Stage Fright (1950)
As another lesser known Hitchcock, this movie is less suspense and more mystery. We know that there’s something missing but we don’t know what. Aspiring actress Eve Gill (Jane Wyman) is hopelessly in love with the undeserving Jon Cooper (Richard Todd), who is hopelessly in love with Charlotte Inwood, (Marlene Dietrich). The movie opens with Eve driving Jon in what appears to be a “getaway car.” Jon then gives Eve the lowdown, and the audience views his flashback. Long story short, Charlotte killed her husband. She comes to Jon for help with blood on her dress. Jon is now the police’s lead suspect. Eve brings Jon to her father’s house to hide out for the time being. Her father suspects foul play on Charlotte’s part, insisting that the blood was deliberately placed on her dress (Jon still had it with him). Eve decides to investigate.
For the sake of brevity, I’ll speed up the pace here. Eve worms her way into working as Charlotte’s temporary maid hoping to squeeze a confession out of her to clear Jon’s name. She becomes confused when she begins to have feelings for Investigator Wilfred “Ordinary” Smith (Michael Wilding). There are some entertaining middle scenes, but Marlene Dietrich is the selling point. The word that comes to mind when thinking of Dietrich is presence. You could be in a room full of hundreds of people and Marlene Dietrich would stand out like red on white. The instant she comes on screen the mood shifts – it’s all about her now. She commands your attention without saying a word.
I can’t write this review without spoilers. It’s nothing but an ordinary Hitch until the end. You could say it’s an atypical Hitch because we don’t know the end… until the end! For its time it’s fantastic. Flashbacks are supposed to be gospel! He cheated! I have to admit, even I was surprised the first time. Turns out the Jon did indeed kill Charlotte’s husband… what we saw was a lie. Many were upset by this at its release, but I think it’s awesome. What started as nothing more than a good story with good acting turned into something unique. Hitchcock has no boundaries, and I love it.
The other elements of this movie pale in comparison to its twist ending, but they are commendable nonetheless. The entire cast gives good performances. The dialogue is entertaining, and Hitchcock’s staple humor adds fun color to the mystery. I have to laugh at Patricia Hitchcock’s cameo – who would place their daughter in their film and name her “Chubby?” Sad, sad days…
Much like I Confess, this lesser known should get more attention. 8/10