Dial M for Murder: A Dangerous Romantic Triangle

L-R: John Williams (back), Grace Kelly, and Ray Milland in Dial M for Murder. Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Grace Kelly finds herself involved in a dangerous romantic triangle in Alfred Hitchcock’s thrilling 1954 classic, Dial M for Murder.

Had Grace Kelly not married into royalty, it’s quite possible that Hitchcock would have cast her in more movies. She’s absolutely perfect in her trio of films with Hitchcock–this one, To Catch a Thief, and Rear Window. The actress lights up the screen opposite a pair of actors, Ray Milland and Robert Cummings.

The gist of the film is that Tony Wendice (Ray Milland) knows that his wife, Margot (Grace Kelly), is cheating on him with an American crime writer, Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings). Margot does not know that Tony knows about them. Tony plans to have Margot killed solely so he can inherit the fortune. Tony brings in Charles Swann (Anthony Dawson), an old friend from Cambridge, and sets up the murder. Interestingly enough, there’s a whole setup in the film where Mark is discussing the perfect murder. As the murder sequence finally takes place on screen, anything that can go wrong will go wrong! Not only is Tony not able to call the house but Swann is about to be caught in a murder attempt. One cannot look away as everything happens.

Once Chief Inspector Hubbard (John Williams) enters the picture, he has his own suspicions. Cary Grant and James Stewart had done four films a piece for the filmmaker but John Williams was among his favorites. Williams appeared in three films but made more appearances in Alfred Hitchcock Presents on TV. Anyway, Hubbard isn’t buying any of the story and believes that Margot killed Swann as a result of earlier blackmail. Mark later gets Tony to reveal the truth and he later informs the inspector of the new events, which leads to another twist in the case. I won’t spoil it here but let’s just say somebody gets a happy ending. Knowing where the Production Code was at the time, it’s really the only ending that this film can even have.

When it comes to framing this film, Hitchcock knows where to place the camera at each and every moment. Knott’s screenplay opens up the film a little bit when it comes to its theatricality. Otherwise, the film confines the actors to Tony and Margot’s flat. The other thing about the film is that it’s only Hitchcock’s earlier films in color. Moreover, the costume design even plays with her marriage and affair by having her initially dress in white and red.

After ending 2022 with a rewatch of North by Northwest aka the first James Bond film, there’s no time like the present to get through the rest of Hitchcock’s filmography on hand. It also helps that the film is airing this evening on TCM. If you’re reading this after January 3, I’m sorry to report that you missed the film’s broadcast. I’ve had this film for a while now because a part of the 2020 Warner Archive Collection of Hitchcock movies. Unfortunately, it’s only taken me until the beginning of 2023 to actually sit down and watch it. It’s a solid Hitchcock thriller and never feels too theatrical with regards to Frederick Knott’s stage play.

Dial M for Murder is never short of suspense and the master of suspense’s first of three films with Grace Kelly is among the top tier of Hitchcock’s filmography.

DIRECTOR: Alfred Hitchcock
SCREENWRITER: Frederick Knott
CAST: Ray Milland, Grace Kelly, Robert Cummings, with John Williams, Anthony Dawson, and Leo Britt, Patrick Allen, George Leigh, George Alderson, Robin Hughes

Warner Bros. released Dial M for Murder in theaters on May 29, 1954. Grade: 4/5

Please subscribe to Solzy at the Movies on Substack.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.