Stage Fright (1950)

Jane Wyman and Marlene Dietrich
Jane Wyman and Marlene Dietrich

'Stage Fright' is a thriller movie made by Alfred Hitchcock in 1950, based on a 1948 short story "Outrun the Constable" by Selwyn Jepson. It is not one of Hitchcock's best known films but it is wonderful entertainment with an all star cast headed by Marlene Dietrich, Jane Wyman, Richard Todd and Michael Wilding, with brilliant support from Alastair Sim, Dame Sybil Thorndike, Joyce Grenfell and Kay Walsh.

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Jane Wyman plays Eve Gill, a young drama student, who pretends to be a theatrical dresser to the stage star Charlotte Inwood, played by Marlene Dietrich, in order to protect and clear the name of her boyfriend, Jonathan Cooper, played by Richard Todd. He is the main suspect of the murder of Charlotte's husband.

Eve meets and falls in love with the police inspector on the case, Wilfred Smith, played by Michael Wilding and after many twists and turns, Eve helps the police to find the truth, and justice prevails.

When the film was released it was criticised for using a "dishonest flashback" at the beginning when Cooper explains to Eve why he is wanted by the police. His story is later revealed to be a lie. The entire plot is based on lies. The characters are telling a whole series of lies from the beginning. But then Hitchcock reveals the truths - one after another. And there is a final twist to confound the audience.


Selwyn Jepson's short story "Outrun the Constable", also known as "Man Running", was first published in serial form in Collier's magazine in August and September, 1947. Hitchcock and his wife, Alma Reville, together with Whitfield Cook adapted the story, making many changes. Hitchcock was attracted to the idea of working in London as his daughter, Patricia, was studying drama there at the Royal Academy. Patricia was given her movie debut in the film as Eve's friend, Chubby Bannister.

Most of the film was shot at the Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire, with some location shooting at London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and the interior of the Scala Theatre in Charlotte Street, London.

Hitchcock's regular crew were surprised by the latitude he gave to Marlene Dietrich in choosing her lighting, costumes and camera angles. Much of her dialogue was expanded by her, with Hitchcock's approval. The result justified the means - she gave a superb performance and is the hub around which the whole action turns.

Dietrich's atmospheric and innuendo-laden song "The laziest Girl in Town" was written for her by Cole Porter and remained a stock number in her nightclub act in her later career.

Main Cast

All the principal roles except those of Jane Wyman and Marlene Dietrich are filled by English actors of high calibre with brilliant performances from Dame Sybil Thorndike and Alastair Sim as Eve's mother and father and Joyce Grenfell as the shooting gallery attendant. Sim's name was spelled wrongly in the credits as "Alistair".

Jane Wyman ... Eve Gill
Marlene Dietrich ... Charlotte Inwood
Michael Wilding ... Ordinary Smith
Richard Todd ... Jonathan Cooper
Alastair Sim ... Commodore Gill
Sybil Thorndike ... Mrs. Gill
Kay Walsh ... Nellie Goode
Miles Malleson ... Mr. Fortesque
Hector MacGregor ... Freddie Williams
Joyce Grenfell ... 'Lovely Ducks'
André Morell ... Inspector Byard
Patricia Hitchcock ... Chubby Bannister
Ballard Berkeley ... Sergeant Mellish
Alfie Bass ... Stage Hand With Microphone (uncredited)
Lionel Jefferies ... Bald RADA Student (uncredited)
Alfred Hitchcock ... Man Staring at Eve on Street (uncredited)

Jane Wyman (1917-2007)
She performs well in an extremely complicated role, where she has to act at being an actress pretending to be someone else, and as the action progresses her subterfuge becomes more and more difficult to maintain. She was a versatile actress, as well as singer and dancer, who began her 61 year career in the 1930s, and appeared in over 80 films. In 1948 she received an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in 'Johnny Belinda', and later in life achieved success on television for her leading role in the series 'Falcon Crest' during the 1980's.
Her other claim to fame is that she was the only person to have been an ex-wife of an American president. She married Ronald Reagan, her third husband, in 1940 when he was solely an actor and had never run for public office. They divorced in 1948.
Marlene Dietrich (1901-92)
She gives one of her best performances as the cool, femme fatale who persuades her lover to murder her husband.
Dietrich changed career direction several times, starting as a cabaret artist and chorus girl, then film actress in 1920's Berlin. She made the transition to Hollywood to become an international movie star for two decades interrupted by the Second World War, during which she became a forces entertainer on the front line. Her final self-invention was as a topline international stage performer which lasted from the 1950's to her retirement in the 1970's. Her fame grew steadily and remorselessly and she became one of the greatest entertainment icons of the century.
Michael Wilding (1912-79)
Had a successful career in, mainly, British films but remains best known as the husband of Elizabeth Taylor from 1952 to 1957.
Richard Todd (1919-2009)
In a successful career he did not normally play the villain, but rather the clean cut hero as in 'Robin Hood' in 1952 and 'The Dambusters' in 1954
Alastair Sim (1900-76)
After running his own private elocution and drama school, Sim became a much loved character actor, specialising in comic roles although highly effective in dramatic roles such as 'Scrooge' in 1951.
Sybil Thorndike (1882-1976)
A much honored legend of British acting, Sybil Thorndike began her movie career in Silents in 1921 but made her reputation on the stage as in the title role of George Bernard Shaw's 'Saint Joan' in 1924, a role which was written with Sybil in mind. She was made Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1931, and Companion of Honour in 1970.


Director ... Alfred Hitchcock
Producer ... Alfred Hitchcock
Screenplay ... Whitfield Cook, Ranald MacDougall(uncredited), Alma Reville
Original Story ... "Outrun the Constable" by Selwyn Jepson
Music ... Leighton Lucas, Cole Porter
Cinematography ... Wilkie Cooper
Distribution Company ... Warner Bros.
Release date ... 23 February, 1950
Running time ... 110 minutes

Academy Awards

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