Stage Fright (1950)

Stage Fright (1950), directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

Gullible young actress attempts to help an inept fugitive -- who may be a murderer -- because she has a big crush on him. She goes deep undercover -- keeping many plates spinning -- and tries to get the goods on diva Marlene Dietrich, which is notoriously hard to do.

This lesser-known Hitchcock film is difficult to summarize. On the one hand it seems right at the center of his natural mythology, with all the usual fleeing and chasing tropes supporting a romantic thriller with a little comedy. Actors trying to be effective in the real world can be funny, as in To Be or Not to Be (1942).

On the other, the parts really don't come together and we are left without much to remember. You can't say Jane Wyman is miscast, but she is perhaps too serious for this sort of role. The fugitive is unsympathetic and the police detective who becomes the romantic lead is not as cunning as we might hope.

Alastair Sim, playing Wyman's father, gives the standout performance here. It is as if he steps outside the picture to critique it:


A part in this melodramatic play, you mean? That's the way you're treating it, Eve. As though it were a play you were acting in at the Academy. Everything seems a fine acting role when you're stage-struck, doesn't it my dear? Here you have a plot, an interesting cast, even a costume, little worse for wear.

Neither Hitchcock nor Truffaut liked him in the film. In their interviews both are pretty merciless to this title.

Notoriously, the film employs a "false flashback" near the beginning which lies to the viewer about what actually happened. Although subjective truth can be used in films -- see Rashomon (1950) -- we don't expect it in this sort of murder mystery.

Available on DVD. No sign of a Blu-ray at the moment.