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Hitchcock and the Censors$
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John Billheimer

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780813177427

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813177427.001.0001

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Rope (1948)

Rope (1948)

(p.141) 17 Rope (1948)
Hitchcock and the Censors

John Billheimer

University Press of Kentucky

In Hollywood in the 1940s, both prevailing morality and the Production Code made it impossible to produce a film about gay men. That made the filming of Rope, based on a play mirroring the notorious Leopold-Loeb murder case, in which two homosexual University of Chicago students kidnapped and murdered a fourteen-year-old boy, a particularly risky venture. Hitchcock made the venture even riskier by hiring a gay screenwriter, Arthur Laurents. The Production Code censors detected a gay subtext and suggested a few minor script revisions involving language and stereotypically gay behavior. Hitchcock chose to film the movie in real time, breaking at intervals of roughly ten minutes to insert a new reel of film. These long takes proved to be a hardship on the actors, who had to endure long retakes if someone fluffed a line, and set designers, who had to create breakaway furniture to enable uninterrupted camera movement. Although the gay subtext disturbed a few reviewers, it went largely unnoticed by audiences at the time. The film is considered inferior Hitchcock, not because of the subtext or casting, but because Hitchcock’s long takes worked against his strengths as a director, emphasizing linear movement and dialogue rather than pacing and montage.

Keywords:   Alfred Hitchcock, Arthur Laurents, Leopold-Loeb murder case, homosexuality, Production Code Administration, real-time shooting, long takes, breakaway furnishings, Rope

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