Stage Fright

Screening on Film
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
With Jane Wyman, Marlene Dietrich, Michael Wilding.
US, 1950, 35mm, black & white, 113 min.
Print source: Warner Bros.

A man wrongly accused of murder flees the law with the help of a credulous ingénue. But not so fast: Stage Fright proves that not even the standard Hitchcock plot is safe in a Hitchcock film. Dismissed at the time of its release as the director’s third consecutive failed experiment following Rope and Under Capricorn, Stage Fright now seems one of his most intriguingly self-conscious creations. The film’s theatrical setting allows the director unusual leeway in pursuing one of his consummate themes: role-playing. Characters engage in actorly duplicity without realizing their own blinders; even Marlene Dietrich’s resplendently cynical diva is eventually caught unaware. Anticipating the deeply embedded ironies of his richest work, Stage Fright realizes the power of Hitchcock’s technique by revealing its capacity to mislead.

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