Rear Window

1954 film directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Rear Window is a 1954 American mystery thriller movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The movie is based on the story, It Had To Be Murder, by Cornell Woolrich. John Michael Hayes wrote the script[4] The film stars James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey, Thelma Ritter and Raymond Burr.[5] It was nominated for four Academy Awards.[6] Critics consider it one of Alfred Hitchcock's best movies and one of the greatest movies of all time.[7]

Rear Window
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAlfred Hitchcock
Screenplay byJohn Michael Hayes
Based on"It Had to Be Murder"
by Cornell Woolrich
Produced byAlfred Hitchcock
CinematographyRobert Burks
Edited byGeorge Tomasini
Music byFranz Waxman
Patron Inc.
Distributed byParamount Pictures[N 1]
Release date
  • September 1, 1954 (1954-09-01) (US)
Running time
112 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$1 million
Box office$37 million[3]

Plot change

The movie tells the story of a photographer L. B. "Jeff" Jefferies (played by James Stewart) who has a broken leg. He spends his days sitting in his Greenwich Village apartment watching his neighbors through their open windows. There is a ballet dancer Miss Torso, a pianist and songwriter, a couple with a dog who digs the flowers up, a newly married couple, 'Miss Lonelyhearts', and a jewelry seller Lars Thorwald with his bed-ridden wife. Lisa Fremont (played by Grace Kelly) is Jeff's girlfriend and visits several times. A nurse Stella (played by Thelma Ritter) also takes care of Jeff.

One night Jeff hears and sees some unusual things. Jeff hears a woman scream, "Don't!" and glass breaking. He sees Thorwald leave the house several times at night with a suitcase. The next day Thorwald's wife is gone, and Jeff sees him cleaning a knife and saw. There is a large trunk. Jeff thinks there has been a murder. He tells Lisa and Stella. Jeff calls Tom Doyle to investigate. Doyle finds nothing. Witnesses say Thorwald's wife had left. Jeff sees Thorwald take out his wife's jewelry and her wedding ring. Lisa says that women would not leave their jewelry at home like that. The two agree that Thorwald's wife did not leave the apartment.

The dog dies and the owner shouts at everyone. Everyone listens except Thorwald. Jeff thinks Thorwald killed the dog and that he buried something in the ground. Jeff calls Thorwald to get him out of the house. He does this so Lisa and Stella can search the ground. The two find nothing. Lisa surprisingly enters Thorwald's apartment. Jeff and Stella see Miss Lonelyhearts try to kill herself, but the piano music stops her. Distracted, Jeff and Stella do not notice Thorwald coming back. Thorwald goes to Lisa and starts grabbing her. Jeff calls the police and says there is an assault. The police arrive and arrest Lisa for breaking in. She shows her finger to Jeff that she has the wedding ring of Thorwald's wife. Thorwald sees Lisa's hand signal and sees Jeff.

Jeff calls detective Doyle. Thorwald calls Jeff and enters Jeff's apartment. Jeff uses flashbulbs to slow down Thorwald by blinding him. Thorwald throws Jeff off the window. Jeff calls for help, and the police come. Jeff falls, but officers catch him. Doyle, Lisa and Stella rush to Jeff's side. Thorwald confesses murdering his wife. A few days later Jeff has casts on both legs. The neighbors of Greenwich Village are happy again. There is a new puppy. Miss Torso's love is back from war. Miss Lonelyhearts is seeing the pianist. The Thorwald's apartment is being painted and redone. Lisa is with Jeff. She reads Beyond the High Himalayas and then reads a fashion magazine.

Cast change


Alfred Hitchcock makes a cameo appearance in the apartment of the pianist.

Themes and Motifs change

Voyeurism change

A major theme in Rear Window is voyeurism.[8] This is when someone intimately watches someone else. In the film, Jeff is spying on his neighbors. This act is morally questionable, and the audience participates in it. The camera follows Jeff's eyes. It switches back to facing Jeff. The camera allows the viewers to join Jeff in his actions. The audience should feel guilty. Stella criticizes Jeff's actions. She says that people should stop looking out and look at themselves. Lisa says Jeff's actions are like a disease. She is upset that Jeff only watches the neighbors. Jeff himself questions if it is alright to spy on a man with binoculars. Lisa and Stella question Jeff's actions at first, but they join him later. The idea of spying can relate to surveillance in the state. During the time, people feared that the government would watch them the whole time. This fear was due to McCarthyism.[9] In the film, a helicopter comes close above the village. It is like the helicopter is spying on the village. There is almost no difference between private and public in the film.

Loneliness change

Another theme is loneliness and isolation. All the residents are separated from each other. They are like prisoners in their own apartments. Jeff cannot leave the apartment with his injury. The entire film is also limited to the space of the courtyard. The character Miss Lonelyhearts can represent the isolation of the neighbors. Jeff is detached from the neighbors as he watches them, and they do not know he is watching them. Jeff is like a photographer, taking mental pictures of his neighbors. The dog owner says that none of the people know the meaning of a neighbor and that they do not care.[10]

Gender and Marriage change

Gender roles are important in the film. It is after World War II and women were changing roles in society. In the film, male characters are no longer heroes. Hitchcock switches the roles of men and women.[11] For instance, Thorwald murders his wife. Jeff is injured, his camera is destroyed, and he cannot walk. Detective Doyle cannot find evidence. Meanwhile, Lisa and Stella are the only ones who can investigate. Gender roles connect to marriage. Jeff talks about marriage on the phone. He analyzes Lisa a lot and is not ready to marry her. At one point, Jeff and Lisa argue. Jeff thinks that Lisa could not stand Jeff's lifestyle as a photographer. Stella says that people in the past just fell in love and that now they study each other like samples in a bottle. This type of marriage connects to the other themes of loneliness and surveillance. The couples are not just loving each other, but objectively studying each other. They are distant from each other and must constantly watch each other. Jeff, for example, watches Lisa. Marriage appears in other places. There is a newly married couple. Lisa gets the wedding ring of Thorwald's wife. The wedding ring is symbolic for marriage and is a form of situational irony. Lisa wants to marry Jeff, but she ends up with the wedding ring of Thorwald's wife.[12]  

Production change

Development change

The screenplay of Rear Window is based on the short story It Had To Be Murder. Cornell Woolrich wrote the story in 1942.[13] The main story about a man in a wheelchair watching neighbors and thinking there is a murder is the same. Hitchcock added characters such as Lisa and Stella. There was no romantic relationship in the story. In the film, there are also more neighbors.[14]

Two real murders inspired the film. The first is the "case of Dr. Crippen." Dr. Crippen buried his wife in his basement in 1910. He made the mistake of letting his secretary wear his wife's jewelry. In the second case, Patrick Mahon murdered Emily Kaye in 1924. He did this by cutting her up and throwing her parts out of a train window. The man later burned her head in a fireplace.[15]

Filming change

The entire movie was shot at Paramount Studios. There was a complete set of Greenwich Village. It was one of the largest sets at Paramount.[16] The set had a special drainage system and lighting for different parts of the day.[17] There were 31 apartments on the set and 12 had full furniture.[18]

Costume Design change

Edith Head was the costume designer for the movie. Costumes and clothing are important in the film for characterization. Grace Kelly is into fashion and has many different outfits.[19] The different clothes relate to changes in the roles of the characters. For instance, when Lisa and Stella help Jeff to investigate they we are wearing simple day dresses.[20]

Music change

Frank Waxman composed the score including the Piano song "Lisa". The film has mainly diegetic sounds. These are sounds that the characters in the film hear.[21]

Natural sounds were used that would get louder or softer with distance. There are several songs including "To See You Is to Love You" by Bing Crosby, songs by Nat King Cole ("Mona Lisa", 1950) and Dean Martin ("That's Amore", 1952), Richard Rodgers' song "Lover" (1932), and "M'appari tutt'amor" from Friedrich von Flotow's opera Martha (1844), and part of Leonard Bernstein's music for the ballet Fancy Free (1944).

Reception change

Box Office change

The film was a box office success. It was one of the highest grossing films of 1954.[22][23] The film had a budget of $1 million and made over $37 million.[24]

Critical Response change

The movie had very positive reviews. Critics praised the film as an intense, suspenseful, and exciting thriller.[25][26][27] They considered the film to be a masterpiece of suspense that drew in viewers.[28] Some noted that the film says a lot about human nature and the desire to intimately watch other people.[27] The technical and artistic skills were also praised. The film has a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes.[29] On Metacritic, the film has a rare 10/10 with "universal acclaim."[30] The film was ranked number 5 on the Top 10 films of the Year on Cahiers du Cinéma.[31]

Awards change

The film was nominated for four Academy Awards Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography - Color and Best Sound - Recording. The movie won Best Actress from the National Board of Review. The New York Film Critics Circle awarded Grace Kelly the NYFCC Award for Best Actress. The film won Best Motion Picture at the Edgar Allen Poe Awards. The film also got nominations from the Writers Guild of America and Directors Guild of America.[32]

Legacy change

Rear Window was chosen to be part of the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 1997. In the British Film Institute's Sight & Sound, the movie was ranked the 53rd greatest film.[33] In Time Out magazine the film ranked 21st and 26th greatest film of all time in 1998 and 2022.[34] The film made several American Film Institute lists. They include number 42 in AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies, number 14 in AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills, number 48 in AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) and number three in AFI's 10 Top 10 (Mysteries).[7][35]

Rear Window was restored in the late 1990s. Technicolor used a new dye process to improve the image.[36] The movie influenced later films. Several films are based on Rear Window. They include Body Double (1984), Silver (1993) and Time Out (1998). In 1998, there was a TV show remake of Rear Window. Disturbia (2007) is a modern version of Rear Window about a serial killer. Rear Window has appeared in other TV shows such as The Simpsons,[37] That '70s Show[38], Get Smart[39], The Flintstones[40], Psych[41], The White Collar[42], The Family Guy[43], Raising Hope,[44] Castle,[45] The Detectives[46] and others.

Notes change

  1. After the film's release, Paramount transferred the distribution rights to Hitchcock's estate, where they were acquired by Universal Pictures in 1983.[1][2]

References change

  1. McGilligan, Patrick (2003). Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light. Wiley. p. 653.
  2. Rossen, Jake (February 5, 2016). "When Hitchcock Banned Audiences from Seeing His Movies". Mental Floss. Retrieved September 9, 2020.
  3. "Rear Window (1954)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
  4. "Rear Window (1954)". IMDB. Retrieved 7 September 2009.
  5. "Rear Window (1954) - Box Office Mojo". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 7 September 2009.
  6. "Rear Window (1954) - Awards". IMDB. Retrieved 7 September 2009.
  7. 7.0 7.1 "AFI's 100 YEARS…100 MOVIES". American Film Institute. Retrieved 2022-07-02.
  8. Sharff, S. (1997). The art of looking in Hitchcock's Rear window. New York: Limelight Editions.
  9. A Hitchcock Reader. (2009). United Kingdom: Wiley, p. 208.
  10. Fawell, J. (2004). Hitchcock's Rear Window: The Well-Made Film. United States: Southern Illinois University Press, p. 12-14, 48, 85, 116-122.
  11. Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window. (2000). United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, p. 68, 76.
  12. Fawell, J. (2004). Hitchcock's Rear Window: The Well-Made Film. United States: Southern Illinois University Press, p. 23-24.
  13. Woolrich, Cornell. ""It had to be Murder"" (PDF). Retrieved July 1, 2022.
  14. "Rear Window Ethics: Remembering and Restoring a Hitchcock Classic". DVD Documentary, 1982.
  15. Truffaut, F. (2015). Hitchcock. United Kingdom: Simon & Schuster, p. 222.
  16. ""Rear Window" Turns 67: Revisiting the Quintessential Hitchcock Summer Film". Retrieved 2022-07-02.
  17. "Inside the real Greenwich Village apartment that inspired 'Rear Window'". New York Post. 2014-08-07. Retrieved 2022-07-01.
  18. Bernhard Jendricke: Alfred Hitchcock. 1993, ISBN 978-3-499-50420-4, p. 97.
  19. "Grace Kelly's 1950s fashion in Rear Window (1954)". Classic Critics Corner - Your source for Old Hollywood Glamour, 1940s Fashion & 1950s Fashion. Retrieved 2022-07-04.
  20. 3. "The Dresses Had Told Me": Fashion & Femininity in Rear Window. Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window. (2000). United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, p. 91-105
  21. "Rear Window Ethics: Remembering and Restoring a Hitchcock Classic". DVD Documentary, 1982.
  22. "North America (US and Canada) Domestic Movie Chart for 1954". The Numbers. Retrieved July 1, 2022.
  23. "All-Time Top Box-Office Films By Decade and Year". Retrieved 2022-07-06.
  24. "Rear Window". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2022-07-06.
  25. Harrison's Reports (1954). New York, Harrison's Reports, Inc. 1954.
  26. Variety (1954). Variety (July 1954). Media History Digital Library. New York, NY: Variety Publishing Company.
  27. 27.0 27.1 Crowther, Bosley (1954-08-05). "A 'Rear Window' View Seen at the Rivoli". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-06-30.
  28. Ebert, Roger. "Rear Window movie review & film summary (1954) | Roger Ebert". Retrieved 2022-06-30.
  29. Rear Window, retrieved 2022-06-30
  30. Rear Window, retrieved 2022-06-30
  31. Johnson, Eric C. "Cahiers du Cinema: Top Ten Lists 1951-2009". Archived from the original on March 27, 2012. Retrieved June 30, 2022.
  32. "Awards and Nominations - Rear Window (1954) - The Alfred Hitchcock Wiki". Retrieved 2022-07-04.
  33. "Critics' top 100 | BFI". Archived from the original on 2016-02-07. Retrieved 2022-06-30.
  34. "The 100 best thrillers ever made". Time Out Worldwide. Retrieved 2022-06-30.
  35. "AFI's 10 TOP 10". American Film Institute. Retrieved 2022-06-30.
  36. "CNN - Film restoration more than 'Rear Window'-dressing - Dec. 11, 1997". Retrieved 2022-07-04.
  37. "The Simpsons: Bart of Darkness - The Alfred Hitchcock Wiki". Retrieved 2022-07-04.
  38. Floorwalker, Mike (2020-09-08). "The Tiny Detail In The That '70s Show Finale You Never Noticed". Retrieved 2022-07-04.
  39. Ryder, Eddie (1969-03-15), Greer Window, Get Smart, retrieved 2022-07-04
  40. Barbera, Joseph; Hanna, William (1961-10-06), Alvin Brickrock Presents, The Flintstones, retrieved 2022-07-04
  41. "Psych" Mr. Yin Presents (TV Episode 2010) - IMDb, retrieved 2022-07-04
  42. "status/164589703826386944". Twitter. Retrieved 2022-07-04.
  43. "Family Guy" Crimes and Meg's Demeanor (TV Episode 2017) - IMDb, retrieved 2022-07-04
  44. "Exclusive Video: Raising Hope Gets "Hitchcock-ed Out" for Rear Window Tribute Episode". Retrieved 2022-07-04.
  45. S; March 19, ra Gonzalez Updated; EDT, 2013 at 01:30 PM. "'Castle' does 'Rear Window' for 100th episode". Retrieved 2022-07-04.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  46. Bye, Ed (1994-04-06), Rear Window, The Detectives, retrieved 2022-07-04

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