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FAQ for
Rope (1948) More at IMDbPro »

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FAQ Contents


A Note Regarding Spoilers

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Rope can be found here.

What is 'Rope' about?

Simply to show their ability to get away with murder, two New York college students, Brandon Shaw (John Dall) and Philip Morgan (Farley Granger), strangle their 'intellectually inferior' classmate David Kentley (Dick Hogan), hide the body in an old chest, and then throw a party for David's fiance Janet Walker (Joan Chandler), Janet's ex and David's best friend Kenneth Lawrence (Douglas Dick), David's father Henry (Cedric Hardwicke), David's aunt Mrs. Atwater (Constance Collier), and Brandon, Philip, and David's former prep school master Rupert Cadell (James Stewart) from whom they took the idea that murder could be justified in certain circumstances. As Brandon becomes more flippant in his conversational innuendos and Philip becomes more reticent, Rupert takes notice of their odd behaviors, and when David doesn't show, doesn't call, and can't be located, Rupert begins to suspect.

Rope is based on a 1929 British stage play (sometimes titled Rope's End) by English playwright and novelist, Patrick Hamilton [1904-1962]. The play, in turn, was inspired by real-life killers Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, who murdered 14-year-old Bobby Franks in Chicago in 1924.

No. Although the action of the film is continuous, it was not technically possible to film in one take, as the maximum length of a reel was approximately 10 minutes. The movie therefore consists of 10 reels, ranging in time from just over four minutes to just over 10. Trick photography is sometimes employed to disguise the cut (eg, having the screen darken momentarily as someone passes in front of the camera), but on some occasions there is a direct cut.

It is implied that Brandon and Philip were homosexual lovers. Scriptwriter Arthur Laurents, himself gay, later confirmed that it was intentional. It is not overt in the film, however, and is open to interpretation. Brandon states that he had once had a romantic relationship with Janet. They also have separate rooms in the apartment.

How does the movie end?

After all the guests have departed, Rupert returns, claiming to have left his cigarette case. Philip doesn't want to let him in, but Brandon confidently answers the door after placing a small pistol in his pocket. While chatting, Rupert surreptitiouly withdraws the case from his pocket and sets it on top of the chest behind some books. He then suddenly claims to find it, putting Brandon and Phil on edge because Brandon only recently placed the books on the chest after the guests had left, and the case wasn't there then. Rupert sits down to nurse a drink and wonders why David didn't show up at the party. He intimates that Brandon, like Janet suspects, may have done something to 'prevent' him from coming. Brandon challenges Rupert to to describe how would go about 'preventing' David from coming, and Rupert concocts a scenario that pretty much matches how it really happened. Philip suddenly tosses his drink and yells, 'Cat and mouse! Cat and mouse! Which is the cat and which is the mouse?' When Rupert comments on the gun in Brandon's pocket, he takes it out and nonchalantly tosses it on the piano, claiming that he was planning to take it to Connecticut because there have been some burglaries in the area around the farm. But when Rupert pulls the rope from his pocket, Brandon and Philip both realize that they've been caught. Philip grabs the gun, but it is unclear who he means to shoot before Rupert grabs it away from him. In the struggle, the gun fires once, hitting Rupert in the hand. Brandon tries to explain that Philip is drunk and even in danger of becoming an alcoholic. Rupert, tired of the cat and mouse game, opens the chest. Inside, of course, he finds David's body. Brandon explains that he's proven Rupert's theory about the intellectually superior man, but Rupert realizes that his own words have been turned against him. After admonishing Brandon for daring to decide that David was 'intellectually inferior' and justifying it as a reason to murder him, Rupert opens the window and fires the gun three times then sits down to await the police.

Director Sir Alfred Hitchcock is said to make two appearances in Rope. In the opening scene he can be seen walking down the street (as confirmed by 'Rope Unleashed', a behind-the-scenes look at the film). About 52 minutes into the film, his outline can be briefly seen on a neon sign visible from the apartment window. Below his caricature is the word "Reduco."

Compulsion (1959), Swoon (1992), and Murder by Numbers (2002) are also patterned on the Leopold/Loeb case, although they emphasize different aspects of the story. While Rope highlights the murderous' pair's belief in their own intellectual superiority, Compulsion focuses on the way their "thrill" crime unravelled and the innovative approach Clarence Darrow takes to their defense. Swoon emphasizes the sexual aspect of their relationship, and Murder by Numbers focuses more on the detective who unravels the crime. The TV movie Darrow (1991) also deals in part with Clarence Darrow's involvement in the Leopold/Loeb trial.

British film-maker Sir Alfred Hitchcock [1899-1980] began making movies in the early 1920s and ended with Family Plot in 1976. In between, he made dozens and dozens of films, some of which (the earlier ones) have been lost. Some of his better-known and best-loved movies include The Lady Vanishes (1938), Rebecca (1940), Suspicion (1941), Spellbound (1945), Notorious (1946), Strangers on a Train (1951), Dial M for Murder (1954), Rear Window (1954), Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959), Psycho (1960), and The Birds (1963).

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