Dial M for Murder (1954)

Dial M for Murder
Grace Kelly, Ray Milland and Anthony Dawson

'Dial M for Murder' is an engrossing psychological thriller made in 1954 by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Ray Milland, Grace Kelly, Robert Cummings and John Williams. The movie was an adaptation of a successful Broadway play which ran for 552 performances from 1952. It was a great success on release and it is ranked at number 9 on the American Film Institute's list of greatest Mystery films.


Ray Milland plays Tony Wendice, an ex-professional tennis player now married to wealthy socialite Margot, played by Grace Kelly. He discovers that Margot is having an affair with an American crime writer, Mark, played by Robert Cummings. Fearing for his financial security, Tony plots to murder Margot and blackmails a former acquaintance, C A Swann, played by Anthony Dawson, into performing the murder. Things do not go according to plan and it remains for Chief Inspector Hubbard, played by John Williams, to sort it all out.


The movie was adapted from a stage play of the same name by Frederick Knott. The play was broadcast by the BBC in 1952 and subsequently premiered at the Westminster Theatre in London. This was followed by a successful run on Broadway at the Plymouth Theater. Frederick Knott was also credited with the movie's screenplay.

The BBC play was seen by Sir Alexander Korda who purchased the film rights for $2,800, subsequently selling them on to Warner Bros. for $75,000.

Hitchcock was told by Jack Warner that the movie had to be filmed in the newly popular 3D format but the film was actually released in the conventional "flat" format. This explains the unusual number of shots with pieces of furniture between the audience and the action.

The movie began shooting at the start of August, 1953 and was completed in the unusually short timespan of 36 days. Almost all the action takes place in the same location - Wendice's flat - a deliberate ploy by Hitchcock to create an atmosphere of claustrophobia.

Hitchcock made sure that Grace Kelly was dressed in bright colors at the start of the film and made them progressively darker to mirror her character's state of mind.

Hitchcock made an unusual cameo appearance in the film, not in person but in a photograph, posing as one of Tony Wendice's classmates in a college photograph.

Main Cast

Grace Kelly was the typical Hitchcock blonde ice maiden heroine. He offered the role of Margot to Deborah Kerr first but he enjoyed working with Kelly and they went on to make two further movies together, 'Rear Window' later in 1954 and 'To catch a Thief' in 1955.

English actor John Williams, making his film debut, and Anthony Dawson were recruited from the Broadway cast for the film. Williams was awarded a Tony Best Supporting Actor Award for his stage role as Chief Inspector Hubbard.

Ray Milland ... Tony Wendice
Grace Kelly ... Margot Mary Wendice
Robert Cummings ... Mark Halliday
John Williams ... Chief Inspector Hubbard
Anthony Dawson ... C. A. Swann/Captain Lesgate
Leo Britt ... the storyteller at the party
Patrick Allen ... Detective Pearson
Robin Hughes ... Police Sergeant
George Leigh ... Detective Williams
George Alderson ... First Detective


Director … Alfred Hitchcock
Producer … Alfred Hitchcock
Screenplay … Frederick Knott
Based on … 'Dial M for Murder', 1952 play by Frederick Knott
Cinematography: Robert Burks
Original Music: Dimitri Tiomkin
Format … Technicolor
Distribution Company … Warner Bros.
Release Date … May 29, 1954
Running Time … 105 minutes

Dial M for Murder Academy Awards

No Nominations: