Blu-ray Review: Stage Fright

Stage Fright - Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Warner Brothers

Release Date: January 25, 2022

Region: Region A

Length: 01:49:56

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 2.0 English Mono DTS-HD Master Audio

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 1.37:1

Notes: This Warner Archives release marks the film’s North American Blu-ray debut.

Warning: This article reveals certain spoilers. Those who haven’t already seen the film should watch it before reading this article. Simply skip down to read about the disc details. You can always return to read this article later.

Stage Fright - Title

Introduction

“The aspect that intrigued me is that it was a story about the theater. What specifically appealed to me was the idea that the girl who dreams of becoming an actress will be led by circumstances to play a real-life role by posing as someone else in order to smoke out a criminal. You wonder why I chose that particular story? Well, the book had just come out and several of the reviewers had mentioned that it might make a good Hitchcock picture. And I, like an idiot, believed them!” —Alfred Hitchcock (Le Cinéma selon Hitchcock, 1966)

This comment was made in reaction to the fact that François Truffaut’s question was laced with so much criticism that it didn’t invite the director to say anything positive about the film: “It seems to me that Stage Fright… added little or nothing to your prestige. It’s simply another one of those little British crime movies in the Agatha Christie tradition. Besides, you claim you disapprove of whodunits.” Peter Bogdanovich similarly manipulated Hitchcock’s answer by asking “Why don’t you like this picture?” before the director had even had the opportunity to say anything against it. Hitchcock wasn’t one to stand up for the films that the public perceived as failures or to defend films that critics found disappointing, so our view of this film and all following scholarship has been slightly tainted. It’s true that Stage Fright isn’t one of the director’s best efforts, but it isn’t quite the disappointment that its current reputation might suggest either. It certainly doesn’t deserve to be discounted by scholars.

The autobiographical background surrounding the film should at least be enough to earn it a thorough examination, and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that Hitchcock threw himself into the project with the same level of enthusiasm and creative energy that produced his masterpieces. However, it is also a film made at a crossroads in the director’s life — both personally and professionally. The proceeding years had seen a string of three disappointing features (The Paradine Case, Rope, and Under Capricorn), and Transatlantic Pictures — the production company that he began with Sidney Bernstein—was in serious trouble. Stage Fright actually began as a Transatlantic venture before it was signed over to Warner Brothers after Under Capricorn failed to live up to expectations.

Meanwhile, things were changing dramatically on the home front. Alfred and Alma Hitchcock were what you might call “empty nesters” as their daughter was away attending the RADA after her second Broadway outing closed after only twenty-three performances. Actually, both of these events were particularly pertinent to the production of Stage Fright.

“[Patricia Hitchcock] was now seventeen, and another role had come up for her, just as she was about to leave school. A series of stories by Whitfield Cook had been appearing in ‘Red Book,’ about a little-Miss-Fixit called Violet who pulls together a large family made up of children from several different marriages. Cook decided to turn the stories into a play called ‘Violet,’ and offered Pat the title role. She took it, though somewhat dismayed to discover that Cook was going to direct it himself, despite the fact that he had no previous directing experience. As it turned out, the result, which should have been light and charming, was heavy-footed and got a drubbing from the critics. The play had been optioned by MGM, so they were guaranteed three weeks, playing rather sinisterly to empty houses. Then, at the end of her second three-week run-on Broadway… she returned to Los Angeles and began to give some serious thought to how she was going to pursue her career.

Her only specific purpose in fact was to become an actress, and that had been accepted almost without question. But what should she now do about it? There were not so many respected drama schools in the US at that time, but one of them happened to be nearby, at UCLA, where they already had drama courses as part of the academic curriculum. Pat went down to register, found that the registration fee was $12, and as she had only $9 on her she ran home to get the rest of the money. At which point Hitch suddenly said, out of the blue, ‘How would you like to go to RADA?’

Wouldn’t she just? She had heard Hitch talk about the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London and knew that he had enormous respect for it as a repository of English acting traditions and technique. He could hardly have shown his confidence in her ability to learn her craft in a more practical, serious way. And evidently, he had been secretly thinking it over for some time: he had already, before broaching the subject of RADA with Pat, made arrangements that she should, at least to begin with, live with his two elderly spinster cousins, Mary and Teresa, in Golders Green while she went to school. It was the most spectacular present he could possibly have given her at that point.” —John Russell Taylor (Hitch: The Life and Times of Alfred Hitchcock, 1978)

August 09, 1947 - Collier's Magazine - Cover

The Source Novel

Meanwhile, the director had a number of creative irons on the fire — one of which was based on a serialized novel by Selwyn Jepson that was originally published between August 09 and September 13, 1947 in Collier’s magazine. The novel was entitled “Man Running” but would eventually be published in hardcover as “Outrun the Constable” and eventually in paperback as “Killer by Proxy.” This was actually the first in a popular series of books that featured a character named Eve Gill as an amateur sleuth and is said to have been inspired by the 1922 murder of Percy Thompson by his wife Edith Thompson and Frederick Bywaters (a case that Alfred Hitchcock would have been acutely aware of and fascinated with at the time as it became a major cause célèbre). However, this seems like speculation as it is impossible to state with any authority that Jepson’s novel was actually based upon this incident.

In any event, various reviews of the book had come to Alfred Hitchcock’s attention, and he eventually decided to acquire the film rights.

“In ‘Man Running,’ the first of the series, Eve Gill is the daughter of a scalawag smuggler. One night in London she notices a man named Jonathan Penrose on the street. Penrose is fleeing from constables, and ‘without conscious thought’ Eve kisses him to deceive the law enforcers and to ‘protect this man from the hated police who were our enemies as well as his.’ Impulsively, Eve decides to hide Penrose, who is hopelessly in love with a society figure, Charlotte Greenwood. Greenwood has accidentally killed her husband (or so Penrose believes); suspecting otherwise, Eve disguises herself first as the lady’s maid, then as an actress, to detect the real murderer. A modest but beguiling policeman joins her on the case. A wrong-man suspect, a beautiful young woman torn between love and justice, theatrical motifs, and English humor — Jepson’s novel had Hitchcock written all over it.” —Patrick McGilligan (Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light, 2003)

The material certainly seemed tailor made for Hitchcock on the surface, but the “whodunit” nature of the material was decidedly counterpoint to the director’s usual approach to suspense (even if we are fairly certain that Charlotte Inwood is the guilty party).

“To my way of thinking, mystery is seldom suspenseful. In a whodunit, for instance, there is no suspense, but a sort of intellectual puzzle. The whodunit generates the kind of curiosity that is void of emotion, and emotion is an essential ingredient of suspense.” —Alfred Hitchcock (Le Cinéma selon Hitchcock, 1966)

Mysteries are usually dependent on withholding information from the viewer while suspense requires providing the viewer with information. The two genres are almost polar opposites, but we will discuss this issue a bit later as it was no doubt a primary concern for Hitchcock as they took on the job of adapting Jepson’s novel to the screen.

The Adaptation

Alma worked closely with the director from December 1948 through March 1949 from the comfort of home as they pounded out a detailed treatment, but Whitfield Cook was eventually added to the mix early in the process. Cook became a close family friend as the result of directing Patricia in “Violet, and it was decided that he would help them with the dialogue. Warner Brothers tried their best to convince Hitchcock to work with Ranald MacDougall — a company man responsible for working on Mildred Pierce — but the director managed to stall the studio, and Cook was soon approved by the studio and on their payroll. It wasn’t long before the trio had settled into a casual but productive routine. Cook usually didn’t arrive at Bellagio Road until around ten o’clock in the morning. After a casual discussion of the story and the various problems at hand, they would take a long break for lunch. After a hearty meal (and a few beverages), they would settle back down to tackle the work at hand.

“In their script talks Hitchcock was ‘definitely the leader,’ Cook recalled. But Mrs. Hitchcock was ‘the world’s best critic.’ If Hitchcock and Cook worked out something on their own together, and Alma didn’t seem to react one way or another when it was told to her, inevitably her husband would ask, ‘What do you think, kiddie?’ Cook didn’t quite catch the nickname, and thought Hitchcock was calling her ‘kitty.’ One day he asked the director, ‘Why do you call Alma ‘kitty’?’ ‘Not kitty,’ Hitchcock replied, ‘kiddie, because she was such a young little thing and so small when she started working with me in England.’” —Patrick McGilligan (Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light, 2003)

Stage Fright - Production Photograph of Alfred Hitchcock at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London

Most scholars agree that it was Alma who had the idea of making Eve Gill a student at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, and it is no coincidence that Pat was currently attending RADA at the time. In fact, there is a stronger paternal thread throughout Stage Fright that is very difficult to overlook. In fact, a small role was created for Patricia that highlighted her particular talents. The treatment also saw the addition of another character that may have held special significance for Hitchcock.

“In the book, Eve has no mother, just an aunt. One character Hitchcock created expressly for the film was the Commodore’s estranged wife, a role earmarked for the preeminent stage actress Sybil Thorndike. Mrs. Gill is depicted as a vague, distracted character, not without charm, who never quite catches up to what is going on. Speaking to ‘Films in Review’ shortly after the New York opening of Stage Fright in 1950, Hitchcock made a point of calling the film’s characters ‘quite normal people,’ and remarking that ‘I know the kind of people.’ Moreover, he added, ‘the heroine’s mother,’ Mrs. Gill, was ‘like my mother’ — the only time he ever compared Emma Hitchcock to one of his fictional characters.” —Patrick McGilligan (Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light, 2003)

It would be nearly impossible to discuss all of the changes made from the original novel, but it is worth stressing that most of the changes reinforced the theatre milieu and role-playing theme at the heart of Hitchcock’s film. For example, Jepson’s climax featured a covert tape recording similar to the one seen in the film, but it was made at a remote cottage. Hitchcock wisely transplanted the important elements to Charlotte Inwood’s dressing room. The entirety of the final sequence plays out in the theater as a result.

However, the most infamous alteration created a great deal of dispute amongst the three collaborators. The debate concerned the revelation that Jonathan Penrose (renamed Jonathan Cooper in the film) was actually guilty of the murder. This was not at all the case in Jepson’s original novel.

“In the book Penrose is utterly innocent, the pawn of the scheming Charlotte and her manager, Freddy Williams. Hitchcock wanted to try something structurally unusual: Penrose would relate a sympathetic version of events to Eve, in flashback, at the beginning of the film; but then a twist ending would reveal that his version of events to have been a lie… And this idea made for an even more unusual situation: the Hitchcocks disagreed with each other over it. Mrs. Hitchcock and Cook banded together to fight for Penrose’s innocence, while Hitchcock insisted on trying it his way. Mrs. Hitchcock and Cook — joined against the director as writers, but also in their deepened relationship — never wavered in their conviction that a false flashback lied not only to Eve, but to the audience, who would feel cheated.” —Patrick McGilligan (Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light, 2003)

Actually, the flashback itself follows the novel rather faithfully — but “with one crucial difference” that was illuminated by Thomas Leitch in an essay entitled “Hitchcock from Stage to Page.”

“‘Man Running’ … opens, appropriately enough, with her reflections on her father’s misfortune in having no sons and a wooden leg that forced him to press his daughter into service when he wanted to climb a ladder through a window in order to steal a painting from a relative. ‘But for this I would not have met Jonathan [Penrose], nor taken upon myself the thankless task of saving him,’ says Eve before the story abruptly shifts to Jonathan’s point of view: ‘Jonathan’s daydream about Charlotte Inwood that same unlucky evening was improbable enough for any miracle to embellish it, for he was making it up as he went along.’ This ambiguous introduction of Jonathan’s viewpoint is complemented by an equally ambiguous shift to Charlotte’s point of view after he leaves her: ‘One can imagine how Charlotte Inwood came out of the ladies’ room at the Paradise and went back slowly to her table. She would have renewed her make-up and taken another aspirin or so; Jonathan had been gone about four minutes.’

The use of ‘daydream’ and ‘making it up as he went along’ in the first passage and the subjunctive constructions ‘one can imagine how’ and ‘would have renewed’ in the second seem to set up both passages as lying flashbacks. Yet both present the absolute truth, for Jonathan really is innocent, and Charlotte really did confess the murder to him in order to secure his help, even though the end of the second episode reveals that the actual murderer was her lover, Freddy Williams, who killed her husband in her presence. In retaining Jonathan’s flashback narrative even though he plans to undercut its authority in the end, Hitchcock provides a textbook illustration of the dangers that await him both when he departs from the single point of view both novel and film establish as normative and when he experiments with overtly first-person filmmaking. Hence his bewildered question to Truffaut: ‘Strangely enough, in movies, people never object if a man is shown telling a lie. . . . So why is it that we can’t tell a lie through a flashback?’” —Thomas Leitch (Hitchcock from Stage to Page, Hitchcock at the Source, 2011)

However, Hitchcock’s decision to employ this lying flashback to set up the film’s final twist becomes understandable once they consider his well-established theories regarding the weaknesses of the mystery genre. A clue to his intentions may be found in a statement he made to François Truffaut during their legendary look length conversations. Just after revealing his thoughts on the limitations of the mystery film, he segued into an anecdote meant to illuminate the difference between suspense and surprise:

“…There is a distinct difference between ‘suspense’ and ‘surprise,’ and yet many pictures continually confuse the two. I’ll explain what I mean. We are now having a very innocent little chat. Let us suppose that there is a bomb underneath this table between us. Nothing happens, and then all of a sudden, ‘Boom!’ There is an explosion. The public is surprised, but prior to this surprise, it has seen an absolutely ordinary scene, of no special consequence. Now, let us take a suspense situation. The bomb is underneath the table and the public knows it, probably because they have seen the anarchist place it there. The public is aware that the bomb is going to explode at one o’clock, and there is a clock in the decor. The public can see that it is a quarter to one. In these conditions this same innocuous conversation becomes fascinating because the public is participating in the scene. The audience is longing to warn the characters on the screen: ‘You shouldn’t be talking about such trivial matters. There’s a bomb beneath you and it’s about to explode!’

 In the first case we have given the public fifteen seconds of surprise at the moment of the explosion. In the second we have provided them with fifteen minutes of suspense. The conclusion is that whenever possible the public must be informed. Except when the surprise is a twist, that is, when the unexpected ending is, in itself, the highlight of the story.” —Alfred Hitchcock (Le Cinéma selon Hitchcock, 1966)

Hitchcock was smart enough to understand that “Man Running” was essentially a mystery and knew that his hands were tied to a certain extent. Since he couldn’t divulge information to his audience, the false flashback gave him an opportunity to create a situation where the viewer thinks they have information that they don’t actually have while also providing them with a “twist ending” to take the curse off of the pitfalls inherent to the genre. It would become the “highlight of the story.” Unfortunately, a certain faction of the audience—including a handful of critics—found fault in this approach, and the director would eventually claim that he had made an error. What’s interesting, however, is that he wasn’t particularly resolute in his claim that he had made a mistake. He questioned why it was so problematic even years later:

“…A lot of people complained because the opening flashback was a lie. Now, why can’t a man tell a lie? I don’t know. But people complained, ‘Ah, you cheated us on the flashback.’ Can’t he be a liar? You see, if you break tradition, you are in trouble every time.” —Alfred Hitchcock (The Cinema of Alfred Hitchcock / Who The Devil Made It, 1963 / 1997)

He went even farther in his defense of the flashback during his conversations with Charlotte Chandler:

“I felt the flashback was justified because the scene is from the viewpoint of Eve Gill, who believes Jonathan’s account of the crime.” —Alfred Hitchcock (as quoted in “It’s Only a Movie: Alfred Hitchcock — A Personal Biography” by Charlotte Chandler, 2005)

Frankly, it now seems that his flashback was merely ahead of its time. One doubts if it would even raise an eyebrow today. In any case, the arguments over this aspect of the script didn’t stymie their progress, and work on the script continued even as they set sail for England on April 28th.

“Cook had finished a draft of the script during the crossing, but Hitchcock suffered an attack of the flu and took to bed at the Savoy. Largely from his bed, by phone and telegraph, he then ordered up changes and touch-ups from James Bridie in Glasgow and Ranald MacDougall in Hollywood. MacDougall, working as a favor, refused credit.” —Patrick McGilligan (Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light, 2003)

It’s clear that many of these polishes were made as a result of the fact that Marlene Dietrich had signed on to play the important part of Charlotte Inwood. Subsequent drafts of the script were intended to build up her role while subsequently refining it to suit Dietrich’s persona.

“In Selwyn Jepson’s novel the character is said to be an ex-actress, but not a singer; with Dietrich, though, it became imperative to incorporate a song or two into the script, and that was one priority of the revisions. Hitchcock volunteered a few song suggestions of his own. One of his ideas was a 1927 Cole Porter tune, ‘The Laziest Gal in Town.’ Though its composer was famous, the song was obscure, having been recorded only once. The director recalled hearing the number at the Biltmore Hotel, where saxophonist Frankie Trumbauer led the house band on NBC radio during the summer of 1938, the year of Hitchcock’s first trip to Hollywood.

Dietrich countered with Edith Piaf, one of her friends (and some say lovers). She got Piaf’s permission to sing her famous chanson, ‘La Vie en Rose.’ It wasn’t a bad choice, and Hitchcock knew Dietrich could pull off a Piaf song. But he was planning to stage one of the production numbers in its entirety, and for that purpose he wanted a song less familiar to audiences—and more to his taste. Dietrich wasn’t thrilled about ceding a song choice to Hitchcock, but he held fast…” —Patrick McGilligan (Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light, 2003)

Stage Fright - Behind the Scenes

It’s lucky for the viewer that Hitchcock didn’t give in to the actress. In his biography of Dietrich, Donald Spoto observes that the Cole Porter tune was ultimately an important and deft addition to the fabric of the final film:

“Dietrich’s focused rendition of the Cole Porter song ‘The Laziest Gal in Town’ is the film’s clearest tip-off to the resolution of the plot: ‘It’s not that I shouldn’t, it’s not that I wouldn’t, and you know it’s not that I couldn’t — it’s simply because I’m the laziest gal in town,’ she sings in a triumphant proclamation with multiple meanings. Our first thought about the lyrics is the obvious sexual reference, but later we realize they are also a clue to what she did with her young lover, exploiting his fanatical devotion to the extent that he killed her husband. She was just too lazy to do it herself. (Her rendition of ‘La Vie en Rose,’ on the other hand, was simply her appropriation of Piaf’s signature for herself.)” —Donald Spoto (Blue Angel: The Life of Marlene Dietrich, 1992)

MacDougall and Bridie both worked diligently on enriching Dietrich’s characterization, and her character was given much of the film’s most memorable dialogue as a result of their efforts. This included a brilliantly performed and exquisitely photographed climactic soliloquy.

“After Charlotte is found out as an accomplice to the murder, [Inwood] waits to be taken to jail. Talking to a police guard as she smokes a cigarette backstage, she complains obliquely about pet dogs, who don’t return their owners’ affections. ‘When I give all my love and get back treachery and hatred,’ she hisses, ‘it’s — it’s as if my mother has struck me in the face.’ It was a great speech expressly tailored for Dietrich.

‘Do you think that, as it is Marlene Dietrich playing the part,’ Hitchcock had asked Bridie as filming approached, ‘we could round her off [at the end] a little more strongly than we have done at the moment? I wondered if you could give her something with a little philosophy. I know that Dietrich herself (who is no fool) would like to go out of the picture not feeling sorry for herself as she is doing at the moment. Naturally it doesn’t call for any profundities, but something a little longer than we have now. It might be possible, do you think?’

Even as filming on Stage Fright began, Hitchcock continued to “rough in” his own changes to Dietrich’s dialogue, asking Bridie to critique his tinkering. It wasn’t until mid-July, midway through photography, that work on her lines ceased. Bridie said he heartily approved of Hitchcock’s ‘cuts and alterations.’ Bridie added, ‘Charlotte particularly at last comes to life. In neither the Alma-Whitfield version nor in mine was she worth a damn.” —Patrick McGilligan (Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light, 2003)

The director would eventually become aware of what he felt was a significant issue with the script. “The menace wasn’t strong enough,” he told Peter Bogdanovich. “The menace came from Dietrich and her partner — they were the villains — and they had no menace in them because they were afraid… The values got confused.” He would elaborate on the problem during his conversations with Truffaut.

“I became aware of that before the shooting was completed, but by then it was too late to do anything about it. Why are none of the people ever in danger? Because we’re telling a story in which the villains themselves are afraid. The great weakness of the picture is that it breaks an unwritten law: The more successful the villain, the more successful the picture. That’s a cardinal rule, and in this picture the villain was a flop!” —Alfred Hitchcock (Le Cinéma selon Hitchcock, 1966)

Pre-production Planning

In the end, the finished document extended to 113 pages. The director would then make meticulous notes and plan every composition and camera move down to the slightest detail. He also drafted over three hundred instructive sketches that his art director, Terence Verity, was intended to follow when “designing” the film’s various sets. Actually, he began his meticulous pre-production planning before the first draft of a proper script was even written. He had already gone through every scene in surprisingly meticulous detail with his production supervisor, Fred Ahern, and dictated his ideas for any needed sets and locations for the upcoming production.

“All these are based on the treatment at present, and I don’t think when we come to the actual script it will change. I know it won’t change.” —Alfred Hitchcock (Transcription of Production Meeting with Fred Ahern)

The transcript of this production meeting is currently held in the British Film Institute, and it provides extraordinary proof of Hitchcock’s control over problems both creative and practical. Consider the following discussion of the film’s opening scenes:

HITCH: You saw in the opening, Fred, we opened with some top shots of a car going through London by St. Paul’s. You remember the streets by St. Paul’s where it is all devastated on each side? Well, I thought we would have a very high camera shooting down, so that we see these streets at that time of the evening 7 or 8 o’clock.

FRED: Including St. Paul’s Cathedral?

HITCH: If we can get it in — you know. But I thought we could probably get two angles shot from a high building looking west. Our backs are to the east of London looking west with St. Paul’s, and see this car rushing through. Then we need, to follow that, a low shot as it comes towards us. Then as the car fills the screen, we cut inside the Studio on to a back projection shot, a process shot you see. Then we’ll have [a] process plate as he starts to talk and he describes how he was in his apartment, you see. Now his apartment is a room above a garage. A street is there with rows of garages [on] each side, and there is a narrow staircase up the side that leads to what I think he would have two rooms. A sitting room in the front, maybe a little kitchen between, and a little bedroom at the back. Now, I don’t think we want to make it a combined set because it means putting a whole set-up on a platform just for the sake of getting the stairs. I think we should break those two sets up — just have the two rooms, a couple of front windows, you know, the little kitchen between and the bedroom at the back. Then build the narrow staircase on a separate set with a double clad door on the outside of the staircase so that we can do that shot when he runs from the Police. You know?

FRED: Your idea is so that we can build the set on the floor and not have to worry about big platforms?

HITCH: Forget the platforms. Build a little narrow staircase as a separate thing. Because you save a lot of money that way, don’t you?

FRED: Oh, sure you do.

HITCH: Now, I won’t pick up the part where the Police come, and he gets into the car outside. We’ll jump now from story continuity when he leaves his house and goes to the Charlotte Inwood house to get in. Well, I thought there that we would make up the front door to start with, but the exterior we ought to do on a real exterior.

FRED: What type of an exterior is it?

HITCH: Well, it will be in Mayfair by the back of Piccadilly there. You know the Ritz Hotel?

FRED: Yes.

HITCH: That section between the Ritz Hotel and Hyde Park Corner. Well, this district would lie to the back of there you see, and we’ll have . . . as I say we’ll shoot the real exterior there, [and] then just make up the front door in the Studio. Now, the inside of the Charlotte Inwood house is what we have to deal with. First of all, we need a hallway. We’ve got to build a hallway because you know when he runs out down the stairs — that’s quite a bit of action. The downstairs rooms we needn’t build actually, although they’ll have to be dressed through the open door. But upstairs the whole set should be very similar to the one we had in Paradine, what was known as Keene’s house. Very similar to that.

FRED: That’s the interior?

HITCH: Interior. And upstairs there should be a couple of rooms. The front room is Charlotte’s room, and the back room is her husband’s room — the man’s bedroom. Now, where the bathrooms are I don’t know. They don’t concern us in our action, but what is important for our action is that she, Nellie, appears in Charlotte’s room in the front while Jonathan is in the back faking the burglary. Remember that scene?

FRED: Yes, her dresser.

HITCH: Yes, Charlotte’s dresser. Which means that from the landing you can get into Charlotte’s room and from the landing, through another door, you can get into the back, which is Inwood’s room. And the veranda window that he breaks, you know, they are windows which open out on to a little balcony that opens on to the back of the house. So, when the Art Director builds that set, he must add the bathrooms wherever it is convenient, you see. Now here again we could build the hallway and the upstairs rooms separately just as we did in Paradine, except in that particular set we had the two rooms downstairs, didn’t we, in addition to the hallway. This we won’t need; we’ll just need a hallway.

FRED: We’ll just need an entrance hall downstairs and the staircase and the hallway upstairs and these two bedrooms and the bath.

HITCH: Yes, that’s right. Well, the bathroom isn’t used, but I’m just saying from the point of view of architecture, we may have to indicate it. Now, of course, you will need a platform above though, because you know when the girl comes out on the landing we look down, don’t we, and see Jonathan running out. So, we’ll need to shoot from above.

Now, the outside — well, now let’s see. That completes his action, eh. He comes outside and just drives off again casually. So, we might have to build a little bit [of] each side of the front door, you know, so that we don’t overshoot. We cut down our exteriors as much as possible, except we are going to be faced later on with quite a big exterior job there.

Now, back of the mews when he gets back there and plays his scene with Charlotte, there is no more change in set there. There’s a kind of a flashback over his face, isn’t there, when he wonders what’s happening. Well, that can all take place up in Charlotte’s room or Inwood’s room. Remember when he sees them opening the Telephone Directory and all that? Well, that could take place on the desk in Inwood’s room you know, the back room. Now, down in the street, he runs away, doesn’t he? He runs down . . . the stairs and lets the police in. Then he doubles back, doesn’t he, he lets them come in and he locks the door on them and jumps into his car. Well, now I think we ought to shoot that on the real exterior because shooting up and down that mews or Garage Street . . . I think it’s quite unnecessary to build all that.

FRED: What was the time of day on that?

HITCH: Late evening, but its daylight . . .

FRED: Still daylight.

HITCH: But, if you like, what we could do, that exterior door at the foot of the staircase, we could put enough set on each side, its only garage doors and shouldn’t be too expensive to build, and a bit of cobblestones in front, enough to take the width of the car — so that the little scene where he locks himself in the car just before he drives off, you know, we could do outside that door, and maybe the reverse we could shoot down on the cobbles or against doors [on] the other side. In other words, use our same background, possibly, and bring the car in the foreground and use that as the other side of the street as well — double it up. Couldn’t we Fred?

FRED: They nearly all look alike anyway.

HITCH: They all look alike, and we could paint them another color. Slap a different coat of quick drying paint on those garage doors, and then we’ve got the other side of the street. I shouldn’t think it would be too expensive to build. And then you see we are only left with our lock shots there. What do you think?

FRED: I think that’s good. It would be better to have it inside. Then we have control of our light and our weather.

HITCH: Well, we could even . . . yes, that’s right. We should make a special note that in the case of the shots shooting out of the staircase of Jonathan’s apartment, that we have cobbles to cover a downward shot. For example, when the woman arrives with the bloodstained dress, we are actually shooting down so you are going to get a cobblestone background. When the police arrive, if we can we should shoot down but be prepared to have cobbles for a good width across and maybe a bit of a painted backing beyond.

FRED: Oh, excuse me Hitch. We will need to be covered down one side of the street to catch the moving around of the police car when they try . . .

HITCH: Well, that should be done on the real street.

FRED: Oh.

HITCH: That should be done on the real street, you see. But the stuff to be done in the studio — I think we ought to do the real exterior with some doubles in the longer shots, and [we will] leave the studio stuff for merely our intimate shots of where the police peer in the car and try to unlock it and so on and so forth. Then we’ll need a final top shot of the car driving away — the little car — followed by the police car, and we’ve got to choose a location where we are high enough to see the car go all the way down into the garage street or mews out into the main traffic, possibly around by the Dorchester Hotel, or somewhere like that, and out into Hyde Park and away. Now, the next thing we pick up is the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Of course, we will have to use the real exterior for that…” —Alfred Hitchcock & Fred Ahern (Hitchcock’s Notes on ‘Stage Fright’ as printed in “Hitchcock on Hitchcock: Selected Writings and Interviews — Volume 2, 2015)

Their conversation would cover the entirety of what was then just a treatment, and it is shocking to note just how faithful the subsequent script drafts were to that original document. It’s also impressive just how much detail was already worked out in the director’s mind. However, he did request that the research department provide him with certain documents that he hoped would refine is vision. Many of these requests were to aid in the design of certain sets.

“We want to get a lot of research on backstage because in assembling our quick-change room and the stage door, you know, we may have to make up our own to suit our purpose of our action. But we should get a lot of actual research of what they all look like — detail, the signs, electric wiring and everything. I don’t want any guesswork on the art side as to what those theater wings look like. I want it based on actual photographs all the way through, you know.” —Alfred Hitchcock (Transcription of Production Meeting with Fred Ahern)

The garden party was another point of interest for the director (he called this scene the film’s “pièce de résistance”).

“Now for research on the garden party, we should get all the newsreel we can for the last couple of years — they’re well covered by newsreel — all the newsreel we can, and all the stills taken last year and maybe the year before — Long Shots especially. There should be plenty of those in existence.”  —Alfred Hitchcock (Transcription of Production Meeting with Fred Ahern)

However, some of his requests were made to flesh out believable details that lesser directors may have easily overlooked.

“I would like to get, maybe from the newspapers or the police archives, some photographs outside the scene of a murder. See how many people they got around there; you know—so that we get some idea of what the atmosphere is like. There’ll probably be many murder cases on the actual location, but they should be taken . . . or the photographs that you secure from the newspapers should be taken on the day after a murder has been committed in London somewhere. I’d like to get that research done.” —Alfred Hitchcock (Transcription of Production Meeting with Fred Ahern)

The director was also working with Warner Brothers and his crew to secure his cast well before he had a completed script, and the cast was complete by June. Shooting would commence on Monday, June 13th.

The Cast / Production

Each of the actors that appear in Stage Fright left an indelible mark on the final film (for better or worse), and it is edifying to examine the film’s production as it pertained to these various personalities. The biggest and most demanding of these personalities was undoubtedly Marlene Dietrich.

Stage Fright - Publicity Photograph of Alfred Hitchcock and Marlene Dietrich

Marlene Dietrich

Donald Spoto claims in his biography of the actress that the director always had Marlena Dietrich in mind for the film, but Patrick McGilligan later contradicted this statement in his exhaustive biography of Hitchcock’s life and work.

“The part called for a genuine diva, and once again Hitchcock thought first of Tallulah Bankhead. But Jack Warner balked at Bankhead, remembering Lifeboat’s box-office fate. Next the director suggested Marlene Dietrich. To Dietrich — almost fifty, but still a goddess — Warner said an enthusiastic yes.

In early April, Hitchcock sent a treatment of the script to Dietrich at her residence at the Hotel George V in Paris. She wrote back directly, saying that although she recognized the treatment as rough, ‘I like it very much, knowing that you are going to do it,’ adding, ‘I being quite an Erle Stanley Gardner admirer would love to ask you a couple of questions, but I will wait with that until I know more through the script or until I see you.’

Her agent extracted a salary of ten thousand dollars weekly, for ten weeks of filming. In the last week of April, when the Hitchcocks and Cook passed through New York on their way to England aboard the Queen Elizabeth, Dietrich flew in from Paris to meet with them. Hitchcock invited her to lunch in his suite at the St. Regis. ‘She came in,’ recalled Cook, ‘looking so ravishing, her hair done back smoothly on her neck and in a plain black dress. Just the most beautiful person in the world. And we had a lovely time, drinks and funny conversation.’

…Dietrich’s reputation for manipulative behavior preceded her, and she was in the film precisely because she was a known quantity. Her contract, for example, stipulated her wardrobe; she had to be adorned in Christian Dior dresses — expensive outfits that she could take home afterward. But Hitchcock, always controlling about what his leading ladies wore, had a clause that allowed him to approve the designs: the marabou, white fox, black tights, [and] diamonds galore.” —Patrick McGilligan (Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light, 2003)

Outrageous contractual perks were really only the tip of the iceberg. Wilkie Cooper (the film’s director of photography) remembers that the actress was given a freedom that was particularly rare on a Hitchcock set.

“Hitchcock gave me special instructions, which really surprised me, especially it being Mr. Hitchcock and all. He said that for any scenes with Miss Dietrich, I was able to listen to her instructions, and — this was the part that really took me aback — to do it the way she said. Need-less to say, I didn’t question Mr. Hitchcock’s instructions, but I prepared myself for the worst. Perhaps seeing the expression on my face, he reassured me, saying, ‘Miss Dietrich is quite expert and knows what she’s talking about,’ and he says, ‘Don’t argue about it with her. Just discreetly let me know.’ No one knew more about his camera than he did. Mr. Hitchcock knew more about the camera than I did. Well, he was right about it. Miss Dietrich certainly did know a great deal, especially about camera lighting. Mr. Hitchcock had mentioned that she had learned from Josef von Sternberg. What she had to offer was very professional, and she knew what she was doing, especially for herself.

What worried me was that she would look like she was in a different film. I needed to make it all match… Miss Dietrich was pleasant enough to work with — as long as she got her way. She considered herself to be the director and the camera director for her scenes. I think Mr. Hitchcock must have made some kind of special agreement with her in order to get her for the picture. Though she didn’t say it exactly, it was clear that there was only one concern she had, and that was that she look as young as possible. Actually, what she really wanted was to look younger than was possible for any camera or any lighting to achieve.” —Wilkie Cooper (as quoted in “It’s Only A Movie: Alfred Hitchcock — A Personal Biography” by Charlotte Chandler, 2005)

While Dietrich had control over her lighting, Hitchcock wasn’t about to allow anyone to alter his mise en scène. The film’s compositions would be his and diva be damned. One imagines that allowing the actress control over the lighting of her scenes was a particular thorn in Cooper’s side considering the fact that his creative voice had already been tied by Hitchcock. However, it is important to understand that allowing the actress control over her lighting actually fell perfectly in line with his vision for her scenes because he was hoping to put across the iconic ‘Sternbergian’ aesthetic that had been such an important part of her persona.

Of course, Hitchcock and Dietrich didn’t always see eye to eye, and this did occasionally lead to disagreements. A few biographers (including her daughter) claim that the actress was often incredibly frustrated during the production, but most agree that there was, at the very least, a grudging mutual respect for each other’s innate talent. John Russell Taylor went further in his biography of the director and reported that “a sterling regard for each other’s supreme professionalism ripened into a warm affection.” This is likely true. The director never minded voicing his disappointments or negative feelings concerning the various actors that appeared in his films, and he was never particularly critical of Dietrich — even if his compliments were laced with affectionate jabs about her need for control when it came to her image.

“Marlene was a professional star — she was also a professional cameraman, art director, editor, costume designer, hairdresser, makeup woman, composer, producer, and director.” —Alfred Hitchcock (as quoted in “The Dark Side of the Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock, March 01, 1983)

Dietrich was also nothing less than flattering; “When he directed it seemed as if he didn’t. But he did, he did, and how he did!” However, she did admit that he did occasionally leave her feeling less than certain about her performance.

“He frightened the daylights out of me. He knew exactly what he wanted, a fact that I adore, but I was never quite sure if I did right. After work he would take us to the Caprice restaurant and feed us with steaks he had flown in from New York, because he thought they were better than the British meat, and I always thought he did that to show that he was not really disgusted with our work.” —Marlene Dietrich (as quoted in “Hitch: The Life and Times of Alfred Hitchcock” by John Russell Taylor, 1978)

These dinners were the only contact we had him outside the studio,” the actress later admitted. “He kept us at a distance. Like many geniuses he didn’t like being idolized.” In “Marlene” — her autobiography — the actress went further in her praise.

“I made only one film with him, Stage Fright. What most impressed me about Hitchcock was his calm authority, his ability to give orders without being taken for a dictator. Hitchcock, effortlessly, never failed to captivate, to explain, to rule, to teach, to enchant. Yet, at bottom, he was reserved… I loved his English sense of humor, he constantly joked with us without ever playing up his fame or seeking our applause. A German slogan says: ‘Often copied and never matched’ — so it was with Hitchcock.” —Marlene Dietrich (Marlene, 1989)

She would often joke that audiences often confused Billy Wilder’s Witness for the Prosecution for a Hitchcock film, and this seemed to amuse her because the two directors couldn’t have been more different from one another. However, she admitted that the two men (and the two films) had similarities.

“Mr. Hitchcock was a very intelligent director, and he was a gentleman, an English gentleman, though I found him very European. I never cooked chicken soup for Mr. Hitchcock the way I did for Billy Wilder, but I gave him some recipes. He was interested in cooking, but more in eating. I told him I always wore a hair net when I cooked. He did not have to worry about that, though, because he did not have so many hairs. We talked about food. He loved European restaurants and luxe hotels. Mr. Hitchcock and Billy both knew French. Both men were gallant. I was with Tyrone Power in the Wilder film and with Richard Todd in Mr. Hitchcock’s picture. They looked alike. They were both very handsome men, and it is always a pleasure to look at a handsome men.” —Marlene Dietrich (as quoted in “It’s Only a Movie: Alfred Hitchcock — A Personal Biography” by Charlotte Chandler, 2005)

The actress never spoke about specific memories from the set, but she did remember offering advice to a young Patricia Hitchcock.

“I was able to give his young daughter some valuable tips based on what I had learned about camera lighting… The wrong lighting, the wrong lens, being photographed from the wrong angle, this ages you. The wrong lighting could have taken away her freshness. She listened with great attention, but I think she was not very vain, about makeup or wardrobe, either. She was more deeply involved with her acting. For me, acting is only part of it.” —Marlene Dietrich (as quoted in “It’s Only a Movie: Alfred Hitchcock — A Personal Biography” by Charlotte Chandler, 2005)

Jane Wyman remembered in a rare retrospective interview that Dietrich had given her similar advice, and this may have led to a problematic relationship with her director… But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Stage Fright - Publicity Photo of Alfred Hitchcock and Jane Wyman

Jane Wyman

At the 21st Annual Academy Awards ceremony (which was held on March 24, 1949), Jane Wyman won the Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of a deaf mute in Johnny Belinda. Needless to say, this made her a fairly big deal on the Warner lot, and her star status was significant enough to convince Hitchcock that she might be appropriate for the role of Eve Gill. Certainly, Warner Brothers was anxious for their prize actress to be cast, and it probably didn’t hurt that her agent was Lew Wasserman. Unfortunately, Hitchcock would end up regretting his decision.

“I had lots of problems with Jane Wyman… In her disguise as a lady’s maid, she should have been rather unglamorous; after all, she was supposed to be impersonating an unattractive maid. But every time she saw the rushes and how she looked alongside Marlene Dietrich, she would burst into tears. She couldn’t accept the idea of her face being in character while Dietrich looked so glamorous, so she kept improving her appearance every day and that’s how she failed to maintain the character.” —Alfred Hitchcock (Le Cinéma selon Hitchcock, 1966)

Wilkie Cooper also noted that this was an issue on the set.

“The other problem [concerning Dietrich] was Miss Wyman. She could see that Miss Dietrich was getting all of this attention, which certainly must have seemed to her to be preferential. Well, it was. I can’t say Miss Wyman was exactly a good sport about it, but she did her best not to complain.” —Wilkie Cooper (as quoted in “It’s Only A Movie: Alfred Hitchcock — A Personal Biography” by Charlotte Chandler, 2005)

This criticism may seem unfair on the surface, but Hitchcock understood that this was an important aspect of the role-playing conceit of the film. The very theme of the film required a serious actress that would allow herself to look unglamorous for the good of the role. It didn’t help that the studio was on Wyman’s side and supported her since they didn’t want one of their stars looking anything less than their best either. The director would lament the film’s “lack of reality” due to the actress’s vanity.

Having said this, one can sympathize with Wyman’s perspective as well. This was a different era, and her very career was dependent on her appearance. One imagines that playing a “pimply-faced girl” may have threatened the actress, and the special attention received by Dietrich would have rankled most actresses (especially those who had earned first billing). The conflict soured Wyman on the film, and she rarely had much to say about it.

“In the more than half century that has passed since the release of Stage Fright, Jane Wyman has consistently refrained from speaking ill of Hitchcock, but her praise of the director has been restrained. She said very simply, ‘He was a good guy.’ … The lack of special attention as an Oscar winner disappointed her. She felt Dietrich was being accorded greater respect. The picture was never one of Wyman’s favorites.” —Charlotte Chandler (It’s Only a Movie: Alfred Hitchcock — A Personal Biography, 2005)

Luckily, there were aspects of the production that Wyman enjoyed immensely. “I fell in love with the set,” the actress said at the time. “Someday, I’m going to have a house like it.” Of course, this may simply be publicity fluff. Critical opinion differs as to whether Wyman shared any real on-screen chemistry with the film’s primary male lead (Michael Wilding), but it is known that her co-star’s attention was directed elsewhere after the camera stopped rolling. Did this exacerbate Wyman’s burgeoning insecurities? There’s no way to know for sure.

Michael Wilding 03

Michael Wilding

Michael Wilding was a holdover from Under Capricon. The director had found that the actor’s easy-going nature made for a congenial set, and he was unlikely to find a better British actor to suit his needs on the film’s budget as Dietrich had taken a rather large bite out of the production’s resources. Lieutenant ‘Ordinary’ Smith was Eve Gill’s primary love interest in the film, but reality found the actor tangled up with Marlene Dietrich.

“Michael Wilding — handsome, gentle, sophisticated and artistic — was eleven years her junior and had scarcely been introduced to her when she offered herself to him, as if the way for her to feel young was to prove to herself that she could keep a young man. ‘I am too old for you,’ she said bluntly. Gallantly, Wilding tried to recall an appropriate response from lines in Shakespeare’s ‘Antony and Cleopatra,’ and when he faltered, Dietrich interrupted: ‘Why not just settle for kissing me?’ ‘From that moment,’ according to Wilding, ‘we became inseparable. In fact she would not move a step without me. She insisted that I accompany her everywhere, and she took as much interest in my appearance as she did in her own.’ As Hitchcock and members of his crew remembered, the lovemaking was not always discreet, sometimes conducted even in their dressing rooms on the soundstage. ‘But close as we became,’ Wilding added, ‘there was an unfathomable quality about Marlene, a part of her that remained aloof. Sadly, our relationship came to an abrupt end.’ Dietrich was again surprised at the temerity of an ex-lover when Wilding’s engagement to Elizabeth Taylor was announced a few years later: ‘What’s Liz Taylor got that I haven’t got?’ she asked a friend, who added that the news made her ‘very sad.’ As she had said, ‘When I devote myself to someone, no one can undo it’ — not even, she thought, the former beloved.” —Donald Spoto (Blue Angel: The Life of Marlene Dietrich, 1992)

Dietrich’s daughter remembered the actor fondly.

“Michael Wilding had all the prerequisites to attract. He was handsome, a storybook British gentleman, tender and shy, with a medical affliction that marshaled all of her protective powers. They became lovers quickly and remained so for quite a long time… He had a … pixie humor, he also had that capacity to step back into the shadows whenever she became involved with someone else, ready to emerge again with love whenever she finished with his rival. [He] had the compassion of a saint and the patience of Job.” —Maria Riva (Marlene Dietrich: The Life, 1992)

Meanwhile, the actress was less enthralled with Richard Todd (the man cast to play her naïve lover). “Nice but nothing there,” she later claimed.

Stage Fright - Production Photograph of Alfred Hitchcock and Richard Todd

Richard Todd

Richard Todd was a Dublin-born actor who would receive an Academy Award Nomination for his portrayal of the ailing ‘Corporal Lachlan “Lachie” MacLachlan’ in Vincent Sherman’s The Hasty Heart at the 22nd Annual Academy Awards. Hitchcock had screened the film while trying to decide upon his director of photography as Wilkie Cooper was responsible for shooting that film. During that screening, he noted that the actor had particularly “expressive eyes” and knew that this would serve him well during the film’s climax.

Most scholars claim that the director didn’t warm to the actor and was disappointed with both his personality and his performance. Apparently, the actor felt that his character was underwritten, and Hitchcock didn’t appreciate the criticism. However, Todd seemed to remember the experience fondly.

“They were like a couple of kids. They really were just like a couple of kids talking about their movie and their plans, and the script, and what everything meant… I remember it well. First of all, meeting Hitchcock. It was the third or fourth picture I ever made, so I was still pretty green, and I was very flattered that this world-famous director wanted me to play the lead in his film. He asked me to come and meet him at the Savoy Hotel where he and his wife were staying and have lunch. That was flattering, too. And what struck me about him, he was so enthusiastic. He spent a couple of hours telling me all about the story. ‘You see, we do this, and then we do that, and this happens, and then that happens,’ and she [Alma] kept piping up as well. His wife had written the script. She was chattering away as much as he was. She was totally involved. So, I came away just about as enthusiastic as they were.

I got on with him very well, right from the very first day I met him. Then he arranged for me to have lunch at the Savoy with Marlene Dietrich, who was to be my girlfriend. It seemed a bit strange then, and still does, in the movie. I got along with her very well. I got on with Jane [Wyman], too.

Then when we started actually working in the studio, it was a very different kettle of fish. He worked like no other director I know of. He was very impersonal with his actors. I can now believe that he actually did say ‘Actors are cattle,’ because he didn’t take an awful lot of interest in what they were doing. I was lucky. I was the one he sort of cottoned on to more than most. At one point, he said I had very expressive eyes. So he kept on doing close-ups of my eyes. This was the first time I was aware of speaking with the eyes. It helped me particularly, this thing about expressive eyes. Hitchcock wanted to light them and come in close on them all the time. Well, that made me feel that I certainly was getting something out of it. Hitchcock didn’t give the kind of hints directors give at all, but I didn’t mind…

…I wasn’t too sure of myself, because as I said, I hadn’t made all that number of movies. I just hoped I was doing the right thing. But he’d let it go, and so I thought, ‘Well, it must be all right then.’ He was more interested during the filming in his setups, in his camera positions and so on than he was in his actors, how they played their roles…

…I was newly married at the time, less than a year, and my little wife and I had a very nice address in Park Street, Mayfair. The only trouble was, it was a converted house, and our flat was at the top of four stories, and we didn’t have a lift. We had asked Hitch and Jane Wyman to supper one night, and they came. Alma wasn’t there. Hitch simply waltzed up the stairs. No problem at all. Jane Wyman was huffing and puffing. He was remarkably fit…

…I was prepared for it having read the script and gone over it in depth. It didn’t disturb me. Just part of the job. I didn’t mind at all being the villain because it would be very boring to play a goody all the time. Fundamentally, he was a villain, but he didn’t come over that way, until you realize what he was up to. In the beginning, he seemed rather a nice young man. Had to be, or the girl wouldn’t have taken all that risk to help him…

…It was quite a pleasant film to make. It was good for my confidence, to feel I’d got through a movie with the great Hitchcock and hadn’t made a mess of it. And he was very complimentary about it.” —Richard Todd  (as quoted in “It’s Only A Movie: Alfred Hitchcock — A Personal Biography” by Charlotte Chandler, 2005)

Stage Fright also includes a wonderful array of notable British character actors in smaller roles: Sybil Thorndike, Joyce Grenfell, Kay Walsh, Miles Malleson (who portrayed ‘Mr. Memory’ in The 39 Steps), and Alastair Sim. Sim’s role is actually a rather substantial one, and some of the film’s theatrical marketing materials made note of his appearance in the film.

Alistaire Sim 03

Alastair Sim

It is clear that Hitchcock was trying to build up the paternal elements of the story because Commodore Gill isn’t nearly as present in the novel as he is in the film.

“At the urging of James Bridie, whom the director was expecting to polish the dialogue, the three Hitchcocks watched Sidney Gilliat’s Dulcimer Street for the scene-stealing performance of Alastair Sim. (Sim had appeared in several Bridie plays.) The Commodore was then tailored for Sim — though later, during filming, the ebullient actor drove Hitchcock crazy, mugging without restraint.” —Patrick McGilligan (Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light, 2003)

François Truffaut was particularly critical of Sim’s performance during his legendary interview with the director. “I didn’t care for Alastair Sim in the role of Jane Wyman’s colorful father,” Truffaut said plainly. “I objected to the actor as well as to the character.” Unfortunately, this approach only invited a critical response from Hitchcock, and this is exactly what Truffaut was wanting.

 “Here again is the trouble with shooting a film in England. They all tell you, ‘He’s one of our best actors; you’ve got to have him in your picture.’ It’s that old local and national feeling, that insular mentality again.” —Alfred Hitchcock (Le Cinéma selon Hitchcock, 1966)

Hitchcock’s frustration with Sim’s tendency to go a bit over the top probably inhibits the director’s ability to see the final film objectively. Critics (particularly those in the UK) were impressed with Sim’s performance, and one has to admit that his scenes tend to keep the viewer interested when the plot is falling short.

The most significant bit player may very well be Patricia Hitchcock. We don’t say this because her part is a particularly important one, but one feels that her acting career colored quite a lot of the film’s subject matter (as we have already discussed).

Patricia Hitchcock - Stage Fright

Patricia Hitchcock

“Of Pat’s acting ambitions, Hitchcock said, apparently playfully, that although he did not approve, ‘her mother does thoroughly. . . . I’ll put off as long as possible having to direct my own daughter’ — a clear indication that he knew it was only a matter of time. The occasion came in 1949 when he cast Pat in the role of the absurdly named Chubby Bannister — one of Hitchcock’s teasing little jokes — in the movie Stage Fright…” —Edward White (The Twelve Lives of Alfred Hitchcock, 2021)

‘Chubby Bannister’ is a fellow student of Eve Gill’s at the RADA — a detail that mirrored her own reality as she was still attending the school at the time.

“Though it was only a small part for Pat, Hitchcock was pleased, and it led her to a more important role in Strangers on a Train. This was the ultimate sign of approval from her father. In Stage Fright, she brings more to her role than might have been expected from her relatively few lines…

…Pat Hitchcock told me that she really loved best being onstage, and would have chosen to be a stage actress. ‘It’s a career that lasts longer. I’m glad I had the opportunity to be in films and television… People think it’s much easier to be an actress if you have a relative in the business. Well, it has the obvious advantage, but it’s also much harder because there are people who think it’s the only reason you got the part. ‘Some people took such a hard look at what I did. They thought I was getting jobs because of my father, but my father would never have cast me if I hadn’t been right for the parts. He was very particular about casting. I wish I’d fit more parts. I’d like to have done more.’” —Charlotte Chandler (It’s Only a Movie: Alfred Hitchcock — A Personal Biography, 2005)

Release, Reception, Legacy

Production would wrap by the beginning of September, and after a brief postproduction period, the film was ready to be released to theaters. The film premièred in New York on February 23, 1950. UK audiences would have to wait until the end of the following May to see the film. Unfortunately, reviews were mixed. Most critics failed to understand that the director was working within a decidedly different genre and were disappointed by the film’s lack of sustained suspense. A perfect example of this tendency is apparent in a review written by Bosley Crowther for the ‘New York Times’ (which was published the day following the film’s New York première):

“The world of the London theatre is the fascinating milieu in which Alfred Hitchcock has chosen to pull off the conjurer’s tricks of his latest thriller, Stage Fright, which came to the Music Hall yesterday. And in this intriguing environment, he and his writers have contrived to give a fine cast of actors some slick and entertaining things to do. But we feel we must quietly advise you that these things, while amusing separately, build up to very little sustained excitement or suspense. They are simply a wild accumulation of clever or colorful episodes, tending for the most part toward the comic, without any real anxiety. And, for this reason, that which one most usually expects in a Hitchcock film — namely, accumulated tension — should not be expected here. Rather we get a rambling story — it runs for almost two hours—about the ways in which a student actress tries to shield her sweetheart from a murder charge… But most particularly, in the course of this picture, we are brought into contact with Alistair Sim, the long-faced and sad-eyed English comic, who plays Miss Wyman’s dad. And the privilege of watching him muster his wits and resources to assist his daughter in her endeavors is one of the genuine pleasures of the film. He and Dame Sybil Thorndike, who plays his acerbic wife, and a toothy lady named Joyce Grenfell, who does a hilarious bit as an attendant of a shooting gallery at a theatrical fair, are the standouts in the show — and that should give you some idea of how the emphasis has been placed. Indeed, one is strongly suspicious, after watching this helter-skelter film, that Mr. Hitchcock was much less interested in his over-all story than in individual scenes. One has the uncomfortable feeling that he so much enjoyed the episodes that he lost — or didn’t even bother about — strong and consistent development. No doubt his audiences will follow in their enjoyment of the episodes, but whether they will be quite as casual about the lack of form is something else again. Stage Fright is dazzlingly stagy, but it is far from frightening.” —Bosley Crowther (The Screen in Review: ‘Stage Fright,’ New Hitchcock Picture Made in England Arrives at Music Hall, New York Times, February 24, 1950)

Crowther may be right about the film’s weak construction, but it seems unfair to keep insisting that the film isn’t “frightening,” “exciting,” or “suspenseful” because it isn’t that kind of film. Instead, he should have concerned himself with whether Stage Fright offered a diverting mystery while entertaining the viewer along the way. It seems to me that critics should — at the very least — understand that there is a significant difference between these two genres. That’s their job.

A review published the following day in “Harrison’s Reports” followed suit, but they at least spend more time criticizing the film’s construction (a fair criticism) than complaining about the lack of “suspense” or “excitement.”

“Produced in England, this latest Alfred Hitchcock picture is a rambling murder thriller that wavers constantly between comedy that is delightfully funny and melodrama that is rarely more than moderately exciting. The overall result is a spotty entertainment that is too dragged out to keep one’s interest constantly alive. The main trouble with the picture lies in the improper development of the involved plot, which is given to wordy situations that slow down the action considerably and which is not always logical. The performances are competent, the characterizations interesting, and there are individual scenes that reach high points in comedy and suspense, but on the whole the picture lacks the touch that makes for sustained fascination…” —Staff (Harrison’s Reports, February 25, 1950)

This review would continue on to reveal every twist and surprise in the narrative (including the really big reveal concerning Richard Todd’s character). This is a mistake that several of the film’s critics made, and one has to wonder if it affected the film’s box office. In any case, one can imagine Hitchcock’s eyes rolling as he read the complaint that the film’s situations weren’t always logical. Luckily, many of the critics from “across the pond” understood that Stage Fright belonged to a different genre than most of the director’s earlier efforts, and the reviews were much kinder as a result. This somewhat awkwardly written review published in the Yorkshire Post offers a good case in point.

“Cookery and film-making have a number of things in common, but in the latter it is — I think — more necessary than in the former to vary the recipe. A relative of mine who makes the finest fruit cake this side of paradise has learned that her excellent efforts in other directions never win the same degree of approbation from her family. Alfred Hitchcock now finds himself in exactly the same position. Hitchcock made his reputation with a series of dramatic films that chilled the spines of all who saw them. Tills [this] period of success was followed by one of failure. Now in Stage Fright (Warner) he has produced a first-rate film only to find that it is criticized because it is not the familiar spine-chilling fruit cake. Of course, it is not — and obviously it is not intended to be… It is a new Hitchcock recipe and one to be recommended.” —Staff (Mr. Hitchcock’s New Recipe, Yorkshire Post, May 26, 1950)

An excessively verbose article that was published in The Times was nearly as positive (even if it does criticize the opening sequences).

“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), [and] announces that she has killed her husband… 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) … [while] 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.” —Staff (New Films in London: Stage Fright, The Times, May 29, 1950)

A review published in the Derby Daily Telegraph was even kinder, and it provides a hint as to why the British critics were more receptive than their American brethren.

“Brilliant photography, impeccable acting, and a reasonably convincing plot are excellently blended by the genius of director Alfred Hitchcock to make Stage Fright (Regal) one of the best British pictures so far this year. The production has something to satisfy all tastes — humor provided by that professor of dry wit Alastair Sim, a first-class murder mystery built around Richard Todd and Marlene Dietrich, and superb performances by Jane Wyman and Michael Wilding. Briefly, the story opens with a young man attempting to save a beautiful stage star — with whom he is infatuated — from being arrested for murder. It soon becomes apparent, however, that ‘there is more to it than meets the eye’ and the denouement is clever. The film is a personal triumph for Mr. Wilding and a credit to the British film industry.” —J.H.W. (A Triumph for Mr. Wilding, Derby Daily Telegraph, September 26, 1950)

The claim that Stage Fright was one of the “best British pictures so far this year” is worth considering. It seems possible that the film was regarded more warmly in Britain because it was made in Britain with British talent. Then again, it is also possible that these critics had a better grasp of genre. The film has maintained its “mixed” reputation, but it also has a number of vocal champions.

Eric Rohmer and Claude Chabrol would write a book-length study of Hitchcock’s filmography entitled “Hitchcock: The First Forty-Four Films” several years later, and their assessment of the film was surprisingly positive.

“The story is very ordinary… Stage Fright is not an ambitious work, but a very intelligent sort of superior entertainment: a series of half-comic, half-serious variations on a theme which is itself only a pretext. The film can be thought of as the promenade of a director who is particularly attentive to the gentle poetry of gracious gestures, to the freshness of a young girl’s soul, ta the charm of certain privileged moments. But he is also sensitive to disquieting detail, to the fascination of voluptuousness, to sheathed violence, to powdered and polished evil.

We are given a gallery of portraits that are simultaneously delicate and savage, lucid and amused; a succession of delicious or strangely morbid scenes. It is difficult to isolate the dominant theme. The film is a succession of scenes rather than a work. And perhaps that makes it easier for us to appreciate better the refinement of Hitchcockian art… It is by studying a film like Stage Fright shot by shot that one may be able to grasp the secrets of Hitchcock’s form. Because it is less unified, less perfect, than the great films of our cineaste, it dazzles us more. The most beautiful scene takes place in a taxi. It is hardly more than a succession of shots and reverse shots but Hitchcock has found the way to go beyond the words and make us understand what these people think, to render fascinating this exchange of thoughts that search each other out, meet, or flee. When Eve and Inspector Smith get into the cab, she is a young girl and he a detective. They talk of this and that. When the taxi pulls up, it is a couple of lovers who get out, without either one of them having made the least gesture toward the other. This is more worthy of the name virtuosity than a 30-mile track shot.

Another example: Jonathan’s famous lie. When, at the very beginning of the film, he gives his version of events to Eve, he gives a cinematic version: the images that illustrate his narrative are seen on the screen. At the end of the film, we learn that he has lied. By u logical process, the spectator thinks that the images have lied with him: indignation (this was before Rashomon!). But such is not the case. In Hitchcock films, the images never lie, though the characters do. The same sequence shown without the soundtrack can illustrate the true version of events. It is the commentary that makes it false, that lies, that assigns the actions another cause, another goal. Sleight of hand, it will be objected. Not at all. The subject of Stage Fright, the straight line around which the arabesques curl, is Eve, the young girl who stands for non-duplicity. Her universe does not include lies. She believes (and of course the spectator joins her in this) in Jonathan’s innocence, and she plunges into the adventure blindly. The theme of this film is thus related to that of Shadow of a Doubt, upon which it throws a brighter light. The revelation of the lie is at the heart of the story. Far from being an artifice, the lying account given by Jonathan is the very basis of the film. In this light the arabesques themselves lose their apparent gratuitousness, since they are variations on the theme of innocence.” —Eric Rohmer and Claude Chabrol (Hitchcock: The First Forty-Four Films, 1957/1979)

In his book, “The Art of Alfred Hitchcock,” Donald Spoto called it an “undeservedly neglected comic masterpiece.

“One of Hitchcock’s least appreciated works, Stage Fright annoys some viewers because of its complex plot, its surprises, twists, double twists — and, most of all, by its bold use of an opening false flashback, an account told by a murderer (and seen by us as he tells it to another) and therefore finally revealed as a lie. There’s no doubt that this is a film demanding the most careful attention — but Hitchcock always deserves that attention, and our enrichment derives proportionately. Stage Fright is in fact a major comic work, entirely worthy of the various significant talents who contributed to it.

The safety curtain of an English theater slowly rises under the credits, revealing not a stage set, but real-life London in full motion; when the curtain is fully raised, we’re pitched at once into the action of the story. Immediately, then, the distinctions between appearance and reality, between theater life and street life, begin to blur. Everything that follows is an interconnected series of ruses, costumes, lies and artifices, and every one of the theater people in the story plays a variety of real-life roles — a favorite Hitchcock motif, spun as early as The 39 Steps. As in Hitchcock’s darker romances, appearances and identities slip and slide. Nothing is certain in the world of disguises, performances, matinées and theatrical garden parties…” —Donald Spoto (The Art of Alfred Hitchcock, 1976 / 1998)

His affection for the film was still on display years later as he rephrased these same observations in The Dark Side of the Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock.

“Underneath a somewhat sprawling story is a wonderfully realized comic treatment on the nature of role-playing in real life. The opening of the film is a pointer in the right direction, in fact: credits dissolve against a rising theatrical safety curtain, and the scene behind the curtain is not a stage setting but actual London; when the curtain is fully risen, the viewer is in the action of the story. At once, then, the distinctions between theatrical life and street life (and, in what follows, between art and life itself) begin to blur. As the story unfolds, everyone assumes false identities, everyone plays a role. Appearances slip and slide, and nothing is certain in a world marked by costumes and matinees and benefit garden parties and the lies of false friends.” —Donald Spoto (The Dark Side of the Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock, March 01, 1983)

He would go a bit further in his biography about Marlene Dietrich. As one might expect, this text was especially flattering towards the legend’s memorable performance.

“For many years, Stage Fright was regarded as a mediocre work by Hitchcock and a negligible moment in Dietrich’s career. Few judgments about a film could be more shortsighted, for this film — although highly complex, full of demanding verbal nuances and with the multiple layers of a complicated plot — is certainly nothing less than a masterwork. As for Dietrich’s acting, it remains (with Witness for the Prosecution eight years later) one of her two finest late performances, perhaps because it struck so close to her own emotional experience as a performer enduring the shifting fortunes of success. And insofar as it was conceived, directed and released as a kind of encoded tribute to her image, it deserves as careful an assessment as The Blue Angel or Morocco

… On its most serious level, Stage Fright is a typically Hitchcockian reflection on romantic illusion, with the popular ikon of Marlene Dietrich at the center… Central to the picture’s richness is her presence, her complete blending into the role as both star image and mysterious mover of events, for finally Stage Fright is about the tragic wisdom of the older performer (Charlotte/Dietrich), the concomitant cynicism, the superior experience and the ability to exploit her image to her own best advantage. Dietrich has not a false moment in this picture. Breathless with anxiety and with a cunning invented from moment to moment, Charlotte Inwood was a kind of totem of Dietrich’s dark side, encapsulating the entire range of her image.” —Donald Spoto (Blue Angel: The Life of Marlene Dietrich, 1992)

John Russell Taylor’s summation of Stage Fright tends to paraphrase the opinion of the majority and is decidedly more critical of the film than Spoto.

“The film, after the pervasive humorlessness of his last few films, is primarily cheerful. The central characters, played by Jane Wyman and Richard Todd, are rather too dull for us to be very interested in their problems, or who did what to whom, but there is a lot of fun around the edges with a gallery of British character actors such as Alastair Sim, … Sybil Thorndike, Kay Walsh, Miles Malleson, and Joyce Grenfell — not to mention Marlene Dietrich magisterially intoning Cole Porter’s song ‘The Laziest Girl in Town’ and flashing her famous legs… The problems of the plot were never quite solved — the audience is kept in the dark for too long about who the real villain is, no one is in real danger during the film, and everyone, even the ostensible villains, is scared. These considerations finally seem more important than the curious objections raised at the time that the film is ‘dishonest’ because it begins with a flashback told by Richard Todd which finally proves to be a lie. The camera, it is asserted, should not lie, even if a character in a film can lie verbally. But who says? After the narrative ambiguities of Last Year in Marienbad it is hard to feel so confident of anything in the cinema.” —John Russell Taylor (Hitch: The Life and Times of Alfred Hitchcock, 1978)

It seems to this writer that the false flashback falls in line with the film’s primary theme. Stage Fright is about performance and pretense, and Jonathan is performing for Eve to manipulate her affections so that she will help him (just as Charlotte had been performing for him). It is true to the film’s concept and works much better than similar tropes seen in many of today’s films for this very reason. This isn’t to say that the film is perfect, but the flashback isn’t responsible for its failure to stand amongst Alfred Hitchcock’s best work. The real culprit is the film’s construction, and it is painful to admit this because Alma was responsible for much of it. She took the film’s perceived failure rather hard, and it is worth noting that she never took credit on any of her husband’s future films. She remained an important influence, but she would never again be one of his primary scenarists. This was also the final film that Hitchcock would make in Britain until shooting Frenzy in London some twenty-two years later in 1972. It seems that the director felt disconnected from his home country by this point in his life, and he missed the filmmaking tools that were so easily at his disposal in Hollywood. Hitchcock even aired his frustrations about the British film industry in one of his reports to Jack Warner: “As soon as I’m finished shooting and I have the picture rough cut, I’m going to get the hell out of here.”

Stage Fright - Publicity Photograph (RADA)

The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

Warner Archives houses their Blu-ray disc in a standard Blu-ray case that includes an insert sleeve showcasing attractive artwork. Most of their releases utilize artwork that is taken from a film’s original one sheet design (or at least one of the film’s original marketing concepts), and this design seems as if it was created for the home video market. Luckily, it isn’t at all bad.

The disc’s static menu utilizes a horizontal rendition of this same concept and is both attractive and intuitive to navigate.

Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Warner Archives offers a surprisingly solid 1080P transfer of the film in what its original 1.37:1 aspect ratio that is taken from a recent 4K scan of the original nitrate camera negative. To say that it is an improvement upon the 2004 DVD transfer is a major understatement. It looks much stronger than what most fans will probably expect from a film of this vintage as there is plenty of discernible fine detail on display throughout despite the era’s production techniques that very often result in a softer image (which is admittedly also the case here). However, these softer shots are exceptions rather than the rule as there’s some very nice definition to the image overall. Contrast has been handled with appropriate care as blacks are deep without seeming to crush detail, and the gradients between blacks and whites are surprisingly strong. The transfer is also free of any distracting digital anomalies such as overzealous DNR hasn’t been introduced, and edge haloes are never an issue. There is a nice organic layer of grain that offers a filmic look that will please purists, and it resolves rather nicely throughout the duration of the film.

Sound Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Stage Fright was completed in 1949 when audio production techniques were more primitive. However, the resulting soundtrack was a very healthy monaural mix that served the film admirably. Warner Archives doesn’t try to reinvent the track for a modern audience for this release, and it isn’t reasonable to expect them to produce such a bastardization of the original audio. Instead, they have rightfully chosen to transfer the original mono mix with appropriate care, and the result is a very nice representation of the original mix. Dialogue sometimes sounds slightly thin, but it is always cleanly rendered and intelligible. Music is surprisingly healthy for a film that was completed in the 1940s, and the high-definition transfer gives it enough room to breathe. Meanwhile, the effects are well prioritized and free from distortion even if unreasonable audiophiles may find that they have limited range. This is how the film sounded when it was shown in theaters, and it is irrational to expect anything more than a faithful representation of that mix.

Special Features:

2 of 5 Stars

Hitchcock and Stage Fright — (19:22)

Laurent Bouzereau’s featurette is hardly a real look at the making of Stage Fright (as is advertised on the back of the case), we are given what can be described as an “appreciation” of the film. The late Peter Bogdanovich, Richard Schickel, and Robert Osborne receive the most screen time, but Jane Wyman and Patricia Hitchcock are the most significant contributors. It’s too bad that neither of them has much to say about the production. Wyman does recall that Marlene Dietrich mothered her, and Patricia remembers the actress offering her advice as well. Unfortunately, most of the piece is taken up with lightweight observations. This is certainly a far cry from the incredibly documentaries that Bouzereau produced for Universal’s Hitchcock catalog. Most fans will agree, however, that an anemic appreciation of the film is much better than nothing at all, and it might actually elevate the viewer’s appreciation for Stage Fright.

Theatrical Trailer — (02:52)

The original trailer for the film starts out as if it were a newsreel. It opens with screaming text reads “Jane Wyman Acclaimed Year’s Best Actress!” before introducing footage from an awards ceremony as the announcer sets the scene: “Climaxing a year of achievement that began with her winning the Academy Award for Johnny Belinda, the popular Warner Brother’s star now wins the coveted Photoplay magazine gold medal…” After receiving the award and offering a short acceptance speech, we are told that “Now this great star joins a great director,” and we are hurled into a more conventional trailer. This approach may surprise modern audiences because Jane Wyman’s name doesn’t have the clout that it had in those days. However, it could also be the studio’s way of publicizing their prized actress. It’s very nice to have this included as it does actually add value to the disc.

Stage Fright - Publicity Still with Richard Todd

Final Words:

Stage Fright isn’t one of Alfred Hitchcock’s best efforts. Certainly, it will never be mentioned in the same breath as masterpieces like Notorious, Rear Window, Vertigo, North by Northwest, Psycho, or even Strangers on a Train. It is superior to The Paradine Case and Under Capricorn, but it isn’t as rich or rewarding as similarly neglected films like I Confess or The Wrong Man (which should have a much better reputation). However, Stage Fright is much better than its reputation suggests. It is a flawed but undeniably charming comic mystery that rewards viewers for their time. Warner Archives has finally brought this overlooked classic to the Blu-ray format, and we can only hope that Mr. and Mrs. Smith will follow closely behind it.

Review by: Devon Powell

Stage Fright - Publicity Photograph of Marlene Dietrich

Source Materials:

Selwyn Jepson (Man Running, Collier’s, August 09 – September 13, 1947)

Unknown (Why Jane Wyman Was Excited, Gloucester Journal, May 21, 1949)

Unknown (Dundee Evening Telegraph, February 18, 1950)

Bosley Crowther (The Screen in Review: ‘Stage Fright,’ New Hitchcock Picture Made in England Arrives at Music Hall, New York Times, February 24, 1950)

Unknown (Harrison’s Reports, February 25, 1950)

Unknown (Mr. Hitchcock’s New Recipe, Yorkshire Post, May 26, 1950)

Alfred Hitchcock (Master of Suspense: Being a Self-Analysis by Alfred Hitchcock, New York Times, June 4, 1950)

J.H.W. (A Triumph for Mr. Wilding, Derby Daily Telegraph, September 26, 1950)

Eric Rohmer and Claude Chabrol (Hitchcock: The First Forty-Four Films, 1957 / 1979)

Peter Bogdanovich (The Cinema of Alfred Hitchcock / Who The Devil Made It, 1963 / 1997)

François Truffaut (Le Cinéma selon Hitchcock, 1966)

Andrew Sarris (Interviews with Film Directors, 1967)

Donald Spoto (The Art of Alfred Hitchcock, 1976 / 1992)

John Russell Taylor (Hitch: The Life and Times of Alfred Hitchcock, 1978)

Marlene Dietrich (Marlene Dietrich’s ABC: Wit, Wisdom, and Recipes, January 01, 1984)

Marlene Dietrich (Marlene, 1989)

Maria Riva (Marlene Dietrich: The Life, 1992)

Donald Spoto (Blue Angel: The Life of Marlene Dietrich, 1992)

Sidney Gottlieb (Hitchcock on Hitchcock: Selected Writings and Interviews, November 04, 1997)

Patrick McGilligan (Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light, 2003)

Charlotte Chandler (It’s Only a Movie: Alfred Hitchcock — A Personal Biography, 2005)

Donald Spoto (Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies, 2008)

Barton Palmer and David Boyd (Hitchcock at the Source: The Auteur as Adaptor, 2011)

Thomas Leitch (Hitchcock from Stage to Page, Hitchcock at the Source, 2011)

Sidney Gottlieb (Hitchcock on Hitchcock: Selected Writings and Interviews—Volume 2, 2015)

Stage Fright - 'North Devon Journal' Newspaper Ad '' - July 27, 1950

Note: We were provided with a screener for review purposes, but this had no bearing on our opinions.

Stage Fright - Lobby Card

Stage Fright - One Sheet

3 thoughts on “Blu-ray Review: Stage Fright

  1. I too have always felt Hitchcock’s creative use of the Flashback in ‘Stage Fright’ was ahead of its time. Thank you for
    another beautifully written and impeccably researched piece on a new Hitchcock release. The accommodation of multiple view points and sources make for a fully rounded and educational summary. I heartily look forward to your next post.

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