Walthamstow Central – Rope (1948)

Rope (1948) | Walthamstow Central

Walthamstow Central stands near to the location of the former power station on Exeter Street. Built in 1904, the three brick chimneys were a familiar local landmark till they were demolished in 1967. They powered Walthamstow’s small film studios and many cinemas, including the Granada which is still standing on Hoe Street and was originally built in 1930 by Sidney Bernstein of the Granada Theatres group. It’s due to re-open as the 970-seat Soho Theatre Walthamstow after a period as a LGBTQ+-friendly pub.

Bernstein co-founded the London Film Society in 1925, where he met and became friends with the young Alfred Hitchcock (from nearby Leytonestone). Bernstein was a committed anti-fascist, helping actors and film professionals, such as Peter Lorre, escape from Nazi Germany. He later collaborated with Hitchcock when he worked at the Ministry of Information in WWII on documentary footage of concentration camps, which was eventually recorded by his daughter in the HBO film ‘Night Will Fall‘. Bernstein was also an uncredited producer of ‘Rope’ with Hitchcock. Both men’s links to the Granada in Walthamstow have been important to the campaigners pushing for its restoration as an arts venue. This is despite Hitchcock’s connection being based on the likelihood that he saw films there rather than warm words he had for the building, later in life.

‘Rope’, a thriller about two college students killing a fellow student for the thrill of it, is an important document of their partnership because it’s highly innovative. This is both in how it was made (using invisible edits to convey the sense that it was shot in “one take”, copying the 1939 BBC TV play based on Patrick Hamilton’s 1929 London stage version) and in its unspoken but unabashed treatment of gay characters. According to screen writer Arthur Laurents (who had a year-long romance with star Farley Granger), the producers had struggled to remove all references to “it” (homosexuality) in order to get the film past censors. The straight producer Bernstein reintroduced language from Hamilton’s script to re-enliven it. English terms such as “my dear boy” in American actor’s mouths ended up sounding gayer than ever, Laurents later recalled.