39 killer facts about smash hit comedy The 39 Steps as it hits York

On the run… Rob Witcomb as Man 1 & Richard Ede as Hannay in The 39 Steps. Photographs: Dan Tsantilis
10 Mar 2016 @ 5.39 pm
| Entertainment

Alfred Hitchcock’s classic spy thriller The 39 Steps has been brilliantly reimagined for the stage as a smash hit comedy – and it’s in town next week.

The 39 Steps

Grand Opera House, York

Mon Mar 14-Sat Mar 19 @ 7.30pm; Wed & Sat matinees @ 2.30pm

£15.40-£38.40

Box office: 0844 871 3024

More details & book tickets

In this version we still follow the incredible adventures of handsome hero Richard Hannay. But this Hannay, complete with pencil moustache on his stiff-upper-lip, is full of British gung-ho as he encounters dastardly murders, double-crossing secret agents, and, of course, devastatingly beautiful women.

This wonderfully inventive and gripping comedy thriller features four fearless actors, playing 139 roles in 100 minutes of fast-paced fun and thrilling action hitting the Grand Opera House stage.

The 39 Steps is a melodrama adapted from the 1915 novel by John Buchan and the 1935 film by Alfred Hitchcock.

One actor plays Richard Hannay, an actress (or sometimes actor) plays the three women with whom he has romantic entanglements, and two other actors play every other character in the show: heroes, villains, men, women, children and even the occasional inanimate object.

This often requires lightning fast quick-changes and occasionally for them to play multiple characters at once.

The film’s serious spy story is played mainly for laughs, and the script is full of allusions to (and puns on the titles of) other Alfred Hitchcock films, including Strangers on a Train, Rear Window, Psycho, Vertigo and North by Northwest.

The original concept and production of a four-actor version of the story was by Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon. Patrick Barlow rewrote this adaptation in 2005.

Here are 39 facts connected to this famous story

Breathtaking romance in The 29 Steps
Breathtaking romance in The 29 Steps

1. The 39 Steps was Peggy Ashcroft’s second film

2.Robert Donat was affectionately known as the Monte Cristo man

3. One of the film’s major motifs is the confining, sexually-frustrating institution of marriage

4. North by Northwest (1959) is widely considered Hitchcock’s “American Thirty-Nine Steps”.

5. John Buchan’s official title was First Baron Tweedsmuir of Elsfield, Oxfordshire

6. Hitchcock’s film was remade twice both in the UK: The Thirty-Nine Steps (1959), d. Ralph Thomas and The Thirty-Nine Steps (1978), d. Don Sharp

7. The 1978 version starred Robert Powell as Hannay

8. The 39 Steps is only one of Buchan’s several works that feature the character Richard Hannay

9. Madeleine Carroll from the Hitchcock film was the first in a notorious line of Hitchcock’s female stars that later included Grace Kelly and Tippi Hedren

10. At the old Wembley Stadium, 39 steps needed to be climbed to reach the Royal Box and collect a winner’s trophy

11. The 1959 version of The 39 Steps has by far the most location filming of any of the three versions of the movie. Filming took place over a large portion of central Scotland albeit mostly in the Trossachs area

12. The 39 Steps was Hitchcock’s first film with a classic theme that he modelled repeatedly for the remainder of his career

Richard Ede as Hannay and Olivia Greene as Pamela
Richard Ede as Hannay and Olivia Greene as Pamela

13. Trains are a major theme in Hitchcock’s films: The Lady Vanishes, Strangers on a Train, Sabotage, North By Northwest and The 39 Steps

14. Hitchock was reported to say, “What interests me in the drama of being handcuffed” as one of the major themes of the film

15. There is no Mr Memory in the novel, but he is based on a real-life character

16. Hitchhcock’s birthday was the 13 August

17. Hitchcock was a mean practical joker. He handcuffed Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll together for their very first scene and then “lost” the key for over an hour

18. During World War One, Buchan worked for the British War Propaganda Bureau and as a war correspondent for The Times, before joining the Intelligence Corps in France. It was during the first few months of the war that, whilst confined to a bed and recovering from illness, Buchan wrote his most famous novel, The Thirty-Nine Steps, which was subsequently published in 1915

19. In the spring of 1915, Buchan became one of five journalists attached to the British Army, responsible for writing articles for both The Times and the Daily News

20. Buchan won the Victory Medal and the British War Medal

21. Patrick Barlow appeared in the Rolo television commercial where a honeymooning couple are travelling on a train with a love heart drawn on the carriage window in the condensation. There is one last Rolo left in the wrapper and they are both smiling at each other all lovey-dovey. They go through a tunnel, he looks at the sweet, not there! He looks at his wife who is chewing the last sweet innocently; he angrily wipes the love heart from the window. He didn’t love her enough to save her his last Rolo

22. Patrick Barlow was Bridget Jones’s mother’s love interest in the film Bridget Jones’s Diary

The Edinburgh to London line is a key part of the action
The Edinburgh to London line is a key part of the action

23. Barlow also starred in Notting Hill, and Shakespeare in Love as Will Kemp

24. Another leading role of Barlow was as Toad in The Wind in The Willows at the National Theatre

25. There are 686,000 entries with Patrick Barlow in them on Google

26. There are 1,480,000 for Alfred Hitchcock

27. The atomic number 39 is a silvery metallic element that is common in rare-earth minerals; used in magnesium and aluminium alloys – yttrium, Y

28. The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of 1571 given in English and Latin, the assent of which is still required of clergy in the Church of England forms the “authorised standard of doctrine” of the Anglican Church of Australia. They form the basis of the Articles of the Episcopal Church of America and the Twenty-five Articles of the Methodist Church

29. 39 is the sum of the 43rd & 44th digits of pi

30. The 39th day of the year is February 8th

31. There are 39 books in the Old Testament

32. The number 39 symbolizes understanding, thoughtfulness, meditation and mental superiority

You never know where Hannay and Pamela will turn up next…
You never know where Hannay and Pamela will turn up next…

33. The fastest train from London King’s Cross to Edinburgh is 4 hours and 19 minutes

34. The huge cantilever sections of the rail bridge spanning The Forth are one of the most familiar landmarks of Scotland. Completed in 1890, the bridge was constructed from 54,000 tonnes of steel, 194,000 tonnes of stone and concrete, and in excess of 21,000 tonnes of cement. This was the largest steel bridge in the world, using approximately 7,500,000 rivets produced by The Clyde Rivet Company. Success was not without its casualties and, throughout the course of construction, 57 men lost their lives

35. Today the bridge, now a ‘listed structure’, still carries about 150 trains each day across The Forth, and has been regularly maintained over the years. An extensive five-year refurbishment programme was undertaken at the turn of the millennium, costing in excess of £40m, and employing somewhere between 150 and 300 men per day, six days a week. At an average height above the general water level of some 361ft (m). It used to be said that as soon as the painting team had reached the far side of the bridge, it was time to start over at the beginning

36. The Code 39 is a bar code broadly used in non-retail applications. It is a bar code that allows for alpha and numeric encodes, as well as some symbols

37. St David’s Cathedral in West Wales had 39 steps

38. Bryan Ferry recorded a version of Ira Gerswhin’s The 39 Steps

39. There is a restaurant in Styal, near Manchester called “The 39 Steps”