Murder and Movie Sets

Last weekend we had a couple over for dinner and as my friend was coming in she pressed a bag into my hand. “I think you’ll like this. I wonder if you have seen it. Hitchcock. The film is great, but I think you will get a kick out of the set decoration.”


I assumed I had seen it, but I was thrilled at the gesture. This is the kind of hostess gift that could inspire a dinner party all on its own. But after the guests were gone and the dishes were rinsed (I only rinse at night; the washing comes the next day) I opened the bag – I love presents – and was delighted to find Dial M for Murder.

I hadn’t seen it and neither had Mr. Blandings, so we popped it in the DVD player the following night. Hitchcock is such a delight. He was a thinking man’s director as you have to pay attention and the nuances of his films are so engaging. Like a skilled dance partner, he leads you through the story but does not feel the need to push or drag.

The film takes place in the London flat of Margot and Tony Wendice played by Grace Kelly and Ray Millard. The set is heaven. An Anglophile’s dream. The walls and trim are a creamy yellow or a yellowy cream depending on how you choose to describe it. The woodwork is detailed and lovely. Chinese ceramics add interest in lamps and objets.


No surprise I adored the chintz sofa with the contrasting red welt. Oh my. And the linen velvet armchair might be reason alone to off your spouse if you thought it might end up it the possession of a lover.
Hitchcock was so conscious of detail. Kelly wore bright colors at the beginning of the film at his direction; her wardrobe transitioned to progressively more somber tones as the story unfolds.
The curtains and shutters play a major role in the plot and are beautifully crafted under the skillful eye of set decorator George James Hopkins. Hopkins had an impressive career. He was set decorator for sixty-six movies including Casablanca, Auntie Mame, My Fair Lady, Wait Until Dark and Hello, Dolly!

So my friend was right and I adored the movie and the sets. I hope they will come back and not just because they bring charming gifts. The dinner went well as we had a fun crew and the food was fabulous as Mr. Blandings cooked. Mr. Blandings always cooks. We are trying to avoid the sort of review Tony tosses to Margot, “I’m so glad we don’t have to go…; she’s such a filthy cook.”

Images courtesy of Grace Kelly Online.

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12 thoughts on “Murder and Movie Sets

  1. I could so see you playing the leading role in one of Alfred’s Classics. I love them all. Last Fall my sister and I attended Sotheby’s in NY – the Princess Grace exhibit and the memorabilia was all intrigue… letters from “Alfred” to her, clothes, jewels all set against a pale platinum backdrop. There really is no one that can hold a candle to her grace and beauty or her femininity. That set is to die for.

  2. I know! I love this set. My eye always goes first to the lamps, then the other Chinese ceramics, and then the sofa 🙂

  3. Rear Window and North by Northwest are my two faves of Hitchcok’s. Eva Marie Saint and Grace Kelly’s (especially) most fashionable attire in these two films are truly to die for! It has been years since watching Dial M I will have to rent it. Karena

  4. Perhaps you already know “A Perfect Murder” is a 1998 remake of “Dial M for Murder”, directed by Andrew Davis and starring Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow in which the characters of Halliday and Lesgate are combined. Paltrow is lovely, of course, and reinforces the comparisons with Grace Kelly. It’s fun to see how cell phones, not yet a complete necessity in 1998, are used in the remake, compared to the land line in the original film.

  5. Courtney – I kept noticing the lamps and the ceramics as well. The movie was originally released in 3-D, so these pieces were designed to be between the viewer and the action, hence their importance. The movie was re-released in a “normal” format shortly after.

  6. Karena – it is one of the few Hitchcock movies I had not seen and it would be well worth another showing. If you haven’t seen the Rope, get that one, too. A great film with a very young Jimmy Stewart.

  7. Emma – I did not know A Perfect Murder was based on this premise until I started clicking around looking for images on this one. I know that movie is a favorite of design fans as well; I need to check it out.

  8. Oh the sets in that movie are splendid!!! Young Grace Kelly’s a real beauty too. But, the comment that really made me swoon was that Mr. Blandings cooked. Is there anything that man can’t do?
    Lucky you!!!!!!!!

  9. Fascinating post, Patricia! I enjoyed this film a few years back and you have inspired me to watch it again and look at the set more closely.

  10. I just love this movie, and the sets are divine. You have to watch it a few times- once for the storyline and numerous times to ogle the set!

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