Rear Window

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Rear Window
Rear Window film poster.jpg
Original theatrical release poster
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Produced by Alfred Hitchcock
Screenplay by John Michael Hayes
Based on "It Had to Be Murder" 
by Cornell Woolrich
Starring James Stewart
Grace Kelly
Wendell Corey
Thelma Ritter
Raymond Burr
Music by Franz Waxman
Cinematography Robert Burks
Editing by George Tomasini
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • August 1, 1954 (1954-08-01)
Running time 112 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1 million1
Box office $36,764,3132

Rear Window is a 1954 American suspense thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, written by John Michael Hayes and based on Cornell Woolrich's 1942 short story "It Had to Be Murder". Originally released by Paramount Pictures, the film stars James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey, Thelma Ritter and Raymond Burr. It was screened at the 1954 Venice Film Festival.

The film is considered by many filmgoers, critics and scholars to be one of Hitchcock's best.3 The film received four Academy Award nominations and was ranked #42 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies list and #48 on the 10th-anniversary edition. In 1997, Rear Window was added to the United States National Film Registry.

Plot

James Stewart as L.B. Jefferies

After breaking his leg photographing a racetrack accident, professional photographer L.B. "Jeff" Jefferies (James Stewart) is confined to his Greenwich Village apartment, using a wheelchair while he recuperates. His rear window looks out onto a small courtyard and several other apartments. During a summer heat wave, he passes the time by watching his neighbors, who keep their windows open to stay cool. The tenants he can see include a dancer he nicknames "Miss Torso", a lonely woman he nicknames "Miss Lonelyheart", a pianist, several married couples, a middle-aged sculptor, and Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr), a traveling jewelry salesman with a bedridden wife.

One evening Jeff hears a woman scream "Don't!" and a glass break. Later he is awakened by thunder and sees Thorwald leaving his apartment. Thorwald makes repeated late-night trips carrying his sample case. Jeff notices that Thorwald's wife is gone and sees Thorwald cleaning a large knife and handsaw. Later, Thorwald ties a large trunk with heavy rope and has moving men haul it away. Jeff discusses these observations with his much-younger socialite girlfriend Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly) and his insurance company home-care nurse Stella (Thelma Ritter), and becomes obsessed with their theory that Thorwald murdered his wife. He explains their theory to his friend Tom Doyle (Wendell Corey), a New York City Police detective, and asks him to find out whether anyone actually picks up the packing crate. Doyle looks into the situation but finds nothing suspicious, and discovers that "Mrs. Thorwald" picked up the packing crate. After Doyle leaves, Jeff asks Lisa if she thinks it was ethical for him to spy on his neighbor with binoculars and a telephoto lens; Lisa replies that she doesn't know much about "rear window ethics" but comments on their morbid curiosity by asking, "Whatever happened to that old saying, 'Love thy neighbor'?"

Soon after, a neighbor's dog is found dead, its neck broken. When the owner sees the lifeless body of her dog she screams to the courtyard: "You don't know the meaning of the word 'neighbors'. Neighbors like each other, speak to each other, care if anybody lives or dies! But none of you do!" and cries in grief. During the woman's hysterics, the neighbors all rush to their windows to see what has happened, except for Thorwald, whose cigar can be seen glowing as he sits in his dark apartment. Convinced that Thorwald is guilty after all, Jeff has Lisa slip an accusatory note under Thorwald's door so Jeff can watch his reaction when he reads it. Then, as a pretext to get Thorwald away from his apartment, Jeff telephones him and arranges a meeting at a bar. He thinks Thorwald may have buried something in the courtyard flower patch and then killed the dog to keep it from digging it up. When Thorwald leaves, Lisa and Stella dig up the flowers but find nothing.

Lisa then climbs the fire escape to Thorwald's apartment and squeezes in through an open window. When Thorwald returns and grabs Lisa, Jeff calls the police, who arrive in time to save her. With the police present, Jeff sees Lisa with her hands behind her back, wiggling her finger with Mrs. Thorwald's wedding ring on it. Thorwald also sees this, realizes that she is signaling to someone, and notices Jeff across the courtyard.

Jeff phones Doyle, now convinced that Thorwald is guilty of something, and Stella heads for the police station to post bail for Lisa, leaving Jeff alone. He soon realizes that Thorwald is coming to his apartment. When Thorwald enters the apartment and approaches him, Jeff repeatedly sets off his camera flashbulbs, temporarily blinding Thorwald. Thorwald grabs Jeff and pushes him toward the open window as Jeff yells for help. Jeff falls to the ground just as some police officers enter the apartment and others run to catch him. Thorwald confesses to the murder of his wife and the police arrest him.

A few days later, the heat has lifted and Jeff rests peacefully in his wheelchair, now with casts on both legs. The lonely neighbor woman chats with the pianist in his apartment, the dancer's lover returns home from the army, the couple whose dog was killed have a new dog, and the newly married couple are bickering. Lisa reclines on the daybed in Jeff's apartment, appearing to read a book on foreign travel in order to please him. As soon as he is asleep, she puts the book down and happily opens a fashion magazine.

Cast

James Stewart and Grace Kelly in Rear Window

Director Alfred Hitchcock makes his traditional cameo appearance in the songwriter's apartment, where he is seen winding a clock.

Production

Grace Kelly poses in an evening gown designed by Edith Head.

The film was shot entirely at Paramount studios, including an enormous set on one of the soundstages. There was also careful use of sound, including natural sounds and music drifting across the apartment building courtyard to James Stewart's apartment. At one point, the voice of Bing Crosby can be heard singing "To See You Is to Love You", originally from the 1952 Paramount film Road to Bali. Also heard on the soundtrack are versions of songs popularized earlier in the decade by Nat King Cole ("Mona Lisa", 1950) and Dean Martin ("That's Amore", 1952), along with segments from Leonard Bernstein's score for Jerome Robbins's ballet Fancy Free (1944), Richard Rodgers's song "Lover" (1932), and "M'appari tutt'amor" from Friedrich von Flotow's opera Martha (1844), most borrowed from Paramount's music publisher, Famous Music.

Hitchcock used costume designer Edith Head on all of his Paramount films.

Although veteran Hollywood composer Franz Waxman is credited with the score for the film, his contributions were limited to the opening and closing titles and the piano tune ("Lisa") played by one of the neighbors, a composer (Ross Bagdasarian), during the film. This was Waxman's final score for Hitchcock. The director used primarily "diegetic" sounds — sounds arising from the normal life of the characters — throughout the film.4

Reception

A "benefit world premiere" for the film, with United Nations officials and "prominent members of the social and entertainment worlds"5 in attendance, was held on August 4, 1954 in New York City, with proceeds going to the American-Korean Foundation (an aid organization founded soon after the end of the Korean War6 and headed by President Eisenhower's brother).

The movie went on to earn an estimated $5.3 million at the North American box office in 1954.7

The film received overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics and is considered one of Hitchcock's finest films. On the website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has been universally praised, garnering a 100% certified fresh rating, based on 61 reviews, with the consensus stating that "Hitchcock exerted full potential of suspense in this masterpiece."

Critic Bosley Crowther of The New York Times attended the benefit premiere, and in his review called the film a "tense and exciting exercise"5 and Hitchcock a director whose work has a "maximum of build-up to the punch, a maximum of carefully tricked deception and incidents to divert and amuse." Crowther also notes:</quote>5 <quote>Mr. Hitchcock's film is not "significant." What it has to say about people and human nature is superficial and glib. But it does expose many facets of the loneliness of city life and it tacitly demonstrates the impulse of morbid curiosity. The purpose of it is sensation, and that it generally provides in the colorfulness of its detail and in the flood of menace toward the end.

Time called it "just possibly the second most entertaining picture (after The 39 Steps) ever made by Alfred Hitchcock" and a film in which there is "never an instant ... when Director Hitchcock is not in minute and masterly control of his material."8 The same review did note "occasional studied lapses of taste and, more important, the eerie sense a Hitchcock audience has of reacting in a manner so carefully foreseen as to seem practically foreordained."8 Variety called the film "one of Alfred Hitchcock's better thrillers" which "combines technical and artistic skills in a manner that makes this an unusually good piece of murder mystery entertainment."9

Nearly 30 years after the film's initial release, Roger Ebert reviewed the Universal re-release in October 1983, after Hitchcock's estate was settled. He said the film "develops such a clean, uncluttered line from beginning to end that we're drawn through it (and into it) effortlessly. The experience is not so much like watching a movie, as like ... well, like spying on your neighbors. Hitchcock traps us right from the first ... And because Hitchcock makes us accomplices in Stewart's voyeurism, we're along for the ride. When an enraged man comes bursting through the door to kill Stewart, we can't detach ourselves, because we looked too, and so we share the guilt and in a way we deserve what's coming to him."10

As of April 2014, Rear Window is the 31st highest-rated movie on Internet Movie Database, with an IMDb rating of 8.6/10; it is one place above Hitchcock's 1960 film Psycho, which is also rated 8.6/10.11

Analysis

In his book, Alfred Hitchcock's "Rear Window", John Belton addresses the underlying issues of voyeurism, patriarchy and feminism that are evident in the film. He quotes "Rear Window's story is "about" spectacle; it explores the fascination with looking and the attraction of that which is being looked at."12 Generally, Belton's book asserts that there is more to Hitchcock's thriller than what initially meets the eye. These issues that society faces today are all more than just present in the film, they are emphasized and strengthened.

Legacy

The film received four Academy Award nominations: Best Director for Alfred Hitchcock, Best Screenplay for John Michael Hayes, Best Cinematography, Color for Robert Burks, Best Sound Recording for Loren L. Ryder, Paramount Pictures.13 John Michael Hayes won a 1955 Edgar Award for Best Motion Picture.

In 1997, Rear Window was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

Rear Window was restored by the team of Robert A. Harris and James C. Katz for its 1999 limited theatrical re-release (utilizing Technicolor dye-transfer prints for the first time in this title's history) and the Collector's Edition DVD release in 2000.

American Film Institute recognition

Ownership

Ownership of the copyright in Woolrich's original story was eventually litigated before the United States Supreme Court in Stewart v. Abend, 495 U.S. 207 (1990). The film was copyrighted in 1954 by Patron Inc. — a production company set up by Hitchcock and Stewart. As a result, Stewart and Hitchcock's estate became involved in the Supreme Court case, and Sheldon Abend became a producer of the 1998 remake of Rear Window.

Rear Window is one of several of Hitchcock's films originally released by Paramount Pictures, for which Hitchcock retained the copyright, and which was later acquired by Universal Studios in 1983 from Hitchcock's estate.

Influence

Rear Window has been repeatedly re-told, parodied, or referenced.

Film

  • Disturbia (2007) is a modern day retelling, with the protagonist (Shia LaBeouf) under house arrest instead of laid up with a broken leg, and who believes that his neighbor is a serial killer rather than having committed a single murder. On September 5, 2008, the Sheldon Abend Trust sued Steven Spielberg, DreamWorks, Viacom, and Universal Studios, alleging that the producers of Disturbia violated the copyright to the original Woolrich story owned by Abend.1516 On September 21, 2010, the U.S. District Court in Abend v. Spielberg, 748 F.Supp.2d 200 (S.D.N.Y. 2010), ruled that Disturbia did not infringe the original Woolrich story.17

Television

  • The set of the film was the basis for a comedy sketch on a 2009 episode of Saturday Night Live. The sketch featured Jason Sudeikis as Jimmy Stewart and January Jones as a flatulent Grace Kelly whose persistent farting made it impossible to finish filming the scene. Bobby Moynihan was also featured as Alfred Hitchcock.18
  • Rear Window was remade as a television movie of the same name in 1998, with an updated storyline in which the lead character is paralyzed and lives in a high-tech home filled with assistive technology. Actor Christopher Reeve, himself paralyzed as the result of a 1995 horse-riding accident, was cast in the lead role. The telefilm also starred Daryl Hannah, Robert Forster, Ruben Santiago-Hudson and Anne Twomey. It aired November 22, 1998 on the ABC television network.
  • The Simpsons spoofed Rear Window in the episode Bart of Darkness which takes place during the summer. The Simpsons get a swimming pool and Bart later breaks his leg, forcing him to spend time in his bedroom with his leg in a cast. Like Jeff in Rear Window, Bart uses a telescope and watches the residents of Springfield from his bedroom window. He suspects Ned Flanders of murdering his wife Maude, only to discover that Ned killed Maude's plant by accident.citation needed
  • That '70s Show spoofed Rear Window, along with other Hitchcock films, in season 3, episode 4's "Too Old to Trick or Treat, Too Young to Die" (originally aired October 31, 2000).19
  • The 1984 version of Heathcliff spoofed Rear Window by having its title character look down on what he thought was a dognapping. At the end of the short, Heathcliff ended up the same way as Jeff.
  • The Flintstones spoofed Rear Window in season 2, episode 4's "Alvin Brickrock Presents".20
  • The Mathnet episode "View from the Rear Terrace" has Kate Monday in a similar situation to Jeffries after breaking her leg for undisclosed reasons, and she starts spying on her next-door neighbor, named Raymond Sticker who turned out to be a criminal bomber & bank-pranker, all in attempt to get his revenge on the bank president.citation needed
  • The 100th episode of Castle, S05 E19 "The Lives of Others" was a cheeky spoof featuring an injured Richard Castle who is confined to his apartment and becomes obsessed after witnessing what he believes is a murder. But it was actually a setup by his friends & family to celebrate his birthday.
  • The White Collar episode "Neighborhood Watch" drew various themes from Rear Window.21
  • A Raising Hope episode titled "Murder She Hoped" spoofed Rear Window on December 2013.
  • A season 4 Mike & Molly episode titled "Poker in the Front, Looker in the back" drew on various themes from Rear Window.
  • An episode of the British sitcom The Detectives, also titled "Rear Window", spoofed the movie, with one of the protagonists wheelchair-bound after an accident and convinced a neighbour is guilty of murder.

See also

References

  1. ^ Rear Window (Box office/business) at the Internet Movie Database
  2. ^ "Rear Window (1954) — Box Office Mojo". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved April 12, 2012. 
  3. ^ "Rear Window Movie Reviews, Pictures — Rotten Tomatoes". Rottentomatoes.com. Retrieved 2012-12-04. 
  4. ^ DVD documentary
  5. ^ a b c A 'Rear Window' View Seen at the Rivoli, an August 5, 1954 review from The New York Times
  6. ^ Statement by the President on the fund-raising campaign of the American-Korean Foundation from a University of California, Santa Barbara website
  7. ^ 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1954', Variety Weekly, January 5, 1955
  8. ^ a b The New Pictures, an August 2, 1954 review from Time magazine
  9. ^ Review of Rear Window, a July 14, 1954 article from Variety magazine
  10. ^ 1983 Review of Rear Window re-release by Roger Ebert
  11. ^ "IMDB Top 250". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2014-04-22. 
  12. ^ Belton, John (2002). Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window. Cambridge University Press. p. 1. 
  13. ^ "The 27th Academy Awards (1955) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-08-20. 
  14. ^ "AFI's 10 Top 10". American Film Institute. 2008-06-17. Retrieved 2008-06-18. 
  15. ^ Edith Honan (September 8, 2008). "Spielberg ripped off Hitchcock Classic". Reuters. Retrieved 2008-09-08. 
  16. ^ Chad Bray (September 9, 2008). "2nd UPDATE: Trust Files Copyright Lawsuit Over Disturbia". CNN Money. Retrieved 2008-09-08. dead link
  17. ^ "Rear Window copyright claim rejected". BBC News. 2010-09-22. 
  18. ^ "Rear Window | Video | Saturday Night Live". NBC. Retrieved 2012-12-04. 
  19. ^ Duration: 30 min (2000-10-31). "Watch That '70s Show Season 3 Episode 4 Too Old to Trick or Treat, Too Young to Die". Ovguide.com. Retrieved 2012-12-04. 
  20. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0580141/
  21. ^ Herzog, Kenny (January 31, 2012). "Neighborhood Watch". The A.V. Club. Retrieved February 1, 2012. 

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