Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Hitchcock Dial M for Murder 1954 2014- 60 years

Dial M for Murder 60th Anniversary 2014

Alfred Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder
1954 Lobby Card
The Hitchcock classic Dial M for Murder was released May 29, 1954. In the psychological thriller Tony (Ray Milland) is plotting to kill his beautiful and wealthy wife, Margot (Grace Kelly) who's having an affair with Mark (Robert Cummings).

The world premiere was held
May 18, 1954 in Philadelphia, Grace Kelly's hometown. The New York premiere was May 28, 1954. 

As noted about all articles on old movies, this one will have spoilers. Created in the early 1950s, during the height of the 3-D movie craze the studio pushed Hitchcock into making a film in 3-D. He didn't want to do it. Touches in the film proper that you may notice include important scenes with a pair of scissors and a finger that is dialing a phone.

Alfred Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder 1954, Lobby Card

Most people saw a flat print (a 2-D version) of the film. Legend has it that in 1954 Philadelphia, they showed the movie in 3-D twice, the premiere showing and one more time. 

Audience response was negative and the theater requested a 2-D print from Warner Brothers. Occasionally theaters show the 3-D version on the big screen. 

In The Analysis of Film, Raymond Bellour talks about what may be essentially
Old phone
rotary dial
galaxy s4, iPhone etc cases

One example of
cell phone case
game play with the title and the letter M in this and other Hitchcock films. Comparing it to Suspicion and its Anagrams game where Joan Fontaine's character spells out MURDER "when she imagines she is the object of a death wish on the part of her husband."  

Dial M for Murder resonates like a pun. Margot begins with an M, as does Melanie (The Birds) and Marion (Psycho). Bellour suggests the director's motivation for these M names may have begun "in a cultural fantasy arising from the ferment of his Catholic upbringing: M as in Mary the Holy Virgin."

Hitchcock uses different motifs in his movies and relationships with women in his films can be complicated. Paul Gordon has written a book titled Dial "M" for Mother: A Freudian Hitchcock. I'm not sure Grace Kelly actually wore a green outfit in the film. Green costumes tended to be significant in his films, the color green in a shot at all in a Hitchcock movie has been analyzed by some film historians. Sometimes the colors we see in a lobby card doesn't actually match what was on screen.

Grace Kelly gives Alfred Hitchcock a trim
original clipping magazine photo
The movie was adapted from a successful stage play by Frederick Knott. The play is still performed today. It is a single setting in the stage play is the living-room of a flat in London. 

Hitchcock did his best to have most of the action take place within this setting to heighten the tension. 

Grace Kelly's character kills in self-defense. She then finds herself accused of her attacker's murder. I read that Cary Grant wanted to play the husband Tony 
Wendice, a role that went to Ray Milland. Studio execs thought the public wouldn't find him believable as a man plotting to have his wife murdered. 

Hitchcock's cameo in Dial M for Murder
In a class reunion photo

It's not unusual to have premieres in stars' hometowns. My Favorite Wife had its general release on May 17, 1940.  Its premiere was held May second in Louisville, KY, the hometown of star Irene Dunne. 

You may recall that Suspicion, the Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman film Hitchcock made in 1941, had its ending changed so that Grant's character was not a wife-killer.

Dial M for Murder Stream instantly, get on DVD, blu-ray.

Kelly wears a beautiful iconic red dress in this color picture. Costume designer Moss Mabry worked with Academy Award winning art director Edward Carrere to make this movie visually stunning. 

Dial M for Murder lobby cards
Mabry was also responsible for the red jacket worn by James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause, 1955. Edward Carrere (along with John Truscott and John W. Brown) won the Best Art Direction-Set Decoration Academy Award in 1967 for Camelot. Carrere was nominated for an Oscar for his work on Dial M for Murder.

A Hitchcock film like Lifeboat, where all the action happens to a group of people floating at sea on a lifeboat shows how the environment can add greatly to the tension felt by the characters and in turn by the audience. Some critics and fans note some similarity in plot between this movie and Strangers on a Train.

This was the first time that Alfred Hitchcock worked with Grace Kelly. The next time, she'd be his leading lady with James Stewart in the movie Rear Window, a
Dial M For Murder
promo Photograph HQ
film also featuring Thelma Ritter and Raymond Burr. Hitchcock waited until Kelly was available to begin work on the movie.

Kelly also worked with him on To Catch a Thief, co-starring Cary Grant. It was around this time that Grace Kelly met her future husband, Prince Rainier III of Monaco. She would soon marry and leave Hollywood behind to become Princess Grace of Monaco. 

Grace Kelly won an Oscar, Best Actress in a Leading Role for her work in The Country Girl, 1954. Ray Milland won the Best Actor in a Leading Role Academy Award for his work in The Lost Weekend, 1945.  

This year Grace of Monaco with Nicole Kidman and Tim Roth is being released. Have you seen it or are you planning to see it? What did you think? Roger Ashton-Griffiths plays Alfred Hitchcock.

In 1998, Dial M for Murder had a modern remake, A Perfect Murder with Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow and Viggo Mortensen.

How many Hitchcock movie remakes can you think of? Film Historian Leonard Maltin talked about Dial M for Murder.

Links to Related Pages of Interest:

Grace Kelly brings a new pet to Monaco, a gift from Cary Grant

Alfred Hitchcock Blue Food Dinner parties: the practical joke so nice, he played it twice 

In May it's time to celebrate Vertigo with Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak

Grace Kelly Costume Barbie, Princess Grace Wedding Dress, To Catch a Thief dresses Edith Head

There Really Was a Hollywood (Autobiography) Actress Janet Leigh (Marion Crane in the movie Psycho) has written more than one book. She also wrote Psycho: Behind the Scenes of the Classic Thriller and a number of novels. If Steven Spielberg's Jaws made us afraid to go into the water, Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho made us afraid to take a shower! As Tallulah Bankhead and William Bendix may have been thinking as they drifted along in Lifeboat, "We're gonna need a bigger boat."

The Analysis of Film, by Raymond Bellour  

Dial "M" for Mother: A Freudian Hitchcock, by Paul Gordon

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