Stage Fright (1950)

“I’m afraid the murderer might come here, Madam…”

Stage Fright Poster

Synopsis:
A drama student (Jane Wyman) goes undercover as a maid for a well-known actress (Marlene Dietrich) who tricked her young lover (Richard Todd) — Wyman’s secret crush — into taking the rap for the murder of her husband.

Genres:

Review:
While this Hitchcock thriller is perhaps best known for its flashback-driven narrative, it’s equally notable for starring Marlene Dietrich as a femme fatale in her only Hitchcockian film role, and Alastair Sim in a wonderfully droll supporting performance as Jane Wyman’s father. Wyman, never the most charismatic or beautiful of actresses, nonetheless acquits herself nicely in dual roles here as a student actress with the real-life role of a lifetime; while we feel sorry for her initially (she’s clearly enamored with the Wrong Guy), she’s quickly and conveniently given another love interest (Michael Wilding’s investigative detective), and it’s easy to root for her throughout her dramatic travails. Although Stage Fright is enjoyable while it lasts, and certainly must-see viewing at least once for all Hitchcock fans, it’s not really all that noteworthy; what lingers longest in one’s memory of the film is Sims’ performance, proving that he was one of cinema’s true iconic delights.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Jane Wyman as Eve/Doris
    Stage Fright Wyman
  • Alastair Sim as Wyman’s father
    Stage Fright Sim

Must See?
No, though it’s a must for any Hitchcock fan, and recommended for one-time viewing.

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One Response to “Stage Fright (1950)”

  1. Not a must.

    ~which is a shame because it starts off so well. The first thirty minutes, at least, are prime Hitchcock. The ‘safety curtain’ which slowly ascends as the credits roll is a particularly nice touch – and, from there, the screenplay wastes no time at all establishing tension. The main cast members are esp. good here – because they have something gripping to play.

    Then things shift into neutral and more or less stay there. The plot begins chasing its tail – so it ‘builds’ without having any real development (i.e., new information). Obviously this becomes repetitive and rather dull.

    ~except for the fact that Sim enters somewhere in here, and it is certainly a treat and a relief to have him aboard. His part in the proceedings is almost irrelevant since he’s simply an expressive joy as an actor. Unfortunately, there’s only so much he can do when the film as a whole stalls.

    Hitch is not without his reserves – he manages nice touches throughout, but aside from the opening stretch, there doesn’t seem to be enough opportunity for Hitch to sufficiently showcase himself. (Perhaps that’s what gave way to ‘the big lie’ that offends so many viewers; the urge to compensate for an under-nourished storyline?)

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