Film Directors -- Alfred Hitchcock
Rear Window directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring James Stewart (L.B. “Jeff” Jefferies), Grace Kelly (Lisa Fremont), Wendell Corey (Det. Doyle), Raymond Burr (Lars Thorwald), and Thelma Ritter (Stella) and it was released in 1954.
A photographer with a broken leg has weeks to watch his neighbors from the window in his apartment. There is a heat wave going on and all the windows are open so he has a birds’ eye view into the private lives of his neighbors. He observes what he thinks is a murder. Jefferies (Stewart) calls on a war buddy, now a detective, to investigate. Jeff insists what he’s been observing is a crime and includes his girlfriend Lisa (Kelly). Lisa gives good insight into the activities of the missing wife. But Doyle (Corey) proves that the wife indeed left. One of the neighbors has a dog that ends up dead and it seems that this is really the only crime that has been committed.
Alfred Hitchcock was like a lot of other directors in Hollywood at that time and had actors he preferred to work with and James Stewart was one of them having appeared in Rope (1948), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), as well as Vertigo (1958). Hitchcock also worked with Grace Kelly in two other films Dial M for Murder (1954) and To Catch a Thief (1955). One thing that stands out is the often uncredited cameos that Hitchcock makes in his films. In Rear Window he’s in one shot in the songwriter’s apartment winding a clock. In this film he shoots just from Jeff’s apartment giving the viewer the only point of view that is needed. If there had been any other shots incorporated into the film it wouldn’t have been quite as affective. If the viewer had actually been inside the Thorwald’s apartment there would have been no mystery or suspense in the disappearance of Mrs. Thorwald. Hitchcock also seemed to prefer adapting novels or short stories, Psycho, for example is based on a novel by Robert Bloch and Rear Window, is based on a short story by Cornell Woolrich.
One of the themes that often is present in Hitchcock films, when mistaken identity isn’t involved, is the psychopathic killer. The viewer sees this in this film as well as one of Hitchcock’s other famous films, Psycho. In Rear Window, the killer’s identity is revealed early in the plot but it is never confirmed until the end when he is finally caught through the team work of Stella (Ritter), Lisa and Jeff. In Psycho, it remains unclear who the murderer is through most of the film. Is it Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) or was it “Mother” whom we never really know if she is alive or dead although three different actors voiced Norma Bates (Virginia Gregg, Paul Jasmin, Jeanette Nolan). In Rear Window, the viewer can see, in Jeff’s point of view, there is some kind of strife in the relationship of Mr. and Mrs. Thorwald. Jeff watches with interest. It rains and that’s when Jeff notices that something is really wrong. The viewer also knows something is up because of the strange behavior of Lars Thorwald.
Alfred Hitchcock’s career as director started in 1922 with an unfinished film, Number 13. After forty-nine previous films Hitchcock became known for his macabre and suspense filled movies. Rear Window is his fiftieth film, including shorts. His sense of suspense is well developed by now and he is playing with camera angles and story point of view. All of his other movies take place in multiple locations but Rear Window is shot entirely from Jeff’s apartment. The viewer never sees more than the interior of the small one room except for the small glimpse of the bathroom when Lisa opens the door to go in and out. Never are the other lives entered into, not even when Lisa and Stella exit the apartment to investigate the flower bed. Hitchcock has successfully contained everything in the movie in that little room. His view on law and punishment is shown in this film when Jeff feels that the crime must be uncovered and will do anything in his power to make certain of it, as Hitchcock’s father called the police on him for a small, childish crime when he was little. This most certainly put in Hitchcock’s mind a firm sense of right and wrong. His sense of the macabre may have been his own version of rebellion against his Catholic upbringing.