Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Friday, January 18, 2008

STAGE FRIGHT


STAGE FRIGHT (1950). Director: Alfred Hitchcock.

A cute little boy scout walks up to a stage where a glamorous singer is performing and holds out a doll that has a big bloodstain on its white dress -- the singer gasps and looks at the doll in horror. I'd be willing to bet that it was this scene that prompted Hitchcock to film Stage Fright, which is one of his lesser-loved movies but has its moments. Aspiring actress Eve (Jane Wyman) hides out the man she loves, Jonathan (Richard Todd), in her father's house after he tells her that he helped the woman he loves, actress Charlotte Inwood (Marlene Dietrich), cover up the supposedly accidental death of her husband. Hoping to ferret out the truth, Eve replaces Charlotte's personal maid and dresser even as she romances and falls for the police inspector on the case, Wilfred Smith (Michael Wilding). If you're expecting an edge-of-your-seat Hitchcock thriller, look elsewhere - Stage Fright is more along the lines of a romantic comedy, and it has some very funny dialogue by Whitfield Cook (screenwriter) and Alma Reville (adaptor), among others. The picture is entertaining without quite coming to a full boil, although it does have many interesting segments, the aforementioned boy scout scene chief among them. The performances are also top-notch, not just the four leads but Alastair Sim as Eve's father, Kay Walsh as Charlotte's nasty regular dresser, Joyce Grenfell as the toothy comical gal at the shooting gallery, and Sybil Thorndike as Eve's mother. Pat Hitchcock does her customary good turn as a friend of Eve's, and Hitch himself shows up forty minutes into the movie as a quizzical man who passes by Eve on the sidewalk. Crisply photographed by Wilkie Cooper. One big dramatic flaw in the film is that by the time the revelations come Eve's feelings for the hunted man have done a big about-face.

Verdict: Not one of Hitchcock's thrilling masterpieces but certainly not without interest. ***.

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