A Kiss Before Dying (1991)

R | 93 mins | Drama, Film noir | 26 April 1991

Director:

James Dearden

Writer:

James Dearden

Producer:

Robert Lawrence

Cinematographer:

Mike Southon

Production Designer:

Jim Clay

Production Companies:

Kellgate Ltd., Initial Film
Full page view
HISTORY

On 4 Apr 1988, DV announced that screenwriter James Dearden would be writing A Kiss Before Dying for United Artists. He also planned to direct the picture. Although the article failed to mention that the script would be an adaptation of Ira Levin’s 1953 novel, it suggested that Dearden’s project was “unrelated” to A Kiss Before Dying directed by Gerd Oswald and starring Robert Wagner (1956, see entry). Various contemporary sources referred to Dearden’s film as a “remake” of the 1956 movie. In a 24 Jun 1990 LAT article, Dearden emphasized, “We’re not remaking a film. We’re going back to the book and making a film about a book. I thought [the first movie] was sufficiently obscure not to be a threat.”
       Over a year after the initial announcement, a 14 Jun 1989 HR news brief stated that the project had moved to Universal Pictures. Principal photography was scheduled to begin in Oct 1989, with actors Kiefer Sutherland and Bridget Fonda in the leading roles, according to a 23 Jul 1989 LAT news item. However, on 16 Dec 1989, Screen International indicated that the project start date had been pushed to Apr 1990, with Matt Dillon and Penelope Ann Miller replacing Sutherland and Fonda. A 20 Feb 1990 People magazine news item noted that actress Diane Lane had been “approached” about reading for the part of twin sisters Dorothy and Ellen Carlsson. However, she was not interested in taking the role. People reported that Sean Young had been cast opposite Dillon.
       The 7 Mar 1990 Var and 14 Mar ... More Less

On 4 Apr 1988, DV announced that screenwriter James Dearden would be writing A Kiss Before Dying for United Artists. He also planned to direct the picture. Although the article failed to mention that the script would be an adaptation of Ira Levin’s 1953 novel, it suggested that Dearden’s project was “unrelated” to A Kiss Before Dying directed by Gerd Oswald and starring Robert Wagner (1956, see entry). Various contemporary sources referred to Dearden’s film as a “remake” of the 1956 movie. In a 24 Jun 1990 LAT article, Dearden emphasized, “We’re not remaking a film. We’re going back to the book and making a film about a book. I thought [the first movie] was sufficiently obscure not to be a threat.”
       Over a year after the initial announcement, a 14 Jun 1989 HR news brief stated that the project had moved to Universal Pictures. Principal photography was scheduled to begin in Oct 1989, with actors Kiefer Sutherland and Bridget Fonda in the leading roles, according to a 23 Jul 1989 LAT news item. However, on 16 Dec 1989, Screen International indicated that the project start date had been pushed to Apr 1990, with Matt Dillon and Penelope Ann Miller replacing Sutherland and Fonda. A 20 Feb 1990 People magazine news item noted that actress Diane Lane had been “approached” about reading for the part of twin sisters Dorothy and Ellen Carlsson. However, she was not interested in taking the role. People reported that Sean Young had been cast opposite Dillon.
       The 7 Mar 1990 Var and 14 Mar 1990 HR reported that principal photography on the $10 to $15 million picture began 5 Mar 1990 in the U.K, primarily at Shepperton Studios near London, England, where extensive sets were built. According to a 13 May 1990 LAT “On Location” article, producer Robert Lawrence and director James Dearden agreed that sets would evoke the “stylized” quality of an Alfred Hitchcock picture. The fabricated locations included a “glamorous” New York City apartment, and a Philadelphia, PA, rooftop, complete with skyline. Both the LAT and production notes in AMPAS library files refer to the construction of a Caribbean beach cabana; however, no such location appears in the film. Filming also took place at the Tremorfa Steel Works in Cardiff, South Wales. During the final two weeks of production, filmmakers picked up exterior shots in New York, NY.
       Although a 7 Mar 1990 Var news item anticipated a release by year’s end, A Kiss Before Dying did not open theatrically until 26 Apr 1991, as noted by a 16 Apr 1991 HR news brief. The film received generally negative reviews.
       End credits include the following acknowledgments: “Fortune magazine logo and trademark used with permission of the Tim, Inc. Magazine Company,” and, “Special thanks to: Tremorfa Steelworks; Port Talbot Steelworks; Mayors Office New York; Virginia Film Commission; Jeff MacGregor.” End credits state that the movie was: “Filmed at Lee International Studios, Shepperton, England, and on location in The United Kingdom, New York, and Charlottesville.” End credits conclude with the following dedication: “In memoriam Robert L. Jacks.” More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
4 Apr 1988
p. 2, 14.
Daily Variety
24 Apr 1991
p. 2, 14.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jun 1989.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 Mar 1990.
---
Hollywood Reporter
16 Apr 1991.
---
Hollywood Reporter
24 Apr 1991
p. 6, 18.
LAHExam
28 Jul 1988.
---
Los Angeles Times
23 Jul 1989.
---
Los Angeles Times
13 May 1990
pp. 18-20.
Los Angeles Times
24 Jun 1990
Section A, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
26 Apr 1991
p. 8.
New York Times
26 Apr 1991
Section C, p. 12.
People
20 Feb 1990.
---
Screen International
16 Dec 1989.
---
Variety
7 Mar 1990.
---
Variety
29 Apr 1991
p. 92.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANIES
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Universal Pictures presents
an Initial Film/Robert Lawrence production
a James Dearden film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
Asst dir
2d asst dir
3d asst dir
1st asst dir, Addl UK crew
2d asst dir, Addl UK crew
3d asst dir, Addl UK crew
1st asst dir, New York crew
2d asst dir, New York crew
2d 2d asst dir, New York crew
1st asst dir, Virginia crew
2d asst dir, Virginia crew
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
Assoc prod, Addl UK crew
WRITER
Wrt for the screen by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Focus puller
Clapper/Loader
Cam grip
Cam trainee
Cam trainee
Video eff
Stills photog
Gaffer
Best boy
Elec
Elec
Focus puller, Addl UK crew
Clapper/Loader, Addl UK crew
Cam grip, Addl UK crew
1st asst cam, New York crew
2d asst cam, New York crew
Cam prod asst, New York crew
Stills photog, New York crew
Gaffer, New York crew
Best boy, New York crew
Elec, New York crew
Elec, New York crew
Elec, New York crew
Key grip, New York crew
Key grip, New York crew
Dolly grip, New York crew
Grip, New York crew
Grip, New York crew
Grip, New York crew
2d asst cam, Virginia crew
Asst cam, Virginia crew
Steadicam, Virginia crew
Steadicam asst, Virginia crew
Gaffer, Virginia crew
Best boy, Virginia crew
Elec, Virginia crew
Elec, Virginia crew
Elec, Virginia crew
Key grip, Virginia crew
Best boy, Virginia crew
Dolly grip, Virginia crew
Grip, Virginia crew
Grip, Virginia crew
Grip, Virginia crew
Arri® cameras and lenses by
Lighting equip supplied by
Work prints by
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Art dir
Asst art dir
Story board artist
Art dept trainee
Asst art dir, Addl UK crew
Art dept trainee, Addl UK crew
Art dir, New York crew
Art dir, Virginia crew
FILM EDITORS
2d asst ed
Ed trainee
Asst ed, New York crew
Asst ed, New York crew
SET DECORATORS
Set dresser
Prod buyer
Scenic artist
Sign writer
Prop master
Prop storeman
Standby propman
Standby propman
Dressing propman
Dressing propman
Const mgr
Asst const mgr
Supv carpenter
Supv carpenter
Supv painter
Chargehand rigger
Chargehand stagehand
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Rigger
Rigger
Rigger
Rigger
Painter
Painter
Painter
Painter
Painter
Painter
Painter
Painter
Painter
Painter
Stagehand
Stagehand
Stagehand
Stagehand
Stagehand
Stagehand
Standby carpenter
Standby painter
Standby rigger
Standby stagehand
Prod buyer, Addl UK crew
Prop master, Addl UK crew
Dressing propman, Addl UK crew
Dressing propman, Addl UK crew
Standby propman, Addl UK crew
Standby propman, Addl UK crew
Addl sets, Addl UK crew
Set dec, New York crew
Lead dresser, New York crew
Dresser, New York crew
Dresser, New York crew
Standby dresser, New York crew
Const coord, New York crew
Scenic, New York crew
Prop master, New York crew
Prop asst, New York crew
Lead dresser, Virginia crew
Const mgr, Virginia crew
Prop master, Virginia crew
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward supv
Ward mistress
Asst cost des
Ward mistress, Addl UK crew
Asst cost des (USA), New York crew
Ward supv, New York crew
2d ward, New York crew
MUSIC
Mus ed
Mus played by
Leader
Cond by
Rec eng
Mus preparation
Mus rec at
Re-rec at
SOUND
Dubbing ed
Boom op
Sd trainee
Asst dubbing ed
Dial ed
Asst dial ed
Dubbing mixer
Asst dubbing mixer
Asst dubbing mixer
Tape op
Sd mixer, Addl UK crew
Boom, Addl UK crew
Boom op, New York crew
Boom op, New York crew
Sd mixer, Virginia crew
Boom, Virginia crew
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff coord, New York crew
Spec eff, Virginia crew
Titles and opticals by
Spec eff via
Matte painting by
Model by
MAKEUP
Make up supv
Hairdresser
Hairdresser
Key makeup, New York crew
Key hair stylist, New York crew
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Prod assoc (USA)
Casting (UK)
Casting assoc (NY)
Prod accountant
Prod coord
Loc mgr
Asst loc mgr
Asst to exec prod
Asst to exec prod
Asst to Robert Lawrence
Asst to Robert Lawrence
Asst to James Dearden
Asst to Sean Young
Prod runner
Scr supv
Asst scr supv
Asst accountant
Asst accountant
Unit pub
Unit nurse
Unit nurse
Unit driver
Unit driver
Unit driver
Prod secretary, Addl UK crew
Prod runner, Addl UK crew
Cont, Addl UK crew
Prod coord, New York crew
Asst coord, New York crew
Prod office asst, New York crew
Loc mgr, New York crew
Asst loc mgr, New York crew
Loc asst, New York crew
Loc auditor, New York crew
Asst auditor, New York crew
Teamster capt, New York crew
Teamster co-capt, New York crew
Casting asst NY, New York crew
Extras casting, New York crew
Asst to Robert Lawrence, New York crew
Asst to James Dearden, New York crew
Prod asst, New York crew
Prod asst, New York crew
Prod asst, New York crew
Prod asst, New York crew
Prod asst, New York crew
Parking coord, New York crew
Craft service, New York crew
Scr supv, Virginia crew
Prod coord, Virginia crew
Prod secretary NY, Virginia crew
Prod secretary Virginia, Virginia crew
Asst to James Dearden, Virginia crew
Loc asst, Virginia crew
Loc asst, Virginia crew
Transportation capt, Virginia crew
Legal advisors
Completion guarantors
STAND INS
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
COLOR PERSONNEL
Processed by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel A Kiss Before Dying by Ira Levin (New York, 1953).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"Dangerous Love," written by Simon Stokes, Mark Hefferman, performed by Simon Stokes, courtesy of Kook Records
"Transfusion," written by Justin Langlands, David Henley, performed by Blood Brothers, courtesy of Big World Records
"Rubberman Rock This House," written by Jon Moss, performed by Rubberman, courtesy of Big World Records
+
SONGS
"Dangerous Love," written by Simon Stokes, Mark Hefferman, performed by Simon Stokes, courtesy of Kook Records
"Transfusion," written by Justin Langlands, David Henley, performed by Blood Brothers, courtesy of Big World Records
"Rubberman Rock This House," written by Jon Moss, performed by Rubberman, courtesy of Big World Records
"Naked In The Rain," written by Durga McBroom, Martin Glover, performed by Blue Pearl, courtesy of Big Life Records
"So What," written and performed by Miles Davis, courtesy of Columbia Records by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
26 April 1991
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 26 April 1991
New York opening: week of 26 April 1991
Production Date:
began 5 March 1990
Copyright Claimant:
Universal City Studios, Inc.
Copyright Date:
6 May 1991
Copyright Number:
PA517681
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Originated on Eastman Colour Film from Kodak
Lenses/Prints
Arri® cameras and lenses
Duration(in mins):
93
Length(in feet):
8,357
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
30941
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

From the window of a small house on the outskirts of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, young Jonathan Corliss stares at passing trains from the nearby Carlsson copper mine. Years later, in 1987, Jonathan meets his college girl friend, Dorothy Carlsson, in front of Philadelphia City Hall. They walk to the marriage license office, but find it closed for lunch. The couple goes to the rooftop, where Dorothy, heiress to her father’s copper fortune, anticipates their impending union. Jonathan teases his lover, insisting that she sit on the building’s ledge. Just then, he pushes her, and Dorothy falls to her death. Jonathan descends from the rooftop and walks out of the building, pausing only to mail a letter. The following evening, Dorothy’s father, Thor Carlsson, and twin sister, Ellen, meet with investigators to discuss a suicide note Ellen received on the day of her sister’s death. Ellen does not believe her sister committed suicide, but investigators see no reason to pursue alternatives. Later, at the Carlsson penthouse apartment, Thor receives a phone call informing him that Dorothy was pregnant. Ellen is stunned to learn her sister’s secret, but Thor dismisses Dorothy as a tramp. Several months later, Jonathan Corliss mopes in his childhood bedroom, reading news clippings about the Carlsson family. Mrs. Corliss returns home from work and confronts the recent college graduate about not having found employment. She reminds her son of the sacrifices the family made so he could attend college. The next day, Jonathan hitchhikes to New York City. Jay Faraday, the driver who gives him a ride, makes small talk, revealing that his parents were killed in an airplane accident. Six months later, a weary Ellen Carlsson concludes ... +


From the window of a small house on the outskirts of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, young Jonathan Corliss stares at passing trains from the nearby Carlsson copper mine. Years later, in 1987, Jonathan meets his college girl friend, Dorothy Carlsson, in front of Philadelphia City Hall. They walk to the marriage license office, but find it closed for lunch. The couple goes to the rooftop, where Dorothy, heiress to her father’s copper fortune, anticipates their impending union. Jonathan teases his lover, insisting that she sit on the building’s ledge. Just then, he pushes her, and Dorothy falls to her death. Jonathan descends from the rooftop and walks out of the building, pausing only to mail a letter. The following evening, Dorothy’s father, Thor Carlsson, and twin sister, Ellen, meet with investigators to discuss a suicide note Ellen received on the day of her sister’s death. Ellen does not believe her sister committed suicide, but investigators see no reason to pursue alternatives. Later, at the Carlsson penthouse apartment, Thor receives a phone call informing him that Dorothy was pregnant. Ellen is stunned to learn her sister’s secret, but Thor dismisses Dorothy as a tramp. Several months later, Jonathan Corliss mopes in his childhood bedroom, reading news clippings about the Carlsson family. Mrs. Corliss returns home from work and confronts the recent college graduate about not having found employment. She reminds her son of the sacrifices the family made so he could attend college. The next day, Jonathan hitchhikes to New York City. Jay Faraday, the driver who gives him a ride, makes small talk, revealing that his parents were killed in an airplane accident. Six months later, a weary Ellen Carlsson concludes her day counseling troubled teenagers at a New York City social services clinic. After letting her coworker know her plan to leave town for the weekend, Ellen returns to Philadelphia, still obsessed with her sister’s death. She meets Tommy Roussell, one of Dorothy’s ex-boyfriends, who says he remembers the man Dorothy was dating at the time of her death. Ellen waits for Tommy to retrieve a college yearbook from his apartment. However, Jonathan Corliss intercepts the young man and strangles him. Concerned when Tommy does not return, Ellen asks the landlady to open the apartment. There, they discover his body hanging from a ceiling pipe. A message typed on the computer screen claims responsibility for Dorothy’s death. Ellen returns to New York and seeks solace in the arms of her boyfriend, “Jay Faraday,” whose identity has been usurped by Jonathan Corliss. “Jay” dotes on Ellen, helps her provide services to street youth, and wins the approval of her coworkers. One evening, Ellen arranges for her father to meet “Jay,” whose ambitions impress the tycoon. After the meeting, the imposter returns to Ellen’s apartment and intercepts a phone call from Patricia Farren, a friend of Dorothy’s from college. Claiming to know the identity of Dorothy’s “mystery” boyfriend, Patricia tells Jonathan the name of her hotel and asks him to convey her message to Ellen. A few hours later, the unsuspecting woman answers a knock at the door, and Jonathan barges in and strangles her. After stashing Patricia’s body in a suitcase, the killer goes out dancing with Ellen and asks her to marry him. They have a lavish ceremony and move into a glamorous apartment, a gift from Thor Carlsson. Sometime later, the duplicitous young man goes fishing with his father-in-law. The tycoon offers “Jay” a position in the Carlsson business. Ellen is upset with “Jay’s” sudden interest in wealth and upward mobility. Their marital tensions intensify when an investigator calls on Ellen, informing her that Patricia Farren has disappeared. When Ellen conjectures that her sister’s killer may still be alive, Jonathan demands that she quit obsessing over Dorothy’s death. That evening, Ellen watches the Alfred Hitchcock movie, Vertigo, indifferent to her husband’s apology. A few days later, the suitcase containing Patricia Farren’s body washes up on shore. Ellen calls Tommy Roussell’s parents to ask his whereabouts on the day of Dorothy’s death, and learns that he was not in Philadelphia at the time. Meanwhile, Thor expresses pleasure with “Jay’s” performance at the Carlsson Corp., though he reminds the industrious young man of the importance of family. Jonathan arrives home from work with a bouquet of roses for Ellen, and is shocked to see that she has dyed her hair blond. However, he compliments her new look and offers to take her out that evening. Over drinks at a restaurant, he presents her with a necklace from Tiffany’s. Just then, a University of Pennsylvania alumnus recognizes Jonathan, enthusiastically greeting his old friend. Jonathan accuses the man of being mistaken and storms out of the restaurant with Ellen. The next day, the suspicious heiress goes to the library and locates a college yearbook containing a photograph of Jonathan Corliss, whom she has always known as “Jay Faraday.” Under pretense of being an old college friend, Ellen calls Mrs. Corliss. The woman informs her that Jonathan died three years ago. Suspecting that Jonathan killed her sister, Ellen visits Mrs. Corliss at her small house on the outskirts of Philadelphia. The social call does not shed light on her sister’s tragedy, and Ellen breaks back into the house when Mrs. Corliss leaves for work. Inside, she searches Jonathan’s room for clues to his past. At the bottom of a suitcase filled with news clippings about the Carlsson family, she discovers a cigarette lighter engraved with her sister’s name. Just then, Jonathan appears in the doorway. The psychopath justifies his actions by aligning himself with “great men” like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller. Enraged, Ellen stabs him with a pocketknife, before fleeing. Jonathan gives chase, but runs into the path of an oncoming Carlsson Copper Corp. train, and is killed within sight of the room from which he used to watch the passing trains. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.