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REAR WINDOW (1954)
While watching the lives of all his neighbors from the rear room of his apartment, a professional Photographer who is recuperating from a broken leg, begins to think that the man across the way may have murdered his invalid wife.
Screenplay by: John Michael Hayes, based on the story, "It Had to be Murder," by Cornell Woolrich.
Directed and produced by: Alfred Hitchcock.
Promotional Line re-release 1999: "It only takes one witness to spoil the perfect crime"
Quote from Stella: "We've become a race of Peeping Toms. What people ought to do is get outside their own house and look in for a change. Yes sir. How's that for a bit of homespun philosophy?"
Quote from Jeff Jeffries: "Why does a man leave his house three times on a rainy night and comes back three times?"
L.B. "Jeff" Jeffries, a photographer who travels the globe to get exciting pictures for a magazine, finds himself laid up in his hot, 2 bedroom apartment in Greenwich Village, after breaking his leg while getting an action shot of a race car. With the summer heat reaching the 90's, everyone in his apartment block, that surrounds a small garden area, has their blinds up and windows open to try to keep things cool. Being stuck in a wheel chair, with nothing to do, Jeffries starts watching his various neighbors through his rear window as they live their lives. Having done this for 6 weeks, he is aware of everyone's habits and characteristics, even giving some of them nick-names.
There is a jewelry salesman, Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr) who takes care of his invalid wife, Anna (Irene Winston). Other neighbors include Miss Lonely Heart (Judith Evelyn), the song writer(Ross Bagdasarian), "Torso," a voluptuous dancer (Georgine Darcy), and an eccentric lady with a little dog. Bored silly, tired of his voyeurism, Jeffries longs for some excitement, and can't wait until the following week when he gets his cast off.
One must be careful what one wishes for, because you might just get it. Stella (Thelma Ritter), who is the plain talking insurance nurse who comes to take care of him, warned him about looking at the neighbors so much. "I smell trouble!" For in this last week, a potential murder mystery plops into his lap without warning, and on a personal level, his high-class girlfriend, the gorgeous, elegant Lisa Carol Fremont (Grace Kelly) is not only pushing for marriage, but is asking him to take jobs in town. He knows that he wants to continue in the job that he loves, and he can't see Lisa as the adventuresome type who could travel light to rough places of adventure for photo opts.
One late evening, in this last week he is awakened to what he thought was a scream. Then, between dozing off, he sees Lars Thorwald make at least three trips in and out of his apartment from 3:00 AM on, carrying his suitcase. As other clues and odd circumstances occur, Jeffries, then Lisa and Thelma become more and more convinced that Lars Thorwald committed the almost perfect crime. How to prove it? Circumstantial evidence provided to Jeffriesâ friend, skeptical Lieutenant Thomas Doyle (Wendell Corey) isn't enough to get the police involved, and time is running out.
In this wonderful, suspenseful thriller, Director / Producer Alfred Hitchcock has created a masterpiece, giving the audience an involving murder mystery, in between Lisa and Jeffries relationship problems, and the problems of the neighbors. The film is never slow, as there is always something to notice, and clues to remember. Hitchcock skillfully, builds the suspense with twists in the storyline that turn in unexpected ways, keeping the audience guessing as to what will happen next.
This riveting, entertaining screenplay, based on Cornell Woolrich's story, was written by the talented John Michael Hayes, who has written many great scripts for both radio (Sam Spade) and films (The Man Who Knew too Much) over his 40 year career. This screenplay was his crown jewel in the mystery suspense genre.
The original music in the score, by Franz Waxman, gives the film a great ambiance of the 1954 era.
The talented cast, under Hitchcock's direction, really bring the story to life, as their talent shines through their performances. The characters in Hitchcock's films have their weaknesses as well as their strengths, all which add to the story.
James Stewart gives a wonderful performance as a nosy, aggressive photographer turned sleuth, who finds a story right in his own apartment complex; the perfect murder. He is equally convincing as the man who is reluctant to marry a lady who lives a life quite different than his. He is soon to see a different side of Lisa.
The elegant, beautiful Grace Kelly is very convincing as high class, fashion co-ordinator Lisa Carol Fremont, who deeply loves L.B. "Jeff" Jeffries, and wants marriage in the near future.
Raymond Burr is chillingly convincing as the intense, gruff, flower-loving Lars Thorwald, husband of invalid Anna, who does the unexpected perfect crime to dispose of his annoying problem. After seeing Raymond Burr play such positive protagonists such as Perry Mason, it's fun to see a darker side of his talent, playing a scary and sinister character. His lines may have been few, but his body language spoke volumes.
Thelma Ritter, a wonderful character actress, gives a great supporting performance as the visiting insurance nurse with plenty of opinions on not only man-woman relationships, but proves to be a good collaborator with Jeffries and Lisa on the task on hand - bringing a murderer to justice.
Wendell Corey, an actor known for his "cynical delivery of tart dialogue," doesn't disappoint here as Lieutenant Thomas Doyle, an old war buddy who Jeffries calls onto do some unofficial investigating, and concludes that Jeffries is wrong in his deductions.
There are many favorite scenes. The opening of the film is one sequence that does a great job introducing Jeffriesâ neighbors. The camera slowly pans the apartments across from Jeffries' window, introducing them to the audience. The neighbors across from Jeffries all have their parts to play in the upcoming story. The camera then goes into Jeffriesâ room where you see him asleep, sweating, with his wall thermometer showing 90 degrees. The camera pans the room and walls, showing us what he does for a living, and samples of his work. The ongoing stories of the neighbors are entertaining. The trials and woes of Miss Lonely Heart are well done. Also, the riveting, suspenseful last 20 minutes when the killer comes after Jeffries are classic Hitchcock moments.
Rear Window is a classic because not only is it "a thriller, a romance, a mystery, and at times a comedy of manners", but also an interesting study of human behavior, thoughts and fears. All these elements are blended together to create a Hitchcock tale that is one of his best efforts.
Rated PG - There are some scary scenes and suspenseful moments that may not be suitable for some children. Most everyone will enjoy this most entertaining film.