For Reel

Stage Fright (1950)
February 3, 2016, 7:21 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
3 Stars
Stage FrightThe theme of deception in Hitchcock is explored in all of this films, both as a stamp of his directorial authorship and as an element that exists within the narrative. Role-playing, in particular, crops up often–Alicia posing as Sebastian’s lover in Notorious, Scottie’s obsession with recapturing the past in Vertigo, the strange case of Norma Bates. If Stage Fright has not maintained the reputation of the director’s greatest work, it is nonetheless an indispensable artifact in the analysis of Hitchcock in that the theme of deceit is foregrounded with an impertinent cheekiness, amounting to what might be the purest example of Hitchcock’s obsession with the fraudulence of cinema. Nearly every element in the film involves, if not direct role-playing (a huge element in the picture), the suggestion of artifice. As the woman who makes performance her occupation, Marlene Dietrich’s Charlotte Inwood is perhaps the most forthright character in the picture in that she’s the only one who’ll cop to her disguises. Hitchcock requested that Dietrich play to type, which distinguishes her completely from any female character in a Hitchock film. Importantly, the Dietrich persona is one which carries a certain level of fraudulence in that her image is shaped entirely by lighting and costuming, making her a brilliant fit for the material. If Stage Fright is fascinating in these respects (its reputation is also attributed to the gimmick of an unreliable flashback, the most “Hitchcock” of narrative games), it is not quite as sensually pleasurable as his best–the performances leave much to be desired, and one wishes that he met this obsession with duplicity with a more distinguished script.

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