Tiomkin and Hitchcock worked together a final time in the 1954 thriller, Dial M for Murder, which, like Rear Window, was an experiment in confined space: set mostly in the London apartment of an unhappily married couple (Grace Kelly and Ray Milland), it was also Hitchcock’s only film shot in the then-trendy format of 3-D. Rather than drown the movie in gimmicky effects, the director utilized the format more subtly, emphasizing the depth and dimensions of its location: a seemingly cozy flat which, if Milland’s scheming husband has his way, will prove an ideal site for the murder of Kelly.
Characteristically, Tiomkin often infuses this intimate chamber piece with the clamorous force of grand opera (in fact, his main suspense theme contains more than an echo of Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov). But its penchant for melodrama recedes, whenever Tiomkin scores the illicit romance between Margot Wendice (Kelly) and her lover, Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings).
Steven C. Smith is the author of A Heart at Fire’s Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann (University of California Press, 1991), and a recipient of the Deems Taylor Award for writing on music. He is currently a writer/producer on the A&E television series Biography.