Favorite things about… Strangers on a Train

(Image via Happyotter)

The favorite film:
Strangers on a Train, a 1951 crime thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock for Warner Bros.

The synopsis:
Famed tennis player Guy Haines is on a train when he meets apparent super-fan Bruno Anthony. Odd conversation ensues, and Bruno can’t seem to quit bringing up all of the gossip that’s been surrounding Guy and his love life in the society pages.

Bruno proposes a plan that he thinks will solve both men’s problems: he’ll kill Guy’s wife Miriam (so Guy can marry Anne Morton), and Guy will kill Bruno’s father. It’s the perfect crime – or so Bruno thinks. Guy, on the other hand, thinks Bruno is a bit off his rocker and laughs off the plan.

But Bruno’s plan is no longer a laughing matter when Miriam actually turns up dead, and Bruno wants Guy to fulfill his part of the agreement.

The cast:
Farley Granger as Guy Haines; Robert Walker as Bruno Anthony; Ruth Roman as Anne Morton; Leo Carroll as Senator Morton; Pat Hitchcock as Barbara Morton; Kasey Rogers as Miriam Haines

(Screen capture by TMP)

Fun facts:

  • Alfred Hitchcock bought the rights to the novel for less than $10,000.
  • An earlier version of the script ended with Bruno shown thrashing around in a straight jacket, which was writer Raymond Chandler’s idea. Hitchcock wanted the film to end with Guy referring to Bruno as “clever.”
  • Credit where credit ain’t due: Raymond Chandler (Double Indemnity) gets top screenwriting credit, but the script was written almost entirely by Czenzi Ormonde. Ormonde got the gig because he was working as the assistant of Ben Hecht (who also worked with Hitch on Notorious), who Hitchcock originally asked to work on the screenplay.
  • Hitchcock wanted William Holden for the role of Guy.
  • Robert Walker passed away eight months after filming was complete, making this his last complete feature film.
  • Alfred Hitchcock directs his daughter in the role of Barbara Morton, and Pat is said to have directed her father in his cameo appearance in this film.

Favorite things:

  • I couldn’t talk about a favorite Hitchcock film without mentioning the trademarks that pop up in this film.
    • Guy’s lighter acting as the MacGuffin
    (Screen capture by TMP)
    • Hitch loved his stairs, and the stairs in the Anthony home are no exception. (Plus, there’s a puppy standing on them… which doesn’t have anything to do with the trademarks, but double win!)
    • The director makes a cameo as a man struggling to carry his cello onto the train.
  • Forrest Gump would appreciate the foot-filled opening sequence. (He’s worn lots of shoes.)
  • Bruno considers himself “too friendly” in his first conversation with Guy, when he’s actually being terribly rude.
  • Robert Walker plays crazy so well, from his very first frame. His performance in the role of Bruno is perfect.
  • The use of the song “The Band Played On” at the fair
  • Guy’s wife is so man-hungry that she doesn’t even find it creepy when Bruno stalks her at the fair. She seems flattered by it.
  • I usually find Farley Granger’s acting a bit stiff, but he pulls off his paranoid character here and gives one of the best performances I’ve ever seen from him.
  • Bruno charms the old ladies at the party with his expertise on murder.
  • Bruno’s crazy pajamas:
(Screen capture by TMP)
  • Bruno’s ability to exert mind control on just about everyone he meets
  • The serious suspense that builds as Guy tries to finish his match and beat Bruno back to the scene of the crime – it’s a wild chase like only Hitch can do it!
  •  If you ever feel the need to get into a fist fight with someone, definitely do it on a carousel.
  • Quotes:
    • Bruno: “I certainly admire people who do things.”
    • Bruno: “I’ve got a theory that you should do everything before you die.”
    • Bruno: “Some people are better off dead! Like your wife and my father, for instance.”
    • Guy: “It’s pretty late to start flirting with a discarded husband.”
    • Fair worker: “YOU JUST WON A KEWPIE DOLL!”
    • Bruno: “You see, you have the motive.”
    • Guy: “You crazy fool!”
      Bruno: “Don’t you call me that.”

    (Screen capture by TMP)
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12 thoughts on “Favorite things about… Strangers on a Train

  1. Loved this film. I absolutely loved the scene where Bruno is watching Guy at the tennis game. All the other spectators are watching the match going from left to right, but Guy is keeping perfectly still. I wasn’t fussed with Farley Granger in this but Robert Walker is brilliant! Great choice, this one!

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  2. I just realized my Dvd of “Strangers on a train” was left behind when I moved ;( Need to get another one asap and re-watch it! I didn’t know the first script had a different ending, that would have been an interesting one too. Are you excited to watch the new “Hitchcock”? I hope Hopkins did a good job!

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    1. I’m excited but wary, haha. I always go into biopics with a bit of hesitation, especially when they’re centered on people whose work I adore as much as I adore Hitch’s. I do have semi-high hopes for it after watching the trailer, though, and I love Helen Mirren.

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  3. Thanks for presenting a film from my favorite director for a ‘Favorite Things About’! Under the listing for ‘Favorite Things’, I’d have to add the moment where Bruno is at the carnival, and pops the little kid’s balloon with his cigarette; I first saw that sequence in a horror film compilation, and it was the catalyst that got me to seek out and watch Hitchcock films.

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    1. That’s a great scene!! Hitchcock is a favorite of mine as well, and I’ve seen a pretty big chunk of his work so you’ll definitely be seeing more of him in this series. I want to finish his filmography after I’m done working on Stanwyck’s!

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  4. Not my favorite Hitchcock, that would be Saboteur, but in my top six along with Lifeboat, Rear Window, North by Northwest, Notorious and The Birds.

    Robert Walker, poor tortured soul, was never better than here but was always a highly enjoyable screen presence. A real shame that he passed away so young he was just starting to move away from that aw shucks persona, pleasant though he made it, into much more challenging character work.

    Two other great performances in this, Marion Lorne is ideal as Bruno’s flibbertigibbet mother and Patricia Hitchcock hits all the right notes as Barbara.

    The one who really seems out of place although she gives a good performance is Ruth Roman as Anne. I’m a big fan of hers, she always gave far better performances than the decorative roles she was assigned deserved but she is the antithesis of the typical actress you would expect to see in this part in a Hitchcock film. Warners insisted that she be used since they had her under contract but either of her co-stars in the recently completed Three Secrets, Eleanor Parker and particularly Patricia Neal (both blonde at the time), would have seemed more to Hitchcock’s liking and more in tune with his vision of casting and both were Warner’s girls at the time. Hitchcock was rough on Ruth throughout filming which seems unfair since she had no choice under her contract but to accept the part.

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