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  • Writer's pictureRonny Duncan Studios

Dial M for Murder (1954) ft. Christine Duncan

Updated: 3 days ago


Plot Summary: Tony Wendice (Ray Milland), an English retired tennis player, is married to wealthy socialite Margot (Grace Kelly), who is having a long term affair with American crime fiction writer Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings). Unbeknownst to them, Tony knows about the affair, and is planning to have Margot killed so he can inherit her fortune.

Tony hires an old acquaintance Charles Swann (Anthony Dawson), and sets in motion a murder that is to happen while Tony and Mark are out giving Tony an alibi. However, the plan goes terribly wrong, and Tony returns before the police to rearrange the crime scene to frame Margot. With Chief Inspector Hubbard (John Williams) investigating, Margot is convicted and sentenced to death. Did Tony really plan the perfect crime?


Cast:

  • Ray Milland as Tony Wendice

  • Grace Kelly as Margot Mary Wendice

  • Robert Cummings as Mark Halliday

  • John Williams as Chief Inspector Hubbard

  • Anthony Dawson as Charles Alexander Swann/Captain Lesgate

  • Leo Britt as the storyteller at the party

  • Patrick Allen as Detective Pearson

*Recognition:

  • The film was listed by American Film Institute in 2001 in their 100 Years...100 Thrills (#48), and in 2008 it was in AFI's 10 Top 10 (#9 in Mysteries)

Did You Know:

  • Originally intended to be shown in dual-strip polarized 3-D, the film played in most theatres in ordinary 2-D due to the loss of interest in the 3-D process (the projection of which was difficult and error-prone) by the time of its release. The film earned an estimated $2.7 million in North American box office sales in 1954.

  • Originally released in a "roadshow" format, with an intermission halfway through it. This was the norm for 3D films of the era, as time was needed to reload the projectors near the halfway mark.

  • Alfred Hitchcock had chosen a very expensive robe for Grace Kelly to wear when she answered the phone. Kelly balked and said that no woman would put on such a robe just to answer the ringing telephone while she was asleep alone; she would answer it in her nightgown. Hitchcock agreed to do it her way and liked the way the rushes turned out, and he allowed Kelly to make all costume decisions for herself in their subsequent movies together.

  • Alfred Hitchcock wanted Cary Grant to star, but Warner Brothers felt that he would be miscast as a villain.

  • Alfred Hitchcock's dream cast for this movie included Deborah Kerr, William Holden, and Cary Grant. Kerr and Holden were busy making other movies. Grant refused to play a villain, a role Ray Milland was happy to play.

  • John Williams won the 1953 Tony Award (Broadway) for Best Featured Actor in a Play for "Dial M for Murder" as Inspector Hubbard. He re-created the role in this movie.

  • Warner Bros. forced Alfred Hitchcock to make the movie to fulfill his contract. Such was his lack of interest that he claimed he could have phoned in his direction, and that the action wouldn't have been any less interesting if he'd staged it in a phone booth.

  • When Wendice is describing to Swann/Lesgate the middle-aged woman with whom Swann had been affiliated having died from a drug overdose, Wendice was originally to say "middle-aged woman found dead due to an overdose of cocaine". This was in the original script and stage play, but due to the Hollywood Hays Code rules of detailing of drug usage on-screen, the studio officials insisted to director Alfred Hitchcock to replace the word "cocaine" with the word "something".

What is this movie is about?/Elevator Pitch: A murder mystery in reverse.


Best Performance: John Williams (Hubbard)/Ray Milland (Tony)

Best Secondary Performance: John Williams (Hubbard)/Robert Cummings (Mark)

Most Charismatic Award: Ray Milland (Tony)/Grace Kelly (Margot)/Robert Cummings (Mark)

Best Scene:

  • Tony Reveals his Plan

  • Attempted Murder

  • Hubbard interviews Margot

  • Hubbard traps Tony

Favorite Scene: Hubbard Traps Tony/Tony Reveals his Plan

Most Indelible Moment: Hubbard Traps Tony/Margot Defends Against Her Attacker


In Memorium:

  • N/A

Best Lines/Funniest Lines:

C.A. Swan: Smart, aren't you?

Tony Wendice: No, not really. I've just had time to think things out. Put myself in your position. That's why I know you're going to agree.

C.A. Swan: What makes you think I'll agree?

Tony Wendice: For the same reason that a donkey with a stick behind him and a carrot in front always goes forwards and not backwards.

C.A. Swan: Tell me about the carrot.


Tony Wendice: People don't commit murder on credit.


Tony Wendice: How do you go about writing a detective story?

Mark Halliday: Well, you forget detection and concentrate on crime. Crime's the thing. And then you imagine you're going to steal something or murder somebody.

Tony Wendice: Oh, is that how you do it? It's interesting.

Mark Halliday: Yes, I usually put myself in the criminal's shoes and then I keep asking myself, uh, what do I do next?

Margot Mary Wendice: Do you really believe in the perfect murder?

Mark Halliday: Mmm, yes, absolutely. On paper, that is. And I think I could, uh, plan one better than most people; but I doubt if I could carry it out.

Tony Wendice: Oh? Why not?

Mark Halliday: Well, because in stories things usually turn out the way the author wants them to; and in real life they don't... always. Hmm. I'm afraid my murders would be something like my bridge: I'd make some stupid mistake and never realize it until I found everybody was looking at me.


Chief Insp. Hubbard: [Detective Pearson is about to leave with Mrs. Wendice's small purse around his wrist] Oh, wait a minute, you clot; you can't walk down the street like that - you, you'll be arrested!


Margot Mary Wendice: How long have you known this?

Chief Insp. Hubbard: Did you suspect it yourself?

Margot Mary Wendice: No, never. And yet... What's the matter with me, Mark? I don't seem able to feel anything.


The Stanley Rubric:

Legacy: 6.67

Impact/Significance: 5.67

Novelty: 6

Classic-ness: 8.33

Rewatchability: 8.67

Audience Score: 9.1 (90% Google, 92% RT)

Total: 44.44


Remaining Questions:

  • How does Hubbard just take someone on death row a day before they are to be executed and get them sent home?

  • Why did Tony start spending the money?

  • Did Mark and Margot end up together?

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