Friday, August 4, 2017

Alfred Hitchcock Martini & A Movie: Dial M For Murder

All month long we are celebrating the life and work of Alfred Hitchcock. Today our Drinks with Reads is really a Drinks with Movie. Lorraine Masonheimer created a special drink in an homage to his 1954 classic Dial M For Murder.

The sound of ice swirling in a glass.  Sipping martinis with a husband and visiting lover.  A missing adulterous letter, a latchkey, a meticulously planned murder, a pair of stockings, a well-placed scissor and it all unravels.  Be it family, friends or an indulgent night to yourself, snuggle in and watch one of Hitchcock’s popular classic films: Dial M For Murder. 

Margot, a wealthy sophisticated Londoner has an affair with Mark, a charming American mystery writer while married to the upper crust British ex-tennis pro Tony.  Tony, realizing his wife may divorce him then plots the perfect murder in order to get his hands on her inheritance.  A little blackmail, a carefully coordinated plan that doesn’t quite work out, leaves Margot very much alive.  Tony is left scrambling to stay one-step ahead of the detective so he remains a free man to enjoy Margot’s money. 

Based on Frederick Knott’s popular stage play, this taut sophisticated thriller is thoroughly watchable with Grace Kelly as Margot.   As most women are depicted in Hitchcock films, she plays the detached, cool and luminous blonde.  Ray Milland plays Tony with evil, slippery charm, and Robert Cummings plays the earnest, determined hero and lover—Mark Halliday.  Interestingly, Hitchcock originally wanted Deborah Kerr, William Holden, and Cary Grant.  Holden and Kerr were working on other films and Grant would not play a villain. 

Hitchcock didn’t consider this film among his better work.  He wasn’t interested in a talky stage play and thought there wasn’t much more a director could add to the script.  He shot the film almost entirely in one room with challenging camera angles and, at the insistence of the studio heads, in a new technology known as 3-D.  However, the movie was widely released in the typical flat format.  Exquisite plotting and well-built tension keep the film taut throughout.  Hitchcock lost nearly 20 pounds filming the murder scene, obsessing until the glint on the scissors was just right.  Careful use of color was also a common Hitchcock technique and he used it here to depict Margot’s journey.  Early in the movie, Grace Kelly wears a vibrant, sexy red party dress and her character progresses into grays and browns near the end. 

This was the first of three films Grace Kelly made with Hitchcock and it is credited with making her a star.  While filming Dial M For Murder, Kelly remarked that Hitchcock was already working on Rear Window, a movie in which she would co-star with Jimmy Stewart one year later. 

Dial M For Murder has one of the most ingenious cameos for Hitchcock as he is seated at the table in the Cambridge Class Reunion photograph about 13 minutes into the film.  This movie is rich with detail and such a pleasure to watch. The remake, A Perfect Murder, filmed in 1998, stars Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow. 

To serve the perfect drink with this classic film, I’ve chosen another classic—the martini.  In an early scene in the movie, Margot scolds Tony to stop stirring the martinis as he’ll water them down, so take care when making Hitchcock’s favorite drink—a very dry gin martini.   

The recipe, straight from Hitchcock himself is five parts gin and a “quick glance at a Vermouth bottle.”  Add a lemon peel garnish, settle in with a bowl of salty popcorn and enjoy a great classic from a beloved filmmaker.  Make it a double-header and watch A Perfect Murder.

Be sure and check out our other Alfred Hitchcock posts this month, we have so much more in store. On Tuesday we featured a plan for dinner and a movie with The Birds, and yesterday we started a series of DIY greeting cards inspired by Hitchcock's movies. 

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