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A Kiss Before Dying (1991 film)

A Kiss Before Dying redirects here. For other uses, see A Kiss Before Dying (disambiguation).
A Kiss Before Dying (1991) is a British and American neo-noir film. It was directed by James Dearden, and based on the novel of the same name by Ira Levin whose book won the 1954 Edgar Award for "Best First Novel." It has been adapted for the cinema twice. The drama features Matt Dillon, Sean Young, and others.


Jonathan Corliss, Matt Dillon, is a schemer from the wrong side of the tracks with aspirations of wealth. Since childhood he has been obsessed with the fortunes of a company called Carlsson Copper.

While a student at the University of Pennsylvania, he plans to ingratiate himself with the wealthy family of magnate Thor Carlsson (Max von Sydow) and has begun secretly dating Carlsson's daughter Dorothy (Sean Young).

When Dorothy learns that she's pregnant she informs Jonathan that she'll be cut off without her inheritance when her father learns the truth. Jonathan decides to murder her, and makes it look like a suicide, then he moves to New York.

There, he makes the acquaintance of Ellen Carlsson (also played by Young), the late Dorothy's twin sister, and begins courting her.

This time he is more successful, winning Ellen's hand in marriage and a powerful position in his new father-in-law's company. However, Ellen has long been dubious of the circumstances surrounding her twin's death, and she probes deeper into the supposed suicide.

She uncovers alarming facts about some other murders and the identity of her sister's unknown lover.


Filming locations
The film was primarily shot in Great Britain and secondary locations were in the United States.

British locations include: Port Talbot steelworks, Cardiff, South Glamorgan, Wales, (opening sequence at "hot mill"); Brocket Hall, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, England; Gaddesden Place, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, England; Lee International Studios, Shepperton, Surrey, England; and London, England.

United States: Charlottesville, Virginia; New York City, New York; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


  • Matt Dillon as Jonathan Corliss
  • Sean Young as Ellen/Dorothy Carlsson (playing twins)
  • Diane Ladd as Mrs. Corliss
  • Max von Sydow as Thor Carlsson
  • James Bonfanti as Young Jonathan
  • Sarah Keller as Lecturer
  • Martha Gehman as Patricia Farren
  • Lia Chang as Shoe Saleslady
  • Yvette Edelhart as Screaming Lady
  • Jim Fyfe as Terry Dieter
  • Lachele Carl as Reporter
  • Briony Glassco as Waitress
  • Shane Rimmer as Commissioner Malley
  • James Russo as Dan Corelli
  • Adam Horovitz as Jay Faraday

Critical reception

Film critic, Roger Ebert, writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, liked the direction of the picture and Matt Dillon's work, and wrote, "This is Matt Dillon's first film since Drugstore Cowboy, and demonstrates again that he is one of the best actors working in movies. He possesses the secret of not giving too much, of not trying so hard that we're distracted by his performance...[and director] Dearden helps it work because he doesn't press his point.

Critic Peter Travers was not as kind in his review of this remake, especially when compared to the 1956 original. In a review in Rolling Stone magazine he blasts the screenplay and the direction of the film. He wrote: "Though Dearden gets the surface right – the movie looks sleek – he skimps on characterization...[and] Dearden's script fails to provide the raw material that would let him go beyond the stereotype...Dearden merely walks the cast through a gauntlet of film noir cliches

The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 40% of critics gave the film a positive review, based on ten reviews.


The producers used the following tagline when marketing the film:
Loving him was easy. Trusting him was deadly.

The film opened in wide release on April 26, 1991 in the United States. In England it opened on June 14, 1991.

The box-office receipts were poor. The first week's gross was $4,348,165 and the total receipts for the four week run were $14,478,720. The film was in wide release for thirty-one days.

In its widest release the film was featured in 1,546 theaters across the country.

Comparisons to novel

This remake, while leaving Corliss' character basically unchanged (other than renaming him Jonathon), drastically changed the story of the novel.

Corliss fakes his own suicide after murdering Dorothy, and re-emerges as "Jay Faraday" to woo and marry Ellen (the "Mary" character was written out of the film).

The "Grant" character in the novel was recast as a homicide detective who had investigated Dorothy's death. Also, in the remake, Corliss meets his end while attempting to kill Ellen after she discovers who he really is; while chasing her down, and for the sake of irony, he is run over by one of her father's trains.

Unsolicited awards


  • Golden Raspberry Awards: Razzie Award; Worst Actress, Sean Young, for playing the twin who survives; 1992.
  • Golden Raspberry Awards: Razzie Award; Worst Supporting Actress, Sean Young, for playing the twin who's murdered; 1992.

See also




External links

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