Rear Window

Rear Window

Infobox Film
name = Rear Window

image_size = 215px
caption = theatrical poster
director = Alfred Hitchcock
producer = Alfred Hitchcock "(uncredited)"
writer = Cornell Woolrich "(story)"
John Michael Hayes
starring = James Stewart
Grace Kelly
Wendell Corey
Thelma Ritter
music = Franz Waxman
cinematography = Robert Burks, ASC
editing = George Tomasini
distributor = Paramount Pictures "(1954-83)"
Universal Studios
"(since 1983)"
USA Films
"(2000 re-release)"
released = 1 August fy|1954 "(US)"
runtime = 112 minutes
country = FilmUS
language = English
budget = US$1 million
gross =
imdb_id = 0047396

"Rear Window" is a fy|1954 suspense film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, based on Cornell Woolrich's lty|1942 short story "It Had to Be Murder". It stars James Stewart as photojournalist L. B. Jeffries, Grace Kelly as his fashion-model girlfriend, Lisa Carol Fremont, Wendell Corey as a police detective and Thelma Ritter. Raymond Burr is featured as the suspected killer, Lars Thorwald. The film combines its main theme, a murder mystery, with a critical examination of the ethics of marriage and voyeurism.

The film is considered by many film-goers, critics, and scholars to be one of Hitchcock's best and most thrilling pictures. [ [ Rear Window Movie Reviews, Pictures - Rotten Tomatoes ] ] "Rear Window" is one of several films directed by Hitchcock and originally released by Paramount Pictures that were later acquired by Universal Studios.


L.B. Jeffries (James Stewart) is recuperating from a broken leg during a sweltering New York summer. As a successful photographer, he's known for taking difficult pictures no one else can get, including one of an out-of-control race car that smashed his camera and broke his leg an instant after the shutter clicked. Jeffries lives in a small, third-floor apartment and, while confined to a wheelchair, is alleviating his boredom by spying on the lives of his neighbors. Through his rear window, he can see into the building across a courtyard (125 West 9th Street, a fictional address in Greenwich Village) and catch glimpses of the residents' daily routines. There's the dancer who exercises in her underwear, the married couple who sleep on their small balcony to beat the heat, a lonely woman who lives by herself, and a struggling songwriter working at his piano. There is a honeymoon couple that unlike the others actually closes their blinds to prevent anyone to see that they are making love. And, there is the salesman who lives directly across the courtyard from Jeffries, the one with the nagging bedridden wife. They seem to fight all too often.

Every day, a physical therapist named Stella comes to visit Jeffries, berating him for spying on his neighbors. Stella (Thelma Ritter) tells him she can smell trouble coming. He should get his mind off his neighbors and think about marrying that beautiful girlfriend of his. Jeffries replies that he's not ready for marriage. Sure, she's a wonderful girl, but she's also a rich, successful socialite, and Jeffries lives the life of a war correspondent, always on the go, usually living out of his suitcase and often in an unpleasant environment. It's not the life he wants to offer her. "Well," says Stella, "Lisa is loaded to her fingertips with love for you."

"That girl" arrives shortly after Stella leaves. Lisa Carol Fremont (Grace Kelly) breezes in wearing a stunning satin dress, looking every inch the beautiful socialite she is, and obviously very much in love with Jeffries. They have dinner, but soon enough the conversation turns to the future, and they quarrel. Jeffries sees no way they can reconcile their different lifestyles, and she walks to the door, telling him goodbye. "When will I see you again?" asked Jeffries.

"Not for a long time," she replies sadly. "At least, not until tomorrow night."

The night drags by, and it's too hot for Jeffries to sleep. It starts to rain. He dozes by the window, but notices activity across the yard. The salesman goes out carrying his heavy silver sample case, and Jeffries looks at his watch: 2:00 a.m. The blinds in the bedroom are drawn, so Jeffries can't see the wife. Later, the salesman returns, lifting the case easily, as if it were empty. Twice more he goes out in the rain in the middle of the night, lugging the heavy case, but coming home with it lighter. Jeffries is intrigued but dozes off around daybreak. It is during this time we the viewer see the man and a woman leave the apartment but Jeffries, who is asleep does not. Before this time the viewer and Jeffries's views are the same. This gives the viewer the advantage and sets up the "did he or didn't he" situation.

He, Stella, and, ultimately, Lisa begin to watch the salesman. With the blinds now open, they can see that the wife is gone. Jeffries pulls out his binoculars and then a large telephoto lens to get a better look. The salesman cleans a large knife and saw. Later, he ties a large packing crate with heavy rope, and has moving men haul it away. By now they're all thinking the same thing: the missing wife has been murdered by the salesman. They check his name on the front of the building: Lars Thorwald.Jeffries calls in an old Army buddy named Doyle who is now a detective and explains the situation to him. Naturally he doesn't believe a word of it. After further checking, the detective (Wendell Corey) finds that Mrs. Thorwald is in the country, has sent a postcard to her husband, and the packing crate they had seen was full of her clothes. Chastised, they all admit to being a little ghoulish, even disappointed when they find out there wasn't a murder after all. Jeffries and Lisa settle down for an evening alone, but soon a scream pierces the courtyard. One of the neighbors had a little dog they would let roam around the yard, and now it's dead. Its neck is broken. All of the neighbors rush to their windows to see what's happened, except for one. Jeffries notices that Thorwald (Raymond Burr) sits unmoving in his dark apartment, with only the tip of his cigarette glowing.

Convinced that Thorwald is guilty after all, they slip a letter under his door asking "What have you done with her?" and then watch his reaction. Calling his apartment, Mr. Jeffries tells Thorwald to meet him at a bar down the street, as a pretext to getting him out of the apartment. He thinks Thorwald killed the little dog to keep it from digging up something buried in the courtyard flower patch. When Thorwald leaves, Lisa and Stella grab a shovel and start digging, but after a few minutes, they find nothing.

Refusing to give up, Lisa climbs the fire escape to Thorwald's apartment and squeezes in an open window, much to Mr. Jeffries's alarm. Rummaging around the apartment, Lisa finds Mrs. Thorwald's purse and wedding ring, things she surely would never have left behind on a trip. She holds them up for Mr. Jeffries to see, but he can only watch in terror as Thorwald comes back up the stairs to the apartment. Lisa is trapped.

Calling the police as Thorwald goes in, he and Stella watch helplessly as Lisa tries to hide, but is found by Thorwald moments later. They see her try to talk her way out, but Thorwald grabs and begins to assault her. Terrified by their helplessness, they can only watch as he turns out the lights and listen as Lisa screams for help. The police arrive and beat on Thorwald's door, saving Lisa just in time.

Mr. Jeffries watches from across the courtyard as the police question Lisa, then arrest her. Her back is to him, and he sees her hands behind her back pointing to Mrs. Thorwald's ring, which is now on her finger. Thorwald sees this as well, and realizing that she's signaling to someone across the way, looks up directly at Mr. Jeffries with murderous understanding.

Pulling back into the dark, Mr. Jeffries calls his detective friend Doyle, who agrees to help get Lisa out of jail and is now convinced that Thorwald is guilty of something. Stella takes all the cash they have for bail and heads for the police station. Mr. Jeffries is left alone. He sees that Thorwald's apartment lights are off. Down below, he hears the door to his own building slam shut, then slow footsteps begin climbing the stairs. Thorwald is coming for him, and he's trapped in his wheelchair.

Looking for a weapon, Mr. Jeffries can find only the flash for his camera. He grabs a box of flashbulbs. Footsteps stop outside his door, then it slowly opens. Thorwald stands in the dark. "Who are you?" he asks. "What do you want from me?" Jeffries doesn't answer, but as Thorwald comes for him he sets off the flash, blinding Thorwald for a few seconds.

He is slowed but not stopped. He finally fumbles his way to Mr. Jeffries's wheelchair, then grabs him and pushes him towards the open window. Hanging onto the ledge, yelling for help, Jeffries sees Lisa, the detective and the police all rush in. Thorwald is pulled back, but it's too late; Jeffries slips and falls just as the police run up beneath him. Luckily, they break his fall, and Lisa sweeps him up in her arms. Thorwald confesses to the murder of his wife, and the police take him away.

A few days later the heat has lifted, and Mr. Jeffries sleeps peacefully in his wheelchair -- now with two broken legs from the fall. Lisa reclines happily next to him, now wearing blue jeans and a simple blouse, apparently reading a book about the outdoors. She is now a part of his life, but can't help picking up a fashion magazine instead.

Hitchcock's cameo

Alfred Hitchcock appears briefly onscreen in the film as the man winding the clock in the songwriter's apartment as the songwriter is performing the piece that he had been working on during the course of the film.


Hitchcock's fans and film scholars have taken particular interest in the way the relationship between Mr. Jeffries and Lisa can be compared to the lives of the neighbors they are spying upon. Many of these points are considered in Tania Modleski's feminist theory book, "The Women Who Knew Too Much." (ISBN 0-415-97362-7) [Modleski, Tania, "The Women Who Knew Too Much: Hitchcock and Feminist Theory" (New York: Routledge, Chapman & Hall, Inc., 1989)]
* Thorwald and his wife are a reversal of Mr. Jeffries and Lisa (Thorwald looks after his invalid wife just as Lisa looks after the invalid Mr. Jeffries). However, Thorwald's hatred of his nagging wife mirrors Mr. Jeffries's arguments with Lisa.
* The newly wed couple initially seem perfect for each other (they spend nearly the entire movie in their bedroom with the blinds drawn), but at the end we see that their marriage is in trouble and the wife begins to nag the husband. Similarly, Mr. Jeffries is afraid of being 'tied down' by marriage to Lisa.
* The middle-aged couple with the dog seem content living at home. They have the kind of uneventful lifestyle that horrifies Mr. Jeffries.
* The music composer and Miss Lonelyhearts, the depressed spinster, lead frustrating lives, and at the end of the movie find comfort in each other (the composer's new tune draws Miss Lonelyhearts away from suicide, and the composer thus finds value in his work). There is a subtle hint in this tale that Lisa and Mr. Jeffries are meant for each other, despite his stubbornness. The piece the composer creates is called "Lisa's Theme" in the credits.

The movie invites speculation as to which of these paths Mr. Jeffries and Lisa will follow.

The characters themselves verbally point out a similarity between Lisa and Miss Torso (played by Georgine Darcy) - the scantily-clad ballet dancer who has all-male parties. Author John Fawell analyzes different aspects of the film in his book "Hitchcock's Rear Window: The Well-Made Film". Other analysis centers on the relationship between Mr. Jeffries and the other side of the apartment block, seeing it as a symbolic relationship between spectator and screen. Film theorist Mary Ann Doane has made the argument that Mr. Jeffries, representing the audience, becomes obsessed with the "screen," where a collection of storylines are played out. This line of analysis has often followed a feminist approach to interpreting the film. It is Doane who, using Freudian analysis to claim women spectators of a film become "masculinized," pays close attention to Mr. Jeffries's rather passive attitude to romance with the elegant Lisa, that is, until she crosses over from the spectator side to the screen, seeking out the wedding ring of Thorwald's murdered wife. It is only then that Mr. Jeffries shows real passion for Lisa. In the climax, when he is pushed through the window (the screen), he has been forced to become part of the show.

Other issues such as voyeurism and feminism are analyzed in John Belton's book "Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window."

Furthermore, released in 1954 at the very height of McCarthyism, this film was apparently cashing in on widespread fears of nuclear war, fascism, and threats from totalitarian communism and brought them into America's back yard. No longer could the government be depended upon to discover, let alone solve, major crimes. Instead, the film emphasized the necessity of a "deputized" citizenry to keep tabs on their neighbors and bring the undesirables to justice.


The film received four Academy Award nominations: Best Director for Alfred Hitchcock, Best Screenplay for John Michael Hayes, Best Cinematography, Color for Robert Burks, Best Sound Recording for Loren L. Ryder, Paramount Pictures. In 1997, "Rear Window" was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". This film was ranked #14 on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Thrills. It was ranked #48 on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition). In June 2008, the AFI revealed its "Ten top Ten"—the best ten films in ten "classic" American film genres—after polling over 1,500 people from the creative community, "Rear Window" was acknowledged as the third best film in the mystery genre. [cite news | publisher = American Film Institute | title = AFI's 10 Top 10 | date = 2008-06-17 | url =| accessdate=2008-06-18]

Brian De Palma paid homage to "Rear Window" with his movie "Body Double" (which also added touches of Hitchcock's "Vertigo"). The 2001 film "Head Over Heels" starring Freddie Prinze Jr., in which a young woman falls for a man she believes she saw commit a murder, closely follows the plot of "Rear Window", as well as the 2007 film "Disturbia", which is essentially a "modernized" remake "Rear Window". Marcos Bernstein's "The Other Side of The Street" (2004) also makes a reference to "Rear Window", albeit with a Brazilian twist. Many animated series, including "Tiny Toon Adventures", "Rocket Power", "The Simpsons", "Rocko's Modern Life", "Home Movies", "That ´70s Show" and "The Venture Bros." have paid homage to "Rear Window" in different ways. Robert Zemeckis' "What Lies Beneath" is another film that pays tribute to this film and other Hitchcock features. Woody Allen's "Manhattan Murder Mystery", in which Allen and his wife suspect an elderly neighbor of murdering his wife and are forced to investigate for themselves when no one else takes their concerns seriously, could also be said to owe a debt to "Rear Window".

The film was restored by the team of Robert A. Harris and James C. Katz for its fy|1999 limited theatrical re-release and the Collector's Edition DVD release.

Ownership of the copyright in Woolrich's original story was eventually litigated before the United States Supreme Court in "Stewart v. Abend", 495 U.S. 207 (1990). The film was copyrighted in 1954 by Patron Inc. — a production company set up by Hitchcock and Stewart. As a result, Stewart and Hitchcock's estate became involved in the Supreme Court case.

The film was shot entirely at Paramount studios, including an enormous set on one of the soundstages, and employed the Technicolor process in use at the time. There was also careful use of sound, including natural sounds and music drifting across the apartment building courtyard to James Stewart's apartment. At one point, the voice of Bing Crosby can be heard singing "To See You Is to Love You" originally from the Paramount release "Road to Bali" (1952).

Hitchcock used famed designer Edith Head to design costumes in all of his Paramount films. (She continued to design costumes for his films when Hitchcock moved to MGM in 1959 and then to Universal in 1960 until the end of his career.) With Hitchcock's encouragement, Head designed especially "romantic" dresses for Grace Kelly.

Although veteran Hollywood composer Franz Waxman officially wrote the musical score for the film, his contributions were limited to the opening and closing titles and the tune the composer wrote during the film. This was Waxman's final score for Hitchcock. The director used primarily "natural" sounds throughout the film. [DVD documentary]

Cultural influence

Since "Rear Window" is considered one of Hitchcock's classics, it has been re-told, parodied and referenced a number of times in a number of ways:

**"Clubhouse Detectives" is a 1996 retelling, aimed at a younger audience, where a young boy sees a neighbor kill a student and bury her under his floor boards.
**In 1998, Christopher Reeve starred in a remake that retained the original title, but had the main character completely paralyzed instead of just having a recently broken leg (due to Reeve's real-life condition).
**"Disturbia" is a modern day (2007) retelling, with the protagonist (Shia LaBeouf) under house arrest instead of laid up with a broken leg and who believes that his neighbour is a serial killer rather than having committed a single murder. On September 5, 2008, the Sheldon Abend Trust sued Steven Spielberg, Dreamworks, Viacom, and Universal Studios, alleging that the producers of "Disturbia" violated the rights of Abend and the Woolrich estate, by not acquiring the rights to the Woolrich story.

**"The Simpsons" episode "Bart of Darkness"
**"Kate and Allie" episode "Rear Window"
**"That '70s Show" episode "Too Old to Trick or Treat, Too Young to Die"
**"Home Movies" episode "Definite Possible Murder"
**"Venture Brothers" episode "The Incredible Mr. Brisby" quotes Grace Kelly's famous entrance line, announcing her character's name
**"Get Smart" episode "Greer Window"
**"ALF" 1.season 21.episode "Lookin' Through the Windows"


External links

* [ Rear Window at Box Office Mojo]
* [ skyjude - movie legends]
* [ "Rear Window" Eyegate Gallery]
* [ Alfred Hitchcock Wiki:Rear Window (1954)]
* [ Bibliography]

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