Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Strangers On a Train (1951)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Strangers On a Train (1951)

In Alfred Hitchcock's thriller - an adaptation from Patricia Highsmith's first novel about amoral murderers who 'traded' or 'exchanged' crimes:

  • the opening sequence introduced the duality of the two 'strangers on a train' with their distinctive contrasting shoes:

    - Bruno Antony (Robert Walker), a villainous psychotic homosexual
    - Guy Haines (Farley Granger), a pro tennis ace

  • during a conversation on the train, Bruno hatched a plan to "swap murders" - Bruno would kill Guy's wife (Guy wanted a divorce in order to marry Senator's daughter Anne Morton (Ruth Roman)), and in return, Guy would kill Bruno's tyrannical father; Bruno was very direct about human nature: "My theory is that everybody is a potentiaI murderer. Now didn't you ever feeI like you wanted to kill somebody?"; he then proposed his plan: "Two fellas meet accidentally, like you and me. No connection between them at all. Never saw each other before. Each one has somebody that he'd like to get rid of. So, they swap murders....Each fellow does the other fellow's murder. Then there's nothing to connect them. Each one has murdered a total stranger, like, you do my murder, I do yours...For example: your wife, my father. Crisscross"
  • the film's key object (or MacGuffin) was Guy's monogrammed cigarette lighter (a gift from Guy's girlfriend Anne to him, with the inscription "A to G" and a symbol of two criss-crossed tennis rackets) - Guy mistakenly left the lighter on the train during his hasty retreat
  • there were many strikingly visual and auditory scenes in the amusement park stalking and murder sequences, including the foreshadowing scream in the river-cave tunnel just before the scene of Bruno's murder of Guy's stifling, vulgar and promiscuous wife Miriam (Laura Elliot); the strangulation murder scene was also reflected in Miriam's thick-lensed glasses that had fallen to the grass on "Magic Isle," while in the distant background, the amusement park's merry-go-round ironically played "And the Band Played On"
  • in a famous scene during the playing of a tennis match in Washington, DC, Bruno in the stands was watching tennis star Guy straight ahead of him (on the sidelines) as all the others watched the game
  • during the society cocktail party scene in Senator Morton's (Leo G. Carroll) house, Bruno jokingly demonstrated how he could simply murder someone by strangulation and actually began to uncontrollably choke one of the elderly matron guests Mrs. Cunningtham (Norma Varden)
  • there was intricate cross-cutting between the scene of spectators watching a vigorous Forest Hills tennis match (Guy was attempting to win it quickly - he was literally playing against the clock, in order to stop Bruno from framing him and planting incriminating evidence against him on the amusement park's "Magic Isle" island, the location of Miriam's murder) and the scene of Bruno's frustrating struggle to retrieve the film's MacGuffin - Guy's cigarette lighter - that was accidentally dropped down a sewer storm drain grating
The MacGuffin - Guy's Cigarette Lighter in a Sewer Drain
  • in the finale set at the amusement park, there was an intense wrestling scene between Guy and Bruno aboard the revolving out-of-control carousel, after the merry-go-round operator was accidentally shot by police and fell on the controls; as Bruno died after being crushed by the wildly-spinning merry-go-round, his hand opened to reveal Guy's lighter - leading to Guy's exoneration; the tunnel-of-love proprietor testified that it was Bruno he saw on the night of the murder
Struggle Aboard Merry-Go-Round
Bruno's Dead Hand Opening to Reveal Guy's Lighter

Shoe Introduction

Bruno: "Everybody is a Potential Murderer"

"Swap Murders...For example, your wife, my father. Crisscross"

Miriam on "Magic Isle

Miriam's Strangulation Murder Reflected in Her Thick Glass Lens

Bruno Looking Straight Ahead in Tennis Stands

Bruno's Choking Joke

Guy's Tense Tennis Match - Playing Against Clock


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