The 39 Steps (1935)
The 39 Steps (1935)
The 39 Steps (1935)

Film Studies

Cinema Classics Seminar:
The 39 Steps

Hitchcock: Espionage!
Tuesday, July 9, 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm  
Instructor: Andrew J. Douglas, Ph.D., Deputy Director, BMFI

Alfred Hitchcock did not simply emerge from the primordial cinematic ooze a fully formed filmmaker to create 1950s classics like Rear Window, Vertigo, and North by Northwest. Indeed, by that time Hitch had been directing pictures in Europe and the U.S. for nearly thirty years, over the course of which he developed his signature style and formulated his thematic approach to filmmaking. 

Hitchcock began his directing career in relative obscurity in Germany, achieved success and fame in England, and then took off for America (like The Beatles). His first real international hit and the film that brought him to Hollywood’s attention was The 39 Steps (1935). Recognized immediately as an achievement—upon its U.S. release, Orson Welles said, “oh my god, what a masterpiece”—it has continued to influence thrillers from Hitchcock’s own North by Northwest to The Fugitive and beyond. Famed screenwriter Robert Towne (Chinatown) once remarked: “It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that all contemporary escapist entertainment begins with The 39 Steps.” 

This film marks the coalescence of several hallmarks of Hitchcock’s best work—a man wrongly accused, scenes set at landmarks, an elegant and icy blonde, and a MacGuffin—all stirred into the perfect cocktail of danger, humor, and sexiness. It’s also a ripping good yarn despite being made by the Master of Suspense when he was but a craftsman. 

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? Visit the public screening page here.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. All students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, those in attendance receive a ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink. Please note: the screening associated with this seminar will be open to the public, as well.

Please email BMFI Programs and Education Coordinator Jill Malcolm with any questions.


Course Information

$25 for members, $35 for non-members


  • Tuesday, July 9 · 6:30 pm