Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Rope (1948)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Rope (1948)

In director Alfred Hitchcock's first feature film in color - a stage-bound, experimental thriller and the first of four films with James Stewart; considered the famed director's most controversial work (for its implied homosexuality); loosely based upon Patrick Hamilton's 1929 play Rope's End - and unique for its 'stunt' - the seamless intercutting of 10 long takes (ranging from 4 and a half minutes to 10 minutes), creating the appearance of the film's action occurring all in 'real-time' in a single, continuous shot of 80 minutes (although the film's actual time frame was 100 minutes) - there were clever splices between takes (and two brief, reverse-angle shots):

See detailed analysis of Rope's 'Unique Editing Technique' here:

  • the film's plot: loosely based on the notorious 1924 (Nathan) Leopold and (Richard) Loeb murder case involving two University of Chicago students who - for the thrill of it - murdered a 14 year old; this movie also featured two gay villains, both wealthy pseudo-intellectuals and bachelors
  • in the film's opening, the camera panned over to the exterior of a draped, panoramic Manhattan penthouse window - with the piercing sound of a male scream; after a cut to the interior of the apartment, two implicitly homosexual and psychopathic college buddies-lovers: nervous and fearful Phillip Morgan (Farley Granger) and the more caustic and arrogant Brandon Shaw (John Dall) - were in the midst of thrill-killing (by rope strangulation) a third individual, Harvard undergraduate and friend David Kentley (Dick Hogan)
  • the body was hidden in a large antique wooden chest; the opening line of dialogue found Brandon ordering Phillip: "Open it!" - before they stuffed David's body in the chest-trunk and closed it
  • Brandon proudly rationalized the killing of an inferior individual: "The good Americans usually die young on the battlefield, don't they? Well, the Davids of this world merely occupy space, which is why he was the perfect victim for the perfect murder. Course he, uh, he was a Harvard undergraduate. That might make it justifiable homicide"; in eight hours, they planned to dump his corpse in a lake on their way out of town
  • Brandon continued to gloat about his satisfying murder: "You know I never did anything unless I did it perfectly. I've always wished for more artistic talent. Well, murder can be an art, too. The power to kill can be just as satisfying as the power to create. Do you realize we've actually done it, exactly as we planned? And not a single infinitesmal thing has gone wrong. It was perfect....An immaculate murder! We've killed for the sake of danger and for the sake of killing. We're alive, truly and wonderfully alive"; they toasted to David's demise - with chilled champagne
  • in a chilling, sexually-tinged scene, Brandon (exhausted and breathing heavily) recounted his feelings about the murder to Phillip, that had occurred in the dark: "I don't remember feeling very much of anything -- until his body went limp and then I knew it was over...I felt tremendously exhilarated!"

Brandon: "An immaculate murder!"

Brandon About the Murder: "I felt tremendously exhilarated"

Brandon: "The party's the inspired finishing touch to our work"
  • the two then dared to host a dinner party for some of David's friends and relatives - Brandon boasted: "The party's the inspired finishing touch to our work. It's more. It's the signature of the artists. Not having it would be like, uh..." and Phillip finished his sentence: "Painting the picture and not hanging it?" And then Brandon proposed the "brilliant" idea of having the unlocked chest with David's body serve as the dinner party's main buffet table: ("Making our work of art a masterpiece...a ceremonial altar which you can heap with the foods for our sacrificial feast") - a table cloth, two candelabra and plates were set on the chest; as a superior being, Brandon kept insisting that they must execute everything perfectly: "We agreed there was only one crime either of us could commit, the crime of making a mistake. Being weak is a mistake.... Because it's being ordinary"
  • once the housekeeper Mrs. Wilson (Edith Evanson) arrived to assist, Phillip was nervous about Brandon holding the incriminating rope in his hand - Brandon responded boldly: "It's only a piece of rope, Phillip, an ordinary household article. Why hide it? It belongs in the kitchen drawer"
  • Phillip was also nervous and "frightened" about the invitation extended to their ex-prep-school housemaster/teacher Rupert Cadell (James Stewart) at Somerville: "Of all the people on this Earth, Rupert Cadell is the one man most likely to suspect," but Brandon was undeterred: "He's the one man who might appreciate this from our angle, the artistic one. That's what's exciting!"
  • as the guests began to arrive, Brandon announced: "Now the fun begins"; the evening's invited guests included (in order of their appearances): Kenneth Lawrence (Douglas Dick) (the "washed-up" ex-boyfriend of David's fiancee Janet), Janet Walker (Joan Chandler) (a columnist for Allure magazine), the victim's father Mr. Henry Kentley (Sir Cedric Hardwicke) and his aunt Mrs. Anita Atwater (Constance Collier), and finally Rupert Cadell
  • as the guests arrived, Brandon fondly remembered his prep-school days with Kenneth, David, and Phillip, when he sat at the feet of their housemaster Rupert Cadell, who was impatient with social conventions - and his approval of murder: "For example, he thinks murder is a crime for most men, but (Phillip interjected) a privilege for the few"
  • during the discussions, there was a tracking close-up to Phillip's bloody hand gripping a broken champagne glass; soon after, Mrs. Atwater offered him a palm-reading and foretold that his hands (now completely healed - an obvious continuity error) would bring "great fame" (due to his piano-playing), but he guiltily interpreted her statement as a reference to his strangulation notoriety

Mrs. Atwater's Palm-Reading for Phillip

"Great Fame"

Perplexed and Upset
  • once Rupert Cadell arrived, Brandon spoke to him with a stutter, something astutely observed: "You always did stutter when you were excited"; also, it was recalled by Rupert (and Mr. Kentley) that Brandon's favorite tale in prep school ("The Mistletoe Bough") told about a young girl, a bride-to-be on her wedding day, who playfully hid herself in a chest - with a spring lock - "Fifty years later, they found her skeleton"
  • when Phillip strangely refused to eat chicken at the buffet table, Rupert and Brandon publically recalled the reason - about three years earlier in Connecticut, Phillip had strangled three live chickens for the evening meal: ("Oh, dear! It was a task he usually performed very competently. But on this particular morning, his touch was perhaps, a trifle too delicate, because one of the subjects for our dinner table suddenly rebelled. Like Lazarus, he rose"); Phillip angrily and intensely denied the incident: "THAT'S A LIE! There isn't a word of truth in the whole story. l never strangled a chicken in my life!"; Rupert realized the outburst was very real between them: "In another moment, you might have been strangling each other instead of a chicken...A man's honor was at stake. And personally, I think a chicken is as good a reason for murder as a blonde, a mattress full of dollar bills, or any of the customary, unimaginative reasons"
  • the conversation evolved into Rupert Cadell's approving thoughts on murder: "Think of the problems it would solve: unemployment, poverty, standing in line for theatre tickets..."; Janet chuckled: "Rupert, you're the end!"; with tongue-in-cheek dark humor, he mentioned instances of murder to get one's way - 'death by slow torture' was justifiable against hotel clerks, bird lovers, small children and tap-dancers
  • as he became the center of conversation, Rupert began to philosophize using the intellectual concepts of Nietzsche's Übermensch ('superman') (confirming the acceptability of the privileged and superior few to murder inferiors): "After all, murder is - or should be - an art. Not one of the 'seven lively', perhaps, but an art nevertheless. And, as such, the privilege of committing it should be reserved for those few who are really superior individuals"
  • the impressionable Brandon concurred: "And the victims: inferior beings whose lives are unimportant anyway"; Rupert went on: "Obviously. Now, mind you, I don't hold with the extremists who feel that there should be open season for murder all year round. No, personally, I would prefer to have 'Cut a Throat Week' or, uh, 'Strangulation Day'"; Mr. Kentley reacted with distaste to all the 'murder talk': "Probably a symptom of approaching senility, but I must confess I really don't appreciate this morbid humor"; but the conversation went even further when Brandon specified the "privileged few" who would decide who to murder: "Oh, myself, Phillip - possibly Rupert...The few are those men of such intellectual and cultural superiority that they're above the traditional moral concepts" - he confirmed his approval of Nietzsche and his theory of the superman, and then stressed: "I'd hang all incompetents and fools, anyway. There are far too many in the world"
  • after the heated discussion that bothered Mr. Kentley, Rupert asked Brandon why he was so extreme and adamant with his statements: "You were pushing your point rather hard. You aren't planning to do away with a few inferiors, by any chance?"
  • at various points in the evening, Brandon maliciously played matchmaker between Janet and Kenneth; first, he tried to get Kenneth to deliver a drink to Janet in the bedroom; then, he proposed switching on "sweet music" in the living room as Janet and Kenneth were left together alone; (the ex-couple talked about how David's money wasn't really a factor in her choice, because Kenneth was the one who had broken up with her!); and now, David and Kenneth had broken their friendship; the two became suspicious about Brandon's earlier quip to Kenneth when he first arrived: (Kenneth: "I don't get it...Brandon made a crack when I got here. Well, he sorta implied I'd have a better chance with you again because David would be out of the running")
  • during the party, there were numerous worrisome and conspicuous references to David's suspicious tardiness and strange absence - he had neither phoned nor talked to anyone about not coming; Janet accused Brandon of deliberate complicity in David's absence in order to cause trouble: "I think you deliberately arranged it so that he wouldn't come" - she prepared to leave the party (with Kenneth) after accusing him of a "warped sense of humor"
  • one of the film's two reverse tracking shots moved backward from the chest, where Mrs. Wilson was griping to Rupert about the "peculiar party" and how she was forced to set up the chest as the serving table, when everything had already been laid out in the dining room; the tracking shot revealed Phillip who was worried by their conversation and asked: "Is she still harping on her table and how awkward it is to serve from this?"
  • Rupert suspected something was amiss at the "peculiar" party - and began to interrogate the nervous Phillip on his own; his first question: "What's going on, Phillip?" was cleverly circumvented; he persisted while Phillip played the piano: "You know, Phillip, I wish I could come straight out with what I want to know. Unfortunately, I don't know anything. I merely suspect...Where's David, Phillip?...Just what is Brandon trying to do with Janet and Kenneth?"; Rupert also wondered why Phillip had reacted so strongly to Brandon's assertions about his chicken strangulation, and Phillip began to show signs that he was cracking
  • when Mr. Kentley was about to depart, he received a stack of first-edition books from Brandon, wrapped with the rope that was used to strangle his son David; Phillip was distressed: ("I just think it's a clumsy way of tying them up, that's all"); noting Phillip's reaction, Rupert mentioned to both Brandon and Phillip: "There's something upsetting both of you a great deal"
  • there was a beautifully shot sequence with a stationary camera - calmly observing as Mrs. Wilson cleared the buffet table in various stages and walked back and forth (to the table in the foreground), as Rupert pondered with the others about David's whereabouts (off-screen); as she was about to open the chest to deposit books inside, she was abruptly interrupted and stopped by Brandon, who suggested she return to finish the cleanup in the morning: ("You can put the books back when you come in to clean in the morning")

Rupert's Suspicions Aroused by Phillip's and Brandon's Behavior

Mr. Kentley's Books Wrapped Up in the Strangulation Rope

Rupert Is Handed David's Monogrammed Hat (DK)
  • and when Rupert left, he was accidentally handed David's monogrammed hat from the closet by Mrs. Wilson, with the letters DK; troubled, he departed at the same time as everyone else, and soon, Phillip and Brandon were left alone in the apartment, and were ready to leave to drive to Connecticut that evening (while disposing of the body on the way)
  • in the concluding sequence, Rupert called and said he was coming back for a quick visit to the apartment (faking that he left his cigarette case), to specifically talk more about David's unusual disappearance; when Phillip went into a panic, Brandon shouted at him: "I am not going to get caught, because of you or anyone else. Nothing is going to get in my way now"
  • in the apartment, Rupert began to search for his mislaid case (and quickly found it after planting it on top of the chest behind some books); he asked for a drink and then began a verbal investigation into David's absence; he mentioned Janet's theory ("She thinks you kidnapped David, or did something to prevent him from coming"); then, Brandon dared Rupert to theorize about what he might have done to get rid of David - if he were him; as Rupert described the entire murder plot, the camera tracked his directions - and came to rest on the chest as the hiding place for the body: ("...As I recall, David was quite strong. So he'd have to be knocked out. So l'd move quietly around behind the chair, hit him on the head with something. His body would fall forward on the floor....I'd have to find someplace to hide the body until dark"); Rupert hinted that a body might be concealed in the trunk in the middle of the room
  • an exasperated Phillip, now drunk, threw his champagne glass as he shouted out: "Cat and mouse, cat and mouse....But which is the cat and which is the mouse?"

Phillip: "Cat and mouse, cat and mouse!"

Rupert With The Rope

Phillip's Outburst: "He's got it! He's got it!...He knows, he knows, he knows!"
  • Rupert then produced the murder weapon - the rope - from his pocket, and began to question them about it; now hysterical, Phillip babbled drunkenly about the crime, confessing to and implicating them in its execution: ("He's got it. He's got it!...He knows, he knows, he knows!"); there was a struggle between Rupert and Phillip for Brandon's loaded gun sitting on the piano (Rupert's right wrist was grazed when the gun discharged); Rupert seized the gun and insisted on examining the contents of the chest; Brandon finally assented: "Alright! Go ahead and look! I hope you like what you see!" - to Rupert's horror after lifting the lid of the chest, he discovered David's corpse
  • after the crime was uncovered, Rupert demanded an explanation from his former pupils about their motivation; Brandon rationalized the murder - reinforcing the reason for the crime by mentioning their previous discussion during the party - they had only put Rupert's theories into practice: ("Remember we said, 'the lives of inferior beings are unimportant'? Remember we said, we've always said, you and I, that moral concepts of good and evil and right and wrong don't hold for the intellectually superior...That's all we've done. That's all Phillip and l have done. He and I have lived what you and I have talked. I knew you'd understand, because you have to, don't you see, you have to")
  • the thriller ended when guilt-ridden and ashamed Rupert realized that his former students had twisted his ideas and actually carried out his mad theories; he disavowed his teachings and exonerated himself with a powerful speech: ("Brandon, till this very moment, this world and the people in it have always been dark and incomprehensible to me. And I've tried to clear my way with logic and superior intellect. And you've thrown my own words right back in my face, Brandon. You were right, too. If nothing else, a man should stand by his words. But you've given my words a meaning that I never dreamed of! And you've tried to twist them into a cold, logical excuse for your ugly murder! Well, they never were that, Brandon, and you can't make them that. There must have been something deep inside you from the very start that let you do this thing. But there's always been something deep inside me that would never let me do it, and would never let me be a party to it now....I mean that tonight, you've made me ashamed of every concept I ever had of superior or inferior beings. But I thank you for that shame, because now I know that we are each of us a separate human being, Brandon, with the right to live and work and think as individuals, but with an obligation for the society we live in. By what right do you dare say that there's a superior few to which you belong? By what right did you dare decide that that boy in there was inferior and therefore could be killed? Did you think you were God, Brandon? Is that what you thought when you choked the life out of him? Is that what you thought when you served food from his grave? I don't know what you thought, or what you are, but I know what you've done. You've murdered! You've strangled the life out of a fellow human being who could live and love as you never could. And never will again")
  • Rupert vowed that they would be severely punished (and executed) by society's laws: ("It's not what I'm going to do, Brandon. It's what society is going to do. I don't know what that will be, but I can guess, and I can help. You're gonna die, Brandon. Both of you. You're gonna die")
  • with three gunshots out the window, Rupert signaled for the police to apprehend the killers; as they awaited the arrival of the authorities, the camera made its second long reverse tracking shot - pulling away as all three came into view in the living room
  • Rupert sat in a chair next to the chest; the film's last line of dialogue was from Phillip stating that the police had arrived (with the sound of a siren): "They're coming!"; Brandon calmly poured himself a drink, and Phillip played on the piano

The Opening Scene: Rope Strangulation of David Kentley

The Two Killers (l to r): Phillip (Farley Granger)
and Brandon (John Dall)

Hiding David's Body in a Wooden Chest-Trunk

Brandon's Rationalization: "The perfect murder... justifiable homicide"

The Chest Holding the Body - Chosen as The Dinner Party's Buffet Table

Kenneth Lawrence (Douglas Dick) - Janet's Ex-Boyfriend

Janet Walker (Joan Chandler) - David's Fiancee

Mr. Kentley and Aunt Mrs. Atwater

Phillip's Bloody Hand

Rupert With Brandon - Noting His Nervous Stuttering

Phillip's Reaction to Brandon's Chicken-Strangling Story: "THAT'S A LIE!"

Rupert's Theoretical Approval of Murder - "Think of the problems it would solve"

Brandon's Endorsement of Rupert's Theory of Murder: Victims Should Be Inferior Beings

Rupert's Questioning of Brandon's Extremism

Kenneth Left Alone with Janet

Janet's Confrontation With Brandon About David's Unusual Absence

Reverse Tracking
Shot # 1: Back From the Chest

Rupert: "There's something upsetting both of you a great deal"

Mrs. Wilson Clearing the Top of the Buffet Table-Chest

The Chest - Almost Opened by Mrs. Wilson But Stopped by Brandon

During Rupert's Description of the Purported Crime - The Camera Came to Rest on the Chest

Phillip and Rupert Struggle For Brandon's Gun

Rupert's Reaction to David's Corpse in Chest

Rupert's Speech: Disgust With His Former Students - Especially Brandon

Film's End: Reverse Tracking Shot # 2


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