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 great noirish suspense thriller about two amoral "strangers" (Bruno and Guy) who staged a battle of wits and proposed trading or exchanging motiveless murders or crimes with each other; it was the director's first film for Warner Bros - co-scripted and adapted by Raymond Chandler (and others) from Patricia Highsmith's first novel.

The film's few great set pieces included the amusement park stalking and murder, the demonstration of a strangulation murder at a cocktail party, the cross-cutting between a tennis match and an attempt to retrieve an incriminating lighter that had been accidentally dropped in a sewer drain, and the finale - an out-of-control, wildly-spinning merry-go-round carousel at the amusement park during a life and death struggle.

It received a well-deserved nomination for Best Black and White Cinematography (Robert Burks), evidenced in the film by expressionistic, noirish, chiaroscuro images.

  • the opening sequence introduced many dualities or doubles, including the most important one - the duality of two 'strangers on a train' with their distinctive contrasting shoes; the two (doppelganger opposites, one with a good personality and the other evil) had a 'chance' meeting on a train enroute northward from Washington DC to NYC - it was a cleverly-choreographed sequence in which the two sets of the strangers' shoes were highlighted before they even met
The Introduction of the Two Main Characters - With Their Shoes

- Bruno Antony (Robert Walker), a villainous, idle rich, psychotic homosexual and playboy, with ostentatious two-toned white and black (or brown), low-heeled leather shoes, and a distinctive tie clasp, who lived in a gothic, dark mansion in Arlington, VA
- Guy Haines (Farley Granger), a professional champion tennis player (with two tennis rackets), sensitive in nature, wearing plain and dark, more conservative oxford shoes, who was athletic and humble, and aspired to be in both public and political life

  • the two arrived at the DC station in separate Diamond Cab taxis, and happened to sit across from each other at a table in the train's parlor or lounge car, where the shoes of the man on the left (Guy) bumped into the shoes of the man (Bruno) on the right; Bruno asked: "Aren't you Guy Haines?", although he already knew about Guy from the sports and gossipy society pages of the newspaper

Bruno Antony (Robert Walker)

Guy Haines (Farley Granger)

Bruno's Distinctive Tie-Clasp

Guy's Monogrammed Cigarette Lighter
  • when Bruno began smoking, Guy offered him his elegant, monogrammed cigarette lighter - an important element in the film, functioning as the film's key object (or MacGuffin); it was a gift from Guy's girlfriend Anne to him, with the inscription "A to G" and a symbol of two criss-crossed tennis rackets); Bruno revealed that he knew the identity of A - "Anne Morton...very beautiful. Senator Morton's daughter" - and that Guy wanted a divorce in order to marry US Senator's daughter Anne Morton (Ruth Roman) and enter politics; in fact, Guy was enroute to his hometown of Metcalf (in Pennsylvania), to discuss his divorce with his estranged wife Miriam Joyce Haines (Kasey Rogers - stage named Laura Elliott)
  • over lunch in Bruno's private train compartment, Bruno claimed he had a wealthy, but hateful, tyrannical and spiteful father, Mr. Antony (Jonathan Hale), and admitted that he sometimes wanted him dead; Bruno then goaded Guy about his complex domestic situation by stating: "Marrying the boss' daughter, that makes a nice shortcut to a career, doesn't it?"; he also offended Guy by suggesting that his wife Miriam was trampish and faithless ("I suppose she played around alot")
  • during their conversation, Bruno explained to Guy another macabre, morbid theory; he off-handedly stated: "Some people are better off dead, like your wife and my father." He was presupposing that Guy wouldn't seem too upset if he provided immediate wish-fulfillment by eliminating the roadblock to Guy's plans -- his wife
  • Bruno then hatched a theoretical but diabolical plan to "swap murders" - Bruno would kill Guy's clinging, stifling wife Miriam and in return, Guy would kill Bruno's detested father and acquire an inheritance, without any trace of clues or motives: "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"; Guy went along with the plan to humor Bruno: "Sure, Bruno, sure." Bruno interpreted Guy's reaction as tacit acceptance of the plan
  • as Guy exited the train in his hometown of Metcalf, PA, he forgot his monogrammed lighter left on the table - symbolically, losing his link with Anne and a future life in government; Bruno picked it up, reclined, and repeated: "Crisscross"
  • Guy met up with Miriam (with thick-lensed eyeglasses) at Miller's Music Store where she was employed; in a private, record listening booth with glass partitions, the conniving and promiscuous Miriam (who claimed she was pregnant by another man) told Guy that she had abruptly changed her mind about their divorce proceedings and announced: "I'm not getting a divorce"; Guy called her "a little double-crosser"; she was knowledgeable about Guy's political aspirations and interest in Anne, and became determined to take Anne's place and become rich herself: ("You can throw all your little dreams about her right into the ashcan"); essentially, Miriam was blackmailing him into complying with her scandalous plan - to move with him to Washington DC (after he entered politics), have the baby and claim it was theirs, and attend "swanky parties"
  • in public view within the record listening booth, Guy grabbed Miriam and angrily shook her ("I'm warning you!"), before he stormed out of the store; Miriam shouted after him: "You can't throw me away like an old shoe! I'm coming to Washington to have my baby! Tell that to the Senate!"

Senator's Daughter Anne Morton (Ruth Roman) Notified That Guy's Divorce Was Aborted

Guy to Anne: "I'd like to break her foul, useless, little neck...I said I could strangle her!"
  • afterwards, Guy phoned Anne about his aborted divorce plan; he shrieked twice that he was so angry that he could literally break Miriam's neck or strangle her: "I'd like to break her foul, useless, little neck...I said I could strangle her!"
  • the next day in Bruno's Arlington, VA mansion with his neurotic and eccentric wealthy mother Mrs. Antony (Marion Lorne); Bruno (who was clenching his hands in a strangulation position, during a manicure) complained to her about his detestable, controlling father: "I'm sick and tired and tired of bowing and scraping to the king."

Bruno's Hands Clenched as If Strangling Someone

Mrs. Antony (Marion Lorne)

Bruno Notified of Guy's Cancelled Divorce Plans
  • Bruno was interrupted by a phone call from Guy in a Southhampton locker-room during a match, to tell him that his expected divorce had fallen through after Miriam had double-crossed him; still seething in anger about his father (who had just arrived and was arguing with his mother and threatening to restrain Bruno for reckless driving), Bruno decided to put his crazy homicidal plan into action
  • to stalk after Guy's wife Miriam, Bruno took a train to Metcalf, PA where he watched (and followed) as Miriam and two boyfriends, Tom and George (Tommy Farrell and Roland Morris) took a bus to the local carnival-amusement park; there were many strikingly visual and auditory scenes in the subsequent amusement park stalking and murder sequence
Miriam Being Stalked - and Flirting With Stranger at "Test Your Strength," on the Merry-go-Round, and at the "Tunnel of Love" Before Arriving at "Magic Isle"
  • Bruno non-chalantly pursued them to a "Test Your Strength" bell-ringing contest, to the park's central merry-go-round ride, and to the Tunnel-of-Love boat ride (followed by docking at an island), as Miriam noticed him and began to openly flirt with him
  • there was an orgasmic, deathly, but playful scream just as Miriam's boat emerged from the river-cave tunnel - a murderous foreshadowing. The two boats docked at the nearby island known as "Magic Isle", Miriam purposely evaded the two boys and ran into Guy, who illuminated her face with Guy's absconded lighter
  • in a shocking strangulation murder scene at 9:30 pm, Bruno's gloved hands grabbed her by the neck, as her glasses tumbled onto the grass and fell next to the lighter - the brutal homicide was reflected or mirrored in one of the thick lenses; in the distant background, the merry-go-round calliope ironically played "And the Band Played On"; Bruno retrieved both Miriam's broken eyeglasses and the lighter from the grass, and quickly returned to his boat and shoved off, as he heard voices discovering Miriam's body
  • afterwards at 3:00 am, Bruno met up with Guy as he was arriving at his DC apartment via taxi from the train station; behind bars of a metal gate, Bruno informed Guy of Miriam's murder in Metcalf, with proof provided by her broken pair of eyeglasses; when Guy responded in horror by calling Bruno a "maniac", Bruno reminded him: "But Guy, you wanted it. We planned it on the train together, remember?"; Bruno threatened blackmail, explaining how he wouldn't be considered a suspect in Metcalf, but that Guy would be; Guy was the complicitly-guilty one with a real motive to eliminate his wife; when a police car drove up, both hid behind the metal iron bars; Guy admitted to the crazed Bruno: "You've got me acting like I'm a criminal. Why, you crazy fool!"
  • Bruno now recalled for them the second half of the bargain - Guy now had to reciprocate with the murder of Bruno's father; Guy vowed to never see Bruno again: "I don't know you. I never saw you before, and I never want to see you again"
  • Guy entered his apartment and briefly spoke to Anne on the phone and then visited with her in her aristocratic and elegant Morton residence; they kissed and she expressed her deep love for him; Guy also spoke to her father, Senator Morton (Leo G. Carroll), who informed Guy of the terrible development that they had learned - that Miriam had been murdered (strangled specifically), and that the police had been trying to locate him

(l to r): Senator Morton, Anne, and Babs

Anne Worried for Guy

Anne's Younger Sister Babs (Patricia Hitchcock)
  • Anne's teenaged, younger sister Barbara (or "Babs") (Patricia Hitchcock) blurted out that Guy would be the prime suspect: "Let's not fool ourselves. The police will say Guy wanted Miriam out of the way so he could marry Anne"; Guy mentioned his recent train trip as his alibi (and a witness, Professor Collins from Delaware Tech) concerning his whereabouts at about 9:30 pm the previous night; Babs happily declared that Guy was rid of the trampish Miriam, and now Anne and Guy could immediately be married: "Think of it. You're free!"; the Senator urged Guy to call Captain Turley in Metcalf
  • in the next scene, set in Metcalf's police station, Guy met with Captain Turley (Howard St. John) and Lieutenant Campbell (Edward Hearn) for questioning; his alibi about a witness on the train turned out to be faulty - the witness didn't remember him
  • back in Washington, DC, Guy told the Mortons about how he was the prime suspect in a homicidal investigation-case, and was being constantly surveilled; there were seven instances of Bruno stalking after and attempting to contact the evasive Guy (who was failing to cooperate), to increase the pressure and speak to him about making plans to kill Bruno's father. The seven instances began from a more distant place (a phone call) to a closer, more threatening and personal stance
  • in one instance, Guy was with Anne in a DC museum, when Bruno called him aside to urge him to proceed with killing his father; from a distance, Anne saw Bruno for the first time - she noticed his prominent signature tie-clasp with his inscribed name
  • shortly later, Guy received a special delivery letter, marked PERSONAL, containing two items: a detailed map or floor plan of Bruno's home, with implicit instructions pointing the way to his father's upstairs bedroom, and the front door key to the Antony house
  • the most prominent instance was at Guy's athletic club in Washington DC, while Guy was waiting on the sidelines for another doubles tennis match to finish before playing a practice match, Bruno chillingly watched him - staring straight at him from the stands, while all of the other spectators followed the game volleys of the ball back and forth (left and right) over the net
  • during the last of these seven instances, Anne was sitting with Bruno at an outdoor table on the athletic club's cafe terrace, and two other French friends - the Darvilles, where she eerily saw his prominent, inscribed tie-clasp for the second time and became suspicious of the repeated sightings; Barbara also glanced at Bruno - who immediately noticed a resemblance between her and his murder victim Miriam (Auditory Clues: the leitmotif of fair music - "(And) The Band Played On," and the words spoken to his victim before murdering her: "Is your name Miriam?", and Visual Clues: the reflection of the lighter onto Babs' glasses)
Bruno's Merging of Barbara's Face with His Memory of Miriam's Murder
  • during a high-society cocktail party scene the next Thursday in the Mortons' mansion, the presumably-uninvited Bruno semi-seriously joked that everyone has thoughts of murder or of disposing of someone: "Everyone has somebody that they'd want to put out of the way"; during a discussion of ways to dispose of a person, Bruno offered his own superior form of homicide: "the best way" with "the best tools" - "simple, silent and quick" - he demonstrated how he could simply murder someone by strangulation and actually began to uncontrollably choke one of the elderly and rich matron guests Mrs. Cunningtham (Norma Varden) - at the same time, as he also glanced at Babs, Bruno experienced a second troubling flashback to the night of the murder; he fainted and collapsed to the floor, released his grip, and then told Guy a prophetic foreshadowing of the film's conclusion: "I was on a merry-go-round somewhere. It made me dizzy"; Guy punched out Bruno - from Bruno's POV - and then escorted him outside to his awaiting chauffeured car

Bruno Showing Off His "Best Tools" For Murder - His Hands

Bruno's Choking-Strangulation Joke with Mrs. Cunningham (Norma Varden)

Bruno's Second Troubling Fixation on Babs' Face - Flashback to the Murder, Causing Him to Faint
  • the visibly-troubled Barbara recalled to Anne that she felt like she had been the strangulation victim ("He thought he was murdering me!"); Anne spoke to Guy and suspected that Bruno had been maliciously involved with him regarding Miriam's murder, and that Babs was a trigger to the murder - she functioned as a look-alike for Guy's glasses-wearing dead wife; Anne confronted Guy to tell her the truth of his involvement with Bruno, suspecting that "he killed Miriam, didn't he?"; Guy confessed to her about the "strangers on the train" exchange-of-murders bargain on the train to Metcalf, and the "lunatic's" subsequent murder of Miriam, and now, how Guy was expected to fulfill his part of the scheme by murdering Bruno's father; Anne and Guy promised to work together to prevent Guy from being framed
  • afterwards, Guy desperately phoned Bruno and quickly confirmed that he was ready to kill his father that very evening with a gun (he had received in the mail); later that night, Guy entered the Arlington, VA home, studied the hand-drawn map, was able to evade a growling guard dog mastiff on the stairs' landing, and entered the father's bedroom; there, he confronted a dark figure in the bed - "I must talk to you about your son, about Bruno, Mr. Antony"; it was Bruno - hiding and anticipating Guy's duplicity and pretense; Guy explained how he had planned to double-cross Bruno by informing the father of his crazed son's murderous psychosis; he then relinquished the door key and the gun, and vowed that he never agreed to take part in the arranged reciprocal murder; Bruno was angered by the double-cross, and threatened to find a way to seek vengeance
  • meanwhile, Anne took it upon herself to visit with Bruno's mother to explain Bruno's involvement in a murder, and that Bruno could help to exonerate Guy, but Mrs. Antony thought it was all "a practical joke"; Bruno appeared and tried to convince Anne that Guy had dropped his own lighter at the scene of the crime where he had killed Miriam - Guy's cigarette lighter (the film's MacGuffin) would absolutely tie Guy to the murder; first however, Bruno had to plant the lighter on "Magic Isle" in order to complete the frame-up
  • just before the same day's tennis singles match competition at Forest Hills, NY, Anne and Guy spoke together in the club about how they realized that Bruno was going to implicate Guy by planting the lighter back on the island later that evening after dark on the amusement park's "Magic Isle" island - and they were determined to prevent Guy from being framed by the incriminating evidence
  • there was intricate cross-cutting between the scene of spectators watching a vigorous Forest Hills tennis match (Guy was attempting to win it quickly in three sets - he was literally playing against the clock, in order to leave and hurriedly travel to Metcalf, PA to stop Bruno); Guy was actually struggling against four adversaries - his tennis opponent, Bruno, the police, and the clock - in a life-altering struggle
  • after arriving in Metcalf, PA by train in the mid-late afternoon, Bruno was disembarking and accidentally dropped the lighter down a dark sewer drain grating; there was an extended scene as the frustrated Bruno struggled to retrieve it; at about the same time as Guy's tennis victory allowed him to hurriedly travel via a pre-arranged taxi to Penn Station, and then onto Metcalf by train, Bruno reached the object; the two police detectives Hennessey (Robert Gist) and Hammond (John Doucette) in pursuit decided to call ahead to Metcalf to have Guy followed by police officials notified there
The MacGuffin - Guy's Incriminating Cigarette Lighter Accidentally Dropped Down a Sewer Drain - and the Lengthy Efforts of Bruno to Retrieve It
  • in the finale set at the amusement park just after sunset, Guy arrived in a cab from the train station where he was staked out by the authorities as he proceeded into the park; Guy saw Bruno in line at the landing dock (just as the Tunnel-of-Love Boat man recognized Bruno); as Bruno fled - and Guy called out: "Hey, Bruno!", they realized the police were in pursuit of both of them; the two jumped onto the park's revolving carousel; the merry-go-round operator was accidentally shot by a clueless policeman aiming at Guy, causing the operator to fall on the ride's controls, sending the revolving and careening whirligig out of control (it tossed off the detectives when they tried to board the spinning platform)
Bruno's and Guy's Struggle Aboard A Revolving Merry-Go-Round
  • Guy and Bruno fought and wrestled aboard the platform of the wildly-speeding, runaway carousel for possession of the lighter, as the police observed them; finally after some tense moments, a second elderly worker pulled the central stop lever, stripping the gears and causing the entire mechanism to break apart, spin off-kilter, and literally explode into pieces before coming to a halt; meanwhile, the Boat man clarified that it was Bruno who had been at the park

Elderly Worker Crawling Underneath the Out-of-Control Merry-Go-Round to Stop It

Bruno Lethally Wounded When the Merry-Go-Round Came to Screeching Halt
Bruno's Dead Hand Opening to Reveal Guy's Lighter, Exonerating Guy Of the Crime
  • Bruno was lethally injured when crushed beneath the structure, and before he died, he overheard Guy's charges against him; to counteract the accusations, he attempted to claim that he didn't have the lighter; but then Bruno was confirmed to be guilty when after he expired, his clenched hand relaxed and opened to reveal Guy's lighter - confirming Guy's exoneration

One of Many Dualities: Criss-Crossing Train Tracks

Two "Strangers" on a Train

Bruno's Diabolical Proposal to Guy to "Swap do my murder, I do yours"

Bruno: "For example, your wife, my father. Crisscross" - Guy Gave His Tacit Approval: "Sure, Bruno, sure"

Guy In Front of Miller's Music Store in Metcalf, PA Where Miriam Worked

Guy's Estranged and Scheming Wife Miriam Joyce Haines (Laura Elliott)

In a Recording Booth with Guy, Miriam Changed Her Mind About the Divorce

Guy Angrily Grabbing and Shaking Miriam in Booth Before Leaving

Miriam on "Magic Isle" Before Her Murder With Her Face Lit Up by Guy's Lighter

Bruno's Strong Gloved Hands Gripping Miriam's Neck

Lighter and Eyeglasses Fall to the Ground

Miriam's Strangulation Murder on the Island by Bruno, Reflected in Her Thick Glass Lens

Bruno (Behind Gate) With Guy Outside His DC Apartment at 3 AM After Miriam's Murder

As the Police Arrived, Both Hid Behind the Gate's Bars

Anne's Love for Guy

One of Seven Instances of Bruno Stalking Guy

In the 4th instance in a DC Museum, Anne Noticing Bruno's Distinctive Tie Clasp

In a 6th instance in DC, Bruno Was Looking Straight Ahead at Guy From the Tennis Stands, While the Spectators Followed the Game

Bruno With Two Elderly Matrons Discussing Murder at the Mortons' Cocktail Party

Guy Confessing to Anne the Truth of His Involvement with Bruno - Miriam's Killer

Bruno Discovered by Guy in His Father's Bed

Anne Secretly Meeting with Mrs. Antony to Explain Bruno's Involvement in Murder

Anne and Guy Determined to Work Together to Prevent Bruno From Planting Incriminating Lighter on "Magic Isle" After Dark

Guy's Tense Tennis Match - Playing Against Clock, In Order to Leave NY and Get to Metcalf, PA in Time

Guy's Victory in Singles Tennis Match

Bruno Awaiting the Sunset in the Amusement Park and Standing in Line at Landing Dock


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