Dr. Rich Edwards

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

209 posts in this topic

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? 

 

Conforms: letters or text provide context, public places containing audiences and performances which set us up as voyeuristic.

 

Deviates: jovial and light-hearted banter and we see nothing at stake in the opening scene, other than Mr. Memory missing a question or two.

 

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? 

 

Definitely I agree with Rothman—Donat’s countenance is winsome and his posture open and welcoming.  His dress, manners, and accent all indicate a different stature than those around him, as does his question about Canada. 

 

Where the other questioners focus on bouts and races, Hannay’s query about distance between cities belies a more cosmopolitan individual, one perhaps we would like to get to know.  We evince no revulsion or horror when we meet him in close-up.

 

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?

 

Because of those attributes listed above, we are immediately drawn to this character with his “everyman” qualities.  Philips’ assertion that evil lurks among the mundane—which appears true here—reminds me of Agatha Christie’s (and the other three queens of mystery) plots in which evil is situated in the seemingly cozy surround.  

 

In fact, this opening reminds me of those period mysteries whose narratives generally open with that sense of equilibrium only to quickly dissolve into societal chaos by way of misdirection and mistaken identities.

 

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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 opening to The 39 Steps is very similar to the openings of the other films because they each take place in a public forum. They all contain levels of action/reaction: the chorus girls dancing and being ogled by the men in Pleasure Garden; the female victim screaming as she is killed in Lodger; and skiers riding down the slope and being cheered on by people in Man Who Knew Too Much. However, in 39 Steps, the main protagonist isn't shown right away, so there is a sense of anticipation of knowing who he is, and more importantly, whether or not he is going be someone to love, someone to hate, or both. The reveal relieves the tension since it is shown to be Robert Donat.

 

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 because Robert Donat and his character is easily likeable and charming. You feel instant sympathy as he eventually gets drawn into circumstances and events that are obviously way out of his league. But since you genuinely like him, you're with him every step of the way.

 

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- a public space filled with characters from all walks of life.

 

Mr. Memory- an eidetic man whose act is not taken very seriously by the audience. 

 

Reactions of audience: At first, they don't really buy into his act, but they are eventually won over, especially by his answer to the most difficult question asked.

 

 

In the case of Gene Phillips, they all play a very important part. They don't seem like much at the beginning, but in the end, they are fully realized. The end of the film is where the opening took place; in the music hall where Mr. Memory revealed reveals the 'MacGuffin'. Sorry if I spoiled this for people who haven't seen the film. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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? 

 

This opening fits the pattern in the sense that some of the other films have opened in public spaces. It's full of bright lights and cheery people. 

 

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, Hannay seems to appear to blend into the crowd and is a quiet character until it's his turn to ask a question. Then he appears to be as cheerful and innocent as the rest of the crowd. 

 

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 audience treat Mr. Memory as if he's a joke, they ask him ridiculous questions that they don't think he can answer. The audience seems to be somewhat surprised when he is actually able to give them the answers to their questions. Public spaces are where we all go in our daily lives, whether it be a music hall or a coffee shop.. these are all places that we feel safe in and don't expect any type of danger to occur. I think that in Hitchcock films, that safety is taken away. The characters become vulnerable once they are in a event that occurs in a public setting. These elements effectively check off the items on the list of the Hitchcock touch that was made by Phillips. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As was the case with the other scenes, this opening scene is also very vibrant.  In each, a large crowd is gathered, for different reasons, some more serious than others.  At least in these early films--to establish the carefree vibrancy or even to establish a counterpoint--Hitchcock seems to incorporate small bands or larger orchestras, as we see at the beginning in two of the films: The Pleasure Garden and The 39 Steps. Hitchcock also seems to emphasize the marquees at night and the vibrant nightlife in some of these films (sometimes at the beginning; sometimes later in the film), whether it is Linda seeing the lighted sign become a hand and knife in Blackmail or the lighted signs in Downhill or even TMWKTM.  In The Lodger and TMWKTM the crowds are outside, at a murder and a near catastrophe, respectively, the first being more overtly serious than the second although the ski scene sets a serious tone for the relationship between Bob, Abbott, and Louis.  One big difference I see in The 39 Steps, is that unlike the scene with the showgirls in The Pleasure Garden, with the front row of the audience predominantly occupied by leering men, the audience for Mr. Memory's show is fairly evenly mixed, with paired couples (some of them showing that signature Hitchcock trademark of a tense relationship).


Not having seen the entire film, I will try to make an educated guess at the theory that Hitchcock is introducing a more innocent character.  The audience member who asks the distance between the two cities in Canada seems to be innocuous.  He has a very easy-going demeanor in seeming to casually ask his question.  However, Peter Lorre as Abbott also had a very easy-going demeanor and as was noted in yesterday's discussion, he was a villain.  Is the audience member simply testing Mr. Memory's knowledge or does he need this information about the distance between the cities? (I'm sure I'll find out).  So, yes, he seems innocent, but is this just a facade?


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? 


Again, relying only on the opening clip, it seems that most of the elements that Phillips mentions do or will appear.  First, we potentially have “Ordinary people who are drawn by circumstances into extraordinary situations.”  Will the people in the audience suddenly be thrown into an unexpected situation, such as a dramatic, dangerous action at the music hall?  That would certainly bring Philips' third and fourth points into the equation: a seemingly ordinary and safe setting, similar to the dance early in TMWKTM, or even the scene at the Royal Albert Hall later in that same film, places where people, at least in "simpler" times felt safe or free from threats.  I did see all of these elements in Blackmail and TMWKTM, and I am sure I will see all of them eventually in The 39 Steps.


  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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? 


 


Well, it definitely fits with other openings I've seen in that Hitch is encouraging me as the viewer to step in and follow someone into a pretty ordinary setting. Like Hannay, I feel like I'm just out to spend an evening doing something fun. There's also a lot of energy in the scene as there has been in the other opening scenes we've looked at so far. No slow burn build-up. There's a quick, fast pace going for this film right from the get-go.


 


As far as how it differs? It definitely takes advantage of there being sound involved, so it's more dialogue-driven with Mr. Memory's act and all the banter going on. Hitch uses all that to help the energy and interest in the characters build instead of relying on visuals alone.


 


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'm not sure about "more innocent" per se. He definitely seems like more of an everyman. I don't know much about the character yet, but something about the way he carries himself reminds me of some of the characters Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart eventually play in future Hitchcock films. They seem like average joes for sure. 


 


It almost felt like Hitch was trying to underline how "average" Hannay is even further by having another show-goer interrupt him and cause Mr. Memory to ignore him the first time he tries to ask a question. He just sat there all polite-like until his turn finally came to speak. Then he had to repeat himself right before we learn he's from Canada. It doesn't get more "average" than that. 


 


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 introduction of Mr. Memory reminds me of the introduction of Abbott in The Man Who Knew Too Much. We're set up to be astonished along with the crowd at everything Mr. Memory can do with his mind. I think it's also important that the crowd sort of assumed he was full of crap at first until he started firing back all those obscure facts when asked. He's definitely the sort of person you'd probably underestimate at your peril, just like Abbott. 


 


We're also being introduced to the action again in an ordinary setting -- someplace you'd never expect something crazy to happen. As it was said in the lesson, this isn't a seedy alleyway or a gross, dark corner in a bad neighborhood. It's someplace any person in search of some entertainment might find themselves spending a free evening. That's the Hitchcock touch through and through.


  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

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? 

 

Well, it definitely fits with other openings I've seen in that Hitch is encouraging me as the viewer to step in and follow someone into a pretty ordinary setting. Like Hannay, I feel like I'm just out to spend an evening doing something fun. There's also a lot of energy in the scene as there has been in the other opening scenes we've looked at so far. No slow burn build-up. There's a quick, fast pace going for this film right from the get-go.

 

As far as how it differs? It definitely takes advantage of there being sound involved, so it's more dialogue-driven with Mr. Memory's act and all the banter going on. Hitch uses all that to help the energy and interest in the characters build instead of relying on visuals alone.

 

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'm not sure about "more innocent" per se. He definitely seems like more of an everyman. I don't know much about the character yet, but something about the way he carries himself reminds me of some of the characters Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart eventually play in future Hitchcock films. They seem like average joes for sure. 

 

It almost felt like Hitch was trying to underline how "average" Hannay is even further by having another show-goer interrupt him and cause Mr. Memory to ignore him the first time he tries to ask a question. He just sat there all polite-like until his turn finally came to speak. Then he had to repeat himself right before we learn he's from Canada. It doesn't get more "average" than that. 

 

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 introduction of Mr. Memory reminds me of the introduction of Abbott in The Man Who Knew Too Much. We're set up to be astonished along with the crowd at everything Mr. Memory can do with his mind. I think it's also important that the crowd sort of assumed he was full of crap at first until he started firing back all those obscure facts when asked. He's definitely the sort of person you'd probably underestimate at your peril, just like Abbott. 

 

We're also being introduced to the action again in an ordinary setting -- someplace you'd never expect something crazy to happen. As it was said in the lesson, this isn't a seedy alleyway or a gross, dark corner in a bad neighborhood. It's someplace any person in search of some entertainment might find themselves spending a free evening. That's the Hitchcock touch through and through.

 

Everyman. Yes, good description!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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? 


Unlike the other films, 39 Steps doesn't have the frenetic energy of the others, such as The Lodger.  It has a more pleasant and modern feel to it.  Perhaps it is the use of sound, but it seems much more enjoyable to watch.


It does have the interesting camera shots, such as the ticket being purchased, and the footsteps into the music hall.  Angles that seem very Hitchcockian.


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? 


The main character is very nonchalant and is as good looking as the other protagonists as his other films.  In the 39 Steps though, he seems more at ease and intelligent and not as overly expressive as his silent films.


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? 


As Phillips states, Hitchcock uses locations that seem very normal and ordinary and a place that we, the audience, can relate to because we can see ourselves in that location.  It is not taking place in a scary place that we would never go to.  This causes it to seem even more sinister - that every day places can house evil.


Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1. The pattern that I can think of is that Hitchcock is interested in music halls (by looking at the opening scene from "The 39 Steps" and the earlier scene from "The Pleasure Garden").  One noticeable difference is that the other scenes (in 1927's "The Lodger" and the 1934 version of "The Man Who Knew Too Much," where the setting of the opening scenes are outside).

 

2. Robert Donat's characterization of Hannay in the beginning of "The 39 Steps" seems to be an innocent character, as he is not rowdy like the other members of the audience at the music hall.

 

3. Somehow, this might connect to the opening of Hitchcock's "The Pleasure Garden" (1925), which also takes place in a music hall.  I think the opening in "The 39 Steps" might fit in with Gene Philips' theory about how villains can enact havoc in unsuspecting places (e.g., amusement parks, music hall establishments).  When I think of "amusement parks," I think of the scene in Hitchcock's 1951 thriller, "Strangers on a Train" (with Robert Walker as villain Bruno Antony).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm trying to dig into this common theme of a stage of sorts and spectators at the opening of so many Hitchcock films. I think it has to do with more than his entrenched theme of voyeurism. I believe it's about misdirection. In The 39 Steps, for example, we follow Hannay into the theater but are not really introduced to him. The first person we are introduced to is Mr. Memory. The announcer literally introduces us to him, and we are even made to feel sorry for the poor man on stage as the people mock him. Then we root for him when he begins to show his talent and win them over.

 

While we are bonding with Mr. Memory, though, we are introduced to Mr. Hannay, who will be our protagonist, without even knowing it. He politely asks his question a number of times, not minding that he is shouted over. His question reveals that he is from Canada. By the time the crowds rush out of the theater and the lady in distress asks to accompany him, we feel safe with him. We are already invested in him as a character.

 

But our connection to Mr. Memory is not abandoned. When he reemerges in the end, the exposition we've already gained on him makes the improbable MacGuffin probable. And we even maintain our sympathy for him as he recounts the government secrets he's memorized, eager to please with his ability right up to his dying breath.

 

By opening on a stage or spectacle, Hitchcock orients the entire film (all of the characters) to watch and care about one thing or person. We do too, until we find he has subtly ingratiated us to the real protagonist. Because of the order of our investment, we can empathize with the protagonist's care for the MacGuffin, even while primarily caring about the character's development and wellbeing along the way.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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? 

 

In a lot of the early Hitchcock films we see an image and then we enter a public space to meet new set of characters.

 

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.  Although I have yet to see the film.

 

 

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? 

 

​This opening reminds me of the opening of the film the pleasure garden where we see a large audience and then slowly are introduced to characters. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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 pattern that is established is that the scene is an ordinary place, one, that at the time would have been an ordinary evening out focusing on Donat and the crowd as with The Pleasure Garden and The Man Who Knew Too Much. It deviates from a film such as The Lodger in that it is a light and carefree scene rather that a horrific one.

 

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? AS far as the clip show, Hanney/Donat is just an ordinary tourist in town for some nightlife. Maybe more urbane that the rest of the audience.

 

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? According to Phillip's checklist: 3) Evil does lurk in the most ordinary places, such as a music hall and 4) the audience will identify with them being in such ordinary places.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The opening scene fits the patterns of other Hitchcock British films by having manin characters be 'seen' right away yet not really formally 'introduced' quite yet.
Secondily, I feel Hitchcock 'challenges' your intellect in some way or another immediately (Who is the mystery man in the audience?, Mr. Memory etc).
The scene differs from other Htichcock opening scenes by having a male protagonist be introduced at the start instead of usual suspect females (which without me seeing the film is enough to make me conspire the villain is female).
Also, the intro seems crime-free, insult free, etc. No 'attack' on anyone has occured yet. So either it's about to, or it already happened somehow (lack of German Expressionism).
I 100% agree with Rothman's assessment about a more 'innocent' character being introduced.
Many things made that seem clear;
1-The man was introduced to the audience in the film and to us as a Canadian (Americans think Canadians are very innocent by nature).
2-The way Htichcock used 'ligth' to shine on the Canadian man's face, it gave him an almost 'angelic' visage.
3- (This is my favorite part) A 'Baby' could be heard off and on in the scene.
This is vital creative use as was the 'light' on the man's face.
In this new age of 'Sound' Hitchcock used that baby's whimpers strategically to induce thoughts of 1- Inocence (the main character, possible the audience) and 2- Immaturity (the audience's inability to ask serious, adult questions to Mr. Memory).
The on screen elements of the public space play into the 'Hitchcock Touch' by:
-How a villain may attack or have already attacked in this seemingly very safe public venure normal everyday people would attend (Curator's Note on H. Touch  3+4).
-You discover a Canadian in the audience thus sharing information right away about the main character with the audience (Curator's Note on H. Touch #5)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hitchcock does seem intent to introduce a more "innocent" character than in previous films we've discussed. His introduction seems to have the hallmarks of a villain's introduction: His shadow precedes him to the box office, and the shot is at a kanted angle. Additionally, it takes nearly a full minute to show his face - something that only seems necessary when the character has something to hide. But when we finally see him, we find Robert Donat is a perfectly pleasant-looking, clean-cut, mild-mannered gentleman. Unlike the audience members shouting bawdy/inappropriate jokes, he asks a banal question about the distance between 2 Canadian cities. Threat level = Unthreatening.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1) As with almost all of Hitchcock's films, there is a large group of people taking part in the opening. In this case, the Music Hall. As in the previous film, the main characters are introduced. However, as yet, nothing sinister has occurred. 

 

2) I cannot necessarily agree with the sentiment, as the family introduced in The Man Who Knew Too Much is also seemingly, quite innocent until the murder. In this case, Hannay seems just another innocent traveller who has happened upon the Music Hall and its event. The same as in Blackmail, the opening sequence in no way indicates that there are any persons involved that are not innocent. In all of these cases it is not until the film starts to unravel that we understand the complexity of the situation that the lead is finding him/her self involved in.

 

3) This large group in the Music Hall inputs an element of early humour into the film. The large group is seemingly a safe group as there is an inherent "safety in Numbers".The audience members are having fun with Mr.Memory, but not at his expense, but their own.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The 39 Steps, & The Lady Vanishes are my favorite Hitchcock films from his British sound era.

 

I'm not sure I can add anything to the conversation at this point.  Everyone has already brought up great points.  

 

Hitchcock is great at drawing you in to his films by making you care about his characters; you want to know more about them; you're interested in their fates.  He does this to perfection in The 39 Steps. Robert Donat's character is introduced anonymously, but then his character is slowly revealed just by observing him in the music hall.  He's an "every man"; good natured, pleasant, wants to join in with those around him.  He's obviously an innocent man.  In Hitchcock's earlier films, the openings were a bit darker, even the opening of The Pleasure Garden where the darker side of human nature is revealed by the learing "gentlemen" in the audience.

 

 

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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 opening sequence of The Pleasure Garden begins in a theater, as does The 39 Steps. In The Lodger, we see the graphic depiction of the back of a man in a similar kind of coat as Robert Donat when he walks into the theaterAlso in both The 39 Steps and The Lodger, we have the flashing marquee. I didn't see the opening sequence of The Ring, but the opening sequences of, Downhill, The Farmer's Wife, are not similar to The 39 Steps at all.

 

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?

 

While it is true that Donat's character is innocent, Novello's character in Downhill, is also innocent. I haven't seen The Lodger yet, but according to the lecture notes, Novello's character in that movie is also innocent. It is true, though that Jill, in The Pleasure Garden appears to be innocent, however, it's all an act. Maybe what Rothman meant was that this is the first of Hitchcock's films that begins the trend of the regular everyman getting caught up in some intrigue, which is life threatening. He must use his intelligence and strength to get himself out of his dire situation. That's a situation Hitchcock uses over and over again in his movies.

 

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? 

 

In The 39 Steps, we have many scenes in public places, the theater, the train, the lecture hall, where Hannay gives the political speech, the pastoral scenes on the Scottish moors. Then we have more private spaces where guests are entertained, his apartment, the country house, and the hotel. Many of Hitchcock's other films use theaters, The Albert Hall in both versions of The Man Who Knew too Much, and the dance hall in The Pleasure Garden. Many more use pastoral scenes, or wide open spaces, which in most non-Hitchcock stories would represent tranquility. That's not always the case in Hitchcock's movies. Big country houses are used in Notorious, North by Northwest, and Marnie to name a few. Apartments are used in Rope, Rear Window, Vertigo, Frenzy, and others. He also uses trains in many of his movies. This movie sets up those types of locations that Hitchcock uses over and over again.

 

In the music hall scene in The 39 Steps, the crowd is raucous. They don't follow conventional theater etiquette and sit quietly. I think this sets up the fast pace of this movie. The questions to Mr. Memory come fast and furiously and he has a hard time keeping up with all of them, so he picks the most persistent speakers. Of course one of the questions is from the protagonist, and the question and answer give us a little bit of information about him, that he's from Canada, for example.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I had to watch the clip several times to make sure that either there was a problem with continuity, or who's seated next to Hannay changes deliberately.  First, we see him with a lady to his right and a gentleman with a white scarf around his neck to his left.  When the boy leans over Hannay (on purpose?) to ask his question, he drops something on the lady's coat, perhaps from what is in his hand, which she brushes away.   But seated to the left of Hannay is now a man in a cap, but the white scarf man is gone.  When Mr. Memory finally speaks to Hannay, Hannay has moved over one seat to the left, and Mr. White Scarf reappears sitting next to the lady where Hannay first sat.

 

The similar patterns in this film with the other openings I've viewed include light and lively music, a crowd - some a bit boisterous from liquor, a stage and an audience with interaction between the two, signage, and shots from both the audience's, the entertainer's, and Hannay's POV.  What stands out as different is the comic relief in this clip.  Some of the audience's comments are frivolous and humorous, but others take a jab at Mr. Memory. And why, as one audience member points out, is Mr. Memory sweating, rubbing his hands together, and trying to loosen his collar - stage fright, the raucous audience, or is Hannay someone he knows?  What has him seemingly upset? We saw a tad bit of the mocking tone from some in the crowd in The Lodger, and from Miss Golden Cur,l giving her admirer a good what for.

 

Hannay does seem to be an innocent character, but I find it odd that he goes to a rather common entertainment. Not that Mr. Memory is common, but Hannay seems out of place and more urbane than the members of the audience.  What is he doing here and why has he come from Canada to England?  When you first see him in the audience from the stage, he seems a head taller and much better groomed and dressed than the others. The only other somewhat suave character is Mr. White Scarf, who pops in and out of the scene.  I find it odd that Hannay is in this theater.  Does his question about the distance from Winnipeg to Montreal hold some significance to the plot?  It's been so long since I've seen this film that I don't remember it clearly.  I also noticed that a lot of numbers were thrown about during the stage performance.  Do they hold important information like a code for some secret?

 

Other than the strange movements of Mr, White Scarf, which could be seen as rather sinister, I don't find Hannay in any predicament as of this clip.  Some of the characters, however, could seem to be maneuvering around him to set him up for some nefarious purpose.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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? 


Crowd scenes seem to set the stage for the rest of the film: music halls, soccer matches, sport fans (watching the ski jump), and a crowd eager to hear news of a recent murder.The crowds in the previous films seem more active because of what they are doing or what is happening to them. This group is just a happy bunch waiting to be entertained.


In The 39 Steps, the crowd is more organized I guess and less frenetic. No leering old dudes, tragedy mongers, or competitive school boys. More relaxed - although The Man Who Knew Too Much is somehwat relaxed until the skier crashes into them. 


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? 


Yes, I don't detect any anxiety, furtiveness, or mysterious behavior here. The initial scene in Downhill didn't either though.


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? 


It's a public place you normally would not associate with anything dark or threatening. It's a gathering place for the common, ordinary man (the crowd) which is now Hitchock's hero - a very ordinary man. Nothing unusual - yet. The banter between the crowd and Mr. Memory is light - after they witness he does have a remarkable memory - and enjoyable. Their questions are about life that interests them - nothing deep.


Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have not yet seen the movie 39 steps but am certainly looking forward to it. As said by one of the viewers the clip we have seen introduces us slowly to this main character in the music hall. I like the way Hitchcock slowing so to speak  draws the curtain open to introduce us to this character.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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? 

 

​Not like his earlier films, this one opens with a lot of action.  Almost manic.  It starts slow and then builds quickly.  There is a lot of background noise.  Sounds of a baby crying and a heckler.  (?)  There is no close up of any one characters face.

 

 

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? 

​Yes. I agree.  He is a man who goes to see a performance.

 

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? 

It's an everyman opening.  I love it.  The heckler and the baby crying.  Dialogue coming fast, one of top of the other.  Before you have a chance to absorb one line, another comes in on top of it. Like normal everyday life. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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 fits the pattern of opening in a public setting.

 

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. When the character asks a question of Mr. Memory, he asks very softly, as opposed to most of the others in the room who shout their questions. Plus, he is immediately interrupted by the boy behind him who leans in and shouts a question over him. This character allows that to happen and then waits a while before he again asks his question. He seems like a very polite, mannered gentleman in a room full of people who are anything but polite and mannered.

 

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 don't know

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.

Interesting; thanks for bringing that up.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hellllooo,

1. Hitchcock opens with focus on geet, hands and then reveals a crowd in a hall and finally reveals the character we should really be focused on when he calmly asks a question of Mr. Memory. the pattern I see is there is always a crowd of people and an open/public space; the street in The Lodger; The dance hall in The Pleasure Garden and now the music hall.

 

2. I agree.. the character is not flamboyant in anyway...almost in cognito, especially the way Hitch introduces him, feet, hands, back and finally we see and hear him. He seems like he is there enjoying the show like everyone else in the place.

 

3. In The Pleasure Garden, we open on the spiral staircase, move to the stage then the audience of mostly oogling men, then one man's fansication with one of the dancers. Everyone is into what is happening on stage, except the sleeping woman  in the front row, (a little comedy) In The Lodger, focus on the screaming woman and then the crowd looking on to her dead body. In The 39 Steps, there is a crowd in the music hall.  The Hitchcock Touch abounds.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1. It opens up with a crowd gathering in a public place which is consistent with other films.

 

2. Yes, I agree with rothman's assessment of focusing innocent character

 

3. As I reflect on this film as another public setting at a music hall. Mr. memory's act is taken with a grain of salt because his act is too incredible to believe and the audience doesn't. In retrospect Gene Phillips had the assumptions  that these are ordinary people grawn into an extraordinary circumstance.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Responding to the Q of innocent characters, public places & Mr. Memory

 

Off angle camera shots, smoky shadows, people crowded into a tight space ...this is where Mr. Memory is set to perform. A rowdy crowd to be sure with thick accents local to that area I assume...an area Hitchcock lived in according to (Wiki) ...Wiki reported that 6 minutes & 33 seconds into the movie Hitchcock & the screen director Charles Bennett appear in the movie by the bus.  Bennett tosses a cig onto the ground by the bus. Also, Hitchcock is seen leaving the theater when the fight breaks out.

 

Audience screams silly questions as the man introduces Mr. Memory...they do not have faith in his ability. Why would they? It is stated that Mr. Memory will leave his brain to the British Museum when he is dead.

 

The audience continues to scream questions before Mr. memory has time to break in with his answers. 

He does get in a few correct answers & Hannay (Robert Donat) is from Canada & asks Qs about Canada & we meet him as a character from Canada.

 

A fight breaks out & everyone (including Hitchcock) pours outdoors where Hannay meets the counterintelligence agent  Annabella (Lucie Mannheim).

 

NOTE:  I have not been able to listen to the Vimeo videos b/c my service is slow & Vimeo buffers except in the wee hours so I cannot respond to Gene Phillips idea of what the Hitchcock touch is.

 

Hopefully I will get to listen to the Vimeo videos before this series ends. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

New Members:

Register Here

Learn more about the new message boards:

FAQ

Having problems?

Contact Us