Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
September 1, 1954
A photographer with a broken leg is stuck at home recuperating. With nothing to do but people watch, he comes to believe one of them has committed murder.
I think the last time that I tried to watch Rear Window I was still in school. That was back when AMC showed movies that were actually classic films (as their name stands or stood for American Movie Classics) and was not a dumping ground for mediocre movies or filled with television shows that they produced themselves. Focus on classic movies! But I am quickly getting off topic.
Jimmy Stewart plays LB Jeffries-the photographer of the story that becomes very knowledgeable of the lives of his neighbors by doing the creepy thing and watching them all day through his sweet camera. This was in 1954 before streaming or cable or the internet and if you were stuck at home you could be left with nothing to occupy your time. Jeffries is a globetrotting photographer and is recuperating at home after getting an epic shot for the magazine for which he works and seriously breaking his leg. His world is reduced to what he sees out of a window and he crafts narratives in his head based on what he gleans from observation as if he knows these people personally.
There is a woman living in a ground floor apartment the seems a little lovelorn he calls Miss Lonelyhearts (Judith Evelyn). There is an older woman called Miss Hearing Aid (Jesslyn Fax). There is an attractive dancer nicknamed Miss Torso (Georgine Darcy). Ross Bagdasarian, who created Alvin & the Chipmunks, appears as a songwriter. It is there that Hitchcock makes his cameo as a man winding a clock. There is a couple living on an upper floor apartment with a dog that one of their neighbors despises.
Grace Kelly shines (as she always did) as LB Jeffries’s socialite girlfriend Lisa who does the legwork in this story that Jeffries would have done if he were not stuck in a wheelchair. What I find interesting is that Lisa does not necessarily buy his whole thinking on there being a murder at first, but she quickly gets sucked into the whole idea within just a few moments.
Raymond Burr stars as the traveling salesman husband Lars Thorwald that Jeffries believes has murdered his wife (Irene Winston). He is an angry older individual who despite appearing to act in the moment actually has his bases covered. If it were not for Jeffries, he would not even be a murder suspect.
Burr was probably the weakest performer here. I have seen him in a few older films where he has had a girlfriend or wife and he never comes off as a good boyfriend or an angry husband or whatever he is supposed to be. He comes off as indifferent to his significant other regardless of the situation of his character. But as a nemesis for Stewart he was quite good. Thorwald, once he learns who knows, is much better as a character. He is all filled with rage and desperation to keep his plot from being exposed to authorities.
The insurance company covering Jeffries’s claim has given him a nurse named Stella (Thelma Ritter) who also gets in on the action. Thelma Ritter was in numerous classic films during her career. Starting with Miracle on 34th Street she was in such films as: Call Northside 777, Father Was a Fullback, All About Eve, Pillow Talk, Birdman of Alcatraz, and How the West Was Won. Few actors or actresses are as fortunate as she was.
Rear Window truly is one of the greatest movies ever made by one of the greatest directors ever. Somehow Hitchcock managed to create a gripping thriller taking place mostly through the rear window of an apartment. That is masterful storytelling and something that could not be easily done today. I just do not think most directors today are that creative to pull this much drama from a simple idea and have it take place in such a small area. The premise is pretty simple: a man with a broken leg is stuck in his apartment and begins people watching. Eventually he sees something suspicious and that is when the story takes off. Hitchcock was a master of his craft. Only a great director could make such an amazing film from such a simple premise.
Mixed in with the story of the murder investigation is Jimmy Stewart’s character feeling that Lisa is not quite right for him. He is a world traveling photographer who spends more time in crap holes than he does anywhere else and she is from a wealthy family. He just cannot see himself taking photography job that would keep him in nicer places and with a steady schedule. Nor can he see Lisa following him around the globe to his various assignments since she has lived a very comfortable life.
At the very beginning of the film he tries to push her away, but she is in love with him and she comes back. During the course of the investigation, she proves that she can indeed fit in with his world and that she wants to be a part of his world or simply just be with him. She throws herself into participating and doing the legwork that Jeffries cannot with an energy that intrigues him and makes him realize that she could indeed exist in his world.
But this is not a straightforward progression towards a climax. Jeffries enlists the help of police detective friend Tom Doyle (Wendell Corey) to check things out and this along with other things leads to moments of doubt where he thinks he just might be making things up in his head. But those doubts on what he witnessed are get pushed aside in a way that could only be done by someone that knows the truth.
Rear Window is done all on a set. That whole Greenwich Village courtyard existed only in Hollywood. But it is such a detailed and lived-in looking set that your mind does not realize it. There is life going on everywhere here.
Rear Window is a fantastic film. It is a classic Hitchcock movie. It is tense and exciting and filled with great acting and great characters. This is most certainly a watch it!