Hitchcock Blogathon #8: Rear Window

Ring a Ding Ding

Rear Window (1954)

     Hitchcock loved to focus on voyeurism in his films and never was it more apparent than in Rear Window. The camera never leaves the apartment of L.B. Jefferies, played by Jimmy Stewart, who watches the goings on of the courtyard and apartments within view of his living room, where he is confined because of a broken leg. The director cutely developes the characters of people we never see close up: the newlyweds, the struggling songwriter, the dancer “Miss Torso”, the woman with a dog, “Miss Lonelyhearts” and most importantly the salesman and his invalid wife.

     When Jeffries hears screams one night, he begins to suspect the salesman has killed his wife. Jeffries’ girlfriend, Lisa, who is a model played naturally by Grace Kelly, joins in on the people-watching as the two try to determine what happened to the wife. The most thrilling moments are when Lisa sneaks into the suspect’s apartment to dig up clues while Jeffries (and the audience) is left impotent across the yard watching as danger approaches the young beauty.

     Thelma Ritter comes in as an insurance company nurse required to check up on the laid up Jeffries. She was transformed from the original story in Dime Detective Magazine from a black servant into the wise cracking character as a device to unite the audience. Writer John Michael Hayes said comedy could bring audience members together. Once they “had laughed together they could gasp together, they could clutch the seats together, and they could scream together,” he said. The girlfriend did not exist at all in the short story and so fully changed the extent to which the story could go.

     This rare first-person perspective is less about fancy camera angles and more about the fantastic set, dialogue and story, which in itself is thrilling enough. The set was an accomplishment. Thirty-one apartments, 12 of which were fully furnished, made up the courtyard. The actors in the faraway shots were equipped with mini microphones through which they received instructions from Hitchcock about their movements. The camera often moved in one take across the various apartment windows, requiring all actors be on their toes for their cues.

The MacGuffin: What’s buried in the garden.

Where’s Hitch? About 25 minutes in he winds a clock in the songwriters apartment.

Source: Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light by Patrick McGilligan

I will be posting reviews of Hitchcock movies every hour ending at 8 p.m. today, but other members of the Classic Movie Blog Association, which is hosting the blogathon, have plenty to offer also. Links to their articles is up at the CMBA site. Check them out!

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