STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (1951): “You do my murder and I do yours.”

STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (1951) – Warner Bros. – ★★★★1/2

B&W – 101 minutes – 1.33:1 aspect ratio

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Principal cast:  Farley Granger (Guy Haines), Ruth Roman (Anne Morton),  Robert Walker (Bruno Antony), Leo G. Carroll (Senator Morton), Patricia Hitchcock (Barbara Morton), Laura Elliott (Miriam Haines).

Screenplay by Raymond Chandler, Czenzi Ormonde and Whitfield Cook based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith

Cinematography by Robert Burks

Edited by William H. Ziegler

Music by Dimitri Tiomkin

Hitchcock at Warners:  Alfred Hitchcock completed Stage Fright, which was distributed by Warner Bros., just before he entered production on Strangers on a Train.  Hitchcock had found a new professional home, signing a multi-picture deal with Jack Warner.  Stage Fright, while it had not lost money, was certainly no blockbuster, and even Hitchcock himself seemed indifferent towards the movie.  Things would be different with his next film.  He was completely engaged, and definitely firing on all cylinders creatively.  As we take a look at the story of Strangers on a Train, we will see how Hitchcock used creative visuals throughout to advance and enhance the narrative.

A chance encounter?  The movie opens with scenes inter-cutting between two pairs of very different shoes.  Two men disembark from taxis, and enter a train station.  They are never seen above the knee, as one moves from left to right, and the other from right to left.  The way the scene is shot and edited, along with the music, seem to imply that they are moving inexorably towards one another.

We then see a train moving down the track, from a low camera angle.  The intersecting railroad tracks suggest divergent lives that are about to intersect.

Hitchcock said of this opening:  The shots of the rails in Strangers on a Train were the logical extension of the motif with the feet.  Practically, I couldn’t have done anything else.  The camera practically grazed the rails because it couldn’t be raised.

Then our two pairs of feet finally collide.  One could almost call this a “meet cute”, because there is at least a slight homoerotic undertone to the relationship.  One man, Guy Haines (played by Farley Granger), accidentally bumps his foot against the man sitting opposite him.  This man, Bruno Antony (Robert Walker) recognizes Guy as a tennis player, and engages him in conversation.  Bruno, talking almost non-stop, demonstrates that he knows quite a bit about Guy, including the fact that he wishes to be divorced from his wife, so he can be with Anne Morton, a senator’s daughter.   Bruno entices Guy back to his compartment for lunch.

Bruno is clearly an eccentric character, from his lobster-print tie to his many bizarre theories, and he has a delicate nature.  Guy finds him a little odd, and slightly amusing, but ultimately harmless.  Perhaps Guy feels a little sorry for him.  Bruno proposes one of his many “theories” to Guy:  the idea of a murder swap.  Two people have someone in their life that they would like to be rid of (such as Guy’s wife and Bruno’s father), but they can’t do it because of the motive.  But if they, complete strangers, swap murders, they will both be in the clear.  “You like my idea, don’t you Guy? You think it’s OK?”  asks Bruno.  “Sure” Guy assures him, “they’re all OK.”  Guy thinks he is just humoring this strange fellow, not endorsing his scheme.

Guy meets with his estranged wife Miriam, played to shrewish perfection by Laura Elliott.  She refuses to divorce him, saying she wants him back, even though she is pregnant with another man’s child.  When Bruno hears of this, he sets out to put his “theory” into practice.

Hitchcock has a marvelous sequence at a carnival, where Bruno follows Miriam and her two (!) male companions.  Bruno is not secretive about it;  rather, he makes sure that she sees him.  And she appears interested.  Even as she is with two other men, she is measuring the potential sexual prowess of a third.  She marvels at his strength when he rings the bell at the strongman game, and he wiggles his eyebrows at her, flexing his hands.  Miriam does not realize that this very strength which she is attracted to will be the instrument of her death.  Bruno follows the trio into the tunnel of love, and we get this interesting shot, as Bruno’s boat, and his figure, seem to overtake and engulf Miriam.

Finally they end up on an island, a lover’s lane of sorts, and Bruno strangles Miriam to death.  The scene begins quite violently.

The censors would never have allowed the entire strangulation to take place on screen, so Hitchcock found a very creative way to show her death.

Miriam’s glasses drop to the ground, and the act of strangulation is completed in the reflection of the glasses.  This was achieved by constructing a giant, oversized set of reflective glasses.  Actress Laura Elliott recalls that Hitchcock then instructed her to “float to the ground.”

Bruno then waits outside Guy’s house to tell him that his wife is dead and he is free.  Naturally, Bruno expects that Guy will fulfill his end of the bargain by killing Bruno’s father.   Notice how this scene is staged.  First Bruno is standing behind a gate, implying his guilt.

Then, when the police show up at Guy’s door, he too hides behind the gate.  Now he is complicit in the crime.  He tells Bruno “Now you have me acting like a guilty man.”  And of course he is guilty of wishing Miriam dead.  After all, he really did want his wife out of the way, and now it has happened.

The next section of the film has Bruno continually inserting himself into Guy’s life,  a constant reminder of the crime that has been committed, and the crime that Bruno wishes to still be committed.  Meanwhile, the police are suspicious of Guy in the death of his wife.

In one unforgettable shot,  Bruno observes Guy from a great distance, on the steps of the Jefferson memorial.

In a 1955 interview in Cahiers du Cinema Hitchcock describes this shot:  In Strangers on a Train I had to show a menacing crazy man.  I couldn’t use close-ups all the time;  that’s boring.  So I had the idea of using a small silhouette.  The grandiose Jefferson Memorial in Washington, all white, with a little silhouette, oh so black.  That was the equivalent of a close-up.

Then we have an ingenious shot at a tennis match.  Every head in the crowd is swivelling back and forth, left to right, following the path of the ball.  Every head except one:  that of Bruno, who stares directly at Guy.

Finally Guy goes to Bruno’s house.  Is he going to kill Bruno’s father?  Greater suspense is added to the scene with the inclusion of a large dog on the stairwell.   Bruno gets past the dog and into the father’s room.   He has not come to kill him, but rather to warn him about his crazy son.  Unfortunately, it is Bruno in his father’s bed.

Hitchcock describes this sequence as follows:  …in that scene we first have a suspense effect, through the threatening dog, and later on we have a surprise effect when the person in the room turns out to be Robert Walker instead of his father.  I remember we went to a lot of trouble getting that dog to lick Farley Granger’s hand.

Bruno tells Guy that he will set him up for the murder of his wife.  He has possession of Guy’s cigarette lighter, and Guy realizes that he will take it back to the location of the murder, in an attempt to frame him.

This sets up the film’s finale.  First there is a masterful sequence, showing Guy trying to win a tennis match as fast as possible, intercut with Bruno on his way to the amusement park.  Bruno drops the lighter in a storm drain and struggles to get it out.

Hitchcock described this sequence in a 1950 interview with New York Times Magazine:  In Strangers on a Train, the picture I am working on now, we are really exploiting the dramatic possibilities of movement.  The hero plays a championship tennis match, knowing all the while that the villain is moving deliberately toward the execution of a piece of dirty work which will leave the hero hopelessly incriminated.  He must play as hard and as fast as he can in order to win the match, get off the court, and overtake the villain…The camera, cutting alternately from the frenzied hurry of the tennis player to the slow operation of his enemy, creates a kind of counterpoint between two kinds of movement.

The finale of the movie is a showstopper of a sequence, which takes place on an out-of-control carousel, where Guy and Bruno face off, with the police watching.

The shooting of this sequence involved a real moving carousel, a static carousel with a moving screen behind, and a miniature.  All combine seamlessly;  the sequence holds up rather well.

Bruno refuses to confess to the murder, even as he is dying, but he is betrayed by the very object that he hoped to use to pin the murder on Guy.   This is a near-flawless film, that deserves to be mentioned among Hitchcock’s best works.

Performance:   Farley Granger is wonderful in the leading role of Guy Haines.  I find it interesting that Hitchcock wanted William Holden for the role.  Certainly Holden was a great actor, but his macho persona was not what this role needs.  Even as Guy is repulsed by Bruno, he still continues to show empathy, and I don’t think Holden could have pulled it off.  Ruth Roman, while a competent actress, plays the part with a cold detachment.  There is little chemistry between Granger and Roman.  As was frequently the case in a Hitchcock movie, the best role belongs to the villain, and Robert Walker is one of the best Hitchcock villains of all.  He is in some ways a precursor to Anthony Perkins’ Norman Bates;  a charming but fragile man, who has mental health issues exacerbated by his mother.   Hitchcock’s daughter Patricia, who plays Ruth Roman’s younger sister, steals every scene she is in.  This is the best part she ever had in a feature film, and she plays it perfectly.  Leo G. Carroll is solid, as always, in the role of Senator Morton.  And Marion Lorne, who will forever be remembered as Aunt Clara from TV’s Bewitched, plays Bruno’s mother with a brilliant comic touch.

Source material:  This movie is based on the debut novel of Patricia Highsmith.  Highsmith would go on to write many psychological thrillers, with a taut but textured literary style.  The novel Strangers on a Train differs in a few significant ways from the film.  The overall premise is the same;  the chance meeting on the train and Bruno’s idea for swapping murders.  In the novel, Guy is an architect rather than a tennis player.   The biggest difference is that in the book, Guy actually does murder Bruno’s father, completing the double murder compact.  But Bruno keeps coming around, wanting to befriend Guy.  Eventually Bruno accidentally drowns, which would seem to leave Guy in the clear.  But at some point he feels compelled to confess to his ex-wife’s lover, and this confession is overheard by a detective.  Guy turns willingly turns himself in at the end.  Never content to focus just on the plot and characters, Highsmith would often delve into psychological ruminations about the nature of people.   Here is one such excerpt of many to be found in this book:

But love and hate, he thought now, good and evil, lived side by side in the human heart, and not merely in differing proportions in one man and the next, but all good and all evil. One had merely to look for a little of either to find it all, one had merely to scratch the surface. All things had opposites close by, every decision a reason against it, every animal an animal that destroys it, the male the female, the positive the negative.

The thrilling carousel climax of the film is nowhere to be found in this book, but appears to be lifted directly from the 1946 novel The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin. Could it be coincidental?  Possibly, although there are many similarities.   At any rate, Crispin was not credited on the film at all.

Recurring players:  Farley Granger had earlier starred in Rope.  Hitchcock favorite Leo G. Carroll was also in Rebecca, Suspicion, Spellbound, The Paradine Case and North by Northwest.  Hitchcock’s daughter Patricia also had small roles in Stage Fright and Psycho.  Murray Alper (carnival boat operator who recognizes Bruno) had appeared in Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Saboteur.  Al Bridge (tennis judge) had an earlier uncredited role in Saboteur.  Leonard Carey (the Antony’s butler) also had small parts in Rebecca, Suspicion and The Paradine Case.  Herbert Evans had appeared in Foreign Correspondent.  Tommy Farrell (one of Miriam’s escorts to the carnival) would later turn up as an elevator operator in North by Northwest.  Sam Flint (man who asks Bruno for a light on the train) would later turn up in Psycho as a county sheriff.  Charles Sherlock (cop) was Barry’s taxi driver in Saboteur.  And Robert Williams (bystander at drain) would later turn up in North by Northwest. 

Leo G. Carroll, Ruth Roman, and Patricia Hitchcock.

Academy Awards:  This film received one Oscar nod.  Robert Burks was nominated for best Black and White Cinematography.  He did not win.

Where’s Hitch?  Hitchcock’s cameo comes at about the 10:30 mark.  As Farley Granger is exiting the train in Metcalf, Hitchcock is boarding the train, while carrying a double bass.

What Farley said:  In his autobiography Include Me Out, Farley Granger had the following to say about his love interest in the film, Ruth Roman:

Warner Brothers was producing Strangers, and Ruth was under contract to them.  Hitch had wanted the then-little-known young actress Grace Kelly for the part, but Warners had refused.  Since they had to pay MGM to use Bob and Goldwyn to use me, they insisted that he use Ruth, who was really not right for the part.  Hitch did not like his artistic wishes thwarted.  As a result, he was cold and sometimes cruel to Ruth, which was unfair because as a contract player she was just doing what her studio told her to do.   But Hitch was right, she was wrong for the part.

Farley does not elaborate on why he thought she was wrong.  About working on the movie, he said:

All in all, working on Strangers on a Train was my happiest filmmaking experience… [Hitch] knew exactly what he wanted and how to get it…After he finished a setup, he would walk to the assistant, who would turn over a page.  Hitch would look at it and say:  The camera goes here, here and there; the lenses are this, this and that; the action takes place from here to there.  Then he would relax while the crew got things ready.  They respected and trusted him because he was able to be precise about what he wanted.  He never had to peer through a lens finder to see how a shot looked.

Patricia Hitchcock as Barbara Morton. Bruno becomes very disturbed when he sees her, because she reminds him of Miriam.

What Hitch said:  Hitchcock was proud of several moments in Strangers on a Train, but he still considered it a flawed film.  I think he is a little harsh in his assessment of this movie, which is a bona fide Hitchcock classic.  Among other things, he said:

As I see it, the flaws of Strangers on a Train were the ineffectiveness of the two main actors and the weakness of the final script.  If the writing of the dialogue had been better, we’d have had stronger characterizations.  The great problem with this type of picture, you see, is that your main characters sometimes tend to become mere figures…I was quite pleased with the over-all form of the film and with the secondary characters.  I particularly liked the woman who was murdered; you know, the bitchy wife who worked in a record shop.  Bruno’s mother was good too – she was just as crazy as her son.

I think the script is rather solid, with lots of well-penned dialogue.  Obviously it was not what Hitchcock was hoping for.  About his starring couple, he had the following harsh words:

She [Ruth Roman] was Warner Brother’s leading lady, and I had to take her on because I had no other actors from that company.  But I must say that I wasn’t too pleased with Farley Granger;  he’s a good actor, but I would have like to see William Holden in the part because he’s stronger.  In this kind of story the stronger the hero, the more effective the situation.

Definitive edition:  Warner Brothers 2012 blu-ray release is the best version of this film available for home viewing.  In addition to a sensational print of the film, the blu-ray also includes an alternate preview version, which has some slight, subtle differences from the final cut;  an excellent commentary track including archival audio from people like Hitchcock himself, Whitfield Cook, Patricia Hitchcock, Peter Bogdanovich, and many more contributors.  Also included are five featurettes:  a 36-minute making-of documentary; The Victim’s P.O.V, which is a 7-minute interview with the actress who played Miriam; a 12 minute appreciation by director M. Night Shyamalan;  a featurette with Hitchcock’s daughter and granddaughters; and a one-minute archival clip with no audio, likely from the promotional tour from the movie.  Also included is the original theatrical trailer.



ROPE (1948): “Did you think you were God? Is that what you thought when you served food from his grave?”

ROPE (1948) – Transatlantic Pictures – Rating:  ★★★ 1/2

Color – 80 mins. – 1.37:1 aspect ratio

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Principal cast:  James Stewart (Rupert Cadell), Farley Granger (Phillip Morgan), John Dall (Brandon Shaw), Cedric Hardwicke (Mr. Kentley), Constance Collier (Mrs. Atwater), Joan Chandler (Janet Walker), Edith Evanson (Mrs. Wilson), Douglas Dick (Kenneth Lawrence).

Written by Hume Cronyn (treatment), Arthur Laurents (screenplay)

Cinematography:   Joseph A. Valentine

Edited by:  William H. Ziegler



On May 7, 1947 Alfred Hitchcock wrapped production on The  Paradine Case, bringing to a close his nearly eight year affiliation with David O. Selznick.  Although the Selznick/Hitchcock  period began rather auspiciously with Rebecca in 1940, it was drawing to an  unsatisfying close.  Cast and crew alike seemed to sense  that The Paradine Case was doomed to failure.   But  Hitchcock himself seemed little phased.  As at other points of  his career when he was making what he felt to be a  substandard picture (e.g. Waltzes From Vienna, Jamaica Inn)  his mind was already on his next project.

And that project was titled Rope, and would be the first film made by Transatlantic Picures, a production company founded by Hitchcock and partner Sidney Bernstein.   Transatlantic Pictures made a deal with Warner Brothers for distribution, beginning an association between Hitchcock and Warners that would last for several years.

Rope is an unconventional film, both in story and in structure.  It begins with two young men murdering their friend, just for the thrill of it.  They then place his body in a trunk, and proceed to host a dinner party, serving the food from the very trunk which holds the body.  The party guests are all intimately related to the young victim as well, including his father, his aunt, his girlfriend, and his best friend.    The most interesting guest however is Rupert Cadell, former prep-school housemaster of the murderers and the victim.  Over the course of the evening, he suspects that something is awry,  and will ultimately figure out exactly what happened.

Continuous action:   Perhaps it is best to let Hitchcock himself describe the manner in which Rope was filmed:

I wanted to do a picture with no time lapses – a picture in which the camera never stops… As I see it, there’s nothing like continuous action to sustain the mood of actors, particularly in a suspense story.  In Rope the entire action takes place between the setting of the sun and the hour of darkness.  There are a murder, a party, mounting tension, detailed psychological characterizations, the gradual discovery of the crime and the solution.  Yet all this consumes less than two hours of real life as well as ‘reel’ life.

So Rope is meant to play out in real time, with the 80-minute running time equaling 80 minutes of story time.  There are 10 editorial cuts in the movie, meaning that the takes average 8 minutes in length.  That is a long period of time to film without cutting.  Imagine an actor flubbing his line, or a technical mistake, at the seven-minute mark.  That meant resetting to the beginning of the sequence and starting over.  Here is Hitch again:

Rope was a miracle of cueing.  Everybody; actors, cameramen, the prop crew, the electricians, the script supervisors, spent two solid weeks of rehearsals before a camera turned.  Even before the set was built I worked out each movement on a blackboard in my home…Whole walls of the apartment had to slide away to allow the camera to follow the actors through narrow doors, then swing back noiselessly to show a solid room…Tables and chairs had to be pulled away by prop men, then set in place again by the time the camera returned to its original position…But the most magical of all the devices was the cyclorama – an exact miniature reproduction of nearly 35 miles of New York skyline lighted by 8,000 incandescent bulbs and 200 neon signs…On film the miniature looks exactly like Manhattan at night as it would appear from the window of an apartment at 54th Street and First Avenue.

rope5In the above picture, you can view the cyclorama in the background.  The clouds, made of spun glass, would “move” across the cyclorama as the action progressed.  And as the late afternoon turned to evening, the sky would darken, and the lights in the buildings would turn on.


Now here is the same cyclorama seen from a more close-up angle, and later in the evening.

Source material:  The movie is based upon the 1929 play by Patrick Hamilton, which in turn was inspired by the Leopold and Loeb case.  (Leopold and Loeb were two University of Chicago students who murdered a fourteen year old boy to demonstrate their “intellectual superiority” in pulling off the perfect crime.  They were caught and sentenced to life in prison.)   Arthur Laurents’ screenplay follows the structure of the play fairly closely, with a couple of minor changes.  The setting is moved from London to New York.  In the play, it is a blue theatre ticket that provides the final clue for Rupert Cadell to solve the crime;  in the movie it is the victim’s hat, which is given to Rupert by accident, that serves as a clue.

Overall the dialogue of Laurents’ screenplay is better than the original play, but there is some delicious dialogue in the play that didn’t make it to the movie including a great self-referential moment, as the denouement approaches, when the character of Rupert says “It is the hour when jaded London theatre audiences are settling down in the darkness to the last acts of plays” which is of course exactly what the very audience listening to this dialogue was doing!  But Arthur Laurents creates his own referential joke in his screenplay.  When Mrs. Atwater and Janet (played by Constance Collier and Joan Chandler) are discussing movies, Mrs. Atwater is swooning over Cary Grant.   She says “He was thrilling in that new thing with Bergman.  What was it called now?  The ‘something of the something’?  No, it was just plain ‘something'”.  This is, of course, a reference to Alfred Hitchcock’s own film Notoriouswhich had been a hit two years earlier, in 1946.   Hitchcock must have appreciated the in-joke.

Hitchcock and homosexuality:  There are several Hitchcock films that have homosexual undertones, but nowhere is the theme more prevalent than in Rope.   Leopold and Loeb, the actual killers that inspired the story, were in a relationship.   And that relationship remains intact in the Patrick Hamilton play.  So it is only natural that it would be carried over to the screen version as well.  Of course gay themes were strictly taboo in 1948 Hollywood, so they had to be implied through subtleties of screenplay and acting.  It probably helped that the movie’s screenwriter, Arthur Laurents, was gay.  The two actors who played the homosexual killers, Farley Granger and John Dall, were gay as well.  As a matter of fact, Laurents and Granger were in a relationship at the time the movie was in production.   Granger had this to say in his autobiography:  “John Dall and I discussed the subtext of our scenes together.  We knew that Hitch knew what he was doing and had built sexual ambiguity into his presentation of the material.”  Watch the early scenes between Dall and Granger, watch how close they get to one another, listen to the tone of Granger’s voice.  The relationship is hiding in plain sight.  When Phillip asks Brandon “How did you feel, during it?”  He is asking about the murder, but the viewer can imagine that same query in an entirely different scenario.  Later, when Brandon (played by John Dall), is describing Phillip (Farley Granger) strangling chickens,  Phillip vehemently denies ever strangling a chicken.    There are layers to the guilt here.  Phillip feels guilty because he has recently strangled a person, but the phrase “choking the chicken” also has another entirely different connotation.   This entwining of guilt that Phillip feels, his double secret ( he is a murderer, and he is gay), continues throughout the film.

The entire cast of the film sit with Alfred Hitchcock (far right) in front of the beautiful New York City backdrop.

Performance:   There are only eight characters in the film (nine if you count David Kentley, but he is killed in the first minute).   I’ve already discussed the good performances of John Dall and Farley Granger.  Everyone else is solid in this as well.  Cedrick Hardwicke and Constance Collier, two veterans of the stage, are clearly in their element in this film involving long takes.  Joan Chandler, Douglas Dick, and Edith Evanson are well cast too.  But the biggest surprise here is Jimmy Stewart.  Stewart later admitted that he was miscast in this role, but his performance is very good.  In the original stage play, the character of Rupert Cadell was the boys’ housemaster at school, and he exposed them to the idea of intellectually superior beings, who could kill “lesser” people with impunity.  But he also “taught” them something else as well;  for in the play, Rupert is gay as well, and probably was involved with both young men at some point.   Well there was no way Jimmy Stewart was going to play a gay character; even an implied homosexual element was out of the question.  So Jimmy played it straight.  His character works like a detective, sensing something strange about this dinner party from the very beginning, then gathering evidence until the final scene, when he uncovers the truth and summons the police.

Hitchcock and color:  Rope was shot in Technicolor, the first color movie in Hitchcock’s career.   Hitchcock had some very interesting thoughts on color which are worth sharing.  He said:

I never wanted to make a Technicolor picture merely for the sake of using color.  I waited until I could find a story in which color could play a dramatic role, and still be muted to a low key…The key role played by color in this film is in the background.  I insisted that color be used purely as the eye received it…We must bear in mind that, fundamentally, there’s no such thing as color; in fact, there’s no such thing as a face, because until the light hits it, it is nonexistent.  After all, one of the first things I learned in the School of Art was that there is no such thing as a line; there’s only the light and the shade.

Theatrical trailer:  Throughout the course of his career, Alfred Hitchcock had many unique and innovative trailers made for his movies.  The trailer for Rope is one of the most interesting.  It begins with a scene featuring the characters David Kentley and Janet Walker, sitting on a bench in Central Park.   David is killed in the very first moment of the film, and has no dialogue (other than a scream).  And yet here he is, conversing with Janet in a scene that could function as a prologue to the film!  The trailer is narrated by Jimmy Stewart, and can be viewed here.   (Please note:  All rights to this film are owned by Universal Pictures.)

Recurring players:  James Stewart would later appear in Rear Window, The Man Who Knew Too Much remake, and Vertigo.  Farley Granger would reunite with Hitchcock in Strangers on a Train.  Cedric Hardwicke also appeared in Suspicion.  And Edith Evanson would appear in Marnie almost 20 years later.


Where’s Hitch?  One could say that Hitchcock has two cameos in this movie.   Since the action all takes place in one apartment, he first decided to insert himself by creating a neon sign of his famous profile, which is visible out the window at about the 55 minute mark.  The profile is difficult to recognize on a small screen, and the word that appears underneath it in neon is pretty much impossible to see.  And that word is “Reduco”, the weight-loss aid that was the basis of Hitchcock’s cameo in Lifeboat.  (So the neon sign is an advertisement, justifying its appearance on the New York skyline.)  Perhaps because it was so hard to spot, or so unconventional, Hitchcock shot a more straightforward cameo;  he can be seen walking down the street from left to right with an unknown woman at about 1:58, just after his director credit fades.


Look closely!  There is Hitch’s profile, over the word “Reduco”.

What the actors said:  In his autobiography, Farley Granger said that “Rope was an interesting technical experiment that I was lucky and happy to be a part of, but I don’t think it was one of Hitchcock’s better films.”

Jimmy Stewart said that “Rope wasn’t my favorite picture”, and observed that the film was “nothing more than an experiment.”  However, he followed that by saying “I’m glad I did it, and I’ll go on record as saying I’ll make a picture for Alfred Hitchcock anytime.”

Hume Cronyn, who appeared as an actor in two Hitchcock films, wrote the original story treatment for Rope with Hitch.  Here is what Hume had to say in his autobiography about writing with Hitchcock:

    When Hitch found a story he liked, he enjoyed talking about it.  He would spin the tale and dwell lovingly on its climaxes, its surprises, and how the camera would enhance these.  I can see him now, seated, waving his thick, stubby-fingered hands about, simulating the camera movements…He thought in images…Hitch and I would sit in the garden of his Bel Air house, talk, discuss and argue; then I would go back to North Rockingham Avenue and put it all down on paper.  We did not meet every day; I was too busy scribbling for that.  When we did meet, there were certain hazards to be avoided; one of the most severe was that I should not get drunk.  Hitch was a great believer in a relaxed approach to work and before lunch the wine bottle would appear and he would decant on the vineyard, the vintage, and the nature of the grape as he poured and poured again.

What Hitch said:  Hitchcock had the same reservations about this film as his actors did, saying “I undertook Rope as a stunt, that’s the only way I can describe it…As an experiment, Rope may be forgiven.”  Not a very ringing endorsement.  Perhaps the most significant thing he said is in reference to the technical aspects of the production:  “…technique is merely a means to an end and the audience must never be aware the  camera, the director, or the photographer is performing miracles.  Everything must flow smoothly and naturally.”

Alfred Hitchcock clowning around with his three leading men, in a publicity photo for “Rope.”

Definitive edition:  The 2012 blu-ray release of Rope, from Universal, is the best available sound and picture quality for this movie.  The print is very clean, although the colors occasionally look washed or faded.  Extra features include a 32-minute documentary titled Rope Unleashed, which features interviews with Farley Granger and screenwriter Arthur Laurents.  Also included are production photos, and the original theatrical trailer.