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Wednesday April 17th 2024

The 39 Steps | 1935

The Thirty-Nine Steps location: Forth Bridge, Scotland
The Thirty-Nine Steps location: crossing the Firth of Forth: the Forth Rail Bridge, Scotland | Photograph: iStockphoto © Iain King

This early Alfred Hitchcock classic was shot almost entirely in the studio, at the old Lime Grove Studios, Shepherds Bush, demolished in the Nineties.

Richard Hannay (Robert Donat) supposedly lives at ‘122 Portland Place’, but the exterior was recreated in the studio, and the grand six-lane road is reduced to the width of a minor sidestreet. Hitchcock returned to Portland Place for The Paradine Case in 1947, and the street features again in Henry Hathaway’s 1956 glossy Hitchcockian thriller 23 Paces to Baker Street.

The Thirty-Nine Steps location: Park Crescent East, London W1
The Thirty-Nine Steps location: Hannay leaves the milk cart: Park Crescent East, London W1

Around the corner from Portland Place is Park Crescent East, the pillared semicircle south of Marylebone Road, W1, near Great Portland Street Station (Hammersmith & City, Circle and Metropolitan Lines). The eastern curve is where Hannay leaves the milkman’s horse and cart, borrowed after the murder of the mysterious woman.

Hannay’s train journey to Scotland takes him over the Forth Rail Bridge, spanning the Firth of Forth, between Edinburgh and Dunfermline. The world’s first major steel cantilever bridge, opened in 1890, is a mile and a half in length. Second unit shots of the Scottish Highlands were filmed around Glencoe, and area since seen extensively in Braveheart, Highlander and Skyfall.

The climax leads back to London, with the unfortunate Mr Memory getting a bullet at the London Palladium, Argyll Street, W1.

This 2,286-seat theatre became something of a national institution during the Fifties and Sixties, when the entire nation would round off the weekend huddled in front of their black and white TV sets to watch variety show Sunday Night at the London Palladium.

In 1963, a coolly professional David Donne (Dirk Bogarde) persuades a quiveringly neurotic, and very drunk, Jenny Bowman (Judy Garland) to brave the Palladium’s stage and belt out the title number of her final film, I Could Go on Singing.