The 39 Steps – 1935 – dir. Alfred Hitchcock
Tone, in novels and films, has always been a make-or-break affair: In a work with thousands of parts, the wrong word in the wrong place, or the wrong image at the wrong time, can unravel the emotive state the storyteller is trying to induce in the audience. Balancing two different tones together in one work is an even greater challenge, especially when the thrilling and suspenseful is being mixed with the carefree and jokey. Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps attempts just that, and succeeds for reasons that are well worth examining.