Ray Milland did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Tony Wendice in Dial M For Murder.
Ray Milland here portrays the man who hires another man to murder his wife. Ray Milland is especially cultured and dignified in this performance as a wannabe murderer. Milland plays it down the line as a villain all the way, even if he sort of a small scale one. There is not a hint of empathy for his wife he plans to murder. Milland does not show a hint of wishing her anything but the worst. Something very particular about his performance is just how cold Milland is regarding to his portrayal of Tony. Even though the motivation of his murder is that his wife Margot was having an affair with an American mystery writer Mark (Robert Cummings), there is never a moment of outburst or anger in Milland's portrayal even when Tony reveals his true thoughts.
This is not to say Milland does not show Tony's hatred of both of them, he most certainly does. Milland though is far more effective in portraying Tony's vile motivations by being quite subtle in his performance. Milland shows it in these slightest devious and incisive expression as he tells the story of his plan to his would be hit man. When he takes particularly note on that when he first found about the affair he planned to murder them both Milland shows in his eyes the full extent of his desire to his wife killed for the betrayal. Milland does not dwell on this in his portrayal though always making it abundantly clear that Tony is a man who is always very much in control of his emotions, and his biggest concern is the plan at hand.
Milland is terrific in portraying the cold calculations of Tony as he lays out the plan to his pawn who he wishes to use to perform the deed he wants done. Milland shows no hesitation in Tony, he conveys a brilliance in his planning that Tony knows exactly what he is doing, or at least Tony is extremely satisfied to the level in which he has set up his plan. What works so well about Milland performance he how much enjoyment he infuses into Tony's description of his plan. Milland is wonderful as he presents Tony as almost eating up with delight every word he is staying clearly portraying that Tony is very very proud of himself, and has spent a great deal of time and energy on devising his plan.
When he is not hiring someone to kill his wife though Tony shows no hostilities toward his wife, and in fact acts as if he is not even aware that his wife is having an affair. Milland once again portrays Tony with great efficiency as he is completely believable in fooling both his wife and her lover that he is a completely unassuming man. Now Milland still has that glint in his eyes that always underlies the true nature of Tony, but Milland actually is realistic in being the Tony everyone thinks he is. There is not that deviousness just a pleasant man, and Milland even makes Tony supposed confusion as the events unfold. He is just as convincing as the hapless husband, as he is as the true Tony with murderous intentions.
After about halfway through the film Tony's act is implemented, and the rest of the film deals with the fallout of the results. Tony who no longer has a moment to himself makes it so Milland performance becomes a series of reactions shots in trying to portray the true feeling of Tony, as he forced to put on his facade the rest of the time. This is not a criticism in the least though, as again Milland makes the absolute most out of all of them. They are quick moments to delve into Tony's psyche in the moments. They are all effectively portrayed whether he is showing Tony noticing a detail he needs to change, or which are probably the best moments when Tony sees that his perfect plan is not nearly as perfect as he thought.
Milland is able to pull us into the killer view, basically through just how much pride and dignity he has in the role. Tony although is a rather despicable individual, he portrays the part with such gusto that he never comes off as such. Milland knows how to have just the right amount of fun in his performance to lighten the whole atmosphere of Tony's horrible deed, yet he is still keeps the film thoroughly grounded in portraying both Tony's motivations as well as his ability to keep his true intentions under wraps. This is a great performance by Ray Milland that makes this one murderous husband that is extremely easy to watch as he undergoes his plan.