Hitchcock scholar Donald Spoto convincingly argues that the crime at the center of this mystery is the MacGuffin--a mere pretext--in a film that's more interested in the implications of Jeff's sentinel perspective. We actually learn more about the lives of the other neighbors (given generic names by Jeff, even as he's drawn into their lives) he, and we, watch undetected than we do the putative murderer and his victim. Jeff's evident fear of intimacy and commitment with the elegant, adoring Lisa provides the other vital thread to the script, one woven not only into the couple's own relationship, but reflected and even commented upon through the various neighbours' lives. At minimum, Hitchcock's skill at making us accomplices to Jeff's spying, coupled with an ingenious escalation of suspense as the teasingly vague evidence coalesces into ominous proof, deliver a superb thriller spiked with droll humour, right up to its nail-biting, nightmarish climax. At deeper levels, however, Rear Window plumbs issues of moral responsibility and emotional honesty, while offering further proof (were any needed) of the director's brilliance as a visual storyteller. --Sam Sutherland
Professional photographer L.B. "Jeff" Jeffries (Jimmy Stewart) is recovering from an accident that occurred while on assignment. Encased in a cast covering his left leg and hip, Jeff is pretty much immobilized and temporarily confined to a wheel chair. Despite regular visits by his nurse, Stella (Thelma Ritter), and his beautiful, sophisticated girlfriend, Lisa (Grace Kelly), Jeff is chafing at his confinement. Bored stiff, he does what he does best. He peers at those around him from his window. Jeff finds the lives of his neighbors both immensely interesting and amusing. He watches them through their windows and in the courtyard, enhancing his experience with binoculars and the zoom lens of his camera. Jeff draws inferences and conclusions about them, based upon his own experiences with human behavior.
Jimmy Stewart is terrific as the housebound voyeur, drawing the viewer in with him. One finds oneself peering along with him into the lives of those around him. Grace Kelly is stunningly beautiful as Jeff's girlfriend Lisa, with whom Jeff is finding it difficult to make a commitment. It is interesting that as Jeff gets more intimately engrossed in his neighbors' affairs, his intimacy with Lisa seems to grow, drawing them closer together. Thelma Ritter is funny and sassy as the tough talking, no nonsense nurse. Raymond Burr, looking eerily as he would half a century later, is well cast as the neighbor whose wife got on his nerves. Wendell Corey is very good as the congenial, though jaded, detective.
All in all, this is a terrific film that clearly shows the mastery and deft direction of the legendary Hitchcock. With a well written script and a stellar cast, this is a film that is well worth having in one's personal collection. Bravo!
Jimmy Stewart stars as Jeff Jeffreys, a magazine photographer laid up with a broken leg. Irritable and bored, he suffers through recovery stuck in a wheelchair in his Greenwich Village apartment with little to do but complain to his nurse, Stella (Thelma Ritter), avoid discussing marriage with his girlfriend, society belle Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly), and stare out the window into the apartments of his neighbors.
It is not yet 8 A.M., but the temperature is already in the 90's and across the court, and a couple sleeping on the fire escape stirs. We watch, along with Jeff, while other anonymous heat-exhausted city dwellers come to sluggishly to life.
There's Miss Lonely Hearts (Judith Evelyn) in a downstairs apartment dreaming of romance, and the vivacious and sexy Miss Torso (Georgine Darcy) upstairs shooing men away. The Composer (Ross Bagdasarian) makes beautiful music but lives the life of a frustrated artist, while a hearing-impaired sculptor (Jesslyn Fax) works day and night, and two newlyweds (Rand Harper and Havis Davenport) spend there days entwined in passionate ecstasy.
The suspense comes when Jeff grows suspicious of Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr), a jewelry salesman, who lives right across the court. Lars has been doing strange things with rope, some carving knives, and a clothes trunk. And what has happened to Lar's wife? As Jeff becomes increasingly suspicious that Lars has committed murder, he gets Lisa to act has his accomplice.
Lisa shows that, when the chips are down, she's as capable of breaking-and-entering a possible murderer's apartment, scaling a wall to do so, as she is of wearing couture gowns. Rear Window grabs the viewer in the same way Thorwald grabs the photographer's eye. Once the hook is in place, there's no way out of the intricate spiral of suspense, and the film is just as much an incisive study of human nature as it is a thriller.
One of the best attributes of the movie is the huge set, designed by Hal Pereira and built at the Paramount studio. It represents the best of studio artifice, being a unit that includes the rear of Jeff's apartment as well as his view of the garden court and buildings that enclose the court. As lighted and photographed by Robert Burks, this set is as much a character as any of the actors in the film.
But at the heart of the film are the grand performances of Stewart, who captures perfectly Jeff's mixture of fascination and abhorrence at the glimpses of life outside his window, and the beautiful Miss Kelly, who, after receiving star billing in three previous films, showed that she was entitled to it in Rear Window. After all these years, the enormous glamour of these two personalities remains fresh and attractive, and even as contemporary as ever. Mike Leonard September 05.
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