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A Kiss Before Dying (1956)

Approved | | Crime, Film-Noir, Mystery | 12 June 1956 (USA)
2:17 | Trailer

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A ruthless college student resorts to murder in a futile attempt to marry an heiress.



(screenplay), (novel)




Complete credited cast:
Dwight Powell
Howard Chesser, Chief of Police
Bill Walker ...
Bill, the Butler
Molly McCart ...
Annabelle Koch
Marlene Felton ...
Medical Student


Student Bud Corliss is wooing Dorother Kingship purely for her father's mining fortune. When he finds she is pregnant he realises she is likely to be disinherited, so cleverly stages her suicide. After a couple of months her sister back home finds evidence to question the suicide verdict, but by then has a new boyfriend of her own... Written by Jeremy Perkins {J-26}

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Some secrets can't be kept ... they have to be buried !


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Release Date:

12 June 1956 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Ein Kuss vor dem Tode  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)| (35 mm magnetic prints)


Aspect Ratio:

2.55 : 1
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Did You Know?


Ira Levin's "A Kiss Before Dying" novel won the 1954 Edgar Award for Best First Novel. See more »


At the beginning of the film, where Dorie is crying on the bed, Bud goes over and turns on a small lamp on the dresser. The bright light streaming through the blinds in the window behind, spilling on to the far wall disappears - not instantly or all at once, but more slowly from right to left and finally in the window itself, as if a "barn door" or other shutter system was being closed on a light offstage. See more »


[first lines]
Bud Corliss: Crying isn't going to help.
Dorothy Kingship: I just can't help it.
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Remade as Rishi (1992) See more »


A Kiss Before Dying
Music by Lionel Newman
Lyrics by Carroll Coates
Sung by Dolores Hawkins
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Behind the Pretty Boy Mask
1 December 2007 | by See all my reviews

He may not have been James Dean, but Robert Wagner delivers a career performance in this sorely neglected sleeper from 1956. The first half is a beautifully shaded dance of death as Wagner plots to rid himself of the inconveniently pregnant Joanne Woodward. He's all sincere insincerity from one rendezvous to the next, while she wants desperately to believe, even against all odds. Has there ever been a more cold-hearted manipulator of vulnerable feminine desires. Dory (Woodward) is all whiney expectations, while Wagner conceals ruthless ambition behind a pretty boy mask.

Director Gerd Oswald's staging of the first half is little short of brilliant, and had the filming been in appropriate black and white, a latter day noir classic would have resulted. Notice how subtly Woodward expects to be kissed atop the municipal building, the pinnacle of her girlish dreams, while Bud (Wagner) callously lights a cigarette, defiant of normal expectations. And what a gripping piece of morbid psychopathology is Wagner's slip-sliding through the chemistry lab as he prepares a toxic.potion for his lady love. Maybe in the last analysis, Bud's problem lies with his mother. The fixation is certainly not normal, as she senses in putting off his request for a "date". Yet Bud's social climbing ambitions are made tellingly clear that they are for mom as well as for himself.

Unfortunately, the second half reverts to standard Hollywood convention, the suspense subsiding along with the first-rate mood music. Putting a pipe in the callow Jeffrey Hunter's mouth and making him a college professor amounts to a crippling miscalculation on someone's part. Hunter's simply not the type, nor does he have the gravitas to carry the plot forward. The end result is a hybrid of first-half brilliance and second-half mediocrity. Too bad. The ending is appropriate, however, as the monster truck bears down like the hand of pre-destination that Bud should have taken note of in that literature class. There is a point to Dory's unfortunate life, after all.

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