Meanwhile, audiences in 1948 would have picked up on the most obvious clue to the characters’ sexuality:
Their resemblance to Leopold and Loeb, who’d committed what had once been quaintly called — pre-Hitler and other horrors — “the crime of the century”:
Rope is based on a 1929 play (Rope’s End) by Patrick Hamilton, which in turn is based on the strange real-life murder case of Leopold and Loeb. As you may recall, these two University of Chicago students murdered a teenage boy, Bobby Franks, in 1929 for the simple reason that they wanted to commit “the perfect crime.”
Infamously, these killers fancied themselves authentic “Nietzschean Supermen” (or Ubermensch) and therefore were not only above the law; but actually the creators and arbiters of a new, better law. One in which God was dead, and the “superior” class had the right to murder the inferior.
Attorney Clarence Darrow defended these notorious, well-educated killers, and his well-remembered defense was – essentially – that it was foolish to blame Leopold and Loeb for putting into practice a philosophy they had been taught in school. In other words, Nietzsche’s writings were to blame! And the University that taught them those philosophies was at fault too! Nice huh? To some extent, this unique gambit paid off: Leopold and Loeb escaped capital punishment and were sentenced to life in prison instead.