39 Facts about the 39 Steps; Secrets of a Classic Spy Movie

Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland), February 18, 2005 | Go to article overview
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39 Facts about the 39 Steps; Secrets of a Classic Spy Movie


Byline: By Brian McIver

IT'S ONE of the most enduring thriller stories in Scottish literature . . . and one of the greatest spy films ever made. ADVD of The Thirty-Nine Steps is free in the Daily Record tomorrow, so you can own a copy of the film version of Scots author John Buchan's classic tale.

Robert Powell, Sir John Mills and David Warner are just some of the great cast in the First World War thriller about espionage, police chases and intrigue.

Here are 39 fascinating facts about The Thirty-Nine Steps: 1The hero is Scots engineer Robert Hannay, who returns to London after a lengthy posting in South Africa.

2His quiet life is shattered when the mysterious Scudder (Sir John Mills) tells him he's hunting German spies. 3When Scudder is murdered in Hannay's flat, our hero is framed by the German Black Stone spy ring.

4Buchan wrote the novel in 1914 while convalescing from an ulcer.

5He may have got his love of story-telling from when he fractured his skull when he was five and spent a year in bed listening to his father's stories. 6Published during the First World War, it was a hit with people at home who felt they were missing the action.

7But it was especially popular with the troops. One wrote to Buchan: 'The story is greatly appreciated in the midst of mud, rain and shells.'

8Robert Powell was so impressive in the 1978 film that 10 years later he got his own show based on the character. 9The series, Hannay, started in January 1988 on ITV, but lasted only one series.

10 Powell is best-known as dopey cop Dave Briggs in Jasper Carrott's comedy The Detectives. 11 Powell starred as one of Michael Caine's gang in The Italian Job.

12 His role in Jesus Of Nazareth is one of the best Christ portrayals.

13 Hannay's helper Sir Walter Bullivant is played by George Baker, who went on to star as the much more effective detective Wexford in the Ruth Rendell Mysteries.

14 Other stars are David Warner (also in The Omen),Eric Porter (The Day of the Jackal) and Karen Dotrice (Mary Poppins).

15 The film's Aussie director Don Sharp also made Bear Island, several Fu Manchu movies and aTV version of The Four Feathers.

16 Buchan was a minister's son, born in Perth in 1875, who studied at Glasgow and Oxford before becoming a lawyer, journalist and Tory MP.

17 He helped bring about peace in South Africa after the Boer War and was involved in intelligence, code-breaking and espionage. 18 Buchan was given a peerage and became Lord Tweedsmuir before being appointed governor general of Canada in 1935.

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