This Halloween, Poplar Film are showing Alfred Hitchcock’s The Thirty Nine Steps. Hitchcock spent his early life in the East End – born in Leytonstone, he then moved to Limehouse where his family opened a fish and chip shop on Salmon Lane. Much of Salmon Lane was redeveloped after the war, but The Prince Regent pub is one of the few remaining buildings that is still in its original form since the Hitchcock family worked and lived there. The final part of Hitchcock’s East End period was in Poplar. Here he attended the London County Council School of Marine Engineering and Navigation, which is now Tower Hamlets College.
Based on the John Buchan novel, The Thirty Nine Steps is a British production shot in 1935. It is Hitchcock’s 22nd film but still relatively early in his career while he was based in the UK. As actors known to American audiences, Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll were cast in the lead roles and with a higher budget than previous films, The Thirty Nine Steps served as a vehicle to launch Hitchcock into Hollywood. It was received with both critical and popular acclaim and was recently voted the fourth best British film of all time by the British Film Institute. Although shot mainly in Lime Grove Studios in Shepherd’s Bush and Scotland, the London Palladium is a recognisable location for the final scene. And as with all Hitchcock films, you have to look out for his cameo – and significantly in this film, you can spot him walking in front of the 25 bus headed to east London.