“Le Grand Alibi”, on TCM: when screen is too small for Dietrich and Hitchcock

The only collaboration between the star of the “Red Empress” and the director of “La Rope” produced a film as singular as they are wobbly.


In the brief passage that the cinema according to Hitchcock, by François Truffaut, devotes to the Grand Alibi, Alfred Hitchcock abstains from any comments on the performance of Marlene Dietrich, preferring to demolish that of the other star of the film, Jane Wyman . It is however the impossibility of the meeting between the “blue angel” and the master of suspense that the lame charm of this film as failed as fascinating.

In 1949, Hitchcock has been running for the first time in London since his departure for Hollywood in 1939. From a new British policewoman from Selwyn Jepson, he built a convoluted intrigue in which Eve Gill (Jane Wyman), a young Woman who would like to be an actress, must help her sigh, who is already an actor (Richard Todd) to demonstrate that he has not killed Charlotte Inwood (Marlene Dietrich), a London West End star.

The character of Eve Gill, a gullible white goose who learns concealment, by being hired as clothes with Charlotte Inwood, allows Hitchcock to deviate from the rules of narration in force at the era. The story made by his boyfriend, who takes the form of a flashback, is actually a lie. The narrator is uncertain and the suspense vacillates on his foundations.

anthology sequences

Especially since Marlene Dietrich imposed her conditions on Hitchcock, who folded there. On the morning of each of his filming days, said Donald Spoto in his biography of the filmmaker, the actress gave her instructions to the leader, Wilkie Cooper, without the director finding Redire, unprecedented event or tomorrow in his career. So that the sequences that stage Charlotte Inwood singing The Laziest Gal in Town or Life in Rose, in dresses by Christian Dior, look more like Josef von sternberg than Hitchcock, breaking the rhythm, however generally impeccable of the Hitchcockian story.

The author of the 39 steps takes over during anthology sequences, sowing chaos in a Garden-Party, organizing a manhunt in a theater, drawing all the possible parties from the deadly illusions offered by The sets, the pulley games in the hangers.

Despite tone swings and the artifices of the plot, the great alibi retains a semblance of coherence by constantly returning to the painting of the caste system that governs the world of spectacle. Eve Gill shares her first name with Eve Harrington, the actress arrived from Mankiewicz’s film (Eve, released the same year as the great alibi, in 1950) and the nunucherie that director and actress lend her is not enough to conceal her thirst for glory . This interest in the show profession, rarely manifested in the filmography of Hitchcock, adds to the singularity of the film.

/Media reports.