Movie poster: Rear Window

L. B. “Jeff” Jefferies is a pro­fes­sion­al pho­tog­ra­ph­er who suf­fered a bro­ken leg while tak­ing action pho­tos at an auto­mo­bile race.  With his leg in a cast, he is now in a wheel­chair con­fined to his apart­ment in Greenwich Village in New York City.  It is sum­mer­time in the 1950s and the heat of the city has every­one with their win­dows open try­ing to get some fresh air (no air con­di­tion­ers at this time).  To enter­tain him­self, Jeff gazes out the win­dow of his apart­ment and watch­es the var­i­ous neigh­bors across the court­yard.  Peeping Tom?  Yes!  But what he wit­ness­es leads him to believe he has seen a murder.

This is the set­ting of our Reel Classic enti­tled Rear Window.  This isn’t just a clas­sic movie but has also been deemed by many crit­ics as one of Alfred Hitchcock’s finest films.  The cast is excel­lent with James Stewart as Jeff, Grace Kelly as his “socialite” girl­friend Lisa Fremont, Thelma Ritter as the vis­it­ing nurse Stella, and Wendell Corey as Jeff’s friend (and police detec­tive) Tom Doyle.  Raymond Burr plays the mys­te­ri­ous neigh­bor across the court­yard, Lars Thorwald, who has gath­ered Jeff’s atten­tion with his behaviors.

The neigh­bors across the court­yard have all been giv­en nick­names by Jeff, who per­sis­tent­ly watch­es them through their open win­dows.  There is “Miss Lonelyheart” who strug­gles with rela­tion­ships and lone­li­ness.  There is the “Songwriter” who works at his piano com­pos­ing and play­ing.  Also across the way we find “Miss Torso” who is con­stant­ly danc­ing and mov­ing, “Miss Hearing Aid,” “The Newlyweds,”  and the cou­ple who sleep on the fire escape (because of the heat).  However, it is Lars Thorwald and his bed-rid­den wife that intrigues Jeff the most. 

The entire movie was shot on the set of the apart­ment com­plex which was con­struct­ed inside the movie stu­dio.  It took two months and near­ly $100,000 to con­struct and con­sist­ed of thir­ty-one apart­ments.  Most of the shots were filmed from Jeff’s win­dow, and Alfred Hitchcock set up in that space to direct the film.  Actors across the court­yard wore ear­pieces so Hitchcock could direct them from across the way.  Also includ­ed in the set was an array of one thou­sand arc lights to sim­u­late daylight.

Grace Kelly and James Stewart both appeared in mul­ti­ple Hitchcock films.  Kelly also appeared in Dial M for Murder (with Ray Milland)and To Catch a Thief  (with Cary Grant).  Stewart appeared in Rope, The Man Who Knew Too Much (with Doris Day), and Vertigo (with Kim Novak).  James Stewart stat­ed that of the four movies he made with Alfred Hitchcock, Rear Window was his favorite.

Interestingly, Grace Kelly was offered the oppor­tu­ni­ty to appear in the film On The Waterfront at the same time but chose Rear Window as she felt the role of fash­ion­able Lisa suit­ed her bet­ter.  I believe most peo­ple would agree with that assess­ment.  Another inter­est­ing note—if you look close­ly you may rec­og­nize the man sleep­ing on the mat­tress on the fire escape.  That is Frank Cady, who also played the part of Sam Drucker in the TV series Petticoat Junction and Green Acres.  Let me add one oth­er lit­tle tid­bit about the cast regard­ing the “Songwriter.”  He is played by Ross Bagdasarian (aka David Seville), the cre­ator of Alvin & The Chipmunks.       

The film was based on a 1942 short sto­ry “It Had to Be Murder” by Cornell Woolrich, a well-known mys­tery writer at the time.  It was released in 1954 and was nom­i­nat­ed for four Academy Awards.  It earned $5.3 mil­lion from box offices in North America.  In 1997 the film was added to the National Film Registry and in 2007 was ranked 48th in the American Film Institute’s “Greatest Movies Of All Time.”  The Internet Movie Data Base rates Rear Window at 8.5 out of 10.  Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 98% score from crit­ics and 95% score from audi­ence reviews.

James Stewart and Grace Kelly in Rear Window.

Rear Window, along with four oth­er Hitchcock films (The Man Who Knew Too Much, Rope, The Trouble With Harry, and Vertigo) were unavail­able to the pub­lic for about thir­ty years as the rights to those films were pur­chased by Hitchcock and giv­en to his daugh­ter.  They were com­mon­ly referred to as the “Five Lost Hitchcocks.”  They were even­tu­al­ly re-released to the­aters in the 1980s and found their way to DVDs. 

A tele­vi­sion remake with the same title was released in 1998 star­ring Christopher Reeve, who was in actu­al­i­ty par­a­lyzed fol­low­ing an acci­dent in 1995.  Daryl Hannah played the love inter­est. (Note:  For you music buffs out there, Daryl Hannah is now the love inter­est of Neil Young). 

I can’t end this piece regard­ing an Alfred Hitchcock movie with­out men­tion­ing his cameo appear­ances in his movies.  Some view­ers focus on “when will he appear?”  I’m going to make it easy for you.  There is a scene where the “Songwriter” is at his piano in his apart­ment and a gen­tle­man vis­i­tor is wind­ing the clock.  Keep an eye out. 

I searched the stream­ing apps and found only one offer­ing Rear Window for free.  The app is named Movieland.Tv (I found it via my Roku.  It does have com­mer­cials.).  It is also avail­able at the Clark County Public Library in a col­lec­tion enti­tled “Alfred Hitchcock, The Masterpiece Collection, Vol 3.”

Rear Window is full of sus­pense with a dash of romance.  I high­ly rec­om­mend it to you.  Until next time, I hope you will enjoy this “Reel Classic” and, as usu­al,  you will find the trail­er below.

  • Ron grew up in Southeast Baltimore, spent three and a half years liv­ing in the High Desert in California, and came to Winchester when his VW Beetle broke down here on a cross-coun­try dri­ve to Vermont. He has lived here and worked as a social work­er since 1973. Though he retired in 2013, he remains active as a com­mu­ni­ty vol­un­teer on var­i­ous boards, coali­tions, and com­mit­tees. His pas­sions include the woods and nature, music, books, and clas­sic movies (espe­cial­ly Laurel & Hardy).