Strangers on a Train (1951)

100-101 mins | Drama | 30 June 1951

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HISTORY

Robert Walker was borrowed from M-G-M for the film. Farley Granger's opponent in the tennis match scene was played by tennis pro Jack Cushingham, who also served as the film's technical advisor. In the film, Hitchcock appeared in a cameo as a man boarding the train carrying a bass violin. According to a modern source, Hitchcock originally wanted William Holden to play the role of "Guy." Although an Oct 1950 HR news item reported that James Millican tested for a role, he was not in the released film. A modern source adds Fred Reynolds to the cast, in the role of a tennis player.
       Warner Bros. production notes state that scenes were shot on location in New York, Washington, D.C. and Darien, CT, including Washington Station, Jefferson Memorial, the U.S. Capitol, Mellon Art Gallery, Arlington Bridge and Pennsylvania Station. According to a Nov 1950 HR news items, the amusement park set was constructed at director Rowland V. Lee's Ranch, which was located in the San Fernando Valley, and the tennis scenes were filmed at South Gate, CA tennis courts. Information found in the file on the film in the Warner Bros. Archives at the USC Cinema-Television Library stated that background footage was shot in Toluca Lake and on Ventura Blvd. in Los Angeles, CA. Modern sources add that filming also took place at the railroad stop in Danbury, CT (standing in for Metcalf) and that the tunnel-of-love ride was found in a Canoga Park, CA fairground.
       Robert Burks was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography for his work on Strangers On a Train , but lost to William C. Mellor ... More Less

Robert Walker was borrowed from M-G-M for the film. Farley Granger's opponent in the tennis match scene was played by tennis pro Jack Cushingham, who also served as the film's technical advisor. In the film, Hitchcock appeared in a cameo as a man boarding the train carrying a bass violin. According to a modern source, Hitchcock originally wanted William Holden to play the role of "Guy." Although an Oct 1950 HR news item reported that James Millican tested for a role, he was not in the released film. A modern source adds Fred Reynolds to the cast, in the role of a tennis player.
       Warner Bros. production notes state that scenes were shot on location in New York, Washington, D.C. and Darien, CT, including Washington Station, Jefferson Memorial, the U.S. Capitol, Mellon Art Gallery, Arlington Bridge and Pennsylvania Station. According to a Nov 1950 HR news items, the amusement park set was constructed at director Rowland V. Lee's Ranch, which was located in the San Fernando Valley, and the tennis scenes were filmed at South Gate, CA tennis courts. Information found in the file on the film in the Warner Bros. Archives at the USC Cinema-Television Library stated that background footage was shot in Toluca Lake and on Ventura Blvd. in Los Angeles, CA. Modern sources add that filming also took place at the railroad stop in Danbury, CT (standing in for Metcalf) and that the tunnel-of-love ride was found in a Canoga Park, CA fairground.
       Robert Burks was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography for his work on Strangers On a Train , but lost to William C. Mellor for A Place in the Sun . Strangers On a Train marked Robert Walker's last completed film and director Alfred Hitchcock's daughter Patricia's American film debut. The film marked noted author Raymond Chandler's last screenplay. According to a 1998 The Times (London) article, motion picture restorers at UCLA found a print of the film, marked "British version," which appears to have been planned for distribution in Great Britain. In the alternate version, the initial conversation on the train between "Guy" and "Bruno" is two minutes longer than the original and a final scene was added, in which Guy is again recognized by a stranger on a train. These scenes were included in a new release of the film that marked Warner Bros.' seventy-fifth anniversary. According to modern sources, the final shots of Walker's film My Son John were taken from the final shots of Strangers On a Train .
       Lux Radio Theatre aired two adaptations of the film. Ruth Roman and Patricia Hitchcock reprised their roles in a 3 Dec 1951 broadcast, which starred Ray Milland and Frank Lovejoy as Guy and Bruno, respectively. Hitchcock recreated her role in an adaptation that aired on Lux Radio Theatre on 12 Apr 1954. That version co-starred Robert Cummings, Dana Haines and Virginia Mayo. A 1969 remake, Once You Kiss a Stranger , was directed by Robert Sparr. In 1996, a television production based on Strangers On a Train aired, titled Once You Meet a Stranger , starring actresses Jacqueline Bisset and Teresa Russell in the Guy and Bruno roles. Strangers on a Train was the inspiration for the Orion Pictures' 1987 dark comedy Throw Momma From the Train , which was directed by Danny De Vito and starred De Vito and Billy Crystal. In 2002, Warner Bros. announced plans to produce another version of Strangers on a Train . In May 2005, Noam Murro was set to direct that version, with a screenplay to be written by David Seltzer. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
16 Jun 1951.
---
Daily Variety
14 Jun 51
p. 3.
Film Daily
15 Jun 51
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Oct 50
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Oct 50
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Oct 50
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Nov 50
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Nov 50
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Dec 50
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jun 51
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Nov 2002.
---
Los Angeles Daily News
12 Feb 1996.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
16 Jun 51
p. 885.
New York Times
4 Jul 51
p. 13.
The Times
5 Nov 1998.
---
Variety
20 Jun 51
p. 6.
Variety
22 Oct 1996.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Warner Bros.--First National Picture
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Asst cam
Stills
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
COSTUMES
Men's ward
Women's ward
MUSIC
Mus dir
Orig mus
SOUND
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Makeup
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod assoc
Tech adv
Scr supv
Best boy
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith (New York, 1950).
DETAILS
Release Date:
30 June 1951
Production Date:
late October--23 December 1950
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
2 June 1951
Copyright Number:
LP988
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
100-101
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
14946
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

On a train, wealthy, neurotic Bruno Antony recognizes tennis player Guy Haines and strikes up a conversation. While using Guy's cigarette lighter, Bruno notices it is inscribed "From A to G," and guesses that "A" is Senator Morton's daughter Anne, whom Guy intends to marry after Miriam, his current wife, divorces him. Over lunch in his compartment, Bruno describes to Guy his hatred of his father, and suggests a plan for a perfect murder. He proposes that two strangers, who each want someone in their life killed, swap murders. In that way, each has murdered a perfect stranger and is unlikely to be apprehended. For example, Bruno says, he could kill Miriam, and Guy would then return the favor by killing Bruno's father. Believing Bruno to be a harmless crank, Guy agrees that the theory is viable and disembarks from the train at his home town of Metcalf, unaware that he has left his distinctive lighter in Bruno's compartment. In Metcalf, Guy proceeds to the music store where Miriam works. There, Miriam tells him that although she is pregnant with another man's baby, she has no intention of divorcing him. In full sight of the other employees, a furious Guy brutally shakes her, then calls Anne and, still angry, shrieks that he would like to strangle his wife. Meanwhile, Bruno, at his parents' home, overhears his father threaten to institutionalize him, and decides to put his plan into action immediately. Traveling to Metcalf one night, he follows Miriam and two boyfriends to an amusement park tunnel-of-love ride and strangles her on a nearby island. While Bruno is murdering Miriam, Guy is on ... +


On a train, wealthy, neurotic Bruno Antony recognizes tennis player Guy Haines and strikes up a conversation. While using Guy's cigarette lighter, Bruno notices it is inscribed "From A to G," and guesses that "A" is Senator Morton's daughter Anne, whom Guy intends to marry after Miriam, his current wife, divorces him. Over lunch in his compartment, Bruno describes to Guy his hatred of his father, and suggests a plan for a perfect murder. He proposes that two strangers, who each want someone in their life killed, swap murders. In that way, each has murdered a perfect stranger and is unlikely to be apprehended. For example, Bruno says, he could kill Miriam, and Guy would then return the favor by killing Bruno's father. Believing Bruno to be a harmless crank, Guy agrees that the theory is viable and disembarks from the train at his home town of Metcalf, unaware that he has left his distinctive lighter in Bruno's compartment. In Metcalf, Guy proceeds to the music store where Miriam works. There, Miriam tells him that although she is pregnant with another man's baby, she has no intention of divorcing him. In full sight of the other employees, a furious Guy brutally shakes her, then calls Anne and, still angry, shrieks that he would like to strangle his wife. Meanwhile, Bruno, at his parents' home, overhears his father threaten to institutionalize him, and decides to put his plan into action immediately. Traveling to Metcalf one night, he follows Miriam and two boyfriends to an amusement park tunnel-of-love ride and strangles her on a nearby island. While Bruno is murdering Miriam, Guy is on the train to Washington, D.C. The only other passenger in his car is extremely drunk, but tells Guy his name is Prof. Collins. Later, outside of his residence, Guy encounters Bruno, who informs him of Miriam's murder and shows him her eyeglasses as proof of the deed. When a stunned Guy insists that he will turn Bruno over to the police, Bruno convinces him that the police will believe that he was involved and makes it clear that he expects Guy to complete his part of the "bargain." Guy flees from Bruno and is soon summoned by phone to Senator Morton's home, where Morton informs him of Miriam's death. Although Guy hopes that Collins will give him an alibi, Collins reports having no memory of his drunken evening. The police release Guy, but assign Hennessey, a police detective, to keep a constant watch on him. Although Guy tries to evade Bruno, Bruno sends Guy a map of his father's bedroom, a key to the house and a gun. When Guy continues to ignore him, Bruno manages to ingratiate himself with Guy's friends. Anne, who has become increasingly disturbed by Guy's strange behavior, then confronts him. Under her questioning, he admits that Bruno killed Miriam and tells her about their encounter on the train. A desperate Guy then telephones Bruno and tells him that he will kill his father that night. He evades the detective and uses the key to enter the Antony house, intending to beg Antony to get help for Bruno. However, Bruno, suspecting Guy's motives, is waiting for him in his father's room. The following day, Anne tries to enlist the help of Bruno's doting, dotty mother, who insists that Bruno must be playing a practical joke. Before a tearful Anne leaves, Bruno informs her that Guy killed Miriam and offers as proof Guy's request that Bruno retrieve the lighter that he dropped at the scene of the crime. When Anne reports this to Guy, he realizes that Bruno intends to use his lighter to frame him for the murder. Guy is scheduled to play in a tennis tournament in Washington, D.C., but believing that Bruno will plant the lighter after dark, decides not to drop out. In order to reach Metcalf before Bruno, however, Guy must win the tournament in three sets. He wins the first two sets easily, but loses the third. Meanwhile, Bruno arrives in Metcalf and accidentally drops the lighter down a storm drain. While Bruno attempts to retrieve the lighter, Guy continues to play a determined game. After recovering the lighter, Bruno proceeds to the amusement park. Guy wins the final match, and while Barbara distracts Hennessey and his partner Hammond, Guy takes a waiting cab to the train. In Metcalf, the police, alerted by Hennessey, stake out the park. When the sun sets, Bruno joins the long line of people waiting for the tunnel-of-love boat to the island, but is recognized by the ride's operator. Guy arrives just as the man points out Bruno to the police, and the police mistakenly believe that the operator has identified Guy as the killer. Bruno bolts from the line, chased by Guy, and heads for the carousel. The police shoot at the running men and accidentally hit the operator, who falls on the controls and sets the ride spinning wildly. While Bruno and Guy struggle under the plunging hooves of the carousel horses, a volunteer pulls the controls, and the carousel crashes to a stop, breaking down completely. Bruno, who has been pinned beneath the carousel, refuses to clear Guy, but as he dies, his hand opens, revealing Guy's lighter. After the tunnel-of-love proprietor explains that it was Bruno he saw on the night of the murder, Guy tells Anne that he has been cleared. +

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

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.