people of the time would find themselves. In this brief clip, the film viewing audience doesn't have any more information that the characters, so this one scene does not show that element of the Hitchcock touch. This scene is so brief and I am unfamiliar with the movie, so I don't know if the MacGuffin is present in the scene or not. I also feel the use of humor in the scene is a definite Hitchcock touch. The bawdy comments of the audience, the woman's question about where her husband has been, all show the Hitchcock brand of humor. 

I do have one question: Is that Hitchcock seated in the front of the audience smoking a cigar? If so, that is another Hitchcock touch...his cameo.

 

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Often hitch uses scene grabbers, like not showing Donat's face, to draw you in the first few seconds of the movie.

 

Yes, he uses this technique for the audience to identify with a character.

 

Farce is contrast with facts, amazingly smooth we see a crowd controlled just as we are.

Check listing all the buttons, hitch touch is viewing as a audience would.

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In the movie "39 Steps" the opening is shadowy & we only see feet ...39 steps & feet ...humor & I do agree that ordinary people end up in horrible situations in this movie...these people have no faces & their heads are cut off on top...fight breaks out & a gun fires in the crowd ....this moves all the people outdoors where Hannay (Robert Donat) meets Annabella (Lucie Mannheim) & the real story starts...quickly we learn he is from Canada & she is afraid of everything & w/good reason b/c she ends up dead & he flees his own apt...the milkman scene is funny...& the "double chase" plot starts

 

Humor...Hannay cooks while smoking & wearing a heavy coat (before Annabella is murdered) he feeds her fish

 

The train whistle & the char woman finding the body of Annabella & screaming reminds me of the screaming woman in the opening scene of "The Lodger"

 

Hannay boards a train & meets the underwear salesman...humor & I do agree about the male/female connections in this film after Hanney ends up handcuffed to Pamela (Madeleine Carroll) & when he kissed her without her permission (not good) but he did it & tried to explain it away

 

The plot moves fast & we meet the evil Professor Jordon  (Godfrey Tearel) in the fog at night it seems & in-between the husband crofter (John Laurie) & wife ...the wife (Peggy Ashcroff) says she won't get hurt for giving Hannay her husband's coat but he hits her (off camera) we hear this only

 

we hope the evil Professor will get what he deserves for he is living a double life & hiding in plain sight 

 

I like the sheep scene ...foiled by a flock of sheep in the darkness & heavy fog ...good way to disappear & Hannay & Pamela have by this time been handcuffed together...again.... they meet & are forced together...she seemed at first to want to get away from Hannay but when she had the opportunity she stayed with him...this continues the plot to the end where they stay together & the final scene with the cuffs still on Hannay but  not Pamela ...they hold hands....she could leave but she stays with him to the end

 

I also like the clue when Hannay whistles

 

After watching "The Man Who Knew Too Much" what I noticed about these two movies would be the evil doers hiding in plain sight ... Professor Jordon & Abbott (Peter Lorre) 

 

Although I do not care for kidnapping movies...this one had a lot of humor...the dental sign w/big teeth was visually funny & in the opening scene of:  TMWKTM... the kidnapped victim Betty (Nova Pilbeam)

mentions Abbots 'big teeth'  & 'having too many teeth' she says & oily hair...it turns out that he is indeed oily & slick

 

The old woman who is working w/the kidnappers has her skirt removed ...humor

 

I did not expect this movie to end as a shoot'em up ...it looked gunfight at the OK Corral 

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1. Now that you have seen multiple openings to Hitchcock's British films, how does this opening both fit a pattern you have seen previously as well as deviate from other opening scenes? It seems to in that it has different focus points on various people in the film. Kind of gets your curiosity up to see what happens next.

 

2. Do you agree or disagree with Rothman's assessment that Hitchcock in this film is focused on introducing a more innocent character than in previous opening sequences of his films? I agree so far, the character seems innocent, but then again, when is anything as it seems in a Hitchcock movie?

 

3. Reflect on the role of yet another public space opening a Hitchcock film--this time a music hall--the prominence of a performer (Mr. Memory), and the reactions of the audience in the film to Mr. Memory's act. How does these on-screen elements play into the Hitchcock touch as described by Gene Phillips? I would think it sets you up for thinking that nothing could happen to someone in a public space-that one is safe. But underneath, there's quite a sinister element.

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1. Now that you have seen multiple openings to Hitchcock's British films, how does this opening both fit a pattern you have seen previously as well as deviate from other opening scenes? 


Some similarities are the interesting camera angles and the use of music. The scenes also feature a spectator/performer dynamic. 


2. Do you agree or disagree with Rothman's assessment that Hitchcock in this film is focused on introducing a more innocent character than in previous opening sequences of his films? 


I do agree that Hitchcock is focused on introducing a more innocent character. He is at a seemingly innocent public gathering, is dressed normally, and asks a seemingly innocent question of Mr. Memory, which shows he is engaged in the same entertainment as everyone else. 


3. Reflect on the role of yet another public space opening a Hitchcock film--this time a music hall--the prominence of a performer (Mr. Memory), and the reactions of the audience in the film to Mr. Memory's act. How does these on-screen elements play into the Hitchcock touch as described by Gene Phillips? 


All of these elements play into Gene Phillips's "Hitchcock Touch" description. The scene takes place in an ordinary setting and the main character appears to be an ordinary person. Although you don't see it in this scene, perhaps my favorite description of Gene Phillips's is “…The settings of Hitchcock films are quite ordinary on the surface, thereby suggesting that evil can lurk in places that at first glance seem normal and unthreatening.” 


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This is one of my all-time favourite Hitchcock films.  As someone who was born in Scotland and grew up in Winnipeg, how could I not be attracted to a film that gives "the third city of Canada, capitol of Manitoba... 1424 miles from Montreal," a shout-out, and then spends about half its runtime in Bonny Scotland (conveniently located on a sound-stage in London).

 

I object to the oft-used phrase of "innocent" man on the run.  I question whether anyone is truly innocent in a Hitchcock film.  I prefer to say "wrongfully-accused."  Richard Hannay is the quintessential Hitchcock character who is being punished for their complacency, in my opinion.

 

1. Now that you have seen multiple openings to Hitchcock's British films, how does this opening both fit a pattern you have seen previously as well as deviate from other opening scenes? 

As so often is the case in Hitchcock, we start at a public show, as a member of the audience, waiting to be entertained.  But, sometimes the gods decide that we should be the source of entertainment (like flies to wanton boys).

2. Do you agree or disagree with Rothman's assessment that Hitchcock in this film is focused on introducing a more innocent character than in previous opening sequences of his films? 

In Robert Donat, Hitchcock finally has a male actor of real charisma and screen presence.  Certainly, Peter Lorre is brilliant, but his physique would condemn him to character roles.  Donat is the dashing leading man with savoir faire.  He immediately invites identification and admiration.  This opening scene makes it clear that he is a stranger in town, and his clothes and manner suggest that he is more refined than the people around him, but... innocent?  That remains to be seen.

3. Reflect on the role of yet another public space opening a Hitchcock film--this time a music hall--the prominence of a performer (Mr. Memory), and the reactions of the audience in the film to Mr. Memory's act. How does these on-screen elements play into the Hitchcock touch as described by Gene Phillips? 

Mr. Memory seems to be a stand-in for Hitchcock himself.  The entertainer who is struggling to get respect from his audience.  But, he is also calling on the audience to pay close attention.  After all, he points straight to us in the audience and says, "Am I right, sir?"

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The opening pattern for The 39 Steps fits Hitchcock’s previous British film opening scenes by using a series of quick cuts and close-ups leading the audience to ask themselves who, what, when and where.  By limiting the opening scene images in The 39 Steps, Hitchcock creates suspense and mystery enticing the audience to contemplate and resolve.  [Being mindful this was made in a time period when audiences were required to think]

 

I would agree with Rothman’s assessment on Hitchcock introducing a more innocent character than previous films even though the hero’s introduction starts off as dark and curious as it did for the serial killer in The Lodger.  The tightly cropped and obscured angle of the ticket booth besieged in heavy shadows, has us following a mysterious man in a trench coat, with his face hidden from view and he enters a crowded theater leaving the director’s motive at this point, unknown.

 

The crowd reactions to the introduction of Mr Memory are mocking laughter and British humor, at the same time putting the audience at ease and enjoying a laugh or two before shots are fired and tension taking over.  These elements fit well within what is clearly becoming the Hitchcock touch where the innocent man in a very public environment is thrust into circumstances far beyond his control and he must rely on his own wits to not only to survive but also figure out how and why he is even involved.

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The opening scene from The 39 Steps fits a pattern that we have seen before in Hitchcock's films. Like The Pleasure Garden and The Man Who Knew Too Much, again we are thrust into a public space and caught up in a performance, with the spectators of great importance to the scene. Even when those on stage are speaking, we see them from an angle within the audience, and are aware of audience members in front of us. Therefore, Hitchcock deliberately makes us pay attention to the watchers, in a way that we have seen in previous films. This element of "the Hitchcock touch" is emphasized as once again we see cuts from the observed to the observers.

Similar to The Lodger, the first scene of The 39 Steps hides the identity of the character in the first few shots. However, as Rothman observed, a distinction is soon made between our view of Ivor Novello's character in The Lodger and the protagonist in The 39 Steps. We are made to feel that the gentleman who buys a ticket and takes his seat in the music hall audience is trustworthy, and we can identify with him because of his seemingly innocent participation in the questioning of "Mr. Memory." When he has to repeat his question several times, we feel he is relatable, and we can identify with him as a normal, non-threatening member of the audience.

 

Agreed but with one additional observation; this is not a location where a gentleman would typically frequent so the viewer is faced with a question of his motive for being here. Is he slumming? Is he looking for a brief escape from his more upper class life and simply wants to be a "regular guy" for a bit? Is he using this location as a place to disappear for a while as it is out of character for a gentleman? No matter the motive and despite his demeanor of innocence, he is out of place and the viewer is therefor drawn to him with just a bit of intrigue.

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1) The opening of The 39 Steps is very reminiscent of Hitchcock's earlier British films due to the spectacle unfolding on a stage. There is a crowd of anxious, and somewhat rambunctious audience members who want to know everything. This part of the opening reminds me quite a bit of The Pleasure Garden, only this time the audience wants to test someone's memory at a music hall instead of watch dancers. However, the very start of the opening with Hannay's identity remaining a secret until about two minutes or so was unique. The panning of the camera showcasing the Music Hall, and seeing only Hannay's back added a bit of mystery and potential danger until it is revealed that Hannay is the least of our troubles, and his are only about to begin as the film progresses. 

 

2) I agree completely with Rothman. Compared to the previous openings in which we are greeted with a dastardly fiend, or a screaming golden curled woman, or a woman stalking an innocent (for the most part) man, we are greeted with a man by the name of Richard Hannay who is the least bit violent, or at that very moment important. As the opening commences we see his face at about the half way mark and he asks his question twice before Mr. Memory even acknowledges him. This Mr. Memory taking the stage at the Music Hall is a very unique experience to say the least and at that moment Hannay blends in with the crowd quite well, I preferred this opening because it provided some freshness to the character which we get to experience properly in the future as the pace quickens with the double chase, etc.

 

3) The crowd reacts to the introduction of Mr. Memory quite rambunctiously. They are mocking and cracking a lot of jokes that stand out as British humor, although they act this way the audience is quite calm and enjoying themselves before the potentiality for chaos rising. The Hitchcock touch is very much at play in regards to Hannay who becomes overwhelmed when situations arise that are out of his control and element but Hannay has to overcome these respective obstacles to ensure his survival and most importantly to clear his own name.

 

 

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1. Now that you have seen multiple openings to Hitchcock's British films, how does this opening both fit a pattern you have seen previously as well as deviate from other opening scenes? I think it fits the pattern of really trying to set the tone of the scene or drawing you into the mystery of who the main character or characters are. But its also different because you don't see the main character as a sly figure like in The Lodger as Rothman said.


2. Do you agree or disagree with Rothman's assessment that Hitchcock in this film is focused on introducing a more innocent character than in previous opening sequences of his films? I agree. A night in a music hall watching a show is something that seems more normal and typical for average people.


3. Reflect on the role of yet another public space opening a Hitchcock film--this time a music hall--the prominence of a performer (Mr. Memory), and the reactions of the audience in the film to Mr. Memory's act. How does these on-screen elements play into the Hitchcock touch as described by Gene Phillips? They play into telling the audience that this all seems like a normal and ordinary person. You don't get a flashing sign saying that the character is shady or that he's super rich or extremely important in some way. Therefore, later in the movie when he's thrown into peril or serious situations the audience can connect with him more and be intrigued by an "average" man going through these types of situations.


 


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1. Now that you have seen multiple openings to Hitchcock's British films, how does this opening both fit a pattern you have seen previously as well as deviate from other opening scenes? 

I think the other opening scenes are The Pleasure Garden, The Lodger, and The Man Who Knew Too Much. There are similarities in the opening of The 39 Steps to all three. The Pleasure Garden also opens in a music hall, but it is more of a girly show. The Lodger uses a lighted electrical sign, but it is much more ominous, woman screams, cut to sign, To-Night Golden Curls, also hearkens a girly show. The Man Who Knew Too Much is similar in that it is an entertainment event, i.e., a sporting event.

2. Do you agree or disagree with Rothman's assessment that Hitchcock in this film is focused on introducing a more innocent character than in previous opening sequences of his films? 

I don't know if I would call the Robert Donat character innocent, but he is more sympathetic and relatable than the others. In The Pleasure Garden, the old gentleman is portrayed for laughs, a dirty old man. In The Lodger Daily Dose, I don't think they get to the Ivor Novello character, but when he does appear shortly after, he is dressed exactly as the murderer was described. There is a significant difference between the characters in The Man Who Knew Too Much and the Robert Donat character in The 39 Steps. In The Man Who Knew Too Much, the characters would have to be upper-class as they can afford to be off gallivanting to St. Moritz for a ski-jump competition. In The 39 Steps, the music hall is a very working-class venue, definitely no the Albert Hall. 

3. Reflect on the role of yet another public space opening a Hitchcock film--this time a music hall--the prominence of a performer (Mr. Memory), and the reactions of the audience in the film to Mr. Memory's act. How does these on-screen elements play into the Hitchcock touch as described by Gene Phillips? 

I'm sure there are music halls similar to this one all across England. The audience heckles Mr. Memory. They don't know how to behave, but Mr. Memory deals with their jeers deftly. He's used to this type of audience. By placing Robert Donat here, he is setting him up as more of a peer of the music hall audience, the common man, and by extension, Hitchcock's movie audience. This makes the Robert Donat character fit the following Gene Phillips' elements:

1) “Ordinary people who are drawn by circumstances into extraordinary situations.”
 
2) “[The hero] is thrown back on his own resources, and we sympathize with his plight in way that we cannot with the superhuman heroes bottled in the James Bond image.”

On 2), though we have no inkling from the Daily Dose that Robert Donat will be caught up in a web of spies, he is not portrayed as anything other than an ordinary person.
 
3) “…The settings of Hitchcock films are quite ordinary on the surface, thereby suggesting that evil can lurk in places that at first glance seem normal and unthreatening.” 
 
4) “[Hitchcock’s] villains commit their mayhem in amusement parks and respectable restaurants, places where the viewer might often find themselves—not in locations that we tend to avoid in order to escape potential harm, such as dark alleys and dives…” 
 
On both 3) and 4), the setting of the music hall could not be more ordinary. Though not an amusement park, it has the feel of a carnival or side show.
 
6) The use of a MacGuffin: “simply the thing that preoccupies the hero and heroine and because of which they are thrown into danger, such as a vital secret formula.
 
On 6), I don't want to spoil things, but suffice it to say, that the MacGuffin figures prominently in the music hall scene.


 

 

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The opening of the 39 STEPS fit well into the pattern we have seen in previous film openings. As in the MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH, it is public setting where people have gone to amuse themselves. The setting is benign and even the heckling is good natured. There is no sense of menace. It is the calm before the storm. Like the PLEASURE GARDEN, it begins setting of live entertainment. It differs from THE LODGER in that it is lighthearted.

 

I believe Rothman is essentially correct with his assessment of the more "innocent" opening. Unlike THE LODGER, which opens on a brutal murder, THE 39 STEPS opening is absent of the feeling of menance. However, THE 39 STEPS is a closer to the evolution from THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH, which introduces both the "innocent" characters and the villain. AS in THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH, it efficiently and effortlessly begins to introduce key characters and important plot points in an amiable fashion.

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1. The opening of The 39 Steps, like The Pleasure Garden, begins in a theatre with the entertainment of Mr. Memory. There is a light feel in this film that also can be found in The Pleasure Garden - joyous laughter, fast cuts between the audience and Mr. Memory, humorous dialogue presented with the questions presented. And there is definitely a suspense in the beginning of the clip, with Hannay's shadow and trench coat. This is present in other Hitchcock openings, like that of the girl screaming in The Lodger.

 

2. The character is innocent, as presented by Hitchcock, and likable. He asks an earnest question to Mr. Memory and has a refined air about him. He looks clean and neat, and is enjoying a night at the Music Hall like everyone else. But he is cast apart, seen especially when he is standing and talking to Mr. Memory (everyone surrounding him is seated and the lighting is focused directly on Hannay).

 

3. The setting in a music hall is rather ordinary for the 1930s, something that everyday audience members might get to visit, which connects the audience to the picture. The main character, too, is ordinarily dressed and ordinarily interested in Mr. Memory. There is a sense of humor that can be noted in all of Hitchcock's films and that is definitely present here, with some of the questions asked by the audience. Even further, many of Hitchcock's filming techniques - cant shots, pan on "Music Hall", focus on the back of Hannay until he is in the audience (which further shows his "everydayness").

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1. Now that you have seen multiple openings to Hitchcock's British films, how does this opening both fit a pattern you have seen previously as well as deviate from other opening scenes? 

 

I found the shots in The 39 Steps to be tighter that the others. We don't get a proper two-shot until we see the performers. I was going to say the orchestra, but the only figures clearly seen in that shot are the conductor and the bassist. Hannay is shrouded in secrecy. The hecklers are hard to understand. If deliberate, it would go to reinforce their unimportance. Thematically,the opening of The 39 Steps has more in common with The Pleasure Garden. The only implication of danger are the close and mysterious shots. There is nothing like Abbott recognizing Louis, nor the Avenger murdering again.

 

2. Do you agree or disagree with Rothman's assessment that Hitchcock in this film is focused on introducing a more innocent character than in previous opening sequences of his films? 

 

I agree. Hannay is comfortable and relaxed. Again, no mystery or danger.

 

3. Reflect on the role of yet another public space opening a Hitchcock film--this time a music hall--the prominence of a performer (Mr. Memory), and the reactions of the audience in the film to Mr. Memory's act. How does these on-screen elements play into the Hitchcock touch as described by Gene Phillips? 

 

I found the scene to be the reflection of the ordinary. Some of the audience asks him questions that directly relate to his act, while most heckle. They are drinking and having fun. The only danger I would suspect here would be the victim of a pickpocket or a barroom brawl. We have all been in these situations.

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  Mr. Hitchcock starts out by showing us an anonymous gentleman entering a working class music hall, he could be "Everyman." We do not see his face until the show starts and he is positioned in the middle of the crowd. He seems better dressed, more refined and educated than the rest of the audience. His demeanor does not reflect the audience's boisterous and rowdy greeting to Mr. Memory. Mr. Memory reflects back onto this gentleman an  educated and disciplined mind shared between the two. The question the gentleman gives to Mr. Memory, it is an exact question with an exact answer as opposed to the open-ended and mocking questions posed by the audience. Mr. Memory reflects back an answer that is similar to the nature of the question, very exact. The gentleman even doggedly repeats the question twice after getting interrupted the first time. It means something to him, this question. One gets the feeling that this gentleman is different from the other theater goers once his "Everyman" status is dissolved into the crowd. He stands out in dress, demeanor and the manner of his unusual question. This gentleman seems respectful of the Memory man's talent once he gets such a polished answer as opposed to the frivolous reception posed by the audience. One gets the feeling that facts and memory of such will be important and stand out in this story by Mr. Hitchcock.

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1.  The 39 Steps opening scene fits a pattern established in The Pleasure Garden, in that Hitchcock establishes a performance in a public place. There's exciting energy, everyone wants to enjoy themselves. Silhouette lighting is used to focus our attention to the stage. Fast cuts and montage are used to establish the setting and the mood. Quick. Upbeat. Fun.

 

2. Disagree. Because we are introduced to the main character in silhouette, back to us, no face, I believe it suggests things are not what they appear. There is more to this man than wanting a geography lesson in Canada. The fact that the man repeats the question, Hitchcock is telling us to pay attention to this man. Things are not what they seem. Again, this is a classic Hitchcock touch.

 

3. The casual, fun-loving atmosphere here is creating a sense of comfort for the audience, we are being led to believe nothing bad will happen here. But Hitchcock loves to lead us one way and surprise us in another.

 

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1.       Like the opening of The Pleasure Garden, The 39 Steps establishes a lively music hall setting, full of interesting, funny audience members whose interaction with the stage show is noticed by the camera. Similarly, The Man Who Knew Too Much opens with a crowd of fans, this time at a skiing competition. The Lodger also opens with a crowd of people, but this time fearfully following the events that surround a killing. In the openings of both The Pleasure Garden and The 39 Steps, the camera isolates bodies from heads, of chorus girls and Richard Hannay, respectively.

2.       Ultimately Hannay is established as a likeable, innocent character, but when we first meet him, he is a dark shadow approaching the ticket booth. We see him from the back as he buys a ticket, enters the theatre and finds his seat. We have no reason to know or like him yet. That changes when he elegantly asks his question about the distance between Winnipeg and Montreal. Unlike his heckling neighbors, he politely acknowledges Mr. Memory’s correct answer. In the opening of The Man Who Knew Too Much, we meet Abbott, who seems jolly, but breaks that for a chilling moment when he sees he’s talking to Louis Bernard, letting us know he isn’t such an innocent character.

3.       The energy and humor of the music hall sets the audience up for a story filled with both energy and humor, and is contrasted with the more staid and sophisticated audience at the end. We laugh at and with the rustic audience at the music hall. The camera sits among them as we look up at the host and Mr. Memory. It pans along faces in the audience as they shout out questions. A couple times we cut to the men standing by the bar, drinks in hand, shouting out jokes and cheering when the host announces that Mr. Memory will donate his brain to the British Museum.

4.       Although The 39 Steps ultimately fulfills the “Hitchcockian” elements described by Gene Phillips in his book Hitchcock, this opening scene mostly does not:

a.       We do meet Richard Hannay as an ordinary person (albeit more cultured than his fellow audience members), but his extraordinary situation has not yet happened.

b.      Since he is not yet in danger, he does not need to rely on his resources.

c.       The music hall is indeed established as a lighthearted setting, not one that would be associated with murder.

d.      We don’t yet know information that Hannay does not.

e.      We have not yet been introduced to “the 39 steps,” the MacGuffin of this film.

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The opening scene of 39 STEPS fits the previously studied films': PLEASURE PALACE, LODGER, & TMWKTM patterns by location in a public place, mob hysteria, incongruent details front loaded, and relatable average Joe or Jane's POV. Unlike the previous clips, 39 STEPS is more divergent by the casual nature of the Mr. Memory audience participation and therefoe our level of relatability skyrockets.

By Rothman's definition there is a more innocent protagonist and encourages our relatability with skillful conventions that launch Hitch's character and exemplifies that he is honing focus for his later masterpieces.

The Hitch touch of expressive close-ups in an ordinary public setting that reeks evil, of ordinary guys with exposition details front loaded to harbor subtext, with a non consequential MacGuffin introduces our story expertly in the wry dispassionate amusement turn of the lips plastered on Hannay.

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1. This time we're identifying with the audience and not getting the backstage view.  

    Expectations are confounded - the slow reveal of MUSIC HALL and the dingy sort of shadowy

    ticket buying sequence sets us up for what might be a sordid experience but instead we find

    a playful and harmless and completely nonsexual entertainment. In the pleasure palace, the

    playful descent of the dancers down the spiral staircase seemed to foreshadow a vivid and 

    exciting stage show but instead we were forced to watch the lecherous audience members and  

    backstage deals. 

 

2. I agree that we're being set up for an innocent character. In comparison with the bawdy and

    drunk audience, Hannay comes across as earnest and polite. He's interrupted by a child

    but still displays patience and perseverance in getting his question answered. His question is

    is about distance or space whereas many of the other questions are about time. This seems 

    to foreshadow a journey. It also identifies him as Canadian which I associate as being peaceful

    and friendly. I love it when Hitchcock shows his main characters from behind at the beginning

    of his movies. He does it in Notorious when we see gorgeous back of Cary Grant's head. The

    slow reveal forces us to identify with the character by having us see what he sees. 

 

3. I think the whole point of starting in the music hall is to manipulate the real movie audience

    into identifying with Hannay.  Hitchcock taps into the fact that you, as an actual moviegoer are

    vulnerable in real life to other people catcalling the screen or making noise or otherwise ruining

    the movie. Therefore you are perfectly primed to identify with the decent and civilized Hannay. 

    Just as Hitchcock inserts himself into the movie, he inserts you, the audience in the movie. 

    The introduction seems to imply that those who are able to pay attention and engage in the

    movie will be rewarded.

 

    

    

    

   

      

 

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1. How does this opening both fit a pattern you have seen previously as well as deviate from other opening scenes? 

 

The 39 Steps opens with a procession of letters spelling Music Hall.  One of the first scenes of The Lodger is also of lettering:  To-Night Golden Curls.  As mentioned in the notes for the Daily Dose, in The 39 Steps one of the first shots is of the back of a male figure also in a coat. However, in The 39 Steps, we soon see that the main character is a handsome, likable fellow enjoying an evening's entertainment in a place where an ordinary person would go to enjoy themselves.  In The Lodger, the drawing of the figure is followed by the closeup of a blonde woman screaming, then a woman finding a body.

 

The opening scenes of The 39 Steps also remind me a bit of The Pleasure Garden because of the theatrical milieu--an audience, humor.  And in The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), once again the opening scene takes place with an "audience," watching and enjoying watching a skiing competition.

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2. Do you agree or disagree with Rothman's assessment that Hitchcock in this film is focused on introducing a more innocent character than in previous opening sequences of his films? 

I do agree that Robert Donat is a more innocent character certainly than introduced in The Lodger, but I also think that Ivor Novello's character in Downhill starts out as an innocent and remains so for much of the film, to his detriment.  

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3. Reflect on the role of yet another public space opening a Hitchcock film--this time a music hall--the prominence of a performer (Mr. Memory), and the reactions of the audience in the film to Mr. Memory's act. How do these on-screen elements play into the Hitchcock touch as described by Gene Phillips? 

Hitchcock portrays Donat as an Everyman (although a very handsome one) out for a simple, affordable evening's entertainment at the music hall--a popular form of entertainment for the masses in Britain.  Donat's clothes and demeanor also reinforce the ordinary man image.  Hitchcock's shots of the audience (their working-class clothing), as well the dialogue for the audience members asking questions (their accents) reveal them to be ordinary, working-class Britons.  Also, their jokes and poking fun at Mr. Memory express to the film watcher that the characters are at a seemingly harmless public place (a music hall) where they feel perfectly free to express themselves.

I do think that Hitchcock's use of public places (often very large and grand both physically and iconically) evokes the feeling of one person feeling like a dot on a landscape.

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The Pleasure Garden, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and The Steps all open with scenes of people in public places, out for an entertaining, fun time. There are similarities in the use of camera angles, like the shot of the screaming woman in The Lodger and the man buying the ticket to the show in The 39 Steps, as well as the combination of long distance shots and closeups. For example, there's the closeup of the woman screaming in horror combined with the activities the theater dressing room in The Lodger. In The Man Who Knew Too Much there's the sweeping views of the ski run combined with the close up of the skier's face showing panic as he thinks he's going to hit the dog.

 

Robert Donat is introduced as an ordinary looking man from Canada who has decided to go to a show one evening. It's a commonplace thing to do. The opening scene of The Man Who Knew Too Much shows upper class people enjoying themselves in a ritzy setting, a lifestyle many in the audience might fantasize about. But the opening scene of The 39 Steps is in a more working class setting, and I think audiences would be more accepting of Robert Donat as "one of us." He seems like a "regular guy," relaxed, easygoing, having a good time.

 

The music hall is a "safe place" frequented by a cross section of the population looking for fun entertainment. Mr. Memory is simply (we think) an entertainer trying to earn a living, having to deal with hecklers as well as those who genuinely want to test his memory. Ordinary people doing ordinary things. But this is going to change for Robert Donat and Mr. Memory, who both are drawn into dangerous circumstances.

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1. Now that you have seen multiple openings to Hitchcock's British films, how does this opening both fit a pattern you have seen previously as well as deviate from other opening scenes? 

 

The setting is a public place.  The panning sequence as individual letters are lit up spelling "Music Hall" reminded of the flashing "To-night Golden Curls" sign in The Lodger.  Also reminiscent of The Lodger is seeing a trench coat wearing figure, no face shot.  A crowd is gathered to watch an event.  There's a glimpse of a woman's leg as the camera enters the theater, while lively music is playing (The Pleasure Garden).

 

The main deviation in this film is that the viewer see no faces until the start of the Mr. Memory show, a good two and a half minutes into the movie.  There's only a partial view of a man buying a ticket (angled shot of the ticket window), and then we follow his legs entering the music hall to sit down.

 

 

2. Do you agree or disagree with Rothman's assessment that Hitchcock in this film is focused on introducing a more innocent character than in previous opening sequences of his films? 

I cannot discern from the opening sequence if Robert Donat's character is innocent. He's certainly different from the other people in the audience - well dressed, polite mannered and well spoken.  He seems to be a visitor in town.  That's about all I can deduce from this clip.  Hitchcock sets up the viewer's first encounter with the Donat character surrounded by an air of mystery about him.  He's seen from behind, wearing a trench coat, with only a partial view of his body on camera.  The viewer follows his footsteps as he enters the theater and sits down, and is not allowed to see his face until two and a half minutes in.  It remains to be seen if the character is innocent or not.

 

 

3. Reflect on the role of yet another public space opening a Hitchcock film--this time a music hall--the prominence of a performer (Mr. Memory), and the reactions of the audience in the film to Mr. Memory's act. How does these on-screen elements play into the Hitchcock touch as described by Gene Phillips? 

 

The music hall seems like a neighborhood gathering place with regular folks in the audience (mixture of men and women, working class people, loud mouths, baby crying.  They ask Mr. Memory questions about sports history, roving husbands, Mae West's age.  One woman chides her husband when he asks what causes pip in poultry - "Don't  make yourself so common."  There's the ironic humor Hitchcock sprinkles into all his movies.  This is an ordinary place filled with common people.  Not an environment where you'd anticipate espionage going on, or where you'd find a hero.  That remains to be seen.

 

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