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United Kingdom 1950
Directed by
Alfred Hitchcock
110 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Stage Fright

Any film that combines Marlene Dietrich, Jane Wyman and Alastair Sims is worth checking out but Stage Fright is a lumbering tome that is more of curio in Hitchcock’s career than something of particular interest in itself.  

Adapted by Whitfield Cook, Ranald MacDougall and Alma Reville from a novel, 'Man Running', by Selwyn Jepson, it's a creaky, typically English (and typically Hitchcockian) murder thriller with no discernible thrills. Marlene Dietrich plays Charlotte Inwood, a stage diva who hoodwinks her lover (Richard Todd) into covering up her murder of her husband. Meanwhile his acting friend Eve (Jane Wyman) tries to help him with the help of her father (Alastair Sims).  

Hitchcock had had success in the US in the decade prior to this and decided to return to his native land. Stage Fright is a return to his pre-1940 British style of film - a lightweight mixture of suspense and comedy with lots of stock characters doing stock character things but it is not a jewel in the Hitchcockian crown. For lovers of such things the film is quite acceptable with Sims, Sybil Thorndike and Joyce Grenfell all playing “English eccentric” to the hilt. The lead players, Wyman, Todd and Michael Wilding are far less engaging. If there is one feature that stands out it is Hitch’s von Sternberg treatment of Dietrich, even giving her a vampish Cole Porter number “The Laziest Girl In Town”. Not surprisingly, he went back to Hollywood after this film and would not return to Britain until he made Frenzy twenty-two years later.




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