Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1950: Alastair Sim in Stage Fright

Alastair Sim did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Commodore Gill in Stage Fright.

Stage Fright is most certainly lesser Hitchcock but it still is an enjoyable enough thriller about an inspiring actress Eve (Jane Wyman) who wants to try to prove the innocence of her friend Johnathan (Richard Todd) who is accused of murdering the husband of a famous entertainer Charlotte Inwood (Marlene Dietrich).

Alastair Sim plays Eve's father who she first takes the despondent Johnathan to so he can hideout and avoid being arrested. Sim is just a delight in the role of Commodore Gill who takes on the mystery with his daughter. Sim's performance has a natural low key charm here that really adds a great deal to the early scenes of the film. Sim has Gill play a little game almost as he takes part in the mystery as well as suspects what his daughter's exact reasons are for trying to help the man out. Sim sets the tone for his part quite effectively by mixing in a bit of concern for his daughter, interest in the events, and even a bit of bemusement at the strangeness of the mystery. Sim doesn't let one emotion overwhelm the character bringing a nice balance to the part.

Honestly the early scenes in this film could have been completely lifeless if it were not for Sim's presence who is immensely likable in the role, and quite able at lightening things up a bit while still keeping the dramatic weight of the situation perfectly intact. Sim really doesn't even have funny lines at his disposal but rather is able just to bring a certain humor often just through his facial expressions as he goes through the exploration of the mystery with Wyman. Even though he is actually the supporting character I found myself far more interested in the scenes where Sim investigates then the ones where Wyman's does as Sim is able to find that tone found in the best Hitchcock films where we are allowed to have fun with the investigation even though it is technically a serious situation.

Not all scenes with Gill are his investigations into the central murder mystery and sometimes he stands as a background player in several scenes. These scenes still belong to Sim livening each of them in the traditional scene stealer style. Sim in every moment just adds a jolt of energy through his various reactions during the scenes with just the right type of flamboyance to it. Sim never goes over the top in his portrayal of Gill's behavior who is trying to help his daughter but also is clearly having a good time playing around with lies they are trying to pull off. Sim gets the most out of each of these scenes taking them for himself without any question and making them far more entertaining simply due to his enthusiastic though enjoyably dry presence. 

Alastair Sim is not able to make this essential Hitchcock by any means, but he does make far more worthwhile than it would have been without his very entertaining performance. Sim's work is a great example of an actor making the most out of a role even if it is fairly limited in nature. Sim takes what could have just blended in the fairly unexceptional background of the film but he stands out in the a memorable fashion leaving Commodore Gill as the best character of the film. I only wish that the film actually had been reworked to include even more of Sim as he acts as the Michael Redgrave in the Lady Vanishes, or Robert Donat in 39 Steps of this film bringing that comic relief needed without ever forgetting to keep the necessary emotional weight to the proceedings as well.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

One of my favorite films by Hitchcock, Sim was very good in it.