Stage Fright (1950)

Genres - Thriller  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Thriller  |   Release Date - Feb 23, 1950 (USA)  |   Run Time - 111 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Patrick Legare

Alfred Hitchcock returns to the well of his favorite subject -- an innocent man framed for a terrible crime -- and puts an intriguing twist on it in this otherwise ordinary thriller. In this case, Richard Todd stars as the mark whose opening flashback reveals how he accidentally took the blame for a murder committed by his treacherous mistress (Marlene Dietrich). This revelation turns out to be the film's biggest mistake since it is a lie -- an interesting twist, but one that should have been detailed in real time rather than in a flashback. Another gaffe is that none of the characters ever appear to be in any real danger. In his interviews with Fran├žois Truffaut, Hitchcock fully admitted that these errors are the film's biggest undoing in addition to his feeling that Todd's villain was rather weak. Stage Fright's real gem is Jane Wyman who portrays a willowy young actress whose crush on Todd leads her to helping hide him while trying to prove his innocence. Her beguiling turn as the attractive and earnest Eve is taken up a notch when she uses her acting talents pretending to be a madcap replacement maid for Dietrich's mistress. Interestingly, Wyman turned out to be a handful for Hitchcock when she continuously tried to make her character more glamorous to keep up with the sexy Dietrich. Alastair Sim, in a role just prior to his classic turn as Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, is excellent in a small role as Eve's father. "It'll be one woman to another," Wyman's Eve explains to him on a proposed confrontation with Dietrich, to which he comically replies, "An impressive situation at any time." Based on the novel by Selwyn Jepson, Stage Fright is a film that falls somewhere in the middle of Hitchcock's canon. His cameo comes 40 minutes into the picture when he passes Wyman on the street and then turns to stare at her.