Stage Fright (1950) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • A struggling actress tries to help a friend prove his innocence when he's accused of murdering the husband of a high society entertainer.

  • Jonathan Cooper is wanted by the police who suspect him of killing his lover's husband. His besotted friend Eve Gill offers to hide him and Jonathan explains to her that his real lover, actress Charlotte Inwood is the real murderer. Eve decides to investigate for herself, but when she meets the detective in charge of the case, she truly falls in love.

  • Eve Gill, an aspiring young actress, shelters a fellow acting student to whom she's attracted, Jonathan Cooper, from the police. He is suspected of murdering the husband of his mistress, Charlotte Inwood, a famous actress and singer. Jonathan claims that he became implicated when he tried to help Charlotte destroy some evidence. Eve's eccentric father, Commodore Gill, agrees to hide Jonathan in his house while she proves his innocence. To do this, Eve becomes Charlotte's temporary dresser. Eve's father devises a plan to force Charlotte to confess where it can be overheard by the inspector investigating the case.

  • In London, aspiring actress Eve Gill and her friend Jonathan Cooper are fleeing from the police in her car to her father's boat two hours far from the city. Eve has a crush on Jonathan and he tells her that a couple of hours earlier his mistress and actress Charlotte Inwood had come to his apartment in a blood stained dress and said that she had killed her husband. Jonathan agreed to go to her apartment to fetch a clean dress for Charlotte, but her maid saw him at the crime scene and called the police who are chasing him as prime suspect. Eve's father Commodore Gill lodges Jonathan at his house and Johnathan destroys the dress. Eve decides to investigate herself to prove Jonathan's innocence and gets closer to Charlotte, working as her temporary dresser. Meanwhile, Detective Wilfred Smith, who is in charge of the case, befriends Eve and they fall in love.

  • Hoping that she will help hide him, Jonathan Cooper confides in his besotted friend Eve Gill, a novice acting student at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, that he is helping famed stage actress Charlotte Inwood, his mistress, cover up the accidental killing of her husband. Jonathan states he is in trouble because Charlotte, who was wearing a blood stained dress, asked Jonathan to retrieve a clean dress for her at her supposedly empty house where he was spotted by the maid, Nellie Goode, just prior to Nellie finding the dead body. Eve agrees to help Jonathan since she is in love with him and believes he is being framed by Charlotte. When the police get involved, Eve tries to find out as much as she can from the lead investigator, Detective Inspector Wilfred Smith, who she ends up calling "Ordinary Smith" at his request, without divulging her connection to Jonathan. With her equally sleuthing father Commodore Gill behind her, Eve, using her acting skills, infiltrates the Inwood household acting as Charlotte's temporary dresser. These dual roles becomes difficult for Eve to manage. In the process of discovering the real killer, Eve ends up falling in love with detective Smith.



The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Eve Gill (Jane Wyman), an aspiring actress studying at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts is interrupted in the middle of a rehearsal by her friend, actor Jonathan Cooper (Richard Todd), with whom she is secretly attracted.. The frantic Jonathan explains that he is the lover of flamboyant stage actress/singer, Charlotte Inwood (Marlene Dietrich). He claims that Charlotte visited him after killing her husband in an argument. She was wearing a bloodstained dress and Jonathan agreed to go to her house and obtain a clean one. He says he found the body of Mr. Inwood at the residence, took a spare dress from the wardrobe and then tried to simulate a burglary gone wrong, only to be seen by Charlotte's theatre maid and dresser, Nellie Goode (Kay Walsh). He is now on the run, wanted by the police.

    Eve has a crush on Jonathan and takes him to hide in a house near the coast owned by her father, Commodore Gill (Alastair Sim). Persuaded to help, the Commodore then notices that the blood on Charlotte's dress has been smeared on deliberately, not stained by accident, and he and Eve suspect that Jonathan has been framed. He angrily rejects this, destroying the dress in the fireplace.

    Eve decides to help Johnathan by investigating herself. Posing as a reporter, she bribes Nellie Goode to pretend that she is ill and cannot work for Charlotte for a while. Eve then utilizes her acting skills to affect the false identity and accent of a Cockney maid, claiming to be Nellie's cousin, "Doris Tinsdale", and takes the temporary job of replacing "her cousin" in order to infiltrate Charlotte's household.

    In the course of trying to clear Jonathan, Eve meets Detective Inspector Wilfred Smith (Michael Wilding). As Eve, she and Smith are mutually attracted and she has to go to great lengths to cover the fact that she is also "Doris" the maid when Smith visits Charlotte to ask further questions. As Eve, she tries unsuccessfully to get information from Smith on the progress of the investigation.

    Invited to tea, Smith visits Eve and her mother at their home in London. They are joined by the Commodore who drops subtle hints to Eve that Jonathan has left their house by the sea. Meanwhile, in spite of the tragedies that are surrounding her, Charlotte returns to perform at her West End musical show. She is secretly visited by Jonathan who wants her to accompany him abroad and when she is reluctant he desperately tells her that he still has the dress with the bloodstain. Charlotte makes it clear that she will not give up her career for a hunted fugitive and in any case she is secretly having an affair with her manager Freddie Williams (Hector MacGregor).

    Eve, as Doris, again helps Jonathan escape the police and he ends up hiding out at the Gill's London residence. He thanks Eve for her support, but being with Johnathan she realizes she is starting to fall in love with Wilfred Smith.

    When Nellie Goode uncovers the deception and that Eve is not a reporter, Eve manages to buy her off with blackmail money. Eve has earlier persuaded Smith to accompany her to a garden party where Charlotte is singing on stage in a large tent. During the performance, Commodore Gill gets a little boy to take a doll wearing a dress stained with blood, Gill's blood, up to the stage. The sight causes Charlotte to falter and Williams summons "Doris" for assistance. Seeing Eve attending to Charlotte leads Smith to believe Eve has deceived him about their relationship and the investigation.

    Smith confronts Eve and the Commodore over their "amateur meddling". They persuade him to let Eve meet Charlotte and set her up into making a confession. Once the theatre has closed for the evening, Eve as Doris confronts Charlotte near a hidden microphone with Smith and his men listening in to the conversation from the loudspeakers. Charlotte admits her involvement in her husband's death (making her an accessory) but denies committing the murder itself, blaming Jonathan.

    Eve then sees that Jonathan has been brought to the theatre by the police, Smith having guessed that he was hiding in their house. Eve goes into hysterics, enabling Jonathan to get away. Johnathan makes it appear he has exited the theatre and Eve finds him hiding in the stairwell. Smith reveals to the Commodore that Jonathan really did kill Mr. Inwood and that he has actually killed before, though he got off on a plea of self-defense.

    Hiding below stage, Jonathan confesses to Eve that Charlotte goaded him into killing her husband in order to make way for Freddie Williams. The story he told Eve when she agreed to hide him was all lies. He says he has an uncontrollable temper and had told Charlotte about a girl he'd killed and she took advantage of him. He admits he contrived the earlier stories he told her. Eve tries to get him to surrender as he is mentally ill. When he threatens to kill her as well to prove he's insane Eve convinces him to try to escape and get to her father's boat. Eve let's him through a door and slams and locks it behind him while calling aloud to alert the police of Johnathan's presence. In the confusion that follows Jonathan is crushed by the stage's safety curtain when it is dropped to cut him off. Eve is comforted by Smith as they exit the theatre.

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