Rope (1948)

80 or 83 mins | Drama | 25 September 1948

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HISTORY

The working title of this film was The Rope . Patrick Hamilton's play, which loosely parallels the notorious 1920s Leopold and Loeb murder case, was produced in New York under the title Rope's End . On 2 Mar 1946, LAT reported that Noel Madison was organizing a company to film the play. A 20 Nov 1948 LAEx news item noted that M-G-M had been interested in filming the play as a vehicle for Gregory Peck. Using an unprecedented technique, director Alfred Hitchcock shot the film entirely in uninterrupted 10 minute takes, the length of a reel of film. To mask the necessary breaks when the reel was changed, Hitchcock moved the camera in close on the back of a character until it filled the frame and then pulled away to begin the next shot. The actors and technicians underwent fifteen days of rehearsals to accommodate this unusual procedure.
       The action of the film takes place in real time, between seven and eight-thirty in the evening. Contemporary sources note that the set used "wild walls," walls that rolled on overhead tracks, to allow the camera to follow the actors without a break in the shot. An article in Look magazine reports that Hitchcock mounted the camera on a specially built dolly to give it access to all parts of the set. Head grip Morris Rosen, who invented the dolly, was nominated for an Academy Award. Behind the window of the apartment set, a cyclorama portrayed "an exact miniature reproduction of nearly 35 miles of New York skyline lighted by 6,000 incandescent bulbs and 200 neon ... More Less

The working title of this film was The Rope . Patrick Hamilton's play, which loosely parallels the notorious 1920s Leopold and Loeb murder case, was produced in New York under the title Rope's End . On 2 Mar 1946, LAT reported that Noel Madison was organizing a company to film the play. A 20 Nov 1948 LAEx news item noted that M-G-M had been interested in filming the play as a vehicle for Gregory Peck. Using an unprecedented technique, director Alfred Hitchcock shot the film entirely in uninterrupted 10 minute takes, the length of a reel of film. To mask the necessary breaks when the reel was changed, Hitchcock moved the camera in close on the back of a character until it filled the frame and then pulled away to begin the next shot. The actors and technicians underwent fifteen days of rehearsals to accommodate this unusual procedure.
       The action of the film takes place in real time, between seven and eight-thirty in the evening. Contemporary sources note that the set used "wild walls," walls that rolled on overhead tracks, to allow the camera to follow the actors without a break in the shot. An article in Look magazine reports that Hitchcock mounted the camera on a specially built dolly to give it access to all parts of the set. Head grip Morris Rosen, who invented the dolly, was nominated for an Academy Award. Behind the window of the apartment set, a cyclorama portrayed "an exact miniature reproduction of nearly 35 miles of New York skyline lighted by 6,000 incandescent bulbs and 200 neon signs requiring 150 transformers," according to publicity material included in the file on the film at the AMPAS Library.
       Rope was the first film released by Transatlantic Pictures, a company formed by Hitchcock and British chain theater owner Sidney Bernstein, and was the first film that Hitchcock shot using Technicolor. By showing sunset, the darkening sky and a flashing neon light outside the apartment window, the director used color to enhance the feeling of suspense and time passage. A 19 Feb 1948 HR news item notes that Warner Bros. made a two-reel film, designed to be shown to professional groups, on the techniques Hitchcock used to make Rope . Rope was the first of four films that actor James Stewart made with the director.
       Although some modern sources state that Hitchcock, who almost always made a cameo in his films, appears in Rope via a red neon light that flashes his well-known profile outline that was used on his television show, he actually appears as a man walking down the sidewalk, just after the opening credits. According to an interview with screenwriter Arthur Laurents, included on the film's 2000 DVD release, Hitchcock had planned to use the neon sign but decided it would be too "jokey" given the serious nature of the film, and so made the other appearance instead. Although a red neon sign was seen in the viewed print, it could not be discerned if it actually was Hitchcock's profile.
       Modern sources add the following information about the film: The homosexual content of the play was toned down for the film, and the role of "Rupert" was softened for James Stewart. Hitchcock had hoped to cast Cary Grant as "Rupert Cadell" and Montgomery Clift as "Brandon." The film was re-issued in 1983. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
Jul 48
pp. 230-31.
Box Office
28 Aug 1948.
---
Daily Variety
26 Aug 48
p. 3, 8
Film Daily
26 Aug 48
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Feb 1946.
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 Oct 1946.
---
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jan 1948.
---
Hollywood Reporter
2 Feb 48
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Feb 48
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Aug 48
p. 3.
Los Angeles Examiner
20 Nov 1948.
---
Los Angeles Times
15 Feb 1946.
---
Los Angeles Times
30 Jan 1948.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
17 Jul 48
p. 4243.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
28 Aug 48
p. 4289.
New York Times
27 Aug 48
p. 12.
Variety
1 Sep 48
p. 14.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Warner Bros.--First National Picture
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
PRODUCER
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Dir of photog
Op of cam movement
Op of cam movement
Op of cam movement
Op of cam movement
Lighting tech
Asst cam
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
Props
Props
COSTUMES
Miss Chandler's dress by
Ward asst
MUSIC
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Radio seq by
Scr clerk
Best boy
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play The Rope by Patrick Hamilton (London, 25 Apr 1929).
DETAILS
Release Date:
25 September 1948
Production Date:
12 January--21 February 1948
Copyright Claimant:
Transatlantic Pictures Corp.
Copyright Date:
25 September 1948
Copyright Number:
LP1845
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
80 or 83
Country:
United States
SYNOPSIS

John Brandon and his friend and roommate, pianist Phillip, strangle their mutual friend, David Kentley, with a piece of rope and then temporarily place his body in a trunk, intending to dispose of it in the country that night. Over champagne, Brandon boasts to Phillip that they have committed the perfect crime because they are exceptional men. As an added touch, they have planned a dinner party that evening for David's parents; his fiancée, Janet Walker; his friend, and Janet's former fiancé, Kenneth Lawrence; and their former prep school housemaster, Rupert Cadell. Brandon attributes the impulse for the murder to Rupert, who professes to believe that murder is a crime for most men, but a privilege for the few. After Mrs. Wilson, the men's housekeeper, sets the dining room table for dinner, Brandon decides it would be far more interesting if the dinner was set out on the trunk that holds David's body. The guests arrive as scheduled, but because Mrs. Kentley is ill, Mr. Kentley is accompanied by his sister, Mrs. Atwater. When she mistakes Kenneth for David, Phillip is so unnerved that he breaks the glass that he is holding. Rupert is the last guest to arrive. When Phillip states that he does not eat chicken, Brandon explains to the guests that it used to be Phillip's job to choke chickens and once, one revived. Phillip angrily denies the story, to Rupert's bemusement, because he knows that the story is true. Rupert then expounds his theory that murder should be an art, reserved for the few who are superior beings. When Kentley asks who will decide who is superior, ... +


John Brandon and his friend and roommate, pianist Phillip, strangle their mutual friend, David Kentley, with a piece of rope and then temporarily place his body in a trunk, intending to dispose of it in the country that night. Over champagne, Brandon boasts to Phillip that they have committed the perfect crime because they are exceptional men. As an added touch, they have planned a dinner party that evening for David's parents; his fiancée, Janet Walker; his friend, and Janet's former fiancé, Kenneth Lawrence; and their former prep school housemaster, Rupert Cadell. Brandon attributes the impulse for the murder to Rupert, who professes to believe that murder is a crime for most men, but a privilege for the few. After Mrs. Wilson, the men's housekeeper, sets the dining room table for dinner, Brandon decides it would be far more interesting if the dinner was set out on the trunk that holds David's body. The guests arrive as scheduled, but because Mrs. Kentley is ill, Mr. Kentley is accompanied by his sister, Mrs. Atwater. When she mistakes Kenneth for David, Phillip is so unnerved that he breaks the glass that he is holding. Rupert is the last guest to arrive. When Phillip states that he does not eat chicken, Brandon explains to the guests that it used to be Phillip's job to choke chickens and once, one revived. Phillip angrily denies the story, to Rupert's bemusement, because he knows that the story is true. Rupert then expounds his theory that murder should be an art, reserved for the few who are superior beings. When Kentley asks who will decide who is superior, Brandon responds that men of intellectual and cultural superiority are above traditional moral concepts. Recognizing the ideas of philosopher Frederich Nietzsche, Kentley points out that Hitler, too, espoused his beliefs. Privately, Rupert asks Brandon if he is planning to do away with someone. As the evening progresses, Kentley becomes alarmed by David's failure to arrive; Janet grows dismayed by Brandon's efforts to reunite her with Kenneth; and Phillip becomes more and more agitated. When Brandon gives Kentley a bundle of books tied with the rope they used to strangle David, Phillip cracks. Disturbed by the odd behavior of Phillip and Brandon, Rupert tries to determine where David might have gone. After a distraught Mrs. Kentley telephones the apartment to report that David is not at home, the guests leave hurriedly. Mrs. Wilson gives Rupert a hat, but it is not his, and he notices the initials D. K. inside. After everyone leaves, Brandon and Phillip quarrel when Phillip admits that he is frightened. Then Rupert rings the doorbell, claiming to have forgotten his cigarette case. Once inside, Rupert speculates on what happened to David. He reconstructs the crime and then pulls a piece of rope out of his pocket and starts to play with it. This action drives Phillip into hysterics. Rupert then finds David's body where it is hidden. When Brandon explains why they committed the murder, Rupert responds that he has given his words a meaning that he never intended. He then opens the window and fires several gunshots into the air, and together, the men wait for the police to arrive. +

GENRE
Genre:
Sub-genre:
Suspense


Subject

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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