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The Spiral Staircase (1946)

Approved | | Drama, Mystery, Thriller | 31 May 1946 (Argentina)
In 1916, a shadowy serial killer is targeting women with "afflictions"; one night during a thunderstorm, the mute Helen feels menaced.

Director:

Robert Siodmak

Writers:

Mel Dinelli (screenplay), Ethel Lina White (novel)
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Dorothy McGuire ... Helen
George Brent ... Professor Warren
Ethel Barrymore ... Mrs. Warren
Kent Smith ... Dr. Parry
Rhonda Fleming ... Blanche
Gordon Oliver ... Steve Warren
Elsa Lanchester ... Mrs. Oates
Sara Allgood ... Nurse Barker
Rhys Williams ... Mr. Oates
James Bell ... Constable
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Storyline

In 1916, beautiful young mute Helen is a domestic worker for elderly, ailing Mrs. Warren. Mrs. Warren's two adult 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 <garyjack5@cogeco.ca>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Conflicts that freeze your emotions! Suspense that takes your breath!


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

31 May 1946 (Argentina) See more »

Also Known As:

Silence of Helen McCord See more »

Filming Locations:

Detroit, Michigan, USA

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Opening credits: The characters and events in this photoplay are fictional. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. See more »

Goofs

When Helen lights the candle in a candle holder in the kitchen, she holds it on the bottom with her left hand, blocking the breeze with her right hand. The next shot is of her leaving the kitchen, still blocking with her right hand, but now holding the candlestick near the top of the holder instead of the bottom. She starts down the spiral staircase and as she rounds the first turn, she's once again holding the candle holder on the bottom. See more »

Quotes

Mrs. Warren: [fires her gun] Murderer, you killed them. You killed them all.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Histoire(s) du cinéma: Les signes parmi nous (1999) See more »

Soundtracks

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

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Long On Atmosphere
28 March 2008 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

It's 1916 and a rash of women being killed who are 'imperfect' in the eyes of the killer whomever it is have both Dr. Kent Smith and bedridden dowager Ethel Barrymore concerned for the life of Dorothy McGuire, a beautiful, but mute servant girl in her house.

There's not much mystery to this film, it's not hard to guess the identity of the perpetrator, given the limited number in the cast. But The Spiral Staircase is one of the most atmospheric films ever done. Director Robert Siodmark made terrific use of the Victorian era set of the Warren house where 90% of the film is done. The centerpiece of course being The Spiral Staircase.

Two years before a deaf mute act won Jane Wyman an Academy Award, a lot of people, me included, felt Dorothy McGuire should have at least gotten a nomination for her role. She conveys so much in her portrayal, the meekness of her character and the gradual overwhelming fear that takes over her as she senses danger. Worse even when she fixes on the wrong individual as her menace.

Ethel Barrymore got an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress as the crotchety old woman who was in McGuire's keeping. But Ethel had won the same Oscar back in 1944 for None But The Lonely Heart. She lost in the finals to Anne Baxter for The Razor's Edge.

George Brent, Gordon Oliver, Rhys Williams, Rhonda Fleming, and Elsa Lanchester round out a good cast in one of the best atmospheric thrillers ever put on film.


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