Rear Window

The first time I saw Rear Window, I was in high school, still living with my mother out in the suburb of a small town. We had neighbours, but each ensconced in their own acre-sized lot, with no windows that could be seen from my windows except in the vaguest way possible. I didn’t even know anyone who lived in an apartment.

It’s a sweltering New York summer, and Jeff (James Stewart), a photographer, is cooped up in his West Village apartment, his broken leg in a cast. He spends his days gazing out his window at the apartment building opposite him, and thanks to the heat wave, tumblr_ogehf50Yis1rfd7lko1_500everyone’s got their windows open and their business on display. It’s a lesson in voyeurism that probably also comments upon the movie going experience, our own gaze from within a darkened theatre into the secret lives of others. “We’ve become a nation of peeping toms,” complains Stella (Thelma Ritter), Jeff’s nurse, and she’s not wrong. But immobilized in a wheel chair, Jeff is spellbound by the people across the courtyard, and becomes convinced that one of them has committed murder. Soon the skeptical nurse gets pulled into his nonsense as well, as does Stewart’s love interest Lisa, played by Grace Kelly.

Now, of course Jeff is watching his neighbours with murder on his mind, but it’s impossible not to note that there’s another big M being observed: marriage. Remember that Lisa, kind, wonderful, thoughtful, beautiful Lisa, is doing most of the pursuing in her relationship with Jeff, and he’s doing most of the resisting. Marriage, to him, is a bigger trap than the cast he’s saddled with on his leg. The other apartment building has all sorts of marriage on display from newlyweds pulling down their blind for “alone time” to the old married couple always bickering. And perhaps the couple so fed up with each other they may resort to murder.

Incredibly, the entire set was built on a Paramount sound studio over two months, the set measuring 98 feet wide, 185 long and 40 high. The courtyard is about 20 to 30 feet below stage level, so they actually tore up the stage and built the courtyard in the basement, which used to be a storage area. That way when you look down from Jeff’s apartment, tumblr_ok3uz6DlfI1qa3aq2o1_500the perspective is just right. The set’s buildings consisted of 31 apartments wired for electricity and plumbed for water; a dozen of them were completely furnished. Georgine Darcy, who played Miss Toros (the dancer), lived in the apartment all day long, resting there between takes as if it were really her home. There were 1000 large lights and 1000 smaller ones to simulate sunlight; once it got so hot on set that it set off the sprinklers. Hitchcock directed the whole thing from Jeff’s apartment. The actors in the building across the courtyard wore flesh-coloured ear pieces and took direction that way.

Rear Window is one of my favourite Hitchcock films. When Sean and I rewatched it recently we delighted in one-upping each other with our running commentary about James Stewart relationships with women in this movie. They’re worse than just dated. But the truth is, the film has held up well and is just as entertaining now as ever. It’s definitely One To Watch.



23 thoughts on “Rear Window

  1. BuriedOnMars

    Love this film! I remember feeling so smart getting all the references when the Simpson’s did a parody in one of their episodes. There is so much I didn’t know before reading this. Hitch directed the whole film from Stewart’s apartment? Very cool.


  2. Often Off Topic

    This is one of those movies I’ve always known the name of but had no idea what it was actually about. I think it’s about time I watched some more Hitchcock and this is where I’ll start!


  3. Christopher

    One of my favorites, and I think one of the most interesting things about it is even though there’s a lot of dialogue there’s so much conveyed visually too. Instead of Stewart telling someone “I’m a photographer and broke my leg taking pictures of a racetrack accident” we see his cameras and pictures.
    Although my favorite scene is Hitchcock’s clever cameo.


    1. Jay Post author

      Yes, he was the M. Night Shyamalan of his time 😉

      Also: the camera he keeps using has such a powerful telephoto lens on it, a real photographer would know he needs a tripod for it to get good shots!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Birgit

    Love this film and always loved that outfit with the green skirt that Grace Kelly is wearing. This is one of my favourite films…period! It is a comment on all types of marriages that one sees including the poor lady looking for love. Interesting about the set and the people who endured the heat from the lights. When you think how long Jimmy Stewart waited before he got married , it speaks a little about his views on getting married…until he found his Gloria

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Susan Leighton

    I love Rear Window. It is definitely one of Hitch’s classics. You are right about Grace Kelly being long suffering in this flick. Raymond Burr was also very effective. However, I think I am the only one who feels that Grace, much like Gwyneth Paltrow is not much of an actress but rather someone that the camera loves. Great review!


  6. Madame Vintage

    Read Window is a much loved movie of mine alongside Dial M for Murder. I love the one sitting visuals from the perspective of a long reached binoculars which looks as mysterious as we would like to know about.
    James Stewart and Grace Kelly work wonderfully together and I like his hard headed conversation he has with her making the dialogue as entertaining as it can get. He’s seen bickering and family quarrels and now since last evening..not a sign of the wife..

    A lovely review on a superb movie.

    P.s Thank you for visiting my Side of the blogging world.



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