The standard British murder mystery is raised to a higher plateau by Hitchcock in STAGE FRIGHT, but still falters in comparison to the best of the master's works. Over the opening credits a theatrical safety curtain rises, revealing not a stage but London street life--the actual stage for
Hitchcock's mystery. Eve Gill (Wyman) is an acting student at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) when she runs into a former boyfriend, Jonathan Cooper (Todd), who explains how his mistress, stage and singing star Charlotte Inwood (Dietrich, in marvelous form), came to him wearing a dress
bloodied when she killed her husband. Because of his involvement with the singer, Jonathan is suspected and must turn to Eve for help. The plot twists are many.
STAGE FRIGHT was far from being one of Hitchcock's most memorable or successful films, drawing criticism for both his provocative use of false flashbacks and the relative absence of any real threat of danger. Hitchcock's main interest in the film, and its most fascinating aspect today, is the
concentration on acting and deception. Like MURDER in 1930 (and the same year's ALL ABOUT EVE), STAGE FRIGHT has an actress as the heroine. Here Eve gets her finest training not from RADA (where Hitchcock's daughter Patricia was enrolled, and where some of the film was photographed) but from real
life. Her character's performance is not a simple one, forcing her to appear as something different to everyone--an actress, a maid, a Nancy Drew-type, and a newspaper reporter--with London serving as her stage, and death being her greatest fright. Shot at England's Elstree Studios, it was the
last film Hitchcock shot in his home country until 1971 when he returned to film FRENZY. A special treat is Dietrich singing two of her standards: Cole Porter's "The Laziest Gal in Town" and Edith Piaf's "La Vie en Rose."
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