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Film Review - Rear Window (1954)

In a series of illustrated articles, the author gives personal easy-to-read reviews of some of the most watchable films in Hollywood history

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INTRODUCTION

Take one of the great directors in the history of film, and one of the most personable film stars, and put them to work on an original concept, and one should have a classic movie. In 'Rear Window', we certainly do.

A murder mystery thriller set almost entirely in one single room, with a bored and incapacitated hero just watching his neighbours through the rear window of his apartment - this is the setting for 'Rear Window'. It was a novel idea for a movie, and somewhat experimental in its style, and yet in this originality it was typical of Alfred Hitchcock's unique directorial style.

'Rear Window' has been discussed often by film enthusiasts for its story and set design, and its cleverness of direction. On this page I look at this famous cinematic work, relate some of the key elements in its making, and give my personal opinion as to its merits.


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James Stewart and Grace Kelly as 'Jeff' Jefferies and Lisa in 'Rear Window'

James Stewart and Grace Kelly as 'Jeff' Jefferies and Lisa in 'Rear Window'

WHAT’S THE STORY ?

L.B 'Jeff ' Jefferies is a professional photographer, and he is used to an adventurous life. When not travelling he lives in an apartment block, and that's where he is throughout the course of this film, because he is recuperating from a broken leg. But it's hot in his apartment, and he's feeling bored and frustrated, and he's desperate for something to occupy his active mind. Fortunately he's got something. His window opens out on to a courtyard surrounded on all sides by numerous other apartments. Most of the occupants of these apartments don't appreciate how easy it is to see into their rooms; or maybe they just don't care. Either way, the opportunity exists to watch them and Jefferies's enquiring nature leads him to develop a fascination with the lives that he sees being conducted in the rooms across the courtyard. Particularly he studies the various relationships and speculates or imagines what might be going on in those relationships.

Jefferies has his own uncertainties in his own relationships which occupy his mind away from the window. He's got a girlfriend, Lisa, but as a couple they are like chalk and cheese. Jefferies is used to roughing it on foreign trips, whilst Lisa is a city girl, glamorous, and seemingly ill-suited to his kind of life. To distract himself from these thoughts about Lisa, Jefferies looks back towards the neighbours in the apartments opposite. He even gives them nicknames to suit their appearance or behaviour, like Miss 'Lonelyheart' or Miss 'Torso'. But as time goes on, one neighbour in particular begins to attract his deep curiosity. Jefferies begins to believe that one neighbour just may have committed a murder.

The difficulty now is to convince others of his belief, and to prove it - a task which seems impossible in the circumstances, confined as he is to his own apartment. It's also a task which becomes increasingly dangerous, as he enlists the aid of Lisa to do the necessary leg work.


'Jeff' Jefferies develops a fascination for what's going on outside his rear window

'Jeff' Jefferies develops a fascination for what's going on outside his rear window

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MAIN CAST & CHARACTERS

ACTORCHARACTER

James Stewart

L.B 'Jeff' Jefferies

Grace Kelly

Lisa Carol Fremont

Wendell Corey

Lt. Thomas J Doyle

Thelma Ritter

Stella

Raymond Burr

Lars Thorwald (The Salesman)

Judith Evelyn

'Miss Lonleyhearts'

Ross Bagdasarian

Songwriter

Georgine Darcy

'Miss Torso'

Sara Berner

Woman on Fire Escape

Frank Cady

Man on Fire Escape

FACTS OF THE FILM

DIRECTOR : Alfred Hitchcock

WRITERS / SCREENPLAY :

  • John Michael Hayes (screenplay)
  • Cornell Woolrich (short story)

    YEAR OF RELEASE : 1954

    RUNNING TIME : 112 minutes

    GENRE : Thriller

    ACADEMY NOMINATIONS :
    •Alfred Hitchcock (Best Director)
    •Also nominations for Best Writing, Screenplay, Best Sound, and for Best Cinematography (Colour)
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Grace Kelly as Lisa Fremont

Grace Kelly as Lisa Fremont

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Lisa and 'Jeff' are joined by Lt Doyle