Saturday, February 10, 2007

Dial M for Magic

Many Americans of a certain age (mine) would confer media knighthood on Ted Turner for giving us back our youth with those wonderful old movies on TCM.

That bizarre thought is prompted by news this week of another kind of immortality for an old friend, Frederick Knott, who wrote one of the best thrillers of all time, “Dial M for Murder.”

Knott was a spare writer but meticulous plotter, and now his notes, sketches and production papers are on view at Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library in New Haven, CT, donated by his widow, the actress Ann Hillary.

A shy, almost reclusive man whose work reflected intellectual rigor, wit and insight, his passing in 2002 was a reminder of what is long gone from most of today’s movies. A case in painful point was a shallow, glossy remake of “Dial M” in 1998 with none of Hitchcock’s, or Knott’s, droll quality.

But no matter--thanks to Turner, we can still wallow with Grace Kelly in the 1954 original or Audrey Hepburn in Knott’s equally stunning “Wait Until Dark” of 1967.