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The Spiral Staircase (1945)

Approved  |   |  Film-Noir, Mystery, Thriller  |  December 1945 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 6,226 users  
Reviews: 101 user | 42 critic

A serial killer (circa 1916) is targeting women with 'afflictions'; one night during a thunderstorm, mute Helen feels menaced.



(screenplay), (novel)
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Title: The Spiral Staircase (1945)

The Spiral Staircase (1945) on IMDb 7.6/10

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »



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Helen has been incapable of speech since seeing her husband die - will she become the target of a deranged serial killer targeting disabled people?

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Complete credited cast:
George Brent ...
Kent Smith ...
Gordon Oliver ...
Steve Warren
Nurse Barker
Mr. Oates
James Bell ...


Beautiful young mute Helen is a domestic worker for old ailing Mrs. Warren. Mrs. Warren's two sons, Albert (a professor) and womanizing impudent Steven, also live in the Warren mansion. Mrs. Warren becomes concerned for Helen's safety when a rash of murders involving 'women with afflictions' hits the neighborhood. She implores her physician, Dr. Parry, to take Helen away for her own safety. When another murder occurs inside the Warren mansion, it becomes obvious that Helen is in danger. Written by Gary Jackson <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

December 1945 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Silence of Helen McCord  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Joan Crawford, after receiving critical praise for her performance in A Woman's Face (1941), at one point campaigned for the role of the mute girl played by Dorothy McGuire. Crawford also owned the rights, but MGM studio chief Louis B. Mayer vehemently opposed the idea, telling her "No more cripples or maimed women". See more »


In the long conversation between the old lady and her son by the bed (half an hour into the film) he is seen from one angel to clutch her arm, and from another angel her both arms are free - alternately throughout the scene. See more »


Constable: She's dead!
Dr. Parry: Well, in that case, Constable, I certainly can't do her any harm.
See more »


Features The Sands of Dee (1912) See more »


Waltz Op. 34 No. 2 in A minor
Music by Frédéric Chopin
Played during the scene at the silent movie theater
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Terrific Thriller; Excellent Leading Performance
16 August 2001 | by (Ohio) – See all my reviews

This is a terrific thriller, made just the way that thrillers should be done, with nicely crafted tension, atmospheric setting, and plenty of strange and mysterious characters. Adding in the excellent leading performance by Dorothy McGuire makes it a top-notch picture.

From the very beginning, the suspense begins to build, while at the same time McGuire's character Helen immediately attracts and holds the audience's concern and sympathy. The combination works very well, and while you're never sure what else is going on, or which of the other characters can be trusted, you know that Helen is in danger and that you care about her.

The rest of the cast are all nicely matched with their characters, and do a fine job of bringing them to life. Some of the plot developments probably would prove somewhat implausible if analyzed carefully, but the story and atmosphere are crafted so effectively that you never notice while watching.

Anyone who enjoys classic thrillers should make sure to see "The Spiral Staircase".

18 of 22 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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