Dr. Rich Edwards

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

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The opening scene starts with images of anonymous feet and hands, very ordinary people, but headed for the magic of the musical hall. The blinking lights of the sign and th images of a crowd on the move connect to The Ring, The Pleasure Garden, and The Lodger. The hero only gradually comes into view with shots of his back in a rather handsome camel hair coat. He is handsome and genial--while many of the audience members attempt to derail Mr. Memory's act with impossible questions, Hannay asks a challenging but reasonable question that reveals he is Canadian. I read a previous post that suggests that Hannay seems to be from a higher social strata than most of the audience. Here I think we have a hallmark of Hitchcock's use of stars--his heroes are supposedly "ordinary guys" but, really, they are not ordinary on account of their looks and charisma. Yes, Cary Grant, I am looking at you! Donat is an early example of the same phenomenon, as is Ivor Novello. Another important thing about Hannay is that his Canadian citizenship puts him outside the British class system--I don't know if he is more innocent but he has that American good nature. I know the course has presented the idea of public places as safe and unmencainlg, as opposed to dark alleys and other shadowy, solitary areas. I am not so sure about this for viewers today who live with the prospect of terror at all sorts of seemingly innocent and secure places. I do think the entertainment spaces may suggest places where the dream log that Professor mentioned may

hold sway. Before leaving this assignment, I would like to say how much I love Mr. Memory. He handles the audience with grace and humor, and, when the crunch comes, he is more devoted to his art and his knowledge than to life itself. How I love this film!

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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?  This opening has an anonymity to it as the others did.  This one however is not focused the women as the others I remember.


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 there is an innocense not seen in the other openings.


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? You can definitely see the beginnings of the touch, ordinary settings as well as seeing the start of drawing people in.


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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 is not shocking like the most of the other films, yet is intriguing as you want to know who is the man, what is he seeing, what does he look like, why is he hidden at first, etc.  The other films seems to have some negative event; ski accident, murder, etc.

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? 

No, who are we to judge that the characters all weren't innocent at the start of the film? The college boys, the murdered woman, the dancer, etc.  Is shows many everyday people that get in a trap.  We don't always know right at the start if they are innocent or guilty.  Once we learn of their innocence or know the story, we still seems to lean into them and support them getting out of this jam, chase, attack, etc.  In this film he could have just murdered a woman in the alley and popped inside to hide and catch whatever show was going on.  We hear a crying baby, people are obviously drunk at the bar, their is the multiple sounds of a Cockney accent telling us the majority of the room is filled with working class people ...until the handsome actor speaks with his refined voice. 

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?

We feel sympathy towards Mr. Memory at the start as he is dressed in tails, yet is being laughed at and the questions are more like you would ask a psychic.  When he starts to perform you then know he truly is a walking encyclopedia, or today a computer or robot.  The Hitchcock touch would be we see things we may rarely or never have seen in our lives, yet we have an intimate view.  He allows our mind, soul and spirit to travel to many places and experience the reality of that place.  

What he also does is the control of lightness and darkness, which seems to heighten everything or put it into a shadow.  When something is uncomfortable, awful, tragic we seems to watch more closely.  This quote from Donald Spoto is perfect, "In the oddly appealing visual originality there is a stark fusion of the grotesque and the beautiful [...]. The aestheticizing of the horror somehow enables the audience to contemplate more fully its reality; instead of turning away from the image, repulsed, we gaze, and so are forced to assess feelings, reactions and moral judgments about the acts perceived, (as cited by Driscoll, 2014)

Reference

Driscoll, P. (February, 2014).   The Hitchcock Touch:  Visual Techniques in the  work of Alfred Hitchcock.    International ResearchScape Journal: Vol. 1, Article 4. Retrieved from:  http://scholarworks.bgsu.edu/irj/vol1/iss1/4 

 

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I seem to be in the minority about disagreeing 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.   :blink: 

But what makes him innocent; because he is handsome, appears calm, is well dressed, well spoken ...he doesn't fit in with the crowd, at all.  Why is he here? Why he is interested in the distance from Winnipeg to Manitoba?  Is this a throw away question or one he specifically came to the show to know?  

 

I think that makes him suspicious big time.   :ph34r: 

 

 

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1. This opening fits the pattern we have seen in the other openings in the following ways.

 The music hall letters is similar to the "Golden Curls tonight" in The Lodger. The music playing and people on a stage is similar to the Pleasure Garden. All the openings have a crowd gathering to watch either some entertainment, sporting contest or a murder scene. 

This opening differs from the others by having the focus at the beginning on a male character. The Pleasure Garden focused on the blonde dancer, The Lodger focused on the murder victim and the female witness, and The Man Who knew too much focused on the young girl with the dog. It has a lighthearted feel and no sense of danger yet.

 

2.I agree with Rothman's assessment. The main character buys a ticket to a music hall show. The crowd is rowdy but not leering like the men in the Pleasure Garden. The main character is polite and lets others jump ahead with their questions waiting his turn to be called on.Nothing sinister is happening as far as we can tell. No sense of danger as in the murder at the beginning of The Lodger or the near accident and sinister feeling between Abbott and the skier in The Man Who Knew Too Much.

 

3. As The 39 Steps opens we see a crowd gathered at a music hall, another public place where there does not seem to be any danger lurking yet. Mr Memory is the main attraction just as the blonde dancer was the main performer in The Pleasure Garden. He seems to be nervous and is sweating. The crowd are shouting out their comments as he waits for a serious question to show them his talent of remembering various facts. The crowd just wants to have fun. 

As Gene Phillips described the Hitchcock touch we have an ordinary man out for the evening. He is in a public place, nothing scary about a music hall. The crowd seems friendly and nonthreatening. Mr. memory used as a MacGuffin.

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What causes pip in poultry?

 

I greatly enjoyed this film over "The Man Who Knew Too Much"

 

I had to go back an watch the subtitles to understand the crowd lines.

 

Does anyone know what the lighted number sign is for in this scene? It's above the orchestra. And whats with that crying kid?

 

What an elaborate studio scene with the waterfall! That had to bust the budget!

 

One special effect that stood out to me is the rather seemless transition from the interior of the car to the exterior road shot.

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In both The Man Who Knew too Much and The 39 Steps, the protagonists are introduced during the opening sequences.  The father and daughter are no less innocents than Is Hannay; all these people are out in public spaces enjoying themselves and have no connection to any spies. The forces that will send them into fear, danger, and uncharacteristic activity are close by, but they are unaware of their presence. The traumatic event is thrust upon them without warning.  Suddenly, unexpectedly, the chase commences.    

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I think Hitchcock was fascinated with creating momentum on the opening scenes, and both releasing the energy into a satisfying sensation for the audience. The character introductions are simple and alluring, especially when the character is built as an ordinary individual interacting in public, popular spaces. There exists that opening scene, Hitchcock-ian pattern of momentum in action, and either going/leading for tragedy or playfulness while introducing characters.

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 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?

Thanks to this class I am really starting to pick up on the patterns in the motifs and settings and how it fits into the Hitchcock touch.

Again and  again, we're seeing these films begin with some kind of a gathering of people.  It could be because a murder has been committed, or simply people in a theater or a prep school.  It seems to me that showing our protagonist's feet in the beginning, Hitchcock really wants us to see him as nothing special, just one of the gang.  Although, in this particular setting our protagonist seems to be 'a cut above' those around him.   All in all though, these opening scenes set the tone for the people we'll be dealing with.  Upper class folk who can afford to ski, an upper middle class family who can afford higher education, seedy dance house girls and their patrons.

I believe these crowd scenes allow Hitchcock to say: 'look at this crowd of nobodies!  but wait a moment more and I'll show you a key player'.  This is when he presents our hero out of that crowd.   I'll have to keep watching to see if this pattern holds true.  We see Ivor Novello out of a crowd of rugby players.  Peter Lorre and the father appear in the ski crowd.   Going to watch The Lodger tonight.

 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 really feel Mr. Rothman is trying to push a square peg into a round hole here to prove his point.   Different films, different characters, different stories.   And he is trying to make a connections between The Lodger and 39 Steps.  Other authors (even our professor and guest speaker) have made a better case for the chronology of Hitchcock's career, the patterns he developed, the style he created.

 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 simplest terms, Mr. Memory is, aside from his stage-act, is a pretty ordinary guy.   If he really were a great talent he wouldn't be playing a lower class music hall, right?   He plays the role of the English gentleman who is  subject to hecklers and other rude audience members.   In a small way, he is set up to defend himself using his own resources.

Overall, I am totally seeing this pattern of voyeurism in his early films - watchers, and those who actually like being watched.  I will continue to look for these patterns in each film.    Now that I think of these crowd settings, it is interesting how the settings will change over the next 45 years.

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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?

 

Public space, use of music and the boisterous crowd to set a lively mood, the 'slice of life' character array asking the questions mirrors the almost prototypes of characters displayed in the earlier films.

 

It deviates from the earlier films as Hitchcock again becomes more naturalistic in his style.

 

Deviates - Also, he subverts expectations in an almost meta way as he uses angles and montages that meant something sinister in films such as the Lodger, but here he is playing with the audience by using the same shots and techniques to introduce us to the hero of the story.

 

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. One has a real sense of warmness and affection to the feel of the crowd in the music hall. The extended montage of folks calling out questions takes us through a pretty broad spectrum of character types. One is certain to find one to identify with.

 

 

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 have heard suggestions that Mr. Memory is the macguffin of the film, but I don't see that it is really set up here. There is nothing to suggest that Mr. Memory is an important character at this point in the film. He isn't even entertaining relative to the crowd interacting with him.

 

The crowd reaction to the act is irreverent and farcical -- they don't take him entirely seriously. This may telegraph the lighter touch Hitchcock intends to deliver with the film. At any rate it weds the story inexorably to the 'common man'. Hannay is literally a 'face in the crowd'.

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1.  Hitchcock loves to feature crowds in opening scenes.  He also likes to go from the grand scale to the small scale, by showing a group of people, then focusing on an individual in the group.  This allows the viewer to be taken in by the overall spectacle, then slowly drawn in to the story of the central characters.

 One way this scene differs from earlier ones is that the tone is very lighthearted.  There is not even a hint of something sinister happening.   The great Robert Donat has an attitude of utter insouciance that makes him very appealing.  He is not channeling any particular "type" of character, as Ivor Novello is at the beginning of The Lodger.  Hitchcock makes us like Donat from his opening scene, then he makes sure we know he is important.  When he asks the question about the distance from Winnipeg to Montreal the final time, and Mr. Memory hears him, there is a crowd shot taken from the stage.  Donat's character is dead center in the crowd;  Hitchcock is making sure our eyes are drawn to him. 

 

2.  Absolutely, I agree with Rothman's statement.  I basically answered this in the previous question;  Donat's demeanor is open, casual, charismatic.  In essence, Donat is a star.  

 Donat is a reluctant hero, and paves the way for similar future roles by Cary Grant in North by Northwest and Joel McCrea in Foreign Correspondent to name a couple. 

 

3. This rather harmless scene sets up the central character, and his actions, or more appropriately his reactions to the situations he is forced into, will display all the elements of the Hitchcock touch as described by Gene Phillips.  In this scene, we see only the beginnings.  Certainly this scene sets up clearly who the protagonist is.  The Mr. Memory phenomenon is unique; perhaps the viewer is already wondering if he can have anything to do with the plot.  Of course, the movie is book-ended by music hall scenes, and it is interesting how much the tone shifts between the opening and closing.  The last scene, which is essentially the same thing as the first;  Mr. Memory answering questions on a stage, is fraught with tension.

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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 takes place in a musical hall a public place with a show going on. This time it's a memory exhibition instead of dancing girls like in Pleasure Garden. It kind of reminds me of the carnival type atmosphere from The Ring. The difference is that this time the audience is openly involved in the show providing the questions and some the mockery by asking questions no one could know.

 

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 Robert Donat's character seems clean cut and well dressed. Everyone is having a good time st the show. There is not a presence of evil. It almost seems funny in a 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?

 

I thought about the movie The Ring. I'm the beginning we are at a carnival and the boxer is fighting anyone who wants to fight. Both movies seemed like a side show. The audience playing a role in the show. He wants the audience to feel what it's like to be at a show like this.

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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 is in a public space. What set it apart from the previous opening is that we neither see the face just his back and feet as he purchase his ticket. I noticed the tilting of the camera at this point. It is something Hitch does later with Strangers on the Train which we are introduced the characters jus silhouette and shoes. Speaking of shoes. Shoes are so important in that it tells a story of the person. I often noticed the shoes of the wearer and instantly know something about him or her. 

 

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 agreed whole heartedly. I surmised that this is a very ordinary man just from his shoes. An ordinary gentleman with not much disturbance in life. By showing this man just going about his life on night out to a music hall is perfectly normal activity. But this unassuming ordinary man is about to have his life changed. What is more startling is that once the camera comes to his face, Robert Donat, it is a face of an average man with fairly good looks, but ordinary-he could have been a bank clerk for we know. Hitchcock sets us up to root for him by placing him in our shoes. Empathy is a powerful thing for a movie 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? 

Hitchcock loves public spaces such as music halls or even the grand Royal Albert Hall used as setting for his suspense. The crowd as usual is there; but more boisterous than previous filmed sequences. They become part of the story but individually asking of Mr. Memory questions. What seems to be a scene of exchanges between audience and performer is really a platform to give our potential hero a start on his Hitchcockian journey into the extra-ordinary. Fasten your seatbelt, it is going to be a fast and furious ride.

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From the moment we set eyes on Dunant purchasing a ticket for the show, we know that this film is about him. We don't see his face until the audience of the show is revealed, but we see him from the back and important details are revealed. His coat, while not common, is well tailored and of popular fashion, his shoes are well taken care of, he is well coifed and carries himself in a confident manner. And while many of the previous opening scenes take place during a spectator event, none of the opening scenes we have viewed to this point follow one character with such detail. And even when focus shifts from Dunant to Mr. Memory, Dunant is still prominent, asking his question many times before it gets answered, portraying a man who is wryly amused.

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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?

An other opening in a place where multitudes of people have gathered to observe an event of some sort...a recurring theme in the movies we have discussed so far. One notable difference in my view is the apparent early focus on who the protagonist will be. Seems no doubt to me the man in the trench coat is the guy. The camera follows him from his ticket purchase to him finding his seat and shows numerous shots of him reacting to the crowd and participating in the act.

 

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 a certain way, I can see that here. The man, neatly dressed, not obnoxious as the others there seem to be, asking a somewhat benign question for Mr. Memory. In fact asks very politely 2 times before he gets an answer. I suppose you can surmise a focus on introducing a character who is more innocent.

 

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 can see a couple in the opening scene....a seemingly ordinary person in an ordinary setting. Didn't see enough of the scene to know what takes place next, but the crowd seemed to be getting more animated..so...it is possible something diabolical might take place there.

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The opening from The 39 Steps paints a picture of suspense. Our introduction to the protagonist, Hannay, is shrouded in secrecy. He is shot in a slightly tilted angle, which initially reveals a shadowy figure, the camera filming him from behind as he enters the Music Hall. Any sort of exchange in between Hannay and other people is exhibited in obscurity. We only see characters from roughly the shoulders down.

 

This striking introduction is starkly reminiscent of the opening of The Lodger. Hitchcock crafts a sense of atmospheric unease, he readily drops the audience into stories of suspense. There is a deviation of sorts from a film such as The Pleasure Garden. Although both (The 39 Steps and The Pleasure Garden) do involve main characters enjoying stage acts, The Pleasure Garden does not embody the suspenseful​ tone required in a thriller.

 

I wholly agree with Rothman’s assessment. Hitchcock often creates images of deceit, cleverly capturing an audience’s attention as he does with the introduction to The 39 Steps. However, Hannay is an average, everyday man attending a show as he's situated in the midst of a crowd. The setup of his character and the location of the entertainment act reveals the commonality of how a case of mistaken identity could befall anyone.

 

Hitchcock utilizes the notion of possibility. He incorporates a common person of innocence into a game of high stakes situations, oftentimes with a chase occurring in places many people would frequent without fear of looming suspicion. Hitchcock grabs ahold of an audience via an idea, directly playing on the psychology of viewers, all the while posing the question; Could this happen to me?

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DAILY DOSE #7 (39 STEPS):

 

THE MAN WHO KNEW A LOT

1. Again the movie begins with spectators making the audience feel a part of the story.

2. Donat is put in the audience (with us), making him an Eveyman (w/o black or white hat).

3. In the first 3 minutes we have the first 3 Phillip items checked (4 if Winnepeg-Montreal is a McGuffin).

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This opening fits the pattern by starting off in a public space, theatre performance, blinking lights. It deviates by not focusing on a male gaze towards women and has a bit more fast paced comedy.

 

Yes, Hannay is more innocent than previous Hitchcock characters- he's handsome, intelligent, Canadian :), and is patient enough to ask the same question that doesn't have to do with a woman's age or sports titles more than once.

 

A familiar, public setting, a boisterous audience add to the Hitchcock touch of regular people in out of the ordinary situations. Mr. Memory's act is strange, but it isn't quite out of the realm of possibility for the time. The fact that the act itself is so weird (why would anyone want to sit in a hall and ask some fellow questions) lends itself to that grain of speculation (the Maguffin) that this may or may not be important, or that something is going to happen here, it's just not quite clear what that is yet.

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The montage of scenes, the flashing billboard, a mysterious figure going into a public place which happens to be a music hall.

I agree that the hannay character is more innocent and seems blase about life in general.

The participation of the audience with Mr. Memory and how they react is a typical Hitchcock touch. Hannay gets his questioned answered by Mr. Memory shows that the character is enjoying himself unaware that something sinister will occur.The music adds to the atmosphere that something unusual will happen.

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Now that I've seen The Lodger,  I can make some comments about the mysterious lodger and our happy, go-lucky, trench coat wearing visitor to the music hall.  Robert Donat is a normal guy and we don't feel the same tension we do when Ivor Novello appears at Daisy's house wanting a room.

 

I must say I was never convinced Novello's character was "The Avenger."  He is worried, angst-ridden and yes mysterious.  Hitchcock almost goes overboard trying to convince the audience the Lodger is the killer. I felt he pushed this too hard which made me doubt Novello was the killer.  In fact, I thought a better plot would have been the cop who wanted Daisy as the killer.  Daisy always pushed back on his aggressive intimacy, so being rejected he killed "Golden Curls."  

 

Now on to The 39 Steps, we have no murder, no screaming woman, but we do have Donat coming into a Music Hall.  Hitchcock using public spaces where crimes or life changing events happen in front of crowds does two things.  First, he wants his audience to understand thematically we are not safe anywhere from danger, not even in a well lighted Music Hall.  Second, ordinary people can be trapped into circumstances by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  So, he gives his audience the feeling it could happen to us.  This draws the viewer into the film; we could become part of an adventure or a spy or someone who must protect a secret, while at the same time trying to get it into the right hands.  

 

Mister Memory is a wonderful symbol and foreshadows Donat's secret knowledge he must put to memory and safeguard until he is able to deliver the goods.  The music and the audience's reaction to Mr. Memory are funny because they want to see dancers or singers, not a man with a photographic memory.  They mock him because who cares about a guy who can keep brain lint at his fingertips.  Also, these are ordinary folks who wanted to be entertained, not enlightened.  

 

Which brings me to my last comment on the opening scene, I have not seen the film but will watch it tonight as well as  The Man who Knew too Much.  I have watched the lecture video and after listening to Professor Edwards comments about how people are willing to believe Donat in all of his disguises but not about needing to get the formula to the right people to me is a mirror of the music hall audience who want entertainment.  It also mirrors The Lodger in that people want salacious and titillating information about crimes but if they have to put too much thought into a crime story, people lose interest.  Sex crimes, robberies or revenge murders are something, everyone gets, but an ordinary man who claims he has a secret formula which must get into the right hands before it is too late or he is killed, well that is just not sexy enough or believable enough to really care.  

 

However, Hitchcock is always able to hook his audience because all his films are about motion, movement, and people being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or doing something stupid and then trying to cover it up.  As I said in an earlier post, from the silent films I've seen to his movement into sound, Hitchcock takes his audience on a fast-paced rollercoaster ride.  In short, he gives a modern, visual version of "Grims Fairytales," which gives his audience just the right amount of a queasy, unsettling feeling while at the same time letting us know we're safe.  In short, he entertains us the way Mr. Memory can't.  

 

This is also the brilliance of Hitchcock: he is able to put ordinary people, like moviegoers into dangerous circumstances, which hooks his audience.  Yet, the moviegoer never really feels like this could happen to him or her, thus they are on the rollercoaster ride but still feel safe.  This could never happen to me but what would it look like if it did and could I maneuver my way around the chase maze the way our main character does?

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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 music hall opening in The 39 Steps reminds me of the opening for The Pleasure Garden where the women all come racing down the spiral stair case onto a stage; a music hall stage and also similar to the opening in The Ring where there is a presentation held on a stage as the boxing event is being announced.  The opening in The 39 Steps deviates from openings like that in The Lodger and Blackmail because these movies open in a macabre touch; where the audience sees first-hand that a crime has already been committed.

 

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 do agree that Hitchcock focused on the opening of The 39 Steps as an innocent-type of introduction showing that a crime has not yet happened.  This opening put the viewer in a common place, a music hall, with which to lower our sense of anxiety and raise our sense of security letting us feel that no crime could possibly be happening at the music hall during an event; therefore, allowing us to feel at ease as we focus on the “entertainment” itself.

 

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? 

 

These on-screen elements play into Hitchcock’s touch by way of keeping the viewer in a comfortable and relaxed state, maybe even in a happy state by laughing at the outrageous questions the public is asking Mr. Memory.  Hitch has not introduced a crime yet, so the viewer can engage in the “ordinary” characters in the audience; hearing the hecklers, watching the smokers, seeing the body movements of everyone indicating they have little respect for Mr. Memory. 

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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? 

Crowd scene in public venue, introducing multiple characters which adds interest and entertains the observer. Observer makes connection to a place they most likely have been introduced to in personal experience.

Humor introduced through banter between character actors. Skillful and concise tracking and camera movement. Main characters are identified by movement into and out of scenes.

 

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? 

Character may seem innocent (Yes) but he is surrounded in an environment of shady characters. Character comes off as intelligent, strong, stable and grounded.

 

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? 

“Ordinary people who are drawn by circumstances into extraordinary situations.”

 

 “…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.” 

 

“[Hitchcock’s] villains commit their mayhem in amusement parks and respectable restaurants, places where the viewer might often find themselves.

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The opening of 39 Steps fits in well with the openings that we have seen so far, in that, the scene all involve movement of some kind. In the opening we touched on last week, most of the movies begin with montages that outline a story of something that has happened that sets up the plot going forward. In 39 Steps, the opening is still filled with movement and action but it only sets up the immediate story line, not a larger plot for the entire film. 


I disagree with Rothman's statement that Hannay is established as a more innocent character but not because I don't think that this was Hitchcock's plan but because I think that Hitchcock sets up complicated characters. In the clip from The Man Who Knew Too Much, Peter Lorre's character is established with some innocence, laughing near continously, but he is the villian. What we do learn of Hannay in the opening does not establish as innocent or otherwise. 


The opening in the public space does continue the theme we've seen in a majority of the films we've look at so far. Hitchcock, as was covered in this week's notes and was something I never considered before, make public space - sporting events, train and airplane stations and public monuments included - the scenes where bad things can happen. It is as if he is saying that his protagonists can be anyone who is unlucky enough to find themselves in the situation. The scene with Mr. Memory situates Hannay as simply an everyman who is just enjoying the performance like everyone else. There is nothing about him that makes him special or unique, and so his involvement with the spies is pure happenstance.


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The music used in the opening scene of The Lady Vanishes sets up a playful, convivial tone of the movie. This is also aided by the two men who come into the inn, who add to the commotion of the manager on the phone. Once the young woman and her two friends enter the scene and begin joking with the manager, the tone has been firmly established as light and humorous. 


The characters of Caldicott and Charters are interesting because all that we know of the two from the beginning of the scene is that they are passengers who missed their last train and are now stuck at the inn. We also learn why they are stuck - Charters, I believe, wanted to remain for the entire Hungarian national anthem. What their dialogue adds to the scene is a personal distraction that the audience can get caught up in as the other guests wait for the manager to return from handling the young ladies. They drive the scene forward because without the manager there is very little that can be done, other than to listen to other guests as they wait.


Iris is established as the central character simply because of how the manager frames his communication with her; long before she makes it into the scene, he delays registering the other guests to speak directly with her and her friends. He also spends an entire camera angel, moving through the hotel lobby and up the stairs speaking with her. He doesn't stop at the door or stop at the bottom of the stairs, he actually walks up the stairs with them. She has his full attention, making her the most important character in the scene. 


 


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1)  I see similarities in the 39 Steps, the Pleasure Garden, The Ring and The Man Who Knew too Much such as public settings, a sense of liveliness and gaiety as well as spectators observing some form of activity or entertainment.  The differences that I noticed were the fact that the main character is a man and this man starts out being very much hidden and mysterious as a result of the camera angles and shots.  I'm looking forward to watching the full movie and seeing when and how a woman fits into the story.

 

2)  To me, Hannay seems a bit more polished than the rest of the crowd but at this point I wouldn't say that I feel he is being portrayed as innocent.

 

3)  Hannay definitely appears to be an ordinary person in an ordinary, non-threatening situation however; I don't feel that we have seen enough in this clip to feel that we are being let in on any secret.  For example, in The Lodger, we know right away that there has been a murder.  In this film, we just don't know what is going to happen - yet.  I do like how the crowd interacts with Mr. Memory to provide that Hitchcock comic touch but I get the feeling that Mr. Memory might be a MacGuffin...I'm actually going to watch this movie this evening so I'm looking forward to seeing how right or wrong I am.  

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