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Posts Tagged ‘robert cummings’

Take Dean Martin, Paul Newman, Robert Mitchum, Gene Kelly, Dick Van Dyke and Shirley MacLaine, put them all together in one film, and ask yourself what could possibly go wrong?  Answer: NOTHING!  Nothing is wrong with this film at all!

MacLaine is Louisa May Foster, a rich widow who is sent to see a psychiatrist after trying to give the IRS $200 million.  She tells him all about the four very different men she married (and the one she turned down), all of whom died and left her a fortune.  The stories of each of her marriages, to Edgar Hopper (Van Dyke), Larry Flint (Newman), Rod Anderson (Mitchum) and Pinky Benson (Kelly), as well as her first engagement to Leonard Crawley (Dean Martin), who she turns down in favour of Hopper, are told in flashback, with Louisa imagining each one as a film in a different genre.  Gradually each marriage turns from blissfully happy to sad – for Louisa anyway – as she encourages her husbands to chase their dreams, only to wish they hadn’t done so.

Despite the fact that the film describes four marriages gone wrong and four deaths, it is unquestionably a comedy, as it’s opening sequence makes perfectly clear, showing Louisa descending a pink staircase, wearing a pink dress, ahead of a pink coffin in an entirely pink house.

The story is light and fluffy, and my goodness, how lucky was Shirley MacLaine to be romanced by Martin, Newman, Mitchum and Kelly?!  I can only imagine that she was the envy of many viewers when this film came out!  She looks beautiful herself, and also does a rather lovely song and dance number with Gene Kelly, which was a joy to watch.

It looks sumptuous too, with MacLaine wearing a series of increasingly outlandish outfits, and lots of colour throughout.  There are lots of truly funny moments, and I burst out laughing several times, even having to rewind the film occasionally because my laughter made me miss a few lines.

Packed with gorgeous stars, and with a frothy, funny storyline, this film has shot straight into my list of top ten favourite movies, and I definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good comedy.

Year of release: 1964

Director: J. Lee Thompson

Producer: Arthur P. Jacobs

Writers: Gwen Davis, Betty Comden, Adolph Green

Main cast: Shirley MacLaine, Dick Van Dyke, Dean Martin, Paul Newman, Robert Mitchum, Gene Kelly, Robert Cummings

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Tony Wendice (Ray Milland), a former tennis pro, discovers that his wife Margot (Grace Kelly) has had an affair with crime author Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings).  Halliday is now back in London where the Wendices’ live, from his native New York.  Tony dreams up an ingenious plan to murder Margot in order that she can’t leave him, and so that he can will inherit her fortune.  He blackmails an old acquaintance into carrying out the murder, but things go wrong, and Tony has to come up with a Plan B very quickly…

I enjoyed this Alfred Hitchcock classic very much.  It wasn’t quite in the realm of To Catch A Thief, or North By Northwest, but there was a gripping storyline and plenty of tension.  The twists and turns were very clever, and I was never quite sure how things were going to turn out.

Grace Kelly looked stunning – as always – but I did think that at times her acting was a little unconvincing.  However, she was certainly good enough overall for this not to detract from the film.  Ray Milland was very convincing in his role, although his coldness and calculating nature meant that it was very hard to warm to his character, and I had no sympathy for him.  (Although Milland was excellent, I can’t help wondering if the character would have been more likeable if someone like Jimmy Stewart had played the part; but I suspect that the film may have suffered, had the character been more sympathetic.)  Cummings was fine as Halliday, although he was given little to do for much of the storyline.

Dial M For Murder is instantly recognisable as a Hitchcock movie – it has all the dramatic music and theatrical flourishes – possibly because the script was adapted from a successful play.  Most of the action takes place in the Wendices’ apartment, and there is a small cast, giving something of a claustrophobic atmosphere.  This is something that Hitchcock also did in Rear Window (also with Grace Kelly) and Rope, and it’s an effective trick.

This isn’t a murder mystery, as the viewer knows exactly what has happened from the outset – the mystery lies in whether or not Tony Wendice will get away with his plan.  I won’t spoil the ending for anyone who is yet to see it, but this is a gripping film, and any fans of Hitchcock or film noir should see it.

Year of release: 1954

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Writer: Frederick Knott (adapted from his own play)

Main cast: Ray Milland, Grace Kelly, Robert Cummings

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