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Young Bobby Driscoll (Tommy) makes up stories to his friends and to his
parents. One night, he sleeps on the fire escape outside the apartment
of Paul Stewart (Mr Kellerson) and Ruth Roman (Mrs Kellerson) where he
witnesses them commit a murder. When he tells his parents Arthur
Kennedy and Barbara Hale about it, they dismiss him. In fact, they
punish him. Even the police don't believe him when he reports the
murder to them. Poor kid. No-one believes him. It's not long before
Paul Stewart and Ruth Roman find out that he knows something and set a
plan in motion to silence him.
There are many tense scenes as Driscoll faces his nightmare all alone. The audience shares his fear as the killers have him next on their list. The acting is realistic as is the dialogue. The film also has eerie sections (eg, Ruth Roman outside Driscoll's window with a torch as he hides in his locked room) and dramatic moments (eg, when the killers kidnap Driscoll and put him in the back of a cab and they encounter a policeman). The strategy that Paul Stewart and Ruth Roman use to shut him up during the cab ride is genius. It's very funny and demonstrates perfect teamwork.
Children are usually annoying in films. Not here. A dramatic ending in a disused apartment block adds to the tension. Worth watching again. The way the movie is filmed and the location all add to the experience of a film that is actually quite scary in parts.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Based on William Irish's (aka Cornell Woolrich) remarkable short story
" fire escape" ,this is some kind of "rear window" seen through a
child's eye ;everybody knows that Woolrich also wrote the novel which
provides Hitchcock with one of his best screenplays (and movie).With a
much more modest budget,without very big stars (Arthur Kennedy and Ruth
Roman were young at the time),"the window" compares favorably with the
The differences between the short story and the movie are minimal :the names were slightly changed (Charlie "buddy" becomes Tommy and the Kellerman are the Kellerson -because the villain's name sounded too Jewish?-;the telegram is a true one ;the chase in the streets is shortened ,probably because it' s a black and white movie,and Woolrich's depictions and his stunning use of the red and green lights were impossible to film .The Kellerson woman shows some compassion when her husband wants to push Tommy off the roof :attractive elegant Ruth Roman is ,among the cast ,the weakest link :she was on the paper a rather crude heavily made-up woman the boy "did not find pretty"
But the rest of the cast is exactly as Woolrich depicts them :Bobby Driscoll always acts naturally and Barbara Hale is the mom everybody would like to have.Aesop's lines ,which open the movie,and which everybody knows ,have never been so relevant.A fine film noir,with a splendid use of shadows and lights and buildings near decay.
Barbara Hale, Arthur Kennedy Ruth Roman, Bobby Driscoll and Paul
Stewart star in "The Window," a 1949 film.
In a takeoff of the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, Tommy Woodry is an only child with a very active imagination. He is known among his friends and parents as being a teller of tall tales. One night, it's so hot in their New York apartment that Tommy goes onto the fire escape to sleep. There, seeing in the next apartment, he witnesses a murder. The problem is, no one believes him. Except the killers.
Good nail-biter with lots of references to corporal punishment for kids, which was common back then. It's plenty of violence, too, as well as a dramatic ending.
Arthur Kennedy was one of the most underrated actors in show business - though this is a good film, it's a small one, and he deserved something with a higher profile. Barbara Hale, just a few years later would achieve TV immortality as Della Street, Perry Mason's secretary. At 27, Ruth Roman makes an impression as Mrs. Kellerton, who was involved in the killing. She's both beautiful and frightened.
The actor who plays the little boy, Bobby Driscoll was very good and continued to work until around 1960, when drugs and a criminal record kept him from getting work. He died at 31 of heart problems, penniless and homeless.
Good movie, worth seeing.
Part of the appeal of the film noir genre has always been its ability
to freeze everyday life from the past and redisplay it faithfully to
viewers many decades later. It's one of the reasons why I enjoy the
genre so much, and "The Window" does its job better that most. If you
want to step into a time machine and see what real life was like in New
York City in the 1940s, this is the movie to see. I saw it at a local
film noir film festival, and I hope it comes out on DVD.
It's a bit jarring to see Della Street as a gritty Manhattan housewife with a coarse blue-collar husband, but it's also a lot of fun and she looks terrific. Barbara Hale is still alive as I write this, amazingly, and will turn 91 in a few weeks. At the film festival, this film was introduced by someone who had telephoned Barbara Hale and asked her for her memories of making this movie. She said the movie was supposed to take place in the summer, so the actors dressed very lightly, but it was really filmed in a much colder time of year and she remembers freezing as they shot scene after scene. Could have fooled me, the movie comes across as summery and hot with lots of sweat.
Every detail fascinated me, especially of apartment life in the 1940s: tiny rooms, closet-sized bathrooms with dwarf sinks, and kitchens that looked like airplane galleys. Dark and sinister stairwells up to dingy apartments, fire escapes and alleys, cigarettes galore, and black telephones like my grandmother used to have. Every scene is richly textured, almost as if the director knew that audiences of the distant future would be watching his movie and be mesmerized by the detailed scenery, from the local police station to the pay phone at the corner drugstore.
Others have reviewed the plot and I have nothing much to add. But I will emphasize that the plot develops along paths that I would never have predicted, and the ending will rivet you to your seat. The conclusion was deeply satisfying and caused the audience to burst into whistles and applause. Hope this movie comes out on DVD quick... it's a treasure.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In its day (it was made in 1947 around the time Howard Hughes bought RKO and in his wisdom he had it shelved until, short of product in 1949, it was finally released) this must have been highly effective. Watching it today it is easy to compare it with Rear Window and watch it come off worse but Rear Window had a budget arguably 20 to 30 times that of The Window, it was shot in color, had Internationally known stars - James Stewart, Grace Kelly - plus an Internationally celebrated (albeit vastly overrated) director, Alfred Hitchcock. The irony is that both films were based on stories by William Irish/Cornell Woollrich. Okay, to rack up the tension it is necessary to have the father (Arthur Kennedy) work nights and the mother (Barbara Hale) leave the nine-year-old boy (Bobby Driscoll) alone in the apartment AFTER the two killers (Paul Stewart, Ruth Roman) on the floor above KNOW that he saw them kill the sailor. As well as this in 1949 no one was wondering aloud what a sailor was doing in a strange apartment in the first place (apart from getting rolled by Roman, that is); it's clear that Roman was a hooker, or at least had picked up the sailor and led him to believe she would have sex with him because nothing else makes sense. Chances are she and Stewart did this on a regular basis but this time it went wrong. It packs a lot into 79 minutes and the acting is, if anything, superior to that in Rear Window. Well worth the price of a DVD.
In film, there's two kinds of 'predictable'. First, there's the "I
can't believe they'd do something SO INCREDIBLY OBVIOUS!!" type. Then
there's the kind of predictable in which you know exactly what will
happen next, but the suspense still literally tears you to pieces! "The
Window" is definitely the latter and it's all the better for it.
Featuring a great, if mostly unknown cast, this should be counted among the top film noir's ever made. Starring 12 year old Bobby Driscoll, there's also noir vet Paul Stewart, Ruth Roman, Barbara Hale and Arthur Kennedy who's probably the best actor to ever have been Oscar nominated five times without ever having won. Directed by Ted Tetzlaff, Jr., a seasoned and previously Oscar nominated cinematographer himself, virtually every frame is a beautifully crafted black & white image of substantial texture and depth. Photographed by William O. Steiner & Robert DeGrasse, the camera-work is brilliant. The direction of the actors is just as good. Every character comes across as a real, living breathing human being (even the killers) and every actor turns in nothing less than a terrific performance.
As icing on the cake, the rundown tenement and condemned building sets are so perfect that they count as characters themselves. The climatic scene in the abandoned building is simply incredible. How they filmed such a realistic looking nail bitter of a scene in 1949 is beyond me. Today it would all be done on a computer, but not in 1949. I won't ruin it, but I felt like I was right there teetering on the edge of that failing wooden support beam about to plummet three stories along with the characters. Not a bit overdone, this particular scene is one of the best photographed, executed and outright suspenseful scenes ever put on film. And while there is a musical score, it gives way to the natural sound of the setting at key moments rather than to telegraph what's coming next.
With its terrific combination of acting, directing, writing, photography, art direction and restrained musical score, this "little" film is the complete package. At about 73 minutes in length, it's all story and not a second of fluff or padding. I'd bet the farm that if "The Window" ever gets remade they'll add at least 20-30 minutes for fear that today's audience will feel cheated by such a short running time. "The Window" was produced by RKO Studios. Great Film Noir flicks were a specialty of theirs and this is one of the very best.
Not only do I remember this little wonder of a movie, if memory serves, I think I gave it a "rave" in the L.A. Daily News way way back then. And if I didn't, it would only be because first-string critic Virginia Wright had the privilege. It wasn't so much a "noir" flick as it was a straight-on suspense effort. The climactic chase scene in the derelict tenement is one for the books. Speaking of which, I just tried to locate IMDb references to French film director Charles David, whom Universal imported to direct a Deanna Durbin vehicle, and whom she married and followed to Paris? Whatever, David also directed a minor B effort while at Universal, titled either "River Pirates" or "River . . . " something. But, again, no luck. Not surprising, considering the literal thousands of titles, but I had expected to find SOME reference via Durbin. Sigh.
I cannot understand how the upstairs neighbors could step on the boy's
pillow (going up to roof and coming down) without noticing it and
realizing someone was probably there when they committed the murder.
Also, it was strange that boy's dad did not see the boy's runaway note at all, but the neighbor seemed to see it right away.
All the actors seemed well-suited to their roles.
If Bobby did all the stairway climbing himself (likely) he did it very well and with speed appropriate to the timing of the plot.
Arthur Kennedy got many good roles over the years, but unfortunately never a signature role that could have propelled him to the top of his profession.
Having read the reviews about this film I deeply regret having not been able to see this film yet. When it was screened here in the UK in December 2005 my video player decided to play up so i was unable to record it. As a big movie buff, particularly the black and white films of the 40's and 50's, I am hoping that this film is released on DVD as I would love to add it to my film library. Perhaps the BBC will show it again in the near future...Does anybody know if this film is to be released on DVD? I have read the biography of Bobby Driscoll and I agree with the comment made by another reviewer that a film should be made about this child star whose life like so many child stars of that period was at best not easy.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I haven't seen this film since 1949, but it left an impression on me.
The idea of a child prone to tall tales who can't get anyone to believe
him when he's reporting something serious goes back to the tale of the
boy who cried "Wolf," but here it's presented well.
To me, the most chilling moment was when the boy wrote a note of apology to his parents, but the postscript was carefully excised by the killers. Without the postscript, reiterating the truth of his report, the note read as if he was apologizing for making the report! It was torn off, using a ruler to make the bottom edge look natural, slowly enough so that the audience could absorb the import of the act.
Not the best film of its kind, but really suspenseful.
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