Although movie gearheads might remember Rope as the first Hitchcock film shot in Technicolor, its more important contribution to the director’s oeuvre stems from the nature of the murder it depicts. The strangulation of David Kentley (Dick Hogan) at the hands of two university chums, Brandon Shaw (John Dall) and Phillip Morgan (Farley Granger), has no motive. This killing is fundamentally unlike the crime of passion in The Paradine Case or even the murder swapping in Strangers on a Train. The young men in Rope are driven to the act not by greed, lust, ambition, anger, or insanity, but by mere pleasure-seeking. To them, murder is an aesthetic end in itself.
Going into Hitchcock’s Mr. and Mrs. Smith, one might expect a potboiler on the level of his 19th-century period-piece turdpile Under Capricorn. The Master of Suspense and screwball comedy? Can there be any greater incongruity between a filmmaker and his subject? Yet this film calls into question that truism we were all taught in elementary-school science class about oil and water not mixing. Sure, it’s hardly It Happened One Night or Bringing Up Baby, but I’m puzzled about some of the censure levied against this surprisingly intelligent, smartly penned, and convincingly acted screwball comedy—especially given the ongoing accolades bestowed on the pretentious, hammily acted, feminist schlockfests Adam’s Rib and His Girl Friday.