Dial M for Murder
19 Dec 2008
Dial M for Murder
Dial M for Murder
Older readers may remember the Alfred Hitchcock film “Dial M for Murder.” The very title dates the film; nowadays, you don’t dial but press and letters have been replaced by numbers. Some just tell their mobile the name of the person they want to ring. But “Say Wife for Murder” doesn’t have the same resonance.
A husband with financial problems (Ray Milland) plans the murder of his rich and beautiful wife (Grace Kelly). He gives the key to their flat to a local criminal (Anthony Dawson), so he can get in and hide behind the curtains. The husband rings at a predetermined time from a hand of bridge at his club, giving him the perfect alibi; his wife gets out of bed to answer the phone (you only had one phone in the house in those days); but the plan goes wrong, and she kills the murderer with some scissors. At that point the film could have ended happily; unless you were Anthony Dawson.
But Ray Milland was smart enough to re-arrange the evidence so it looked as if his wife had planned a murder. He hoped the Crown Prosecution Service would succeed in disposing of his wife where Mr Dawson had failed. He did this by removing from the victim’s pocket the key of the flat by which admission had been secured, making it look as if his wife had let the assailant in.
Grace Kelly was heading for the gallows (which have also gone the way of telephones with dials), had it not been for Chief Inspector Hubbard (John Williams), who had doubts about Ray and had probably fallen in love with Grace Kelly. The key which the husband had removed from the pocket was not the key to his flat, but to the murderer’s. When the husband found his key to the flat in the place where he had left it for Dawson, Hubbard arrested him.
The moral of the story is that everyday objects are not always what we think they are.
I made the same mistake as Ray Milland. MP’s are obliged to attend a large number of socio-political functions. These are enjoyable but, in a constituency where there is much social activity, and many miles between them, the time spent at each is constrained.
Before Christmas, I arrived late at such a function and left my overcoat on top of a large pile. When I left not long after, it was still there and I reclaimed it.
On getting home I discovered that the coat belonged to another man of similar dimensions and good taste in gentleman’s outfits. I mean no disrespect to the owner of the Other Coat, but I preferred mine, not least because it had my Blackberry in it. I was concerned that another tall slim resident of North West Hampshire would receive urgent messages from the Opposition Whips.
My coat was left for collection in an unlocked conservatory, as the hosts were going away. I negotiated the automatic gate that secured their property and retrieved the coat. But the gate would not re-open to let my car out. It was resolute.
Christmas looked as if it was going to be spent in a conservatory with my coat and the left-overs from the party, which had attracted a stray cat. As it made its way around the driveway, it activated the gate and I was off.
In a small way, I had made the same mistake as Ray Milland; but with less dramatic consequences.
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Copyright Sir George Young Bt. 2015