Making the Grades
Until the invention of call display, people didn’t know who was on the other end of the line when the telephone began ringing. Under Alfred Hitchcock’s masterful direction, that common household object takes on a sinister tone as foreteller of death in Dial M for Murder.
It all begins when professional tennis player Tony Wendice (Ray Milland) stumbles upon his wife’s (Grace Kelly) affair with an American author, Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings). Realizing he has much to lose if he leaves her, Tony keeps his game face on. Rather than confront her about the indiscretion, he chooses a more measured response. He greets Mary’s lover with cool nonchalance when she introduces him as a mere friend after his arrival in London. Then feigning a previous commitment, Tony opts to stay home while the couple goes out for an evening on the town. While they are gone, he calls in Charles Swann (Anthony Dawson), an old college buddy in need of some extra funds.
With precision, Tony details a murder plot he has concocted that will make him a widower and the heir of Mary’s fortune. In his plan, he will take Mark to an event while Mary stays home. Charles is to sneak into the apartment and wait for Tony’s call that will initiate the murder.
But the plan doesn’t go as predicted and it isn’t Mary who dies. Suddenly the married man is confronted with a terrified wife and dead body slumped on the floor of the apartment.
Unfortunately for Tony, Chief Inspector Hubbard (John Williams), the investigating officer, is a man with years of experience and a keen sense of intuition. From the beginning of the inquiry, he suspects there is more to the truth than he is being told.
Like many of Alfred Hitchcock’s suspense films, the pace of the plot moves like a cat sneaking up on its prey, leaving audiences unsure of when the pounce will happen. And the uneasiness is magnified by a sense of claustrophobia with most of the action occurring within a single room of the couple’s apartment where the characters engage in an intricate volley of posturing and lies.
Best suited for teens and adults, Dial M for Murder combines suspense, murder and blackmail into one intriguing storyline that gives ringing phones a bad name.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Dial M For Murder.
How does Tony justify his murder plot? What role, if any, did he play in his wife’s affair? Does one wrong justify another in this case?
Does Alfred Hitchcock develop a strong, believable plotline or does he ask audiences to simply accept the outcome in this movie? What elements does he use to create suspense?