Professional photographer L.B. "Jeff" Jeffries breaks his leg while getting an action shot at an auto race. Confined to his New York apartment, he spends his time looking out of the rear window observing the neighbors. He begins to suspect that a man across the courtyard may have murdered his wife. Jeff enlists the help of his high society fashion-consultant girlfriend Lisa Freemont and his visiting nurse Stella to investigate. Written by
Col Needham <email@example.com>
Alfred Hitchcock briefly considered shooting on location in Greenwich Village but abandoned the idea in favour of recreating the setting on Paramount's Stage 18. To get the proper Village flavour, he sent four photographers to New York to shoot from all angles and under all weather and lighting conditions. See more »
When Jeff is getting back into the wheelchair after Stella has given him a massage, his pajama top jumps from being unbuttoned to buttoned between shots. See more »
Voice on radio:
Men, are you over 40? When you wake up in the morning, do you feel tired and rundown? Do you have that listless feeling...
[the camera pans around the courtyard; cut to later in the day]
For getting rid of that cast!
Who said I was getting rid of it?
This is Wednesday; seven weeks from the day you broke your leg. Yes or no?
Gunnison, how did you ever get to be such a big editor with such a small memory?
[...] See more »
Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window, wittily written by John Michael Hayes, is one of his many films I think of as much of a technical exercise as anything else. It is in this sense like his silent The Lodger, the static, confined Lifeboat, and the cut-less, one set Rope. Considered in this light it is a cold masterpiece, playing more with the audience's thoughts and fears than with its softer, more personal emotions. As such, it is a very cerebral and satisfying piece of work. The plot is deceptively simple: a photographer (James Stewart) is stuck indoors with his leg in a cast during a hot New York summer. His socialite girl-friend (Grace Kelly) is eager to marry him but Stewart has his doubts, since he lives a wandering life and is from a different social class. He spends most of his time idling about and playing with his camera. In time he becomes a voyeur (which he probably already is, to a degree) and begins to observe his neighbors' private lives, as he views them through his lens in the courtyard. He develops attitudes toward each of them, ranging from mild amusement to empathy to sexual interest, depending on who he's looking at. Without realizing it he is really looking at different aspects of either himself or his relationship with Kelly. The courtyard is a kind of mirror of his soul. These people and their predicaments represent different sides of his (and to a lesser extent Miss Kelly's) personality, offering glimpses of potential past, present and future selves; and it is not always a flattering picture. The newlyweds are continually having sex; Miss Torso is a beautiful young woman who entertains many suitors; there is a childless, somewhat pathetic-seeming middle-aged couple who dote over a pet dog; Miss Lonelyhearts is a depressed, aging spinster with no apparent friends; and the young, bachelor song-writer, when he isn't trying to compose songs, is either throwing parties or fits. Then there are the Thorwalds, a squabbling couple across the way. Stewart is at first only slightly interested in them until Mrs. Thorwald disappears and her husband starts going out at night carrying paper parcels that look like they came from a butcher shop. Soon Stewart is, understandably, suspicious. He convinces Kelly that something is amiss, but has trouble with his detective friend. His nurse Stella agrees that something is wrong across the courtyard, and the threesome become amateur detectives. Rear Window is great fun. It's a thriller, a romance, a mystery, and at times a comedy of manners. The actors all give superb, unflashy performances. Hitchcock had been making movies for three decades by the time he undertook this one, and he knew exactly what he was doing; everything happens as it should, on time, with no fuss or bother. The courtyard set is magnificently designed and photographed; it looks both artificial and realistic, and seems almost to change at times, as circumstances dictate. This is, after Dial M For Murder, Hitchcock's first truly 'fifties' film, which is to say it is a far cry from the genteel romances and spy stuff he'd been doing before. There's less use of atmosphere here, as a new, more independent director was emerging, decidedly post-Selznick, often using color. Hitchcock is playing a sort game of cinematic chess, moving people and things around here and there, changing camera angles slyly, never showing his hand. The film lacks only warmth. All sorts of learned books and articles have been written about this picture, some of them quite silly; all at least partly right. This is at times a profound film, but it also aims to entertain, it has a light touch, and it can be scary, it's romantic about couples and cynical about people. There's a little bit of everything in it,--it's a work of art.
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