Stage Fright from 1950 with Jane Wyman, Marlene Dietrich, Richard Todd, Michael Wilding and Alastair Sim
All Hitchcock-directed movies carry the weight of being "Hitchcock films," which is probably why this solid movie is not particularly well known as it's generally regarded as one of his "lesser efforts."
And maybe it is, but few pick a movie based on the director and, away from the Hitchcock mystique, this is a fine and entertaining film. It also feels more like his earlier 1930s efforts than the "big" movies still to come in the 1950s or even his very tight films from the 1940s like "Suspicion" and "Rebecca."
Jane Wyman, an aspiring actress, tries to help her boyfriend, Richard Todd, who is accused of killing the husband of his paramour, Marlene Dietrich. While that's enough to unravel, since this is Hitchcock, there's more: Dietrich is nearly twenty years Todd's senior (making Dietrich a cougar before the word took on that meaning) and appears to have killed her husband and set Todd up to take the fall...or not.
Despite finding out at the same time that her boyfriend has been cheating on her with a woman nearly two decades older than she and that he also might be a murderer, Wyman doesn't pause to risk her own life and freedom trying to exculpate her boyfriend.
From here, the movie is very Hitchcockian as innocent people do more and more illegal things trying to prove their own or someone else's innocence, thus getting into deeper and deeper trouble with the police. Also in classic Hitchcock fashion, Wyman befriends the detective on the murder case to gain information and direct his investigation, but then begins to fall for him. This makes for a quite interesting love triangle as, as noted, her boyfriend is also the prime murder suspect.
Early on, Wyman reaches out to her father, Alastair Sim, a member of the upper class who has drifted Bohemian and, thus, enjoys both helping his daughter in her illegal sleuthing efforts and tweaking the police. And Sim becomes the joy of the movie as he insouciantly guides his much-more-serious-than-he daughter's efforts while seeing and joyfully smirking at all the silliness and hypocrisy around him. He owns every scene he's in and you miss him when he isn't there.
The rest of the movie plays out as you'd expect. Things get worse for Todd and Wyman while Dietrich seems to be getting away with everything. Along the way, we get some near-missed opportunities to expose Dietrich, the police ploddingly but effectively putting the pieces together (a classic Hitchcock touch), a creepy doll used for psychological effect, a harrowing chase scene, a Hitchcock cameo and then, literally, the final curtain falling.
The acting is top notch, the story is serviceable and, while there are tense moments, like many of the master director's efforts, the overall feel is almost light and joyful - it's as much about love and family as it is about murder and mayhem. Yes, it's fair to say this is not Hitchcock's best, but as a run-of-the-mill movie, it's better than many.