Thursday, January 07, 2010

Watch This Movie- Rope

Santa brought me a DVD copy of my favorite Hitchcock movie, Rope. Based on the Leopold and Loeb case, the movie's plot is a rather twisted tale of two well-bred, well-educated young men (lovers, actually) who murder one of their classmates for the thrill of it. I'm not giving anything away because the act takes place in the first few minutes of the movie; the rest of the film is about the cover up and the intrigue. For me, though, the main draw is the fabulous apartment owned by Brandon, one of the killers. For those of you who haven't seen it, the entire film takes place in this apartment, so by the end of the movie you really feel like you know that set. (It's kind of like Something's Gotta Give- you feel like you're living in the character's home...or perhaps you wish that you did.)

The apartment is really the height of 1940's Manhattan chic. It's traditional of course, befitting the upper class pedigree of the two murderers. It's proper and well-mannered, an incongruous setting in which to commit a gruesome murder. But what strikes me is how mature the apartment is, especially as its owner was a young man in his early twenties. And for that time, I don't think this was at all unusual. If you look back at much of the twentieth century, younger people seemed eager to become adults and to assume the trappings of their parents' generation, including grown-up homes, grown-up clothing, and grown-up parties. It's a far cry from today in which many treat their twenties as a decade long transition into adulthood. (I'm not casting dispersion, just making an observation.) I only bring this up because if a young man of 21 or 22 lived in an apartment like this today, some might think it old-fogey. Not me, mind you.

So what's so fabulous about this apartment? I'll break it down for you.

Here's one shot of the living room. There's that rather modern looking banquette along the wall of windows. I've always thought the windows were a little strange looking, perhaps because I've never felt like it was in keeping with the rest of the apartment. Still, can you imagine having a view like that?

This view is from the center of the living room looking into the entryway and the dining room beyond. First, let's discuss the marvelous architecture surrounding that door. I look upon that with envy seeing that my home is filled with simple metal 1968 door frames- boring. And another funny little 1940's touch is the faux balustrade that was painted along one side of the entryway. Perhaps a very Hollywood flourish, but one that I like nonetheless.

In this corner of the living room is Philip's piano (that's Farley Granger's character) where he plays that funny little tune throughout the movie. Despite the very traditional furnishings, the artwork was modern for the time. That painting above the little table was by a "Young American Primitive", at least according to Brandon.

The other end of the living room looks out onto a neighboring building with a large neon sign. Check out the simple valances that are the same color as the walls.

The wood paneled dining room that is a trifle mature for Brandon and Philip, and yet I find it appealing. And for such young men, they owned awfully nice silver candelabras, flatware, salt cellars, and china. Oh, and it appears they're drinking Veuve Clicquot- my kind of guys.

I also think there are some great details to this apartment:

How gorgeous are these chairs? The rest of the apartment is rather somber in color, something not out of place for the 1940s. But look how that vivid blue satin upholstery sings when placed against the murky colors.

I'm not showing this image because of the cityscape outside of the windows, though who wouldn't want to look out to that every evening. Check out the simple square button tufts on the back cushions.

The damask fabric is a bit staid, but I do love a wing chair.

My favorite part of the entire apartment? The mahogany card table that was pressed into service as a bar during a party. Looks like there's dry gin, whiskey, champagne (something which caused most of the guests to exclaim "'s that kind of party." Personally, I like those kind of parties!), and a bowl of nuts. This is a bar done right.


  1. Oh I love Hitchcock movies but I haven't seen this one. Sounds good though! Will have to add it to my list.

  2. Jennifer -I, too, am crazy about this film! I love the interiors, the story, the actors, and, well, just about everything about it! One thing that is particularly interesting about this movie is that Hitchcock filmed it entirely in one shot! You'll notice the camera doesn't turn around when it gets to one end of the apartment, but sort of backs up to the other end. It's like a cross between a play and a film. Hitchcock was terribly brilliant. -Great post!

  3. Thanks for the introduction. I've never seen this one before and I can absolutely see why you are smitten with the apartment. Gosh I love the spots of blue and green against the somber neutrals, and I like the paneled room too (plus the art!).

    You are so dead on about the cultural changes. Even people WAY out of their 20s seem to want to be teens. It would be interesting to break it down -- the trends in residential design -- and see how much of it has to do with simply wanting a more casual lifestyle (the breezy California or Hamptons influence) versus a yearning to be super-youthful. Loved this post. Reminds me of your Mad Men coverage also.

  4. I love this movie too -i'm so glad I'm not the only one! Not to be trite, but they were gay after all: so of course they had a fabulous apartment at such a tender age, lol - candelabra and all.
    I never noticed the balastrade detail in the hallway - how intriguing is that idea? At first I thought when it wrapped the corner it was an umbrella holder (which would be ingenius), but turns out it was a stand for a statue (yet another great idea).
    Why are apartments like this so rare: I would move in TOMORROW!
    You must look into apartmenttherapy -there was a housetour yesterday of a FABULOUS similar apartment that was once owned by Billy Haines in Hollywood! Let me know if you have trouble finding it and I'll dig up the link.

  5. I could move into this apartment too, only tweaking a few things. Now wouldn't that be clever if that faux balustrade wrapped around an umbrella holder!

  6. Love this movie as well, but thoroughly enjoyed the house tour.

  7. It really is such a fantastic apartment, so 1950s Upper East Side NYC, and I think the muted color scheme is very interesting. I wonder if that narrow, kind of homogeneous range of hues and tones in the walls, draperies and a lot of the furniture acts as a backdrop that was designed to highlight the actors instead of distracting attention from what they are saying and doing. I also think there might have been a similarly shaped window in Rear Window as well, though maybe I'm mistaken. And though Scott is right to point out the salient fact that Hitchcock endeavored to shoot the entire film in one take (an enormous production challenge) I'm pretty sure that there is at least one or two cuts in the movie if you watch it carefully, usually when the camera is passing over a flat area of wall or something similar.

  8. I believe that because they had to make a few reel changes during the shooting, Hitchcock would pass the camera over the back of one of the characters. This was done to make it look like one long uninterrupted shot. At least, I think this was the way it worked.

  9. I agree with you about a detail like the square button tufts. And that banquette is terrific.

    Did you capture these images from the DVD and if so, does one need some special technology? I am always wanting to do it myself.

  10. Great post!
    Love the topic, your comments and the pictures chosen. Wonderful!
    That drinks' tray is amazing, as is the structure of the apartment.
    Interesting to see the approach to stage setting and styling.. and so current in light of the forecasted turquoise trend for 2010!
    Lots to learn and look at.

    Thanks for sharing.


  11. The film is notable for all the reasons that you've pointed out, and I agree with Dabney about films of that era having muted backdrops for the most part.
    For years I thought it had something to do with the deterioration of film colour, but Hichcock rarely used highly saturated hues.
    This is one of my favorite features in Peak of Chic,
    Your eagle eye, your grasp of atmosphere amount
    to something quite wonderful.
    As for the drinks tray, that is all any small gathering requires, as opposed to a full bar, bar stools, and The Rat Pack in attendance.

  12. So happy to have found other fans of this movie! I think you have just pointed me in the right direction for inspiration for window treatments for my bedroom.

  13. magnaverde11:10 AM

    The design of the apartment is handsome, there's no doubt, and I have no problem with subtle tonalities, but colors in this film aren't merely muted, they look embalmed. Then again, maybe that was just a Hitchcock thing, because the otherwise elegant apartment in Dial M for Murder has the same sort of creepy, lifeless color.

    And I always assumed that the big 'window' in back is actually an outdoor terrace that's been enclosed. In the hallway, that balustrade reminds me of a Hobe Erwin grisaille wallpaper of the period, either that or a Bassett & Vollum design, both of which firms made a specialty of reissuing early Nineteenth Century designs.

  14. I love that French (?) Spanish (?) 18th c. side table between the two windows--totally unexpected--and it looks like an old one.

  15. I think this discussion of the muted, sober, embalmed (!) colors is quite interesting. I never knew whether it had something to do with the Technicolor process (this was Hitch's first use of Technicolor, I believe), if Hitchcock intended for the set to be super muted, or whether this type of color scheme was common for the time. If you look at magazines and books from that era, you do see some pretty drab rooms. It will be interesting to see if someone with film history knowledge will weigh in.

  16. I agree on your comment on the L/R windows. This is what happens when you enclose a terrace or balacony to open up and be part of the room

  17. Unfortunately I haven't seen the movie, but great breakdown of the apartment. One thing that jumps out at me in the photos is the drab, non-descript, muted carpet. Granted that particularly stood out to me since I work for a rug company, but it does seem strange in such a high-end apartment. Is this type of bland flooring standard in the 1940's?

  18. Anonymous12:21 PM

    I have to admit, I always thought the furniture in this movie was a little...fatigued. Drear. I could picture it in a thrift store in 20 years.

    The reason the decorating was so adult isn't because the tenant was gay, or unusually sophisticated, but because there really wasn't a "youth culture" then--no CB2, West Elm, Urban Outfitters, etc. Twenty-somethings bought their furniture at the same stores (or from the same decorators) as their grandparents.

    My favorite Hitchcock set is Jimmy Stewart's bachelor apt. in Vertigo. It's just as adult as this set, but so much more alive, and cozy.

  19. This is great film; I have had it in my library for over 10 years. I always loved the apartment, thank you for pointing out all the details

  20. I love this film and have always been amazed that it was shot in such long unbroken scenes, on a single set. It's kind of fun to watch for the cuts that Hitchcock took care to mask. I've always loved the apartment but it was so nice to see these stills. I had missed some of the details, like those cool rectangular button tufts. Thanks for a great post! I think I need to go home and watch Rope again!

  21. Anonymous1:36 PM

    Only one of the young men lived there (officially)--a detail that is consistent with the fact that the romantic link between the two was never explicitly acknowleged.

  22. There is furniture in the apartment. I was always looking at Farley Granger.

  23. I love this movie. Whenever I watch it, my eyes are immediately drawn to the interiors. Each piece of furniture makes a big statement. So chic.

  24. Anonymous4:00 PM

    ...the bank of windows is another character in the changes as the mood of the movie the beginning credits roll the viewer is outside...then brought in to the day turns to night the feel of the apartment is much tighter...more closed in...where the two murders will end up there will be no huge window...and their view will be much diminished...hitch never missed a trick

  25. Regarding the drab carpet, it seemed to be somewhat popular at that time- once again I'm basing this on the vintage mags and books in my library.

    Re: the bank of windows serving as another character in the movie, I never thought of it in this way, but I think that's genius.

  26. I agree with Magnaverde, it's handsome but does appear embalmed. The colours are like pancake makeup, like a lady wearing Max Factor beige on her cheeks and emerald on her eyelids. Some bits of furniture are lovely though.

  27. Anonymous5:52 PM

    Isn't the movie in part about the hazards of old money? How old money has left the young men bored and idle, and in need of some invigorating wickedness? So the furniture can be seen as the deadened old world in which they are trying to feel more alive.

  28. The weird window looks like a balcony/terrace that's been enclosed -- pretty typical in NYC, then and now.

  29. Anonymous8:01 PM

    We just spent the past two nights watching Rear Window and Vertigo having seen both before but not recently. Rope must now go on the list. That odd window in the first photograph reminds me of the window of the bachelor composer in Rear Window. His apartment was also the most interesting in the film but then he's the one who threw a party with lots of drinking and music. Someone mentioned James Stewart's apartment in Vertigo but I thought it was boring... although he always managed to have a roaring fire going with no effort at all. In that movie the outdoor scenes of San Francisco and the Palace of the Legion of Honor were the best eye candy (besides of course Kim Novak) Regarding your post: drab as those rooms may be the details such as the overdoor moulding, the trompe l'oeil balustrade and jib door and the overall mood are devine. It's a shame that most young people aren't interested in chic surroundings: it seems that now the important thing is to be hip and trendy.

  30. Fantastic post. Boy and I recently watched it on TCM and were beside ourselves about the interiors. Oh, and the clothes were pretty swell, too.

  31. I can sit through even the most boring movie just to watch the interiors. That particular era has some of my favorite movie sets. European old style interiors mixed with Hollywood glam is a perfect blend.

  32. Always so glad to have new movie suggestions. Will check this one out right away. Happy New Year to you.

    Gwen Driscoll
    Ragland Hill Social

  33. The muted tones in movies of this era are so enticing. I love how there are extremely modern elements of the apartment juxtaposed with more traditional ones--both architecturally and from a design standpoint. The square buttons on the tufted sofas compared with the damask wing chair and the strange modern window compared with the door frame and impressive entablature. Of all the Hitchcock I have seen, I'm so surprised I haven't seen this one!

  34. Anonymous1:31 AM

    For God's sake, have an opinion and stick with it. Drop the "for me though" "but what strikes me" "i'm not casting dispersion*, just making an observation" "still" "perhaps" "at least according to" "i'm not showing this because" "but i do love" "personally", etc., etc., etc.

    THINK and then write, and stop couching it in equivocation and prevarication - that's cloying and annoying.

    Blogs are inherently narcissistic - and you're smart enough to already know that. Stop pretending to be a meek little girl.

    You have talent, a brain and APPETITE. Admit to that and never shy away from it, or apologize for it.

    Finally, stop referring to homosexuality in hushed terms - there's no shame in that, and don't make your gay readers feel like they should be shy, embarrassed or ashamed of it either. So no more (they're gay) stuff. Deal?

    *the word is ASPERSIONS - dispersion means scatter or spread

  35. This is honestly one of my favorite movies of all time!

  36. This has proved to be a fascinating discussion, and now I come to think of it, there are very few highly
    coloured domestic interiors in Hitchock's films. Rear Window, Vertigo, North by Northwest~greyish taupe walls seems to prevail. For saturated colour you need
    to look to MGM. "Royal Wedding", with its recurring theme of blue-greys and mustard yellows
    (in decor as well as costume) is a case in point. Jack Buchanan's flat in "The Bandwagon" had red, purple and yellow rooms giving off one another~and Cyd Charisse's gloves were emerald green!

  37. Note to anon 1.31
    When the author of this blog couches her phrases with terms like Perhaps or Possibly or Maybe, it has nothing to do with prevarication, and has everything to do with good manners, modesty and an avoidance of anything resembling an autocratic tone. If you want
    your blog authors to lay down the law and make pronouncements on a daily basis, you need to look
    elsewhere. And, if you wish to correct grammar, must it be done so peevishly?

  38. Movie sets in general intrigue designers-this one is subtle intentionally. I can imagine Hitchcock said -do a waspy set-and that was about it. Nothing to specific So the set would not become a cast member so to speak. If the readers here actually follow up and watch the movie they may be in for a totally different experience than critiquing the set.The thing about ROPE is conscience & hubris.

  39. How soon can I move into this apartment? I absolutely LOVE this movie too! Glad Santa brought it to you! Lovely day to you! Stacy Mayer

  40. ... as night comes in through the open windows the apartment becomes their coffin...just like the trunk for the murdered boy...and didn't they use the rope from the drapes to kill the they could not close the drapes...i loved how the daylight changes in this movie...the light truly sets the mood...loved this apartment almost as much as the one in dial m for murder...

  41. Anonymous1:10 PM

    Anon 1:31 AM:

    Have you seen the movie? Given the film's oblique, never-verbalized, never-dramatized way of dealing with the men's sexuality, I'd say "(they're gay)" is exactly the right way to describe it. The parentheses are perfect.

  42. AMAZING. I must rent this! That and paint a faux balustrade along my wall...what a fun touch!
    XX Kate

  43. I remember the first time I saw this movie, it telegraphed 'swank' - how I imagined all chic city folk lived. And I love the wall color, it's the 40's 'white', a green that is both warm and cool. What a classy and stylish set for a murder!

    Wonderful post with the kind of detail that makes one think. Great stuff.

  44. Anonymous9:53 PM

    "The thing about ROPE is conscience & hubris."

    Have to disagree here; there is a lot about social class and entitlement, and the furniture is part of that storyline.

  45. Anonymous10:06 PM

    Anon 1:31 pm,

    Your comment depresses me. Jennifer's phrasings tells me something about who she is: what her family was like, her upbringing, her education, what part of the country she comes from--I like all that.

    We're having a conversation here, not listening to someone defend a doctoral dissertation.

  46. Hitchcock had to leave the relationship ambiguous because of censorship. Apparently another large aspect of Rope is its orgins, from a true story about 2 lovers that do kill a 14 year old boy Leopold and Loeb. Here is a link to all the psychological interworkings of 3 films based on the murder-if anyone is interested.

    I am not questioning the idea that Hitchcock's set is not worthy of the robust discussion-the post and comments attest-but but because the film is about such a disturbing idea, I wanted to in fact- add to the discussion by giving another point of view-Not insight the relentless Anonymous into yet another comment.Hitchcock did do much of the work on his sets-it is hard to get a consensus on who actually was responsible for adding the specifics. There are copious bios and books about the man and films, one light touch is the Hitchcock Style by Assouline. Jennifer is always spot on with her posts and with what while spur discussion, it is impressive and aspirational too,thanks Jennifer.

  47. Love love love this movie! You have impeccable taste and I hate that we didn't get a chance to visit on Thursday night at JCT. xo, Patti

  48. So happy see this film of my favorites from every point of view....not the least is how design helps to tell the story.

    For further reading, this site does a great job of explaining how the production worked.
    The cyclorama used outside the window to show the passing of time is brilliant and almost another character.

  49. Oh, a Favorite! I have not seen this movie for years, I need to view it again with your comments in mind!

  50. I have always coveted that apartment, especially the windows and the view and I cannot resist watching the movie whenever it's on TV. As NYC apartments go, it wouldn't have been considered grand, which is why I've always admired how gracious it is--with a dining area and a separate library-- just for two young guys sharing a flat. Sigh.

  51. I was obsessed with the Leopold and Loeb murders for a while (and the Echols scholars murders at UVa). This version of the movie is very good. But that might be because it's Hitchcock and everyone is so very well-tailored.

  52. Anonymous6:29 PM

    i would like to see a top floor plan of this apartment can anyone post a link or find one?