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The Times (29/May/1950) - New films in London: Stage Fright

(c) The Times (29/May/1950)



Mr. Alfred Hitchcock is the director of the new British film Stage Fright.


Stage Fright. — The children in the railway carriage of whom "Saki" tells remarked of the stranger's story that, although it began badly, it more than redeemed itself as it went on, and the same may be said of Stage Fright. When Charlotte (Miss Marlene Dietrich) in a blood-stained dress invades the flat of her lover, Jonathan (Mr. Richard Todd), announces that she has killed her husband and will he, Jonathan, please do something about it, it is apparent that Miss Dietrich does not believe in her lines and it seems suspiciously possible that Mr. Alfred Hitchcock does not believe in his technique. When Jonathan is in the car provided by Eve (Miss Jane Wyman), who dotes with unrequited love, and on the run from the police, things are not much better; but when Eve's father, the eccentric Commodore, makes his appearance the film changes its course and the rocks recede. The film, in other words, ceases to be a Hitchcock exercise in dramatic suspense and becomes instead a diverting comedy brilliantly served by its supporting cast. Mr. Alastair Sim brings a rich relish for the oddities and quirks of character to the part of the Commodore; Mr. Michael Wilding, strolling in as a detective, strolls with that graceful nonchalance and modesty of manner which so distinguishes him in the ballroom; Miss Wyman takes to amateur detection with all the passion for make-up and disguise of an R.A.D.A. student which Eve happens to be; and Dame Sybil Thorndike, as the Commodore's wife living apart from him in what may be described as comfortable and dignified dudgeon, is responsible for the film's funniest scenes and moments. The murder is not altogether forgotten. Some hectic moments take place at a theatrical garden-party (Miss Joyce Grenfell inimitably presiding over the shooting gallery), and in an empty theatre Mr. Hitchcock stages a come-back with an ingenious end which suggests that he dealt the opening hand with an unfair ace up his sleeve. Mr. Hitchcock, in not making a "typical" Hitchcock film, has made an exceedingly diverting one.