Independent Films, Film Profiles
Rear Window (1954) is a suspense film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and written by John Michael Hayes, based on Cornell Woolrich's 1942 short story "It Had to Be Murder", and starring James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Thelma Ritter, Wendell Corey and Raymond Burr. The film is considered by many film-goers, critics, and scholars to be one of Hitchcock's best and most thrilling pictures.Rear Window, which received four Academy Award nominations, was added to the United States National Film Registry in 1997. It was ranked #48 on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition).Photographer L. B. "Jeff" Jeffries (James Stewart) is recuperating from a broken leg and confined to a wheelchair in his small Greenwich Village apartment. He passes the time by spying on his neighbors through his apartment's rear window, including a dancer who exercises in her underwear, a lonely woman who lives by herself, a songwriter working at his piano, and several married couples, including a salesman, Lars Thorwald, (Raymond Burr) with a bedridden wife.Every day Jeff is visited by Stella (Thelma Ritter), a cranky but friendly home care nurse and Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly), his much-younger socialite girlfriend. He talks to both of them about his neighbors. After the salesman makes repeated late-night trips carrying a large case, Jeff notices that the bedridden wife is now gone, and sees the salesman cleaning a large knife and handsaw. Later, the salesman ties a large packing crate with heavy rope, and has moving men haul it away. By now, Jeff, Stella, and Lisa have concluded the missing wife has been murdered by the salesman.An old Army Air Corps buddy of Jeff named Tom Doyle (Wendell Corey) is now a police detective. He looks into the situation and finds that Mrs. Thorwald is in the country, has sent a postcard to her husband, and the packing crate they had seen was full of her clothes. Chastised, they all admit to feeling a bit ghoulish at being disappointed to find out there was not a murder. Jeff and Lisa settle down for an evening alone, but a scream soon pierces the courtyard when a dog belonging to a neighbor couple is found dead. The neighbors all rush to their windows to see what has happened, except for Thorwald, who sits unmoving in his dark apartment, the tip of his cigarette glowing.Convinced that Thorwald is guilty after all, Lisa slips a note -- written by Jeff -- under his door asking "What have you done with her?" while Jeff watches his reaction. As a pretext to get him away from his apartment, Jeff calls Thorwald and arranges a meeting at a bar. He thinks Thorwald killed the dog to keep it from digging up something buried in the courtyard flower patch. When Thorwald leaves, Lisa and Stella grab a shovel and start digging, but find nothing.Lisa climbs the fire escape to Thorwald's apartment and squeezes in an open window. Inside she finds Mrs. Thorwald's purse, which she would never have left behind on a trip. She holds the purse up for Jeff to see, turning it upside-down to show that she has not yet found the wedding ring. Jeff watches helplessly as Thorwald comes back up the stairs, trapping Lisa inside the apartment. Calling the police as Thorwald goes in, he and Stella watch as Lisa is discovered by Thorwald. They see her try to talk her way out, but Thorwald grabs her and begins to assault her. They watch as he turns out the lights, and listen as Lisa screams for help. Just then, the police arrive, saving Lisa. With the police present, Jeff sees Lisa's hands behind her back, pointing to Mrs. Thorwald's ring, which Lisa now has on her finger. Thorwald sees this as well, and, realizing that she is signaling to someone across the courtyard, turns to look directly at Jeff.Jeff calls Doyle, now convinced that Thorwald is guilty of something, and Stella takes all the cash they have for bail and heads for the police station, leaving Jeff alone. He sees that Thorwald's apartment lights are off, and hears the door to his building slam shut, then slow footsteps begin climbing the stairs. Looking for a method of defense, Jeff can find only the flash for his camera and a box of flashbulbs. The footsteps stop outside his door, which slowly opens. Thorwald stands in the dark, asking "Who are you? What do you want from me?" Jeff does not answer, but as Thorwald comes for him he sets off the flash, blinding Thorwald for a moment. Thorwald fumbles his way to Jeff's wheelchair, grabs him, and pushes him towards the open window. Hanging onto the ledge, yelling for help, Jeff sees Lisa, the detective, and the police all rush over. Thorwald is pulled back, but it is too late, Jeff slips and falls just as the police run up beneath him. Luckily they break his fall, and Lisa sweeps him up in her arms. Thorwald confesses to the murder of his wife, and the police take him away..A few days later the heat has lifted, and Jeff rests peacefully in his wheelchair – now with two broken legs from the fall. Lisa reclines happily beside him, appearing to read a book on Himalayan travel but turning, after Jeff is asleep, to a new issue of Harpers Bazaar, a fashion magazine.
Year of Production: 1954
Length: 112 minutes
Country: United States
- Alfred Hitchcock
- James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Thelma Ritter, Wendell Corey, Raymond Burr