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Encyclopedia > Dial M for Murder
Dial M for Murder
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Produced by Associate producer:
William Hill
Uncredited:
Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Play:
Frederick Knott
Screenplay:
Frederick Knott
Starring Ray Milland
Grace Kelly
Robert Cummings
John Williams
Anthony Dawson
Music by Dimitri Tiomkin
Cinematography Robert Burks
Editing by Rudi Fehr
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date(s) Flag of the United States May 29, 1954
Running time 105 min.
Language English
Budget US$ 1,400,000
All Movie Guide profile
IMDb profile

Dial M for Murder is a 1954 Warner Brothers film directed by Alfred Hitchcock starring Grace Kelly and Ray Milland as a married couple. It is based on the stage play of the same title by English playwright Frederick Knott (1916-2002). Dial M for Murder premiered in 1952 as a BBC television play before being performed on the stage in the same year (West End, June; Broadway, October.) Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (502x755, 56 KB) This image is of a film poster, and the copyright for it is most likely owned by either the publisher of the film or the studio which produced the film in question. ... Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock KBE (August 13, 1899 – April 29, 1980) was an iconic and highly influential British-born film director and producer who pioneered many techniques in the suspense and thriller genres. ... William Hill was the Proprietary Governor of the Province of Avalon in Newfoundland from 1634 to 1638. ... Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock KBE (August 13, 1899 – April 29, 1980) was an iconic and highly influential British-born film director and producer who pioneered many techniques in the suspense and thriller genres. ... Frederick Knott, (Frederick Major Paull Knott) was born in Hankow, China on August 28th 1916 and died on December 17th 2002 in New York City. ... Frederick Knott, (Frederick Major Paull Knott) was born in Hankow, China on August 28th 1916 and died on December 17th 2002 in New York City. ... Ray Milland (January 3, 1905 – March 10, 1986) was a successful Welsh actor and director who worked primarily in the United States. ... Grace, Princess of Monaco née Grace Patricia Kelly (November 12, 1929 – September 14, 1982) was an Academy Award-winning American film and stage actress who, upon marriage to Rainier III, Prince of Monaco in 1956, became Her Serene Highness The Princess of Monaco, but was generally known as Princess... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... John Williams (April 15, 1902 – May 5, 1983) was a British stage, film, and television actor. ... Anthony Dawson (October 18, 1916 – January 8, 1992), born in Edinburgh, was a Scottish-born actor. ... Dimitri Zinovievich Tiomkin (Russian: , Dmitrij Zinovevič Tëmkin, somtimes translated as Dmitri Tiomkin) (May 10, 1894 – November 11, 1979) was a film composer and conductor. ... Cinematographer Robert Burks (1909 - 1968) was known for being proficient in virtually every genre and equally at home with black-and-white or colour. ... Rudi Fehr (July 6, 1911 - April 16, 1999) was a film editor whose credits include House of Wax (1953), I Confess (1953), Dial M for Murder (1954), and John Huston-directed Prizzis Honor (1985). ... “WB” redirects here. ... Image File history File links This is a lossless scalable vector image. ... is the 149th day of the year (150th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1954 (MCMLIV) was a common year (link will display full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... “USD” redirects here. ... The year 1954 in film involved some significant events. ... Warner Bros. ... Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock KBE (August 13, 1899 – April 29, 1980) was an iconic and highly influential British-born film director and producer who pioneered many techniques in the suspense and thriller genres. ... Grace, Princess of Monaco née Grace Patricia Kelly (November 12, 1929 – September 14, 1982) was an Academy Award-winning American film and stage actress who, upon marriage to Rainier III, Prince of Monaco in 1956, became Her Serene Highness The Princess of Monaco, but was generally known as Princess... Ray Milland (January 3, 1905 – March 10, 1986) was a successful Welsh actor and director who worked primarily in the United States. ... A stage play is a dramatic work intended for performance before a live audience, or a performance of such a work. ... Frederick Knott, (Frederick Major Paull Knott) was born in Hankow, China on August 28th 1916 and died on December 17th 2002 in New York City. ... Year 1952 (MCMLII) was a leap year starting on Tuesday (link will display full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... For other uses, see BBC (disambiguation). ... West End theatre is a popular term for mainstream professional theatre in London, England, or sometimes more specifically for shows staged in the large theatres of Londons Theatreland. Along with New Yorks Broadway theatre, West End theatre is usually considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre... For other uses of Broadway, see Broadway. ...


The screenplay for the film was written by Knott himself and is almost identical to the stage play (Samuel French acting edition ISBN 0-573-01102-8). Knott, who moved to the U.S.A. in 1954, wrote only one other well-known play, Wait Until Dark (1966), which was filmed in 1967. Generally, Knott's work tends to focus on women who innocently become the focus, and the potential victims, of evil plots. Sample from a screenplay, showing dialogue and action descriptions. ... Year 1954 (MCMLIV) was a common year (link will display full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... Hepburn, Crenna, Arkin and Weston Wait Until Dark is a 1966 film which tells the story of a blind woman terrorized by three criminals searching for drugs in her apartment. ... Year 1966 (MCMLXVI) was a common year starting on Saturday (link will display full calendar) of the 1966 Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1967 (MCMLXVII) was a common year starting on Sunday (link will display full calendar) of the 1967 Gregorian calendar. ...


There is just one setting in the play of Dial M for Murder: the living-room of the Wendices' flat in London (61A Charrington Gardens, Maida Vale). Hitchcock's film includes a second setting in a restaurant, some views of the street outside, and a stylized courtroom montage played in an indeterminate, neutral setting. This article is about the capital of England and the United Kingdom. ... Maida Vale is a road in north-west London, and a district surrounding it. ...

Contents

Plot

Tony Wendice is a former tennis player who married Sheila (called Margot in the movie) partly for her money. To please his wife, he has given up tennis and now has a job selling sports equipment. Sheila had a relationship with Max Halliday (played by Robert Cummings in the movie, as Mark Halliday), a crime writer for American TV, but they broke it off when Max went to the U.S. for a year. Eventually, they also stopped writing to each other. For other uses, see Tennis (disambiguation). ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ...


Tony and Sheila have both made their wills, naming each other as beneficiary. For one year, Tony meticulously plans Sheila's murder. Sheila has no idea that Tony knows about her love for Max. He went to great lengths to steal her handbag containing one of Max's letters, and even assumed the role of an anonymous Brixton-based blackmailer to find out whether she would pay for the retrieval of the letter (She did, but he asked for only £50). He even watched them having a little farewell party (eating spaghetti with mushrooms) in Max's studio flat in Chelsea. Brixton is an area of South London, England, part of the London Borough of Lambeth. ... For other uses, see Blackmail (disambiguation). ... The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (often abbreviated to RBKC) is a London borough in the west side of central London. ...


Tony slyly withdraws small amounts of money for a year, collecting £1,000 in (used) one-pound notes, with which he plans to pay a contract killer. He also singles out the perfect man to do the job: C A Swann, who now calls himself "Captain Lesgate", an old schoolmate of his who had embarked on a life of petty crime when they were students together. Tony knows that now he will be able to blackmail Swann into murdering his wife. A hitman (alternately, hit man) is a hired assassin, often by organized crime. ...

Cummings, Kelly, and Milland
Cummings, Kelly, and Milland

When the action starts, Tony's careful preparations have been going on for a year. Now he uses the opportunity of Max's return to London to carry out his plan. Under some pretext—he has to prepare an urgent report for his boss—he has Sheila and Max go to the theatre and, when they are gone, he invites Swann round to his flat under another pretext—wanting to buy an expensive American car from him. When Swann arrives at 61A Charrington Gardens that Friday night, Tony gets down to business very quickly. There is no time to lose, as he has planned the murder for the following night. Finally, Swann accepts the deal. a still from the movie This is a screenshot of a copyrighted website, video game graphic, computer program graphic, television broadcast, or film. ... a still from the movie This is a screenshot of a copyrighted website, video game graphic, computer program graphic, television broadcast, or film. ...


For Saturday night, Tony has invited Max to join him at some stag party in a nearby hotel—this is how he secures himself an alibi. The idea is that the police should think that a burglar was surprised by Sheila, that he panicked, attacked and strangled her and left without the loot. He has told Swann that he is going to phone his own flat at exactly 11 p.m. Sheila will come to the living-room to answer the phone, and then she will be murdered by Swann. There are only two keys to the Wendices' ground floor flat. Before leaving for the stag party, Tony steals Sheila's key from her handbag and hides it under the stair carpet outside their flat for Swann to use.


Max, a writer of crime scenarios, says at one point that, theoretically, he would be able to plan the perfect murder but that it would be impossible to carry out any plan of his because in real life people just do not act according to other people's plans. This is true of Sheila, too: Instead of listening to the radio in her bedroom when Tony and Max are away, she tells her husband of her (own) plans to go to the cinema that night. Tony has a hard time persuading his wife to instead stay at home and stick into an album some old newspaper clippings of his when he was a tennis star. Sheila finally consents and for that reason takes a (seemingly) huge pair of scissors out of her mending basket (which also contains a pair of her stockings). When she has finished the tiresome job she goes to bed, carelessly leaving the scissors lying on the desk next to the phone. According to (Tony's) plan, Swann secretly enters the Wendices' flat shortly before 11 o'clock, hides behind the drawn curtains, a scarf in his hands, and waits for the telephone to ring and for Sheila to come out of her bedroom to answer it. When she does, the plan goes terribly wrong: Swann attacks her from behind—with Tony all the while listening in to what is going on over the phone—but Sheila turns out to be rather strong and eventually stabs Swann in the back with the scissors. He falls to the floor and is dead at once. In his panic, Tony tells his sobbing wife not to touch or do anything until he has come home, which he hurriedly does. After getting home, he calls the police.


Tony's mind has to work fast now if he wants to come up with an alternative plan. He realizes he can make it look as if Sheila had been blackmailed by Swann, that the blackmailer came to her flat in person and that she actually let him in with the intention of murdering him (rather than killing him in self-defence). By now it has been established that Swann came in through the hall door rather than the French windows leading into the garden, as his shoes are not dirty. This would mean that she will be hanged, and that he will inherit her money after all.


In the course of the police investigations, led by Inspector Hubbard (John Williams), Tony succeeds in cunningly and artfully planting clues in a way that gets his unsuspecting wife deeper and deeper into trouble. For one thing, he hides Swann's scarf (in the film, he burns it in the fireplace), replaces it with one of Sheila's stockings from her mending basket and hides the other stocking beneath the blotter on the desk. For another, before the police arrive at the scene of the crime, he puts Max's letter into one of the inside pockets of the dead man's suit—which will go to show that he actually was blackmailing Sheila. Also, he extracts Sheila's key (he thinks) from one of Swann's pockets and puts it back into his wife's handbag. Soon Sheila is seen as the main suspect; she is arrested, tried, and sentenced to death. John Williams (April 15, 1902 – May 5, 1983) was a British stage, film, and television actor. ...


There are two things Tony has not reckoned with: (a) that Swann replaced the key under the stair carpet immediately after using it rather than when leaving the flat again and that, accordingly, the key Tony takes out of the dead man's pocket is the key to Swann's own flat; and (b) that getting rid of £1,000 in cash (the money he would have paid to Swann, which he does not have to now that he is dead) by making many purchases is a conspicuous thing to do, bound to be investigated by the police. They do, but Tony is not aware of it.


On the day before Sheila's scheduled execution, Max visits Tony to propose a very unusual thing to him. Rather than seeing his wife hanged, he could come up with a completely new story, confess at the last minute that he hired Swann to kill his wife and save her life by going to prison for some years himself instead. Ironically, Max has come up with exactly what Tony actually did. Max argues that during Sheila's trial, all arguments revolved around three things only: (1) Max's letter found on Swann; (2) the fact that no key was found on Swann (and that there was no forced entry either); and (3) Sheila's stocking. Max argues that all this could be altered, and that Tony could put all the blame on himself, claiming that it was he who had done all that.


Then Inspector Hubbard arrives at the flat again, allegedly to ask Tony about the money he has been spending lately. This is when Max discovers Tony's attaché case filled with the remaining one pound notes. Pressed for an answer, Tony manages a final impromptu lie in front of both Max and the police: He tells them this is the money Sheila had ready when she met Swann but that she changed her mind and killed him instead of paying him off.


Then the inspector, who has not given up the case yet but who pretends he has, uses his final trick: He says good-bye and deliberately takes Tony's raincoat instead of his own. Now Tony's key to the flat is in the pocket of his raincoat, so on returning to his flat some time later he realizes that he cannot get inside. He notices that he is wearing Hubbard's raincoat and goes off to the police station to exchange it. Meanwhile, Hubbard has brought Sheila to the flat. Her key—actually Swann's—does not fit into the lock, so she cannot open the door. What Hubbard wants to find out is if she knows the hiding place under the stair carpet. She does not, so that clears her of any suspicion. Some time later, Tony comes back. When he takes the key from under the stair carpet he gives himself away.


In the final scene, the murderer has been taken off and the happy couple has departed, leaving Hubbard alone in the room. He permits himself a small smile of satisfaction at having confounded a particularly knavish trick, and absent-mindedly removes a tiny comb from his pocket and smooths his mustache with it, giving the impression of mildly patting himself on the back. This gesture might be seen as the understated British equivalent of the victorious American gunfighter's gesture of coolly blowing smoke away from his gun-barrel, or of the victorious Greek (Perseus) triumphantly holding aloft the Gorgon's severed head.


A commentary on Dial M for Murder ascribed to Hitchcock goes like this: "As you can see, the best way to do it is with scissors." This refers at the same time to the film's pivotal scene, in which Grace Kelly stabs her would-be murderer with a pair of scissors, and to the clever editing which is a hallmark of his movies. One of the finest scenes is when we see Tony Wendice at the stag party, slightly nervous and frequently looking at his watch. It is already past eleven when he notices that it has stopped: He gets up from the table, hurries to the phone booth, has to wait there and eventually calls his flat well after 11 o'clock, at the very moment Lesgate is about to leave it again, believing that he has waited in vain. This is a miniature race against time full of dramatic music, complete with a cut to the automatic telephone exchange. Look up cut in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...


There is no real courtroom scene. This part of the film is done in a highly stylized way: The camera is on Sheila/Margot, there are no props (only colours), and the various people present at a trial are only introduced by means of voice-over. Tony's wife being sentenced to death is altogether missing from the stage play; it is only reported. A voice-over is a narration that is played on top of a video segment, usually with the audio for that segment muted or lowered. ...


Apart from a few short outdoor shots—Tony Wendice approaching and leaving his flat etc.—the claustrophobic atmosphere of other Hitchcock films (Rope, Rear Window) can also be found here. Most of the action is restricted to a single set. The angle of the camera is also of interest (several times shot from the ceiling, a sort of bird's eye view). Rope (1948) is an Alfred Hitchcock film notable for appearing to be one continuous shot. ... For the 1998 remake, see Rear Window (1998 film). ...


3D film version

The 1954 film was shot with M.L. Gunzberg's Natural Vision 3-D camera rig. This rig was notable for being the same rig that started the 3-D craze of 1953 with Bwana Devil and House of Wax. Intended originally to be shown in dual strip, polaroid 3-D, the film played most theaters flat due to the loss of interest in the 3-D process in conjunction with the time of its release. In February 1980, the dual-strip system was used for the revival of the film in 3-D at the York Theater in San Francisco. This revival did so well that Warner Bros. re-released the film in the single-strip system 3-D version in February 1982. In film, the term 3-D (or 3D) is used to describe any visual presentation system that attempts to maintain or recreate moving images of the third dimension, the illusion of depth as seen by the viewer. ... Bwana Devil is a 1952 drama written, directed, and produced by Arch Oboler. ... House of Wax is a 1953 American horror film starring Vincent Price. ... This page is a candidate for speedy deletion. ... “WB” redirects here. ...


Similar films and remakes

Dial M for Murder is sometimes confused with a film with a similar setting and subject-matter, Midnight Lace (US; David Miller, 1960), starring Rex Harrison and Doris Day. In this film, a woman (Day) receives harassing telephone calls that escalate until she is in physical danger. In the end, the culprit turns out to be her own husband (Harrison), too. There is also some police inspector around (in both cases played by John Williams), and the setting is also very British. Midnight Lace is mystery thriller made in 1960. ... Sir Reginald Carey Rex Harrison, KBE (5 March 1908 – 2 June 1990) was an Academy Award- and Tony Award-winning English theatre and film actor. ... Doris Mary Ann von Kappelhoff (born April 3, 1924)[1] is an American singer, actress, and animal welfare advocate known as Doris Day. ...


One of the classic examples of a stage thriller, it has been revived a number of times since, including a U.S. TV movie in 1981 with Angie Dickinson and Christopher Plummer. A Perfect Murder (US; Andrew Davis, 1998) is a remake starring Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow in which the characters of Halliday and Lesgate are combined. In other words, the husband (Douglas) hires his wife's lover to kill her. Apart from that, he uses a mobile phone to make the decisive call. Also the part of the inspector (David Suchet) is much reduced, and it is Gwyneth Paltrow's character (as the wife) who unravels much of the mystery. The thriller is a broad genre of literature, film, and television. ... Year 1981 (MCMLXXXI) was a common year starting on Thursday (link displays the 1981 Gregorian calendar). ... Angie Dickinson (born September 30, 1931) is a famous American television and film actress who is probably best-known for her Golden Globe-winning role as sultry Sgt. ... This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... There is a Heavy Metal band by the same name as well. ... In film, a remake is a newer version of a previously released film or a newer version of the source (play, novel, story, etc. ... For other people bearing this name, see Michael Douglas (disambiguation) Michael Kirk Douglas (born September 25, 1944) is an American actor and producer, primarily in movies and television. ... Gwyneth Kate Paltrow (born September 27, 1972[1]) is an Academy Award-winning American actress and singer. ... David Suchet OBE (born May 2, 1946) is an English actor best known for his television portrayal of Agatha Christies Hercule Poirot in the television series Agatha Christies Poirot. ...


Trivia

  • Having seen the play on Broadway, Cary Grant was keen to play the role of Tony Wendice but studio chiefs didn't think the public would accept him as a man who arranges to have his wife murdered.
  • The role played by Robert Cummings of TV crime writer Mark Halliday had originally been called Max Halliday in the stage play. In the 1956 US TV series Alfred Hitchcock Presents there is an episode called 'Portrait of Jocelyn' that features a man called Mark Halliday who murders his wife.
  • Alfred Hitchcock's cameo is a signature occurrence in most of his films. In Dial M for Murder he can be seen (13 minutes into the film) in a black-and-white reunion photograph sitting at a banquet table among former students and faculty.

Image File history File links Broom_icon. ... This article is about the British actor. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... Screenshot of opening sequence of Alfred Hitchcock Presents Alfred Hitchcock Presents was a half-hour anthology television series hosted by Alfred Hitchcock. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with List of Alfred Hitchcock cameo appearances. ...

Alternate Titles

  • Le Crime était presque parfait - French title - (translation: The Crime Was Almost Perfect)
  • Telefonen Ringer Klokken 23 - Danish title - (translation: The Phone Rings at 11pm)

External links


  Results from FactBites:
 
Dial M for Murder - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (2264 words)
Dial M for Murder (1954) is a U.S. film directed by Alfred Hitchcock starring Grace Kelly and Ray Milland as a married couple.
Dial M for Murder premiered in 1952 as a BBC television play before being performed on the stage in the same year (West End, June; Broadway, October.)
Dial M for Murder must not be confused with a film with a similar setting and subject-matter, Midnight Lace (US; David Miller, 1960), starring Rex Harrison and Doris Day.
Dial M expresses criminal intrigue with fine film craft (738 words)
In this case, of course, the crime is murder.
Therefore, a substitute murderer of unscrupulous nature must be convinced to perform the crime.
Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder is an example of pure and classic Hitchcock.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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