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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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PRINTED FROM KENTUCKY SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.kentucky.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright The University Press of Kentucky, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in KSO for personal use.date: 26 February 2021

Strangers on a Train (1951)

Strangers on a Train (1951)

(p.167) 21 Strangers on a Train (1951)
Hitchcock and the Censors

John Billheimer

University Press of Kentucky

The plot of Strangers on a Train revolves around a crisscross murder scheme in which a psychotic playboy (Robert Walker) suggests trading murders with a tennis player (Farley Granger). He offers to murder the tennis player’s cheating wife if, in return, the tennis player will murder the playboy’s rich father. The tennis player fails to take the offer seriously, until the playboy strangles his wife and awaits the tit-for-tat murder of the playboy’s father. In the Patricia Highsmith book on which the film is based, the tennis player is blackmailed into committing the reciprocal murder. But this plot element could not survive the Code’s admonition against letting murderers go unpunished, altering the scope and tone of the source material. After influencing this major plot change, the Production Code office was relatively quiet on other points, suggesting that the blame for the tennis player’s failed marriage be laid clearly on the cheating wife, and warning against attempts to portray the playboy’s attraction to the tennis player as homosexual, an attraction that Hitchcock planted, nurtured, and did not excise.

Keywords:   Alfred Hitchcock, Robert Walker, Farley Granger, Patricia Highsmith, crisscross murder, Production Code Administration, homosexual subtext, blackmail, Strangers on a Train

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