Rear Window

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Rear Window

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  • Dvd Release Date: 17-10-2005
  • Region: 2 (UK & Europe)
  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Catalogue Number: 8236208
  • Studio: Universal

      Like his earlier Rope, this masterpiece from director Alfred Hitchcock began as a technical stunt: Hitchcock wondered if he could make a film on just one set, from one single vantage point.

    James Stewart plays a photojournalist with a broken leg and a high society girlfriend, Grace Kelly. Confined to his apartment, he whiles away the time gazing out of the window through his telephoto lens and becomes convinced that a neighbour opposite (Raymond Burr) has murdered his wife and chopped her into disposable pieces.

    Hitchcock's "stunt" became a classic study of voyeurism - all those windows, shaped like movie screens, each containing a mini-drama of their own - and the tension builds brilliantly, complemented by the sexy repartee between Stewart and Kelly, and the cynical humour provided by nurse Thelma Ritter. This extraordinary achievement has never been equalled.

    The set (Thorwald's apartment is on 125 W. Ninth Street) contained 32 apartments. At the time it was the largest indoor set ever built at Paramount Studios. They were all constructed in the studio because real apartments couldn't be lit to Hitchcock's satisfaction.

    In reality, there is no 125 W. Ninth Street in Manhatten - it turns into Christopher Street before the numbering gets that high. The design of the apartment block seen in the film was based on a real apartment block which could be found on Christopher Street.

    The real-life stretch of road that can be seen behind the apartment block was also the location of the Stonewall gay riots some fifteen years later in 1969.

    Aside from a couple of shots near the end and the discovery of the dead dog, the entire film apparently originates from inside Jeff's apartment.


    The weather is getting hotter, and photographer L.B. Jefferies (James Stewart) is stuck in his apartment with a broken leg and nothing to do--that is, nothing to do but spy on his neighbours through their open windows across the way in the apartment complex. There's an attractive and scantily clad dancer, a songwriter, a lonely woman, and the Thorwalds (Raymond Burr and Irene Winston), a bickering couple, among others. But when Mrs. Thorwald disappears, Jefferies is sure that something's wrong. Soon, despite the warnings of his girlfriend Lisa (Grace Kelly), and his motherly nurse Stella (Thelma Ritter), Jefferies has out his binoculars and telephoto lens and is studying his neighbour 'like a bug under glass.' However, looking in from the outside might not be as safe as Jefferies assumes.

    Rear Window is not only a gripping story of murder and suspense, it is a celebrated allegory on the nature of film itself, a story in which the audience watches Jefferies watch the story unfold. The different windows can also be seen as a representation of the emerging medium of television, with Jefferies watching a multitude of 'shows' from the comfort of his own apartment.


    Alfred Hitchcock amply demonstrates why he's been called "The Master of Suspense" with this both witty and macabre tale of voyeurism and murder starring two of cinema's all-time favourites, James Stewart and Grace Kelly.

    L.B. Jeffries (Stewart), a photographer with a broken leg, takes up the fine art of spying on his Greenwich Village neighbours during a summer heat wave. But things really hot up when he suspects one neighbour of murdering his invalid wife and burying the body in a flower garden.


    James Stewart's Rear Window:

    Source: the excellent book: James Stewart


      Whatever he was to say about it afterward, James Stewart was not in the most receptive mood when Alfred Hitchcock called him in the summer of 1953 and suggested a second film together. Most obviously, the actor had not forgotten his bad experience on Rope.

    When the director mentioned that the project he had in mind was another single-set tale and was based on a relatively obscure short story, the doubts increased. Then, too, there was the impression of many in the movie industry at the time that, following such stale or even disastrous productions as Under Capricorn, Stage Fright, I Confess, and Dial M for Murder, Hitchcock had lost much of his creative energy. But if Stewart needed an excuse to put down the phone altogether, it was when the filmmaker indicated that he was on the verge of signing Grace Kelly for the female lead.

    Stewart had nothing against Kelly professionally; on the contrary, friends Gary Cooper, who had worked with her in High Noon, and Ray Milland, who had worked with her in Dial M for Murder, had sung her praises. Milland, however, had not left it at that. After an affair with the actress, who was half his age, during Dial M for Murder, he had pressed his wife into initiating divorce proceedings so he could marry Kelly. The future princess of Monaco put an end to the affair before the divorce talk got too far, but that didn't improve her reputation with Gloria Stewart, Jimmy's wife, who counted Mrs. Milland as one of her closest friends and who had picked her as Kelly Stewart's godmother. There was little doubt that Gloria could have gotten along nicely without Stewart working with Kelly. Even years afterward, the blonde actress from Philadelphia was her primary point of reference when she touched on the subject of her husband's beautiful co-stars:

      Jimmy was working with some of the most glamorous women in the world [during the 1950s]. My constant fear I suppose was that he would find them more attractive than me and have an affair with one of them. A lot of men in Hollywood became involved with their leading ladies. Jimmy was a red-blooded American male so naturally I thought it could happen to him, too. I was convinced it was only a matter of time before the telephone would ring and it would be James telling me that he had to work late at the studio or that he would be out playing poker with the boys. Well, no such phone call ever came. And I can honestly say that in all the years of our marriage Jimmy never once gave me cause for anxiety or jealousy. The more glamorous the leading lady he was starring opposite, the more attentive he'd be to me.

    By that criterion, Stewart must have been particularly attentive at the end of 1953, when he began shooting Rear Window with Kelly. His initial resistance to another teaming with Hitchcock gave way before several factors. One was the story itself. Even before admitting that he was intrigued by a John Michael Hayes treatment of the original Cornell Woolrich tale, he had heard from old friends Leland Hayward and Josh Logan that they too thought highly enough of the property to look into filming possibilities. Another reassurance came with Hitchcock's promise that Rear Window would not degenerate into Rope II—a technical exercise that left the actors feeling like supernumeraries on the set. And, as important as anything, there was the fact that Lew Wasserman was also Hitchcock's agent. The MCA representative worked out an elaborate agreement with Paramount that not only guaranteed the director a core team of his favorite production people over several films and a top-of-the-line budget for his undertakings, but that, with specific regard to Rear Window, cut Stewart in for a percentage of the profits.

    Few Hollywood films have lent themselves to reductionist analyses more than Rear Window. The voyeurism suggested by the central character has been the least of it. Various things have all been divined in one line of dialogue or another. Cineastes have found it to be a parody on the moviemaking process, the politically minded have discerned in it a commentary on the spying mentality fostered by McCarthyism, and the sociologically inclined have squeezed their chins over the exact meaning of the social mix represented as living in the apartment house watched by the photographer. Lending comfort to almost all such readings at one point or another was Hitchcock, who could be as voluble about his work as any director who ever lived. Some interviewers have taken him at his word. Others have taken the word as only a distraction from a waddling neurosis too good to be true. All have found it hard to abstract the conflicts of his pictures from the rotund and gelatinous little man whom James Mason once called "a squishy eunuch" and whom Hitchcock biographer Donald Spoto saw as casting Stewart for protagonists he considered himself to be and Cary Grant for the ones he would have liked to have been.

    If Stewart had reservations about being a surrogate for a cinematic psychodiary, he had cause to be concerned the very first day of production when Hitchcock spent a half-hour shooting the shoes of the Kelly character (an insert never used in the film) and didn't hesitate to shrug off a query about it with a "Haven't you ever heard of a shoe fetish?" It didn't take long, either, for it to become evident that the director was back to the Svengali posture with his female star that he had adopted during Dial M for Murder and that would lead him to try to "recreate" Kelly in later years with Vera Miles, Kim Novak, and Tippi Hedren. At another early point, he ordered twenty-seven takes of a shot of Kelly kissing Stewart on the forehead. But initially at least, the actor had more worries about the set that occupied an entire Paramount soundstage and that was the grandest ever built by the studio outside those required for the spectaculars of Cecil B. DeMille. With Rope-like familiarity, Hitchcock doted on showing visitors how the set consisted of thirty-one apartments—twelve of which had been completely furnished even though they were never to be seen except through windows and from a distant line of vision of the characters in the photographers apartment.

    But even in the midst of his enthusiasm for the new toy that his technical staff had given him, Hitchcock had enough differences from Rope going for him to allay Stewart's apprehensions of another mechanical slog coming. Most obviously, the enormous courtyard set had already been built and so, elaborate to the point of excess or not, it was a stationary object that could not pre-occupy the director to the exclusion of the story or the actors. Moreover, it was a stationary object viewed almost totally from the point of view of the Stewart character, in effect giving him not only the role of a photographer named Jeffries, but also that of the Rear Window camera. The only exceptions to this double function came when the actor himself was shown on the screen— making him about as omnipresent as any film performer could hope to be. With his technical set problems already worked out in pre-production, it was also a much more amiable, even buoyant, Hitchcock who guided the Rear Window shooting; in contrast to the frayed filmmaker who had drunk even more than Stewart during Rope or the nasty one who had once cracked after Milland had flubbed a line in Dial M for Murder:

      "I wind it up and put it on the floor—and it doesn't work!"

    The director of the Woolrich suspense tale struck everybody as being happy and eager at work. However much that had to do with being at the crest of his professional (equaling personal) relationship with Kelly, nobody contradicted Stewart for saying afterward that:

      "the whole production went smoothly. The set and every part of the film were so well designed, and [Hitchcock] felt so comfortable with everyone associated with it, that we all felt confident about its success."

    For Stewart, the success was in the phlegmatic rendering of a skittish, self-absorbed man who has not only been laid up by a broken leg, but also laid low by having to rely for intimate company on two women that his career—as revealed by the magazine covers of wars and disasters on the walls of his apartment—would have normally allowed him to ignore (Stella or fly off from after a couple of rolls in the hay (Lisa). Beneath his sardonic commentaries on the routines of his neighbors and on the East Side ambiance of his lover, he conveys a hardness that seems to have been earned as much from bedrooms as battlefields. The actor's ability to make himself sound boyishly uncertain about career and marital decisions chat he has already clearly arrived at works as an inner supporting layer to the structure of the story as a whole—sustaining the kind of a suspense that glamorous fashion models from the real world no less than homicide cops from the real world would have dissipated far more quickly. It is a performance by an actor very comfortable with his powers at the center of what is essentially a lavish seediness.

    The seediness has little to do with the voyeurism that countless critics have attached to the character of the protagonist over the years. The voyeurism reading, in fact, is redundant and evasive when it isn't irrelevant altogether. It is redundant because, as a photographer, Jeffries is conceded as a professional voyeur from the beginning. It is evasive because it pretends that photographers disabled for a long period would have "more normally" spent their hours reading Ralph Waldo Emerson or watching the cooking programs and old westerns that a 1950s television set would have entertained them with. It is irrelevant because Stewart's Jeffries carries a much more loaded supply of straightforward misogyny—- at least toward wives—than of Peeping Tom self-indulgence; or, as he attempts to be ironic in celling Lisa at one juncture, the disadvantages of being married include, immediately before the threat of having to deal with a nagging spouse, the problems of having to cope with garbage disposals.

    Not surprisingly, Hitchcock always preferred the critical interpretations revolving around the voyeurism key. For one thing, it enabled him to take after the hypermoralists who decided that Jeffries's snooping made the whole picture immoral. To these guardians of virtue he liked saying:

      "That's nonsense. Nine out of ten people, if they see a woman across a courtyard undressing for bed or even a man pottering around in his room, will stay and look; no one turns away and says its none of my business. They could pull down their blinds but never do; they stand there and look out."

    Especially in his later years, he also liked tantalizing interviewers who saw the voyeurism motif as fundamental to interpreting Rear Window as being primarily a self-critical commentary on his own career as a movie maker; that is, the director as autobiographer, a la Ingmar Bergman. In this he was helped no little by public perceptions of him (fostered especially by his popular television series in the 1950s and 1960s) as somebody drolly detached from the absurdities of Hollywood filmmaking and as somebody more inclined to the surfaces of sexual naughtiness than to the depths of sensual obsession. The Master of Suspense, as he was known, played, and had decades of masterful but still basically light entertainments to prove it. Thus when Raymond Burr's wife-killer, arguably the most sympathetic character in Rear Window , bursts in on Jeffries at the end to ask pitifully, "What do you want of me? Tell me what it is," he is more diplomatically understood as a neighbor who has been espied in his underwear or as an assistant director looking for a job than as a role model for the marriage-abhorring Jeffries (or for all the other wife-killers who figure prominently in Hitchcock pictures).

    Along with The Glenn Miller Story, Rear Window gave Stewart two of the five highest-grossing Hollywood films of 1954. It proved as successful abroad as at home. In January 1955, Japanese riot police had to be called out to clear the Hibuya Theatre after unanticipated thousands turned out for the opening of the picture attended by the actor and his wife. In good part thanks to the celebrity of the princess of Monaco, the picture did even better during a European rerelease in 1962.

    As Gloria Stewart had feared, Kelly had not left her husband indifferent; in fact, aside from Margaret Sullavan, he has probably never praised an actress more openly or more consistently. Asked about her supposed coldness by one interviewer, for instance, he replied:

      "She was anything but cold. Everything about Grace was appealing. I was married, but I wasn't dead. She had those big warm eyes and, well, if you had ever played a love scene with her, you'd know she wasnt cold. She had an inner confidence. People who have that are not cold. Grace had that twinkle and a touch of larceny in her eye."

    Enough twinkle and larceny for the actor to agree at once to co-star with Kelly again, under the direction of Josh Logan, in Designing Woman, a comedy about the volatile marriage between a fashion designer and a sportswriter. But with the sets already going up, Kelly announced her retirement from acting in order to marry Prince Rainier III of Monaco. Stewart was offered Lauren Bacall as a substitute, but indicated the depth of his expectations in reteaming with Kelly by also pulling out of the project. Some years later, he noted to an interviewer that Designing Woman, as directed by Vincente Minnelli with Bacall and Gregory Peck, had been a commercial hit, voicing regret that he had withdrawn from the film. It was one of the few times, he said, that he had "let my heart rule my head."

    Source: the book: James Stewart


    Dec. 16: Deleted Jimmy Stewart Dvd Boxset incl. Rear Window Now in Stock

    Rear Window Oscars:

      1954: Nominations:
      Best Director, Screenplay, Color Cinematography, Sound


      James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Judith Evelyn, Raymond Burr, Ross Bagdasarian, Thelma Ritter, Wendell Corey, Georgine Darcy, Sara Berner, Frank Cady, Jesslyn Fax, Rand Harper, Irene Winston, Havis Davenport, Marla English & Alfred Hitchcock


  • Alfred Hitchcock
  • Scr:
      John Michael Hayes, from a short story by Cornell Woolrich
  • Ph:
      Robert Burks
  • Ed:
      George Tomasini
  • Mus:
      Franz Waxman
  • Art Dir:
      Hal Pereira, Joseph MacMillan Johnson


    Dvd Features

      •'Rear Window Ethics': an original documentary on the making of the film featuring interviews with cast members, the assistant director, directors Peter Bogdanovich and Curtis Hanson and Hitchcock's daughter Patricia
      •'A Conversation With Screenwriter John Michael Hayes' featurette
      •Production photograph and poster gallery
      •Production notes
      •Re-release trailer narrated by James Stewart
      •DVD-Rom features: access the original script
      •Interactive menu
      •Scene access

    Technical Details

      Screen: Widescreen 1.66:1 Anamorphic
      Languages: English - Dolby Digital (1.0) Mono
      Additional Languages: German
      Subtitles: English; English for the hearing impaired; Danish; Dutch; Finnish; German; Norwegian; Swedish
      Duration: 1 hour and 49 minutes (approx)
      Region: Region 2 - Will only play on European Region 2 or multi-region DVD players.

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