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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 | Plot 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

As the projectionist hand cranks the projector which is on a shaky tripod, the projector wobbles noticeably, but the image on the screen is steady. See more »

Quotes

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

Connections

Features The Kiss (1914) 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

 
excllent psychological thriller
2 April 2001 | by telegonusSee all my reviews

This is one of the most elegantly crafted, paced, photographed and designed of all lady-in-distress thrillers, a sub-genre I am not altogether fond of, but in this case the result is something near to a masterpiece. The actors, especially Dorothy McGuire, are first-rate. I'm particularly in love with the house, a cavernous Victorian, over-decorated, visually and spatially 'busy' place, full of odd furniture and fixtures, rugs, lamps and mirrors, it is as much a character as any person in the film. Kudos to the RKO art department, fifty plus years later I salute them. The way the house is explored is a fascinating as the way the characters are presented. Bit by bit we grow accustomed to the place and its denizens, and when the inevitable thunderstorm happens we feel comfortable inside, aware of the menace within we are none the less seduced by the grandness of the place, indeed enveloped by it, as the air of danger becomes almost cozy, and the gothic surroundings become as comforting as they are baleful. This is no small trick; it's an art. Name a film of the past thirty years that comes close to The Spiral Staircase in its exploration of the various shades of meaning in what for want of a better term one would have to call the Great Gothic Place.


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