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Frederick Knott's play Dial M for Murder now at Bucks County Playhouse

Ralph Malachowski

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posted by Ralph Malachowski on May 30, 2019 10:30am | comments


The classic thriller Dial M for Murder will be at Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, PA, until June 15.


Dial M for Murder was written by Frederick Knott (1916-2002) for BBC TV in 1952. It quickly became a sensation as it was presented on the London stage and Broadway in the same year. Dial M for Murder, the 1954 film, was originally shot in 3D by Alfred Hitchcock. But by this time the 3D fad had waned and it was seen as a regular film up until it was recently restored to its 3D state. Hitchcock had Robert Burks as cinematographer, an expert in 3D technology. Hitchcock reveled in playing with three-dimensional subtleties throughout the film, which we can now enjoy and fully understand.  


The plot of Dial M for Murder centers about a former tennis star who has married a wealthy woman who has had an affair with an American writer. It stopped only when the writer left for America. He has now returned. In the meantime, the husband has engaged a man down-in-his-luck to kill her. And so begins the plot of Dial M for Murder. The plot differs from that of the film. In the film, Grace Kelly and Robert Cummings are still passionate lovers, while in the play, they are all very stiff-upper-lip about their past.


Director Mike Donahue has assembled a fine cast of actors to portray the five main characters. Clifton Duncan is Max Halliday, the American writer. Olivia Gilliatt is Margot Wendice, ex-lover of Mark and wife of Tony Wendice, her husband, played by JD Taylor. Grant Harrison is the murderer with several aliases, and Graeme Malcolm is Inspector Hubbard.


The plot is an odd one, to put it mildly. Tony saw his tennis career ending, so he sought out a wealthy wife. He comments that it wasn’t a bad choice since Margot is not only well-off, but attractive. Tony discovered his wife’s infidelity, and followed it closely up until the last day Mark was in London. Tony then promptly decided to settle down, get a job, and be a good husband. He also started to plan his wife’s murder by engaging a never-do-well from college to do the crime. Thompson proved to be a failure at the murder as well, and the wife lived. The problems are several. Some in the audience were disappointed when the murder plot failed. We felt sorry for the loser who couldn’t even kill a woman half his size. We also rooted for the rather effete, intellectual Tony, hoping he would escape detection. The Inspector also is still on the case a year later when Margot is to be executed the next morning. Shades of the annoying American TV series Columbo; are there no other crimes in London to occupy a police inspector months after the jury passed sentence? Also, Mark, the lover, has waited a year until he approaches Tony with a plan to save Margot the day before her execution. These elements do add drama while stretching credulity.


Congratulations go to the actors and to Fight Director J. Allen Suddeth for a ripping good struggle during the attempted murder. Dial M for Murder should definitely be seen by those who never saw the film.  Dial M for Murder is an interesting, engaging drama which was a sensation for years on stage and in film, and it is well worth your time to see it as it was originally intended, as a stage play so well done here at the Bucks County Playhouse.


Dial M for Murder continues at the Bucks County Playhouse, 70 S. Main Street, New Hope, PA, until June 15. It is then followed by Mamma Mia June 28-August 3, Always … Patsy Cline August 9-September 7, The Rocky Horror Show October 11-27, Once November 8-30. And their Christmas show December 6-29. For information, visit .




NOTE: Opinions are those of the author, and not necessarily those of or of any organization or business that the author is assosciated with.

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