The original trailer for 39 Steps
The 39 Steps premiered in 1935 and tells the story of a seemingly “perfect” citizen who is not who he says he is. This begins Hitchcock’s motif of ordinary people who get caught up in extraordinary events. It is also the first time he highlights the issue of trust between a man and a woman. These motifs become common ideas in Hitchcock’s later films (Spoto, 2008, p. 49).
In addition to these two ideas, the theme of secrecy and identity is evident. Alfred Hitchcock was extremely careful about portraying himself a certain way to society and never disclosing much about himself (Spoto, 1983). In this film, the audience sees the main character struggling with his secret identity and his desire to portray himself in a way that is favorable to everyone (Packer, 2007).
This film was made directly during the Great Depression, and more than ever people were flocking to movie theaters and escaping into novels to avoid the reality that life was presenting to them. By presenting the audience with a fantastical story of a common man (like themselves) caught up in an uncommon event, Hitchcock was allowing them to escape their own problems and enter into someone else’s world (Packer, 2007).