Strangers on a Train (1951)

Strangers on a Trainstrangers on a train poster
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Raymond Chandler, Czenzi Ormonde and Whitfield Cook from a novel by Patricia Highsmith
1951/USA
Warner Bros.
Repeat viewing/My DVD Collection
#244 of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Bruno Anthony: I have a theory that you should do everything before you die.

The bravura direction and Robert Walker’s fantastic performance are enough to overcome the very bland Farley Granger and Ruth Roman acting and make this one of my favorite Hitchcock films.

Tennis player Guy Haines (Granger) has the misfortune to meet fan Bruno Antony (Walker) on a train journey to talk to his wife about speeding up their divorce proceedings.  Bruno  already knows all about Guy’s marital woes and about his romance with a U.S. Senator’s pretty daughter (Roman).  Bruno has a unique plan for the perfect murder.  He volunteers to murder Guy’s wife Miriam in exchange for Guy killing his much hated father.

Guy, of course, rebuffs this proposition, but Bruno continues to go on and on about it. When he leaves the train, Guy sort of nods at Bruno more to humor him than anything else.  He then visits his wife who informs him that she now has no intention of divorcing him, despite the fact she is carrying another man’s child.  She is looking forward to living the high life in Washington.

stangers 1

Bruno catches up with Miriam at a carnival she is attending with a couple of male admirers.  Guy’s problem has been solved.  Now Bruno wants him to fulfill his side of the “bargain”.  As time goes on Bruno becomes more insistent and it is ever more clear that he is completely insane.  When it is clear Guy has no intention of murdering the father, Bruno sets out to frame him for the murder of his wife.  Since Guy was the party with the motive, this shouldn’t be too difficult, no?  With Leo J. Carroll as the Senator and Patricia Hitchcock as the Senator’s other daughter.

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I just love the set pieces from this movie.   The meeting of the two strangers, Miriam’s murder, and the tennis game are masterfully done.  Walker is wonderfully effective as an effeminate psychopath in a role very different from the juveniles he previously specialized in.  It’s really sad we lost him the year of this film’s release.  Roman and Granger are pretty bad and the concluding merry-go-round scene might go a bit over the top but, for me, the movie’s other pleasures make it something I can watch again and again.  Recommended.

Strangers on a Train was nominated for an Oscar for Best Cinematography, Black-and-White.

Trailer

6 thoughts on “Strangers on a Train (1951)

  1. Robert Walker had so much promise. He is stunning in STRANGERS ON A TRAIN. The tennis game is genius. Walker’s death at 32 was shocking though his alcoholism might have destroyed him soon in any case.

    • The old sad story. The bio on IMDb sort of blames Selznick stealing his wife but it also sounds that he had problems from boyhood. Anyway, I’ve enjoyed him in everything I’ve seen him in.

      • I suspect Walker’s troubles pre-dated Selznick and were deep. If Walker had been stable, it might have been tougher to “steal” Jennifer Jones. Of course, Selznick was rich and powerful and may have been accustomed to getting what he wanted.

        • If I recall correctly from my reading of A Memo from David O. Selznick, his pursuit of Jones fell somewhere between courtship and stalking. But no question, Walker’s kind of problems generally start in childhood.

    • Walker is fantastic. I used to do something called Fixing the Oscars on IMDb where folks would vote on the various categories for a year. Robert Walker won Best Supporting Actor for 1951. I always thought he was the leading actor!

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