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Film / Rehearsal for Murder

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Rehearsal for Murder is an American murder mystery television film starring Robert Preston and Lynn Redgrave, and directed by David Greene. The script, written by Richard Levinson and William Link, won a 1983 Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America. Also stars Jeff Goldblum and Patrick Macnee.

When his leading lady (and fiancée) Monica Welles (Redgrave) is found dead from an apparent suicide after the opening night of her Broadway stage debut, playwright Alex Dennison (Preston) is left heartbroken. On the first anniversary of her death, he gathers the cast and crew from that ill-fated night in the same Broadway theatre, ostensibly to read a new play he is working on, a mystery in which a famous actress is killed. As the reading progresses, the scenes seem to the cast to be uncomfortably close to actual encounters they might have had with Monica. When pressed, Alex finally reveals that he believes that Monica was murdered, and that someone at the theatre is her killer.

Rehearsal for Murder contains examples (or does it?) of:

  • Blackmail: Frank Heller was blackmailing Monica over their one night stand and threatening to tell her fiancé Alex. Monica decided not to pay and instead tried to call Alex to come clean. This is when Frank killed her.
  • Bluffing the Murderer: The entire plot is one of these... sort of. The twist is that the "cop" in the supposed Engineered Public Confession is the real killer whose knowledge of the contents of desk drawers after a staged killing prove that he was at the crime scene. It turns out to also be an actual Engineered Public Confession of a REAL cop hidden elsewhere in the theater. All the supposed suspects were in on it (the bluff I mean).
  • Death by Falling Over: Monica's death was actually caused by the killer giving her a shove that caused her to crack her head on a bookcase.
  • Disconnected by Death: Realising she is in terrible danger, Monica calls Alex, begging him to come over, only for the murderer to disconnect her call.
  • Engineered Public Confession: Alex's so-called play (which Walter points out is no more than a group of unrelated scenes) is designed to get the killer to confess, with a police officer waiting to hear the confession.
  • Fallen-on-Hard-Times Job: Frank Heller mentions having waited tables, worked in construction, and driven cabs between acting gigs.
  • Impersonating an Officer: Alex hires actor Frank Heller to pose as a police officer to prevent the suspects from leaving.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: The murderer gives themselves away by revealing that they knew Monica had a flashlight in her dresser drawer: something only someone who was in her bedroom on the night she died could have known.
  • The Ingenue: Karen was this at the time of the original play. In the year since, she has reinvented herself. Alex comments on her new image and she replies "It was time to stop playing the ingénue".
  • Motive Rant: The killer delivers one after being exposed; even hanging a lampshade on it by claiming that if they didn't, there would be no third act.
  • Never Suicide: Monica's murderer makes it look like she jumped to her death from her bedroom window. Alex is suspicious as soon as he arrives at the crime scene.
  • Notable Non Sequitur: When David leaves the party in the rain, he complains that there is a cab parked across the street with its off-duty light on. This casual comment will become important during The Summation.
  • Reviews Are the Gospel: In-Universe example. At the after party for the premiere of Chamber Music, the producer Walter and the director Lloyd are seen fretting as they await the arrival of the early editions of the papers. When the reviews are lukewarm at best, they philosophically accept that the fact that the play is probably going to fold. However, the police are later willing to accept that the bad reviews (and assumed failure of the play) is the reason why Monica commits suicide.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: Karen and Leo's motive revolves around them supposedly giving Monica a herbal tea to 'calm her nerves', which was actually spiked to make her too sick to perform on opening night.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Monica's personality changes dramatically in every flashback. This is because none of these scenes ever happened. They are being staged by the actors to throw off the murderer.