Seeking status and a thriving career in politics, tennis star Guy Haines (Farley Granger) is unhappily married to an unfaithful woman named Miriam. Awaiting a divorce from his vindictive wife so that he can marry the senator’s daughter, Guy encounters the charismatic Bruno Antony (Robert Walker) on a train. The mysterious man confesses his deep-seated hatred for his own father, as well as his genuine desire to murder him.
Discussing the idea of “a perfect crime”, Bruno suggests that he can take care of Miriam as long as Guy kills Bruno’s father. Since the two have no connection to their victims, none of them would be convicted or even investigated for the crimes. Although Guy laughingly shrugs off the idea, he surprisingly doesn’t cut off the conversation. Not long after, Guy is dumbfounded to discover that his adulterous wife, Miriam, has been strangled to death in an amusement park. Awestruck and distressed, the young tennis star is forced to engage in Bruno’s bizarre mind games and hold up his end of the alleged bargain.
Although it doesn’t fit the conventional patterns of a gay-themed film, Strangers on a Train is memorable due to its homosexual imagery and symbolism. The film is abundant in homoerotic details and dialogue, overtly drawing attention to its sexual context. Moreover, Bruno’s appearance, poise and mannerisms are all indicative of a stereotypical gay man’s figure. His hostility towards his father can also be interpreted as a revolt against patriarchy, as homosexuality was constantly repudiated and abhorred in the 1950s.
“For the key to Strangers on a Train is that it’s a love story; Bruno and Guy’s meeting in the dining car is every bit as seductive as Grant and Marie Saint’s locomotive bunkup in North by Northwest.”
— Catherine Shoard, The Guardian
“Although homosexuality still dared not speak its name very loudly in 1951, Hitchcock was quite aware of Bruno’s orientation, and indeed edited separate American and British version of the film — cutting down the intensity of the “seductiveness” in the American print.”
“The highlight of the film is Robert Walker who gives the performance of his short career as the one of the great conniving psychopaths in film history.”
Did You Know?
Alfred Hitchcock was not satisfied with either of the film’s ending scene versions and also would have preferred William Holden to play the part of Guy instead of Farley Granger in Strangers on a Train. Guy’s cigarette lighter, which is critical to the story’s plot development, was actually a book in Highsmith’s original novel. The switch was made simply for financial reasons and product placement. Review our Gay Themed Films Here