Hitchcock is one of the most reliable directors. He can provide a taunt plot line full of twists and turns while using great actors and actresses to their advantage and introducing small innovations in filmmaking along the way. Whether it is minor Hitchcock or major Hitchcock, it doesn’t seem to matter. It will always be entertaining if you know what you are getting yourself into. With Hitchcock you get many major attributes and small flaws in every film. One of those flaws is the questionable degree that he treats his female protagonists. It doesn’t matter if it is Vertigo, Rear Window, Stage Fright or Sabotage, the female characters come off as getting the short shrift. I don’t know if it was just the sign of the times or if Hitchcock really thought that women were flighty young girls who could never complete a mystery without falling in love. Of course as he matured as a filmmaker his characters became more dynamic so this aspect of character development was layered under other more complex issues, but it still persisted. I am not alone in my assessment of his filmography, there are plenty of film books out there that take this thread and expand upon it in a more eloquent matter than I did here. I only bring up the female characters up because it was painfully obvious while watching this film.
Stage Fright involves a man who is suspected of murdering the husband of the woman he is having an affair with. The man runs to one of his friends who is an actress played by Jane Wyman. She plays the sincere wispy young girl who tries to prove this man is innocent and place the blame on the woman, who is a favorite singer and is played by Marlene Dietrich. Marlene is a vamp and therefore she plays a vamp in the most delicious way possible. But of course these women can only get along with their lovers, their fathers and their detectives who turn into lovers. They are betrayed, taken advantage of, and assumed to be incompetent at every plot twist. And yet they take it with a charming smile and a pithy line.
Of course after my harsh last paragraph, it must seem that I hate this film, but that is untrue. Although it will never count as my favorite Hitchcock (Rear Window will always have that place in my heart), I enjoyed it very much. It was a nice diversion from my moody thoughts for an hour and a half. Marlene Dietrich in particular was quite fascinating. She steals every scene from Wyman with her bedroom eyes and her nonchalance in the face of a quite dreadful murder. (My speech seems to be influenced by the language of the film that is really English.) The wit of most Hitchcock films is always charming and Wyman pulls off the lines with such earnestness that it is even better. So in short, I liked the film, but consider it minor Hitchcock. That is all I have to say.