“Become a Voyeur with Hitchcock’s Rear Window”

The suspenseful, part mystery and part thriller, “Rear Window,” was directed by the iconic Alfred Hitchcock (Vertigo). Written for the screen by John Michael Hayes, (The Man Who Knew Too Much) based on a short story by Cornell Woolrich, (Original Sin) the film premiered on August 1, 1954 in New York, New York.

Rear Window Pic 1
The hero of the 112 minute film, of which, in this blogger’s opinion, not one frame of celluloid is wasted on filler, is Jimmy Stewart. His memorable character, top tier photographer L.B. Jefferies, has a broken leg, and as the viewer learns at the start of the film, has been confined to a wheelchair in his apartment for the past six weeks. He’s trapped with nothing to do, nothing that is, except gaze out at his neighbors in the apartment complex across the way.

Rear Window Pic 2
Jeffries, or ‘Jeff,’ which is what his friends call him, has two people who spend time with him on a daily basis. One is his sharp witted, but caring nurse Stella, who provides comic relief in a role acted by Thelma Ritter (Pillow Talk); the other is his love interest, the optimistic socialite, Lisa Fremont, portrayed by Grace Kelly (High Noon). She is very keen to turn her relationship with Jeff into a marriage, but Stewart’s character makes an assortment of excuses as to why marriage would never work for them. He’s normally a man of action, who travels the world and packs lightly, is frequently in danger, eats whatever local cuisine is available, no matter how disgusting it might look and has to go stretches of time without showering and very little sleep. He implores Lisa to realize that the life he lives, compared to the crowd she normally runs with, would not be something that she would likely warm up to.

Rear Window - James Stewart and Grace Kelly
The apartment complex that Jeff looks at for most of the film was all built on a single set, which at the time of production was the largest indoor set that had ever been built at Paramount Studios. As the weeks of boredom pass for Jeff, his voyeuristic pursuits yield him information regarding those whom he watches. He takes to giving names to the people in the building across the way based on their behavior. There is Judith Evelyn, who portrays Miss Lonelyhearts, a woman who goes through all of the motions of preparing a romantic dinner, replete with table settings, wine, and conversation that she shares with her non-existent suitor. Miss Torso (Georgine Darcy) also throws parties, but hers are attended by several different men, all of whom are vying for her affections. Sara Berner and Frank Cady are cast in the roles of a married couple who take to sleeping on the fire escape to try to stay cool during the stifling heat that has taken hold of the city. Rand Harper and Havis Davenport are a newly married couple whose blinds are quickly drawn after they move into their new apartment, and each time the husband sticks his head out for a breath of air, he is called back to the marital bed by his new bride. In addition, there is the musical composer, acted by Ross Bagdasarian, who, based on his actions, is discontented with the way his career is progressing. Lastly, but of central importance to the story, is actor Raymond Burr’s (Perry Mason) character of Lars Thorwald, who is married to a woman that spends all day in bed and makes his life difficult with her constant nagging. One day, however, she is viewed no more by the ever prying eyes of Jeff, who quickly comes to the conclusion that Thorwald has murdered her. His reasoning behind that mindset is based on the clues he has pieced together. Mrs. Thorwald is no longer present in the apartment. Jeff spots Thorwald with a knife and a saw. He witnesses him making three early morning trips out of his apartment, carrying his metallic suitcase, the contents of which are left to the imagination of both Jeff and the viewer. Then, there’s a spot that Thorwald has recently dug in the garden of the courtyard that becomes of interest to a small dog owned by the people who sleep on the fire escape.

Rear Window Pic 4

Rear Window Pic 5
Jeff calls his friend on the police force, an old army pal of his, Detective Doyle, played by Wendell Corey (The Search). After listening to what Jeff has to say about what has been transpiring, he is dismissive of Jeff’s accusations and when he does conduct an investigation into the validity of Jeff’s claims it leads nowhere. There are two witnesses who claim to have seen Thorwald leaving the apartment complex with his wife, in order to take her to the train station. One of the witnesses is the building superintendant. Doyle also tells Jeff that a trunk, which Thorwald had two moving men pick up, was searched when it arrived at its destination and contained nothing, but Mrs. Thorwald’s clothing and that Mrs. Thorwald eventually showed up to retrieve it. There is also a letter addressed to Thorwald from his wife, telling him that she has arrived safely by train to her destination, however, none of these revelations deter Jeff for a minute. He truly suspects murder has been committed and he is going to ride out his suspicions until the end; this perseverance sets up the second half of the film.

One of the brilliant aspects of the movie is that even though, we as viewers, get to see everything that Jeff sees, we still can’t be certain that a crime has been committed. The presentation is done in a manner that, at least initially, makes one wonder if Jeff’s imagination is just wildly over-active due to his being confined to his apartment for weeks on end. Is he merely projecting onto Raymond Burr’s character of Thorwald what he wants to be taking place rather than actual reality? Joining Jeff on his mission to validate his suspicions are both Stella and Lisa, who take an active role in trying to help Jeff get to the bottom of things. One scene that truly grabs hold of the viewing audience, or should, at least in this blogger’s opinion, is when Lisa enters Thorwald’s apartment and starts searching for clues, but while she is there, Jeff sees Thorwald return to the apartment. Jeff is helpless to do anything; the only thing he can do is call the police and make up a story in an attempt to get them to go to Thorwald’s apartment as quickly as possible.

Rear Window Pic 6
Trivia buffs take note: With the exception of his usual cameo appearance, where he is winding a clock in the apartment of the composer, Hitchcock directed only from Jeff’s apartment. In order to communicate with the other members of the cast, the director had them wear earpieces so that he could radio to them what he wanted them to do in a particular scene. John Michael Hayes based the character Grace Kelly played on his wife, Lisa, who had been a fashion model. The 35mm camera that Jimmy Stewart used in the movie was a 1950’s Exakta VX.

Will Lisa be caught? Has Thorwald really committed murder? What did he do with his wife’s body if he did kill her? Will Jeff be proven right that foul play has taken place? All of those questions and more will be answered if you take the time to view this exceptional classic. It will be 112 minutes of viewing time well spent on this movie that the American Film Institute has honored on two separate occasions: once in 2007, as number forty-eight on their list of the one hundred greatest films of all time; and again in 2008 as number three on their list of the top ten greatest films in the genre of mystery. As always I would love to hear your thoughts regarding this film or anything else I have previously written about.

Rear Window Pic 7

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About robbinsrealm

I was born in Smithtown, New York, and grew up, worked, and lived in various areas of Long Island before moving to Boca Raton, Florida where I now make my home. In addition to being an aspiring writer, I am also an English teacher. I have a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master’s Degree in Education, both from Adelphi University in Garden City, New York. In my spare time you will find me engrossed in books, watching movies, socializing with friends, or just staying active.
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10 Responses to “Become a Voyeur with Hitchcock’s Rear Window”

  1. Jürgen says:

    Hey Jonathan,

    I really like your report about this stunning movie. When I watched this movie many years agofirst , I was really scared.

    When I see today pictures of the movie, I can´t get enough from the beauty of Grace Kelly.

    Do you know whether you can see the film for free anywhere? On youtube I couldn´t find the full movie. I would watch the movie immediately, because I have off today and the next days. I also try to keep busy with the english language. I finished two english easy readers in the last days. Today I will start with “Cry freedom”. There exists also a movie about this book. Maybe I can find this on youtube!

    I wrote some mails to Andrea the last days, but I didn´t get an answer yet. It´s always the same with the girls…But I know that she is more occupied with her horse, so I´ll keep my fingers crossed for having danza conmigo soon at Andrea´s stable.

    See you!

    Jürgen

  2. robbinsrealm says:

    Thank you for your compliment regarding my blog. I greatly appreciate it. The only place that I can think of where you can find the movie for free is the library.

  3. filmhipster says:

    I LOVE this film, great review!! They just don’t make films like this anymore.

  4. robbinsrealm says:

    I greatly appreciate your compliment regarding my blog.

  5. Hey! Thanks for stopping by and following my little blog. As we film fans need to stick together, I’ve returned the favour. I’ll be reading you later! Cheers mate. 😀

  6. keith7198 says:

    Great write-up! THIS is my favorite Hitchcock picture! I love everything about it. Stewart is incredible, Kelly is stunning, and the entire concept is brilliant!

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