Trivial Culture Riddle No.1

What do Ray Milland, Dial M for Murder, Grace Kelly and Penguin Books have in common?

In the scene in Dial M where a trap has been set to determine that Ray Milland (Tony) planned the proxy murder (by Swann) of Grace Kelly (Margot, his wife), he enters the apartment holding two Penguins covered with the 40s era orange-white-orange bands. If you blink you’ll miss them. But if you’ve traveled to England, Ireland or Australia lately, you’ll notice that these pristine covers have been brought back and now adorn scores of the Penguin back list.

So, now you know the answer to the riddle. But can you tell me what are the titles of the books Tony is holding? In any case, here is where Tony designs the murder, and sets the deliciously, diabolically convoluted plot in motion:

Tony: Tomorrow evening, Halliday… the American boyfriend, and I will go out to a stag party. She’ll stay here. She’ll go to bed early and listen to theater on the radio. She always does when I’m out. At exactly three minutes to 11, you’ll enter the house through the street door. You’ll find the key to this door… under the stair carpet here. The fifth step. That’s the one. Go straight to the window… and hide behind the curtains. At exactly 11:00, I’ll go to the telephone in the hotel… to call my boss. I shall dial the wrong number, this number. That’s all I shall do. When the phone rings, you’ll see the light go on under her bedroom door. When she opens it, the light will stream across the room. So don’t move until she answers the phone. There must be as little noise as possible. After you’ve finished… pick up the phone and give me a soft whistle and hang up. Don’t speak, whatever you do. I shan’t say a word. When I hear your whistle, I shall hang up and redial the correct number this time. I shall then talk to my boss as if nothing had happened and return to the party.

Swann: What happens next? Go on.

Tony: You’ll see the suitcase here. It contains clothes of mine for the cleaners. Open it and tip the clothes out onto the floor. Then fill it with a cigarette box and some of these cups. Close the lid, but don’t snap the locks. Then leave the suitcase there, just as it is now.

Swann: As if I’d left in a hurry.

Tony: That’s the idea. Now, the window…. If it’s locked, unlock it and leave it open. Then go out exactly the same way you came in.



4 thoughts on “Trivial Culture Riddle No.1

  1. Christian Annyas

    Steve, I really tried to figure this out, but I simply don’t know where to look for the right answer.
    I found the scene you wrote about. Ray Milland went to the police station to pick up some items Grace Kelly forgot to take with her. When he returns he arrives at the house, carrying five books, then hesitates, leaves, turns around and decides to enter the house. When he’s in the living room he puts the books on a chair.
    The books are recognizable as Penguin books, but it’s impossible to see what the titles were.
    It’s also impossible to guess the right titles; by 1954 Penguin already released over a 1000 different titles.
    I listened to the dialogue during the scene you described, but didn’t find any clues there either.
    So this is indeed a riddle. I’m anxious to hear the answer
     

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