Was I the only one who wanted Grace Kelly murdered in “Dial M for Murder”?
Part of the joy of watching an Alfred Hitchcock film is the chance to revel in his inner weirdness. He takes you out of the real world, along with its boring limitations and moral problems. Dial M for Murder is a fantastic example of this genius. Grace Kelly, the most elegant Hitchcock blonde, plays a character who’s about to be murdered by her greedy husband. And, surprisingly, I’m completely ok with it.
In fact, it’s almost as if I want the husband to kill her. From the beginning of the movie—when Ray Milland (playing the husband) sets up the perfect murder scheme against his rich, cheating wife—Alfred Hitchcock makes you feel as if you’re a part of the plan. Milland is letting you know what’s going on, and you’re ready to see it happen. When the husband runs into trouble, you feel scared for him, not of him. I believe Hitchcock was perfectly aware of this as he shot the film.
Now, here’s the problem. If you haven’t seen the movie (or have), you might be saying something like, “But it’s Grace Kelly, how could you root against such a delicate angel?” Maybe my response is only my own, but I can’t stand a single word she says throughout this entire movie. From her corny extra-marital affair, to the annoying way she bats her eyes at her mystery-writer boyfriend, it’s hard for me to find sympathy for her. Even as she’s being strangled with a scarf.
Does this make me callous? No. In movies and fiction in general, the morals you have in the real word don’t apply to the plot. If it did, you would hate Dexter Morgan for being a serial killer, you would scold the Great Gatsby for being a lying money-whore, and you would loathe Scarlett O’Hara (Gone with the Wind) for being a racist southern brat. How many of you actually hate any of these characters? Think about this before you dismiss my preference for the murderous husband instead of the cheating wife. Here’s why:
- He’s more interesting. Ray Milland is a conniving genius who plans a perfect murder in such detail that you can’t help but admire him.
- He’s the main character. You see his perspective more than any other character. As I mentioned before, Alfie sets up the plot in a way that makes you feel like you’re his partner in crime. And it’s fun.
- Grace Kelly is annoying. Let me rephrase. Her character is annoying (sorry to any Princess Grace fans). She’s whiny, self-involved, cheesy, and too loaded to feel sorry for. Her cornball affair with Robert Cummings is sickly sweet. So the ugly husband is scheming against the rich, unfaithful Barbie wife—not exactly the story of Precious.
My theory is that Alfred Hitchcock wanted the audience to feel this comradery for the killer, at least in part. If you know anything about Hitch, you know he loves to change the rules and expectations. This is part of the reason why we all love his directing. I choose to embrace his wickedness when watching his films. It makes it more mind-bending and thrilling. Of course, I know this charming evil does not transfer to real life (if it did, you’d be O.J. Simpson). Still, try watching this movie from that shady perspective. It’ll expand your mind—probably to a point where you wish the tennis-playing murderer got his happy ending.