Movie Mirrors Index

Dial M for Murder

(1954 c 105')

En: 6 Ed: 5

Alfred Hitchcock directed this adaptation of Frederick Knott’s play. A husband hires a man to murder his wife and has to make adjustments when the plan goes awry.

         Mystery writer Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings) arrives in London. Margot Mary Wendice (Grace Kelly) explains to Mark how her husband Tony has been wonderful since he gave up tennis. She says she lost his love letter and is being blackmailed for £50. She lets Mark keep the two blackmail letters. Tony Wendice (Ray Milland) comes in and says he can’t go out with them. Tony invites Mark to a stag party the next night. Mark and Margot go out. Tony calls about buying a car and invites the seller to come over.

         Captain Lesgate (Anthony Dawson) arrives, and Tony knows him as C. A. Swann. They reminisce, and Tony says he gave up tennis and is selling sports equipment. Tony admits he married for money. After he went to America without her, he says that she was no longer in love with him. He followed her and discovered her lover. Tony says he thought of killing him and her, but he changed his mind. He says her boyfriend went back to America, and she burned all his letters except one. He stole it and sent her blackmail letters. Tony tells Swann that he trusts only him and wants him for an alibi. Tony knows that Swann was in prison, and he has been following him. Swann says Tony is trying to blackmail him into murdering his wife. Tony says he can say Swann was trying to blackmail him with the letter. Tony offers him £1,000 with £100 on account. Tony instructs him how to come over the next night, kill his wife, and make it look like it was done by a burglar. Margot calls, and Swann looks around. Swann takes the £100.

         Tony and Mark are dressed up and drink with Margot. They discuss the perfect murder. Tony asks Margot for her key, but she says she plans to go to a movie. Tony says he won’t go out, but Margot agrees to stay home and do his clippings. Tony manages to take her key out of her purse and hide it on the stairway for Swann.

         At 10:54 Swann gets the key and enters. At the party Tony realizes his watch stopped and goes to call his apartment. Swann is about to leave. Margot gets out of bed and answers the phone. Swann strangles her with a scarf while Tony listens on the phone. Margot uses scissors to stab Swann in the back, and he falls on the scissors. She goes back to the phone, and Tony says it is him. She is crying and says the man is dead. Tony tells her not to touch anything. Tony tells Mark that he has to go home to Margot, and he says it is not serious.

         Tony and Margot embrace. She looks in her purse for aspirin and goes to take one. Tony takes the key from Swann’s pocket and puts it in her purse. She asks Tony to call the police, and he reports the death. He advises her to go back to bed. Tony finds the scarf Swann used and burns it in the fireplace and places two stockings. He puts a letter in Swann’s coat. The police investigate and find the stockings.

         The next day Tony tells Margot that he told the police that she did not call the police because he would do so from the hotel. Chief Inspector Hubbard (John Williams) arrives and looks around. He questions them, and Tony identifies the dead man as Swann, whom he knew in college. Margot tells how he attacked her with a stocking. Tony says he locked the doors. The inspector says he came in the front door because the yard was wet. Tony says the key could have been copied when her handbag was stolen. The inspector says a key would have been found on him. Mark comes in and says Tony went out to call at 11:03. Tony says he called her to get his boss’s number. The inspector sends Tony out to the garden and asks Mark if Tony knows about the letter. The inspector says she was being blackmailed and could have let him in and that the stockings are hers. Tony calls a lawyer to come to the police station because Margot is being accused of murder.

         Margot is tried and convicted of murder.

         Mark calls on Tony and learns her execution is tomorrow. Mark asks Tony to tell the police that he left a key outside for Swann. Mark says he came there to try to kill Margot. Mark asks him to say he stole her handbag. Mark says Tony put the letter in Swann’s pocket and could have planted the stockings. Tony blames Mark for causing the jury to lose sympathy for her. When the inspector comes in, Mark hides in the bedroom. The inspector says he is investigating a robbery and asks Tony why he has extra cash. The inspector puts a key on the floor and asks Tony if it is his. The inspector asks about losing a blue attaché case, and Mark finds it in the bedroom full of cash. Mark stops the inspector from leaving and shows him the case of cash. Mark says it was to be paid to Swann for killing Margot. Tony mockingly tells the story that Mark made up. The inspector wants to know where Tony got the money. Mark shows from Tony’s bank record that he was saving it up. Tony says that Margot was going to use the money to pay the blackmailer. Mark tells Tony that Margot may change her will, and he goes out. The inspector sends Tony to a window and switches raincoats before he leaves.

         After Tony goes, the inspector uses a key to enter. He calls the police to “start the ball rolling.” Mark knocks, and the inspector lets him in. Margot gets out of a car and comes to the door and can’t get in. She rings the bell and then goes back to the car. She comes in the back door. The inspector gets a key from her handbag that did not work. The inspector tells Margot that her husband planned to murder her. Tony is coming back but cannot find his key in the overcoat and goes away. The inspector shows that her key is on the stairway and explains that Swann put the key back there. The key Tony took from Swann was Swann’s key. The inspector brought her there to see if she knew her key was on the stair. Tony arrives and tries the key from her handbag, but it does not work. Tony thinks and comes back for the key on the stair and comes in. He sees them and tries to leave, but a policeman is at the door. Tony realizes he is caught and offers them a drink. The inspector makes a call.

         This mystery entertains with its intricate plot and unexpected occurrences. Yet somehow the entire project has become a subtle game without much reality. No matter how clever a criminal may be, there are always ways for the truth to emerge.

Copyright © 2009 by Sanderson Beck

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