Rear Window

Rear Window photo starrating-5stars.jpgThe story is simple. Photojournalist L.B. “Jeff” Jefferies (James Stewart) is confined to a wheelchair in his apartment. His broken leg injury is temporary thanks to an accident during an on the job assignment. He remains at home while he recuperating. His rear window overlooks a small courtyard where he can see into the rooms of other apartments. The view is a microcosm of humanity at various stages in their relationships. It’s voyeurism at its most enthusiastically unrestrained. As he peers into the private lives of his neighbors, we are disturbed and intrigued all at the same time. Though he doesn’t know them, he creates nicknames for some residents based on his observations. Among them, there’s Miss Lonelyhearts, Miss Torso, Miss Hearing Aid. There’s also the songwriter, the newlyweds, the couple on the fire escape, the traveling salesman and his invalid wife. Then one day he firmly believes one has committed murder. He hasn’t actually seen the act, though, so how will he prove it?

First and foremost, Rear Window is a thriller, but additionally bubbling beneath the surface we’ve got this captivating love story between Jeff (James Stewart) and Manhattan model and socialite, Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly), who wants to marry him. Despite her exhortations for them to tie the knot, he is reluctant to commit. Stella (Thelma Ritter), in a great supporting role as his wisecracking nurse, thinks Jeff’s fear is ridiculous.

“When a man and a woman see each other and like each other, “ she says, “they ought to come together – wham! Like a couple of taxis on Broadway, not sit around analyzing each other like two specimens in a bottle.”

Jeff’s profession and his love of travel literally mean the world to him. Lisa loves expensive clothes and attending parties. You aren’t made for that kind of a life,“ he contends. Yet Kelly plays the character in a way so that she never seems materialistic or vain. On the contrary, we agree with Jeff. She is perfect. At one point he sends her out to go investigate. As she climbs up the railing to go into a suspected murderer’s apartment, we realize something: She truly is too good for him.

When we talk about the golden age of Hollywood and I mean the period covering the late 1920s to the early 1960s, Grace Kelly must certainly be included in the greatest sirens of the silver screen. She is positively luminous in this picture. Jeff awakes to a full close-up of her coming towards him for a kiss. It’s a memorable shot. Kelly is introduced wearing an $1100 dress “fresh from the Paris plane” and it’s spectacular. It’s the first of many outfits she wears throughout the production and each one just as stunning as the next. Legendary Edith Head was the costume designer so we expect nothing less.

Rear Window is regularly listed with the greatest movies ever made. Certainly one of Hitchcock’s finest. In addition to the exceptional chemistry between star James Stewart and a radiant Grace Kelly , there’s Raymond Burr as salesman Lars Thorwald with his hair dyed white to make him appear older. When his invalid wife disappears, Jeff suspects foul play might be involved. The setting is a fascinating tableau. Virtually the entire feature is shot from Jeff’s gaze looking out into the open courtyard into the many windows of his neighbors. Each residence is a set within itself, fully furnished. With few exceptions, the camera never leaves the confinement of Stewart’s apartment. The setting can get a bit claustrophobic. Nevertheless it’s a brilliantly assembled theatrical piece right down to the heart-pounding climax . Hitchcock’s brilliance as a director has never been questioned and with Rear Window, his abilities as a visual storyteller remain unparalleled.

03-22-15

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23 Responses to “Rear Window”

  1. I’ve both seen and written about this film. I find it very intriguing how Hitchcock toys with us – without quite saying so, the implication is that voyeurism is just a fancy word for snooping. And if you want people to respect your privacy, then you should respect the privacy of others.

    Yet – we cannot look away. The more Stewart’s Jeff looks into his neighbor’s lives, the stronger is the pull for we viewers.

    Which is simply as you described in your excellent review, it unparalleled movie making. In my own review – I believe I stated that sales of binoculars and zoom lenses for cameras took off after this film came out.

    The point being that despite the negativity that surrounds the words voyeur or voyeurism, for most of us, if the opportunity presents itself , it is hard to resist.

    • Well put. His “snooping” is something we humans frown upon, yet it’s such a compelling temptation to do. Something we know to be wrong, yet deep down we know we can’t resist.

      P.S. Why doesn’t anyone draw the drapes at that complex? Ha ha.

  2. Immensely looking forward to my first time watching this. I believe it’s somewhere fairly high in my Netflix queue, I might have to bump it a couple spots higher since you rate it so highly. I do love me some James Stewart.

  3. lukasfilm Says:

    Good review. Heard this got a theatrical release, but couldn’t find it near me. One of my favorites from Hitchcock.

  4. My favourite Hitchcock. Great to see this pop up on my reader. Thank you!

  5. Nice review. This is my favorite Hitchcock movie (though I’d say his best is Vertigo). Really shows what Hitchcock could do with a film with one setting.

    • No other director has made such an extraordinary number of classics: The 39 Steps (1935), The Lady Vanishes (1938), Rebecca (1940), Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Spellbound (1945), Notorious (1946), Rope (1948), Strangers on a Train (1951), Dial M for Murder (1954), Rear Window (1954), To Catch a Thief (1955), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest(1959), Psycho (1960), The Birds (1963).

      Those are the 16 most often mentioned. Hitchcock actually directed over 50 films. There are so many others.

  6. Gregory Skala Says:

    Another choice review, in my opinion. Mark. Your description of this film resonates in my mind with Blow Up, which I saw more than 45 years ago and relly liked.

    Cheers, Greg

    >

  7. GaryGreg828 Says:

    (in Lloyd Christmas voice) Hey Har, I’ve heard a lot of good things about this “Rear Window” movie. I think it was inspired by “Disturbia”.

    • Did you just find a way to reference Dumb & Dumber in a review for Rear Window? That’s awesome! 😀

      • GaryGreg828 Says:

        Yeah, in the same vein from the original when Lloyd said in the diner that “The Monkees” were a major influence on “The Beatles”. LOL! It’s those subtle little “dumb” comments that make it the funniest comedy of all time.

        Welp…see ya’ later!

  8. This is basically irrelevant to what you wrote but kind of interesting maybe, suggested by the cast of Rear Window.

    Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly were two of Hitchcock’s favorites. As you may recall, Stewart made four Hitchcock films: Rope, Rear Window, Vertigo and The Man Who Knew Too Much. Cary Grant also made four: Suspicion, Notorious, To Catch a Thief and North by Northwest. Grace Kelly starred opposite Stewart in Rear Window and Grant in To Catch a Thief, and was also in Dial M for Murder. Interesting to speculate which of the actors came away best in their collaborations.

    Also, relative to Hithcock’s leading ladies, you might get a smile out of:
    https://thatswhatidliketoknow.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/the-wrong-woman/

    • I liked your little rumination on “The wrong woman”. Hitchcock definitely had a weakness for an icy blonde, regardless of whether she had a personality.

  9. I recently saw this movie for the first time. I think it’s one of Alfred’s greats! I loved it. I saw Disturbia before this one, but this was by far, superior. 5 stars

  10. Never seen this classic, but I feel like I have to remedy that, especially after reading your review.

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