“Dial M for Murder” was a successful play in both London and on Broadway (where it ran for 552 performances). Written by English playwright Frederick Knott (Write Me a Murder, Wait Until Dark), the hit play originally was turned down for production by London theater managers claiming there would be little interest in this sort of play. Eventually, the BBC showed interest and the play premiered on the British TV station in early 1952. The play made its West End debut when a businessman who owned a lease on the Westminster theater, and with no play ready to put into production, decided to take a chance and put on the low cost thriller with some of the same cast members from the television version. The show was a critical and commercial success. In October 1952, the play opened in New York with Maurice Evans as Tony Wendice, (Ray Milland in the film). Evans had shrewdly acquired the North American rights to the play. Also in the Broadway cast were Anthony Dawson and John Williams, both who would recreate their roles later on screen. Williams won a Tony Award for his role as the Police Inspector.
Enter Alfred Hitchcock who loves a well plotted mystery. Hitch was at the end of his Warner Brothers contract and needed a film to complete his obligations. Women in peril has always been a favorite subject for writers ) and film directors, so the blending of these two talents was a natural fit. Knott wrote the screenplay which remained faithful to the play. Unlike most filmmakers, when they film a play, Hitchcock did not “open up” the story. He kept it confined to the apartment, where the entire play takes place, except for a couple of short scenes outside the apartment and one scene at a men’s club. Continue reading